Interpersonal Relationships

On January 19, 2008, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, "Interpersonal Relationships."

The services can be heard at at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.


I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

One of the defining hallmarks of a Christian has to be his willingness to rise again after falling. As we walk the path of righteousness, there will be obstacles along the way. There is a good chance that, no matter how diligent we are, we will fall. This is not the end of the world. As much as we try to steady ourselves, we eventually will go down. The key is to get back up.

Proverbs 24:16 states, "For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again...." The Christian has a duty to get back up. We are not allowed to wallow in pity or any other self deprecating behavior, but rather pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and move on.

This is made all the easier by the fact that we have a loving Father who will rescue us in our time of need. In Job 5:19 we find a complementary Scripture, "He shall deliver you in six troubles, Yes, in seven no evil shall touch you." So, for all seven times that we fall into trouble, God will be there for us. All we need to do is avail ourselves of this option.

David explained: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all" (Psalms 34:19). Brethren and co-workers in Christ, let us continue to seek God while He may be found--in the good times and the bad; when we are up and when we are down. The biggest mistake that we can make may not be the one that caused us to fall, but the one that kept us from getting back up.

Current Events

Is the USA Losing Economic World Dominance?

The Financial Times wrote on January 15:

"The US looks poised to lose its mantle as the world’s dominant financial market because of a rapid rise in the depth and maturity of markets in Europe, a study suggests. The change may have occurred already, not least because US markets are beset by credit woes, according to research by McKinsey Global Institute, a think-tank affiliated to the consultancy. 'We think the differential growth rates are so significant that it is quite likely Europe has overtaken the US,' said Diana Farrell, author of the report... In previous decades, most US policymakers and bankers assumed their domestic markets were the largest and most sophisticated in the world, and sought to export their model of financial capitalism to other parts of the globe. But the credit crisis has dented confidence in the health of America’s financial institutions and its model of finance. Meanwhile, since the launch of the single currency in 1999, European markets have been steadily growing in liquidity and size."

"The US Is Headed Into a Recession"

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 16:

"Fears continued to grow on Wednesday that the growing financial flu in the United States caused by the subprime mortgage crisis is spreading across the Atlantic. On Tuesday, investor Hypo Real Estate saw its market value drop by a massive €2 billion, or nearly a third, one of the biggest drops ever recorded of a firm listed in the DAX index of leading German firms... Meanwhile, conviction seems to be growing that the US is headed into a recession and that the effects could put the brakes on Germany's recent economic boom. Last week Goldman Sachs said the US would go into a recession in 2008, but Merrill Lynch claims it has already arrived."

US Inflation Rate Worst in 17 Years

The Associated Press reported on January 16:

"Higher costs for energy and food last year pushed inflation up by the largest amount in 17 years, even though prices generally remained tame outside of those two areas. Meanwhile, industrial output was flat in December, more evidence of a significant slowdown in the economy... Consumers felt the pain when they filled up their gas tanks or shopped for groceries...

"In a second report, the Federal Reserve said that output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities showed no growth in December, adding to a string of weak economic reports showing that the economy was slowing at the end of last year.

"That weakness has shown up in the biggest one-month jump in unemployment since the 2001 terrorist attacks and billions of dollars in losses at many of the country's biggest financial institutions. Citigroup Inc. reported Tuesday it had suffered a $10 billion loss for the last three months of 2007, reflecting bad bets on investments backed by subprime mortgages.

"The Dow Jones industrial average plunged by 277 points on Tuesday and fell even further on Wednesday as Intel reported weak earnings for the fourth quarter. The Dow was down by 26 points in late morning trading... The rising risk of a recession has prompted politicians to consider stimulus packages to give the economy a jump-start to either prevent a recession or at least mitigate its fallout... Workers' wages failed to keep up with the higher inflation. Average weekly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, dropped by 0.9 percent in 2007, the biggest setback since a 1.5 percent fall in 2005."

In addition, AFP reported on January 17 that "US financial services giant Merrill Lynch reported Thursday a 2007 net loss of 7.8 billion dollars amid heavy losses in financial products linked to the mortgage sector crunch."

Bush Administration Supports "Reasonable" Gun Restrictions

On January 14, WorldNetDaily reported the following:

"Since 'unrestricted' private ownership of guns clearly threatens the public safety, the 2nd Amendment can be interpreted to allow a variety of gun restrictions, according to the Bush administration. The argument was delivered by U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the ongoing arguments over the legality of a District of Columbia ban on handguns in homes, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. Clement suggested that gun rights are limited and subject to 'reasonable regulation' and said all federal limits on guns should be upheld.

