Update 880


Are You Really Different?; Learning How to Make Christian Change

On June 15, 2019, Thilo Hanstein will present the first sermon, titled, “Are You Really Different?” and Kalon Mitchell will present the second sermon, titled, “Learning How to Make Christian Change.”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/ (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Experience Is All We Get

by Eric Rank

With school sessions completed, days becoming longer, and temperatures warming up, the joy of summertime has picked up momentum in my household. Immediately following our children’s last day of school, my family began spending more time outside and our activities have become more playful. Living in a time of relative peace, safety, and abundance, it’s a joyful time that my family and I have been blessed with the ability to enjoy.

I believe that what has made the time so precious involves the fact that we have simply enjoyed our time together, with one another. The most satisfying moments are the most accessible ones — a walk in the neighborhood; an evening gazing at the stars; an afternoon fishing; sharing stories and bad jokes during dinnertime. All of these experiences have been miniature treasures that cost us only the time it takes to experience them.

Solomon makes comments throughout the book of Ecclesiastes about appreciating the present lives we live. We can see a succinct summary of this notion in Ecclesiastes 2:24, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” Apparently, this most-wealthy king was wise enough to see that the simple pleasures in life are a blessing from God that all of us have the capacity to enjoy.

It is worth noting that Solomon, who was known for the abundance of his riches, mentions that the material he managed to amass was not the source of joy. On the contrary, he expresses the tremendous grief that it caused (compare Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, 2:17-21). The reconciliation he finds is that his joy comes from the appreciation of the inherent experience of work and the simple satisfaction in the most basic of life’s activities. It is the experience of life that he values more than its riches.

There are very few things in life that cannot be taken away from us. Even Solomon laments that our physical possessions are among the easiest to lose. We may lose those who are near and dear to us too. But our ability to experience life’s events, whether good or bad, can never be taken away. Experience is built into being. The relentless pace of time continues forward and accumulates experience, captured in memories that we keep as long as our memory retains them. Since experience is among the most durable of our possessions, it only makes sense to attribute a commensurate amount of value in how we treat it.

By contrast, the physical world that we live in offers us nothing that is materially permanent. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 informs us, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Not only is contentment with our existence a perspective to nurture, we can see that there are negative consequences when we dedicate our time and attention to the accumulation of the wrong kind of possession. The love of money and material gain lies at the source of the kind of behavior and priorities that lead us away from God. Certainly, if we want to live an eternally good life, we must begin now by placing value in what matters. And what matters is not material.

The time we have to live these physical lives is finite and short. In addition, this age in which we live in relative peace, safety, and abundance is exceedingly short. Knowing that we all have the capacity to experience the events that God prepares for us, and that the time we have to enjoy them is limited, we ought to pay attention and appreciate the moments of our lives. God works to provide us with occasions for growth. It’s up to us to take the time to extract as much as we can from the experience He offers us. For, experience is all we get in this life.

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by Norbert Link

We begin with frightening reports on censorship in the USA, Europe and China; continue with the ongoing trade war between the USA and China; as well as Mexico; and address near-fatal and potentially horrible accidents between the USA and Russia, as well as further attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

We speak on the growing alliance of Arabs and Christian churches against Israel; the almost certain election of Boris Johnson as Britain’s new Prime Minister; and we address the terrible immigration situation in the USA and in Europe. We also address interesting speculation and rumors about former Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

(See StandingWatch: “Is Austria’s Sebastian Kurz gay… and Would it Matter?” 

We conclude with an article about abortion and two articles about the Vatican’s clarifications on two misunderstood biblical passages and the “gender” theory, while Catholic schools in Australia follow a different path.

Throughout this section, we have underlined pertinent statements in the quoted articles, for the convenience and quick overview of the reader.