"'Given the unquestionable threat to public safety that unrestricted private firearm possession would entail, various categories of firearm-related regulation are permitted by the 2nd Amendment,' he wrote in the brief, the Times reported. He noted especially the federal ban on machine guns and those many other 'particularly dangerous types of firearms,' and endorsed restrictions on gun ownership by felons, those subject to restraining orders, drug users and 'mental defectives.' His arguments came in the closely watched Washington, D.C., ban that would prevent residents from keeping handguns in their homes for self-defense...

"The [second] amendment reads, 'A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.' Clement is the Bush administration's chief lawyer before the court, and submitted the arguments in the case that is to determine whether the D.C. limit is constitutional.

"He said the 2nd Amendment 'protects an individual right to possess firearms, including for private purposes unrelated to militia operations,' and noted the D.C. ban probably goes too far... He said the failing in the D.C. law is that it totally bans handguns in the homes of private citizens... The Justice Department long had endorsed gun controls until Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001 switched the department's position to support individual gun rights, the Times said."

Bad Arab Reviews for President Bush in the Mideast

Time reported on January 16:

"The disparaging of President Bush's eight-day tour of the Middle East by America's staunchest opponents in the region was hardly unexpected. Iran's foreign minister claimed it was designed to give Israel a green light 'to perpetrate new crimes' against Palestinians. Lebanon's most senior Shi'ite cleric accused Bush of 'war crimes.' A prominent jihadist web site called the President 'this criminal, butcher and murderer of our blood.'

"But Bush was also harshly criticized — albeit in more circumspect language — in countries with close ties to Washington, including some from the very countries that rolled out the red carpet for the visiting President. Commenting on the two main purposes of the tour, even the most liberal Arab press questioned the sincerity of Bush's efforts to establish a Palestinian state and criticized his campaign to pressure Iran over its nuclear program... Perhaps the unkindest cut of all was an editorial in the Saudi Gazette, comparing back-to-back visits by Western leaders to Riyadh this week. 'It would be difficult to argue that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to the Kingdom was not in almost every way a success,' the paper said, adding, with an unmistakable swipe at Bush: 'It's refreshing to see a Western leader come to the Kingdom speaking of peace rather than just issuing warnings on the state of affairs in the region.'

"Bush's efforts to rally an Arab coalition to isolate Iran in the Gulf seemed to fall flat. Only days after he visited Kuwait, liberated in 1991 by a coalition led by the President's father, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah was standing beside Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran, declaring: 'My country knows who is our friend and who is our enemy, and Iran is our friend.'

"Seldom has an American President's visit left the region so underwhelmed, confirming Bush's huge unpopularity on the street and his sagging credibility among Arab leaders he counts as allies...

"Bush received his warmest welcome in Saudi Arabia, where King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud accorded him an honor reserved for special friends by inviting him to his horse farm outside Riyadh. But the Saudis didn't hesitate when it came to publicly disagreeing with Bush's views on various Middle East matters. Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, standing beside Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice, pointedly declined to endorse her call for more Arab gestures toward Israel or her relatively rosy assessment of political reconciliation in Iraq. After Bush jawboned the Saudis about increasing oil production to bring down oil prices, the Saudi oil minister shot back, 'We will raise production when the market justifies it.'

"For Arabs, the biggest bone of contention, as it has been so often in the past, was Bush's handling of the Palestinian issue... 'We ought to be celebrating President George Bush's declaration that a Palestinian state is "long overdue,"' said the Arab News in Jidda. 'It is impossible to feel any excitement about Bush's words, because no Palestinian, no Arab believes he will, or can, deliver. We have the Bush record with its damning testimony of failure and disaster. That is the reason for the skepticism and the cynicism.'"

Sarkozy Under Fire

Reuters reported on January 18:

"President Nicolas Sarkozy's increasingly frequent and positive references to God and faith have drawn fire from critics who accuse him of violating France's separation of church and state. Sarkozy, a taboo-breaker whose whirlwind love life has distracted the media for weeks, broke with traditional presidential reserve about religion to stress France's Christian roots in a speech in a Rome basilica just before Christmas.
"In Riyadh on Monday, he hailed Islam as 'one of the greatest and most beautiful civilisations the world has known' and described his Saudi hosts as rulers who 'appeal to the basic values of Islam to combat the fundamentalism that negates them'. His praise for a kingdom that enforces and propagates a strict version of Islam, during a visit aimed at securing lucrative export contracts, was the last straw for his critics...