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YouTube’s New Anti-Extremism Policy

The New York Times wrote on June 5:

“YouTube announced plans… to remove thousands of videos and channels… in an attempt to clean up extremism and hate speech on its popular service. The new policy will ban ‘videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion,’ the company said in a blog post. The prohibition will also cover videos denying that violent events, like the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, took place…

“The decision by YouTube, which is owned by Google, is the latest action by a Silicon Valley company to stem the spread of hate speech and disinformation on its site. A month ago, Facebook evicted seven of its most controversial users, including Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and founder of Infowars. Twitter barred Mr. Jones last year…

“The kind of content that will be prohibited under YouTube’s new hate speech policies includes videos that claim Jews secretly control the world, that say women are intellectually inferior to men and therefore should be denied certain rights, or that suggest that the white race is superior to another race…

“YouTube announced in January that it would recommend fewer objectionable videos, such as those with conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and vaccine misinformation, a category it called ‘borderline content’…”

thinkprogress wrote on June 6:

“Conservatives cry censorship after YouTube rolls out new anti-extremism policy. The policy is littered with problems and YouTube itself is struggling to defend the move…

“Conservatives claimed that the [action] was part of a wider liberal agenda to silence dissenting voices…”

It surely appears to be that way. Subsequently, Google’s CEO stated in an interview that he wants to see YouTube expand its crackdown on “borderline” content.

China’s Brutal Censorship

ctpost wrote on June 8:

“Websites of The Washington Post and the Guardian appear to now be blocked in China as the country’s government further tightens its so-called ‘Great Firewall’ censorship apparatus as it navigates a politically sensitive period. Until this weekend, The Post and the Guardian were among the last few major English-language outlets that were still regularly accessible from mainland China without the use of virtual private networking (VPN) software, according to the censorship tracker greatfire…

“Chinese Internet authorities have gone into overdrive in recent weeks ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4, 1989, prohibiting users on the popular WeChat social media service to post keywords or pictures related to the event…

“Every language edition of Wikipedia was fully banned in mid-May. A CNN reporter said the network’s website was blocked again this week shortly after CNN… ran a top story commemorating the 1989 incident… the trend since 2013 has shown more and more foreign websites being irrevocably added to China’s blacklist.

“Outlets such as Bloomberg, the New York Times, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal have been blocked for years. So have social media services such as Facebook and Twitter and all Google-owned services, including YouTube. Other popular services such as Dropbox, Slack and WhatsApp are also prohibited… While a small number of Chinese users download VPNs to access banned websites and social media services, China has increasingly found ways to enforce the bans – including through physical intimidation.”

Woe unto those who suppress the Truth in unrighteousness.

Huge Demonstration in Hong Kong against Chinese Dictatorship

Deutsche Welle wrote on June 9:

“Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents are participating in a rally on Sunday against a government plan that would allow extraditions to authorities in mainland China… The turnout at Sunday’s rally marks the event as one of the largest protests in Hong Kong’s history… The proposed extradition law is one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Hong Kong since a 2003 national security bill, which was scrapped by the authorities after at least half a million residents took to the streets to oppose it…

“Hong Kong authorities have come under immense pressure from the international community to ditch the extradition bill. Foreign ministers of Germany and Britain have spoken against the bill, while 11 European Union envoys recently met Chief Executive Carrie Lam to formally protest the law. The International Chamber of Commerce to the EU office in Hong Kong and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission also voiced serious concerns about the controversial extradition bill…

“Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 after 99 years under British colonial rule. The ‘one country, two systems’ principle underpins the reunification process and allows the territory relative autonomy in the 50-year transition period. But more than 20 years into the process, critics are concerned Chinese authorities are already tightening their grip on political and social life. In 2012, a report on freedom of the press in Hong Kong showed it had deteriorated alarmingly… Chinese authorities have clamped down on pro-democracy demonstrations in recent years…”

Not surprisingly, China blamed the USA for the demonstrations in Hong Kong. That Britain lost Hong Kong was in fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

“The End of the World As We Know It”

On June 3, Project Syndicate published an article by Joschka Fischer, former German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005:

“After three decades of moving toward a single global market governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization, the international order has undergone a fundamental change. The United States and China are locked in a tariff war that at first seemed to be about the bilateral trade balance, but has turned out to be about much more…

“Last month, under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, Google terminated its cooperation with Huawei, thereby depriving the Chinese smartphone maker of the license to use Google’s Android software and related services. The move poses an existential threat to Huawei. But, more than that, it marks both a new pinnacle in the Sino-American [i.e., Chinese-American] conflict and the end of US-led globalization

“The Trump administration’s latest move is meant to signal that the US will not hand over its dominant global position without a fight. Yet by precipitating a break in the existing trade relationship with China, the US will incur immense costs of its own.

“No doubt turbulence awaits Europe, too. A rupture in the global economy would pose a fundamental challenge to the European – and especially the German – export model… [The EU’s] exporters have become increasingly reliant on the Chinese market…

“Past experience has shown that Europe usually needs a crisis in order to move to the next stage of its development… Europe may now have no choice but to develop a geopolitical strategy for the twenty-first century. The EU… must get to work safeguarding its prosperity and sovereignty in an age of Sino-American rupture…”

And that is exactly what the EU will do… with dangerous unforeseen consequences. Also, in regard to the deteriorating relationship between the USA and Europe, Newsmax reported on June 11:

President Donald Trump on Twitter Tuesday accused Europe of devaluing the euro zone’s single currency and also targeted U.S. monetary policy with renewed attacks on the U.S. central bank. ‘The Euro and other currencies are devalued against the dollar, putting the U.S. at a big disadvantage,’ Trump tweeted without offering any evidence. He also slammed U.S. interest rates for being too high.”

Tariff Fight with Mexico Not Over

AFP wrote on June 10:

“Amid speculation about the contents of Mexico’s deal to curb mitigation in order to avert President Donald Trump’s threat of tariffs, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he had rebuffed the US demand for such a measure, but agreed to revisit the matter in 45 days… Ebrard, who led the Mexican negotiating team in marathon talks in Washington, spoke as Trump renewed his tariff threat over a secret provision in the deal.

“Trump tweeted that part of the deal would require approval by the Mexican Congress — he did not give details — and that ‘if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!’”

Axios wrote on June 10:

“Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a news conference Monday that there is no secret immigration deal between Mexico and the United States…

“Ebrard said at the press conference that there had merely been an agreement for both parties to monitor migration in upcoming months, with a contingency for discussions on further asylum reforms if it was determined that individuals crossing the U.S.’ southern border had not been reduced…”

“If the US Cuts Immigration from Mexico, Who Will Do the Jobs Americans Don’t Want?”

Deutsche Welle wrote on June 10:

“Trump had threatened to impose tariffs of 5% on all imports from Mexico, worth $346.5 billion (€305 billion), ‘until illegal immigration across the southern border was stopped.’ The tariffs would have begun on June 10, rising to 10% on July 1, 15% on August 1, 20% on September 1 and 25% on October 1. Mexico exported to the US $346.5 billion worth of goods in 2018 — meaning that a 5% tariff on those products would have meant a de facto tax increase of $17 billion on agricultural goods, machinery, clothing and components used to make other products

“About 8 million immigrants from Mexico have jobs, making up 5% of the US workforce… The Department of Agriculture estimates that about half of the nation’s farm workers are unauthorized

“A study for the dairy industry said that if federal labor and immigration policies cut the number of foreign-born workers by 50%, about 3,500 dairy farms would close, leading to a drop in milk production and a rise in prices of about 30%.

“Unauthorized immigrants make up 24% of maids and cleaners

“While Mexican workers in the US average $1,870 per month, the average wage in Mexico is $291 per month, or just over $2 an hour, with the minimum wage roughly $4.15 for a full day’s work. Caterpillar is considering opening a plant in Monterrey in northeastern Mexico while General Motors is shifting some of their Detroit operations to Mexico. Ford is planning on moving some of its Detroit south of the border.”

In addition, many big firms operating in the USA, such as Home Depot, Vons, Walmart, Starbucks, McDonalds and quite a few other fast-food stores, have opened branches in Mexico.

USA vs. Germany

The EUObserver wrote on June 13:

US president Donald Trump has pledged to send at least 1,000 extra troops to Poland to deter Russian aggression.

“He also praised Poland’s nationalist-populist government, while again attacking Germany on defence spending and on its Russia gas pipeline.”

President Trump also stated that he plans to withdraw the 1,000 US troops for Poland from Germany.

Close Encounter

npr wrote on June 7:

“The U.S. Navy says ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ maneuvers by a Russian destroyer nearly caused it to collide with a U.S. missile cruiser in the Philippine Sea on Friday. The Russian warship came within 50 to 100 feet of the USS Chancellorsville, which was busy recovering a helicopter, and the American ship had to take drastic action to avoid the other vessel, the Navy says. Russia’s military, however, provided a different version of events and said the U.S. ship was at fault [saying that] the two vessels were ‘heading in parallel directions’ when the U.S. ship ‘impeded’ its warship…

“The near-collision comes two years after two other warships in the 7th Fleet — the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain — were involved in high-profile accidents. In those cases, the Navy vessels collided with cargo ships… Friday’s incident comes on the heels of another close encounter. Earlier this week, a Russian fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Navy aircraft three times while they were in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea…”

Imagine the devastating consequences if such an accident actually did take place.

Attacks on Oil Tankers in the Gulf of Oman

The Allgemeiner wrote on June 13:

“Two oil tankers were attacked on Thursday and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman, driving up oil prices and stoking fears of a new confrontation between Iran and the United States, which blamed Tehran for the incident…

“Crude oil prices spiked more than 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf energy producers…

“Washington accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area.

“Tensions between Iran and the United States, along with its allies including Saudi Arabia, have risen since US President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot sell its oil due to US sanctions

“The Saudi-led military coalition, which is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, described Thursday’s events as a ‘major escalation.’ Russia, one of Iran‘s main allies, urged caution, saying no one should rush to judgment about the incident or use it to put pressure on Tehran…

“Britain said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about the attacks. Germany, which like Britain remains a party to the nuclear pact with Iran, said the ‘situation is dangerous’ and all sides needed to avoid an escalation.

“The Arab League said some parties were ‘trying to instigate fires in the region’…”

Arabs and Greek Orthodox Church against Israel

The Jordan Times wrote on June 4:

“His Majesty King Abdullah on Monday reaffirmed Jordan’s unwavering position on the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem, and in defending the just and legitimate rights of the Palestinians… The King stressed the need to maintain coordination between mosques and churches, and among churches, to counter challenges… For their part, the attendees thanked His Majesty for his positions in defence of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem

“Jerusalem Awqaf Director Mohammad Azzam Khatib Tamimi highlighted the King’s efforts in safeguarding Al Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as other holy sites…

“In remarks by Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City and all Jordan and Palestine, delivered on his behalf by Archbishop Christoforos Atallah, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jordan… [he] voiced confidence in the King’s clear stance on the need for a just and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem, and the importance of establishing an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil with East Jerusalem as its capital… He thanked the King for his ‘generous donation for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’ to help implement needed renovations.”

This article, written from a Jordanian perspective, shows the close cooperation between Arabs and Christian churches, and their determination to support the Palestinians against the Jews in Israel.

Boris Johnson Steamrolling Ahead

Axios wrote on June 13:

“There is little standing in the way of Boris Johnson becoming Britain’s next prime minister… Johnson is a brash Brexiteer who has vowed to take the U.K. out of the EU without a deal if one can’t be reached by October…

Step one in the two-step process to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader, and thus prime minister, officially began on Thursday. Johnson got off to a massive head start after 114 Conservative Members of Parliament selected him — far more than went for Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (43), Environment Secretary Michael Gove (37), or former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (27).

“Seven candidates had enough backers to move on to the next round, with three others eliminated. The voting will continue until the list is whittled down to two, whom the party’s 160,000 members will then choose between…

“If he does triumph, Johnson will take ownership of the most intractable dispute in recent British political history and a divided party that has fallen to once-unthinkable depths in the polls. There are clearly many who think he’s just the man for the job.”

Ongoing Immigration Nightmare for Children

AFP wrote on June 8:

“When reporters toured a shelter for immigrant children in February, authorities showed off classrooms, soccer fields and art studios to prove the kids were being treated well. This week President Donald Trump’s administration cancelled all that special care, citing a lack of funding. Some 13,200 children and teens, most of them Central American, are being held in 168 shelters for minors in 23 states across the United States. In all of them, activities that are not essential or not linked to the children’s physical safety began to be cut this week…

“Minors who cross the southern US border without an adult are classified as Unaccompanied Alien Children and sent to centers of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, where they live until they can be reunited with their parents or US-based relatives. Many human rights groups deem these places as being akin to prisons or even concentration camps.”

It is terrible when innocent children must suffer because of the conduct of adults.

EU Accused of Help Killing Illegal Immigrants

The EUObserver wrote on June 4:

 “EU states’ efforts to ‘deter’ migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people… according to a lawsuit filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague…

“The EU’s decision to end a sea rescue operation called Mare Nostrum off the coast of Libya led to a gross increase in drownings, [the] 243-page document… alleged… The EU’s policy of returning migrants to Libya, despite the political chaos there, exposed a further 40,000 people to ‘crimes against humanity’ in militia-run camps there between 2016 and 2018, the lawyers’ document added.

“‘European Union officials were fully aware of the treatment of the migrants by the Libyan coastguard and the fact that migrants … would face immediate detention in detention centres… in which murder, sexual assault, torture and other crimes were known by the European Union agents and officials to be common,’ it said… ‘the EU is orchestrating a policy of forced transfer to concentration camp-like detention facilities,’ it added. The EU policy constituted the ‘most lethal and organised attack against civilian population the ICC had jurisdiction over in its entire history,’ it said.”

If true, it would sound awfully similar to what Nazis began to do in Germany prior to World War II.

“Justice” in Totalitarian Italy? Demagogues Responsible?

Deutsche Welle wrote on June 8:

“Pia Klemp stands accused of aiding illegal immigration after she saved people from drowning in the Mediterranean. The Bonn native has accused Italian authorities of organizing ‘a show trial.’

“… According to German public broadcaster WDR… [Klemp] has personally assisted in the rescue of more than 1,000 people at risk of drowning in unsafe dinghies as they attempted to cross to Europe in search of a better life. An already immigrant-unfriendly government in Rome became even more so in June 2018, when newly appointed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right League party promised a crackdown the likes of which modern Italy had never seen.

“Since assuming office, Salvini has sought to put a stop to migrant rescue ships docking on Italian shores and allowing refugees to disembark. In January, the nationalist leader made headlines with the forced evacuation of [immigrants and] his refusal to clarify where the people, many of whom had lived in Castelnuovo di Porto for years and become integrated into town life, were being taken.

“Shortly thereafter, Sicilian prosecutors ruled that Salvini could be charged with kidnapping more than 177 migrants left stranded on a ship he had ordered impounded.

“… the captain blames not only the Italian government but what she sees as a failure of the European Union ‘to remember its avowed values: human rights, the right to life, to apply for asylum, and the duty of seafarers to rescue those in danger at sea.’ Klemp added that ‘demagogues’ such as Salvini, former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer were effectively allowing thousands to perish in the Mediterranean each year…”

Catholic Church Concerned About Salvini

Firstthings wrote on May 31:

“Several ecclesiastical figures expressed horror at the results of last week’s European Parliament elections… The reactions centered on the Matteo Salvini’s stunning victory in Italy, where his Lega Party took more than 34 percent of the Italian vote, exceeding even the most extravagant forecasts. This means that in absolute figures the Euroskeptic Lega party will have the third-highest number of seats in the new parliament…

“On May 27, the semi-official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published a front-page editorial by Andrea Monda (personally appointed as the newspaper’s editor-in chief last December by Pope Francis), who criticized the pro-sovereignty movement that made extraordinary gains in Sunday’s elections. That movement is the enemy of Europe, the editorial proposed, and the Lega’s substantial victory in Italy was particularly worrisome… It was not a vote for something, but ‘against’ something, driven by fear…

“Luxembourg Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich… criticized Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini for preying upon Catholics by appealing to their religious sense, also suggesting that Italian Catholics are easily duped… suggesting that Salvini is not a real Catholic, despite his claims to the contrary…

“Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, the editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, railed against the election results in a full-page article in Famiglia Cristiana. ‘There is a toad, a moral sickness, in the belly of our country, which is also infecting our Church,’ Spadaro observed, since a significant number of self-identified Catholics evidently voted for Salvini…

“These three examples are just the tip of the iceberg, the latest signs of a process by which leading spokesmen for the Church in Europe seem to be growing more overtly political

“To take just one more example from the Italian political scene, leading ecclesiastical figures have demonized Salvini for closing Italian ports in an effort to curb illegal immigration, calling him everything from the antichrist to Satan…”

While the quoted article was written in support of Salvini and as an accusation against the leading Catholic figures mentioned therein, it is interesting that something seems to be developing in Italy which may remind us of the long-lasting quarrel between the Catholic Church and Mussolini whose sincere dedication to the Catholic faith was also [correctly] questioned on numerous occasions.

Sebastian Kurz Gay?

Haaretz wrote on May 18:

“As for [former Austrian Vice-Chancellor] Strache’s claims in the leaked video that Sebastian Kurz is gay and partakes in sex orgies, the chancellor refused to comment, adding that such matters are unimportant.

Kurz is described as a “practicing Catholic.” He is living together with his girlfriend, without being married. Still, there have been rumors about Kurz’s alleged homosexuality for quite some time. “Heute” wrote on November 13, 2018, that a local branch of the opposition party, the SPÖ, suggested on Facebook that Kurz might be gay. Strache’s party, the FPÖ, has been strongly opposed to gay marriages, which Kurz has been supporting. Same-sex marriage in Austria has been legal since 1 January 2019, following a decision of the Constitutional Court on 4 December 2017. Austria’s interim chancellor, Brigitte Bierlein, has been the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court since 2003, and the sitting President since 2018. Note our new StandingWatch program: “Is Austria’s Sebastian Kurz gay… and Would it Matter?”

Abortion Essential to Be Successful in Business?

Breitbart wrote on June 10:

“The top executives of more than 180 companies have signed a letter that says abortion is essential in order for people to be successful in their businesses… ‘Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers,’ they said, adding: ‘Simply put, it goes against our values and is bad for business. It impairs our ability to build diverse and inclusive workforce pipelines, recruit top talent across the states, and protect the well-being of all the people who keep our businesses thriving day in and out.’

“The letter appeared as a full-page ad in the New York Times Monday… The abortion lobby, led by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU formed the coalition of business executives as more states are passing restrictions on abortion.”

This is just abominable.

Pope Changes Bible?—Not too Fast!

The Daily Mail wrote on June 6:

“Pope Francis has changed the Lord’s Prayer after criticising the English translation for implying that God – not Satan – leads people into temptation. Francis approved an alteration [of] the line ‘lead us not into temptation’ which now reads ‘do not let us fall into temptation’, which is closer to the French translation…

“Francis also approved changes to The Gloria from ‘Peace on earth to people of good will’ to ‘Peace on Earth to people beloved by God.’”

Actually, both “changes” convey more accurately, to an extent, the intended meaning of these verses.

Vatican Sets the Record Straight on Gender Theory

Reuters reported in June 10:

“The Vatican condemned gender theory on Monday as part of a ‘confused concept of freedom’, saying in a new document that the idea of gender being determined by personal feeling rather than biology was an attempt to ‘annihilate nature’. LGBT rights advocates denounced the 30-page document, called ‘Male and Female He Created Them’, as harmful and confusing, saying it would encourage hatred and bigotry.

“The document, the Vatican’s first on gender theory, was written by the Congregation for Catholic Education as an ‘instruction’ to Catholic educators on how to address the topic of gender theory in line with Church teaching…

“[The Vatican’s booklet] says gender theories are ‘often founded on nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants, or momentary desires provoked by emotional impulses and the will of the individual, as opposed to anything based on the truths of existence’… While the document is not signed by Pope Francis, it several times quotes from his speeches and teachings and those of previous popes…”

We agree with the Vatican on this issue and its evaluation of the matter. However, note the next article.

God Gender-Neutral?

Daily Mail Australia wrote on June 2:

Catholic schoolgirls are being taught that God is gender-neutral and banned from using the words ‘Lord’, ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ in prayers… Top schools including All Hallows, Stuartholme, Loreto College and Stuartholme School are leading a push towards a feminist interpretation of the Christian Bible

“’As we believe God is neither male or female, Stuartholme tries to use gender-neutral terms in prayers … so that our community deepens their understanding of who God is for them, how God reveals Godself through creation, our relationships with others and the person of Jesus,’ a spokeswoman told The Sunday Mail.

“Loreto College in Coorparoo has taken the word ‘Lord’ from their prayers as it is a ‘male term’… the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference did suggest schools use gender-neutral terms where appropriate…”

What a horrible blasphemous travesty!

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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Is there evidence that the commandment against idolatry was in effect before the Ten Commandments?

The second commandment describes a prohibition against idolatry. In Exodus 20:4-5, God presents the instruction to Moses, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.’”

Since God presented this commandment in an explicit way following the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt, does it mean that it began to take effect at that moment? Or was the commandment in effect before that time? The answer to the question of its existence prior to the proclamation of the Ten Commandments is clearly affirmative, as shown by the evidence in the Bible.

Before beginning to cite evidence for the existence of the commandment against idolatry, it is important to clarify the scope of what it means. There is a clear admonition against creating anything that is a physical representation of the true God, or other false gods. It includes the prohibition of using idols in the purported worship of the true God. The creation and use of the golden calf, the cross or the Christmas tree in the “worship” of God are prime examples of this kind of “syncretism”—mixing true worship with pagan elements. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas.” In addition, we might think today of pictures purportedly representing the Father or Jesus Christ. To create such pictures is clearly in violation of the second commandment. Also, the creation and worship of statues allegedly representing dead “saints” or the “Virgin Mary” break the second commandment as well.

However, the notion of idolatry expands beyond the narrow concept of prohibiting physical representations. An important aspect of the second commandment also involves worship and the way things are served. For example, if any material possession consumes our attention, such that it becomes more important to us than our relationship with God, it is a form of idolatry. An idol doesn’t need to be a physical object either. If we have a habit or activity in our lives that diminishes the importance of God in our lives and we choose to dedicate ourselves to something else, it is a form of idolatry. For example, a hobby or a job can become an idol if it becomes more important in our lives than God. A person can become an idol as well, if serving him or her gets in the way of serving God. Clearly, this commandment goes further in its application than what it seems on the surface.

Quoting from a recent Q&A, we provide an explanation that covetousness is also a form of idolatry:

“The apostle Paul tells us that we are to put to death covetousness which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Therefore, the tenth commandment is linked to the second commandment. If we covet anything belonging to another person, we are making an idol of what we covet. This would include our neighbor’s spouse, car, house, job, holiday, etc. We would be coveting something that God says is not ours to have because it is someone else’s possession.

“From this we see that an idol is not just a religious symbol or image, but it can be any object, person or animal or even profession for which we have a wrong desire. In fact, anything we put before God basically becomes our idol.”

In the same Q&A, we explain how we can have idols in our minds:

“[I]dols can relate to physical objects and the desire for the possessions of others, but they can also include the belief in things like charms, divination or astrology. They can even pertain to our reliance on our own self-righteousness and integrity. As we read in Ezekiel 14:3-4, idols can indeed be in our minds. And any idol, whether an object or a wrong thought pattern or concept, can lead us away from obeying God and can cloud our understanding as to what and who He is.”

Knowing how to identify idolatry allows us to detect evidence for the fact that it has always been a sin, and a violation of God’s eternal, spiritual law. Idols can take the shape of physical representations of gods, as well as any other object, person, activity, or idea that turn us away from God. The examples in the Bible primarily focus on physical representations of other gods used in false worship as well as their use in the proposed worship of the true God, but as we will see, a broad sense of idolatry is also expressed.

A key Scripture providing evidence that the commandment against idolatry was in effect prior to the reception of the ten commandments can be found when God instructs Jacob to go to Bethel and build an altar to God (Genesis 35:1). In response to this instruction, Jacob hides the idols that he knows are among his people. “And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem”(Genesis 35:2-4). Not only does this show that idols for foreign gods existed at that time, but it also shows that Jacob knew they were wrong to possess to be used for the worship of false gods or even the true God.

Since Jacob knew that he would go to Bethel to build an altar to God and dwell there, it is apparent that he also knew that it was time to remove the idols that were present in his camp. It is therefore clear that idol worship was understood as being wrong, giving us evidence that the second commandment was in effect before it was presented to Moses.

The Bible expresses another example of the presence of idolatry prior to the presentation of the Ten Commandments and the fact that it was always a violation of God’s commandment when Joshua confronts the same problem and provides the historical context and condemnation of idol worship in describing the behavior of Abraham’s ancestors. “And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods”’” (Joshua 24:2).

This shows that other gods were served in a way that expresses wrongdoing. Joshua goes on to describe the ways in which they served other gods. “‘Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!’” (Joshua 24:14). The ancestors of Israel, going back before Abraham and including ancestors in Egypt, served other gods with idols. This behavior of the ancestors is condemned because it was wrong then, just as it was at Joshua’s time. The reference to the kinds of idols served is not explicit in its description, but as we understand, an idol can be anything that is served in a way that takes away from the true worship of God.

We see an additional historic reference to the violation of the commandment against idolatry when Ezekiel describes the context of preparing to bring Israel out of Egypt. “‘Say to them, “Thus says the LORD God: ‘On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised My hand in an oath to them, saying, “I am the LORD your God.”   On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, “flowing with milk and honey,” the glory of all lands. Then I said to them, “Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God”’”’” (Ezekiel 20:5-7). From here we see that there was idol worship in Egypt and among the Israelites before the Exodus, and before God presented the Ten Commandments to Moses. The clear instruction is to remove their idols, which God declares as abominations, at the time when God revealed His intentions. God expected the Israelites to clean up their act by ceasing to serve idols, especially those made for other gods and even the true God, and not to use them in worship of false gods or the purported worship of the true God.

The spiritual law of God against idol worship was clearly in effect prior to the time when God presented the Ten Commandments to Moses. Idolatry was a problem since the very early history of mankind, and it was always considered to be sinful, as the evidence in the Bible clearly shows.

Lead Writer: Eric Rank

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

compiled by Dave Harris

“Is Austria’s Sebastian Kurz gay… and Would it Matter?” is the title of a new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

There have been rumors for quite a while about the alleged homosexuality of Austria’s former and future Chancellor, but the press basically avoids talking about them. However, would there exist any prophetic biblical significance in that regard?

“Ist Sebastian Kurz schwul… und wäre das wichtig?” is the title of a new AufPostenStehen program. Presented in German by Norbert Link, this program covers the same topic as the one described above.

“Unsere vorherbestimmte Berufung zum Heil,” is the title of this Sabbath’s new German sermon, presented by Norbert Link. Title in English: “Our Preordained Calling to Salvation.”

“Erntezeit,” is the title of the posted Offertory presented on Pentecost in Germany by Jens Herrmann. Title in English: “Harvest Time.”

“God’s Grief,” is the title of the posted Offertory presented by Thilo Hanstein on Pentecost during afternoon services. Here is a summary:

We often read in the Bible that God is very angry at man’s behavior and that He will soon pour out His anger. But is God’s wrath all there is to it? What do the prophets and Jesus Christ say about God’s feelings? You may be surprised to hear about God’s grief for man’s apostasy.

“What Exactly Is the Holy Spirit?” is title of the posted sermon presented by Norbert Link on Pentecost during afternoon services. Here is a summary:

Is the Holy Spirit an independent Personality or Person, or does it at least exist in some way as a conscious entity which is separate from the Father and the Son? If not, how are we to understand biblical Scriptures which seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit speaks or acts; and that this happens independently of God the Father and Jesus Christ? Upon closer examination, we will see that those passages, as well as the entire teachings of the Bible, convey something completely different from what is commonly assumed.

“Are We Always Half Empty?” is the title of the posted sermonette presented by Robb Harris on Pentecost during morning services.

“What Is the Church?” is the title of the posted sermon presented by Dave Harris on Pentecost during morning services. Here is a summary:

We hear it often, people talk about going to church, but is that really what church is all about? As shocking as it may sound, there is a great and marvelous purpose for the Church of God, and the Bible reveals that this is the ongoing work of Jesus Christ.

“Becoming Bold,” the sermonette presented last Sabbath by Kalon Mitchell, is now posted. Here is a summary:

Boldness is a Christian attitude that is talked about as being something we need to use. We have to make sure that our actions are correct and that our boldness comes from Christ.

“Fruits to be Desired,” the sermon presented last Sabbath by Michael Link, is now posted. Here is a summary:

Fruit has many advantages and benefits to our health and there are many different varieties of fruit with their own unique qualities. There are vital steps necessary for their growth which ultimately make them desirable. In the same respect, how can we apply these steps in our spiritual lives which are essential for our eternal salvation?

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

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