"The twice-divorced president defines himself as a 'cultural Catholic', an infrequent churchgoer who says he values the moral and social role that religion can play in society."

"Europe Is Becoming a Platform for Terrorists"

Reuters reported on January 16:

"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Wednesday that one of the biggest threats to U.S. security may now come from within Europe. In an interview with BBC radio, Chertoff said that American authorities were becoming increasingly aware of a real risk of Europe becoming a 'platform for terrorists'... Chertoff's comments came after reports that British intelligence services are investigating an Islamist Web site which said that a branch of al Qaeda had been established in Britain. Security experts fear a posting on the site, urging young Muslim men to rise up against what it called infidels such as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, may be genuine.

"Chertoff said that while Washington had no plans to suspend a visa waiver program that allows most Europeans who travel to the United States as tourists to do so without a visa, authorities would like to step up advance checks on travelers. 'We do want to elevate some of the security measures in the program,' he said, proposing an advance travel authorization system which would require potential visitors to register online their intention to travel to America to allow authorities to clear them in advance.

"Chertoff also said that the absence of any attacks in the United States since September 11, 2001 had created 'a certain sense of complacency' which needed to be dispelled. 'When I lift my eyes and look around the world and I look at what happens in Britain and Germany and Spain and Bali and Pakistan, I don't see terrorism going away, I see an al Qaeda that's emboldened,' he said."

Tony Blair--the New European President?

On January 12, the EUObserver wrote the following about speculations that Tony Blair might become the European President  in 2009:

"Even before the Lisbon Treaty was signed, speculation was rife as to who would be the first European president as proposed in the new document. Now it is signed and sealed, one man heads the list of potential candidates. The role, outlined in the treaty signed by the 27 member states at the end of last year, will replace the current system whereby each country assumes the rotating presidency for six months. The job, a two-and-a-half-year term, will be up for grabs in 2009 if the bloc's 27 member states can keep to their timetable and individually ratify the treaty over the next year. It now appears that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has taken an early lead...

"[French President] Sarkozy has made no secret of his admiration for Blair and was the first and most vocal advocate of his potential presidency. 'He is a very remarkable man. He is the most European of Britons ... it would be intelligent to think of him,' Sarkozy said last year. The French president is not alone in thinking Blair would be a good candidate...

"Blair's supporters also trumpet his close ties with the United States, which could help improve transatlantic relations, and his high international profile... One of Blair's strongest skills is his public persona and his ability to work with diplomats of all levels and nations. The European president would also have to be a strong character to help define the job from that of the EU 'High Representative' for foreign affairs, a post also introduced in the treaty, and the European Commission president's role. Blair has never had a problem with showing those around him who's boss, with maybe the exception of the President of the United States.

"Blair's close relationship with the United States, which his supporters say would be advantageous in the European president's post, is also held up by those against him as a reason why he would not be the ideal candidate. Blair looked across the Atlantic instead of the English Channel when Iraq slipped towards war and many on the continent have not forgotten on which post Blair nailed his colors.

"While speculation grows, the man himself is said to be concentrating fully on his current job as the international community's Middle East envoy without a thought for the position of European president. Anyone who has followed Blair's career will find that very difficult to believe."

It might be interesting to review Mr. Blair's ancestry.

The Wickipedia Encyclopedia reports:

"Blair was born at the Queen Mary Maternity Home in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 6 May 1953, the second son of Leo and Hazel Blair [her maiden name was Corscadden]. Leo Blair, the illegitimate son of two English actors, had been adopted by a Glasgow shipyard worker named James Blair and his wife Mary as a baby. Hazel Corscadden was the daughter of George Corscadden, a butcher and Orangeman who had moved to Glasgow in 1916 but returned to (and died in) Ballyshannon in 1923, where his wife Sarah Margaret [her maiden name was Lipsett] gave birth to Blair's mother Hazel above her family's grocery shop. The Lipsett family in Donegal supposedly originated with a German Jewish immigrant to Ireland prior to the 18th century..."

Joerg Haider Back in the News

The Associated Press reported on January 14 (The article was re-published in The Moscow Times on January 16):

"Austrian right-wing politician Joerg Haider called on Saturday for an immediate moratorium on granting asylum to immigrants from Chechnya, blaming some already in the alpine country for violence and sex crimes. In a harshly worded statement, Haider -- the former leader of the far-right Freedom Party -- accused the Austrian government of carelessness in approving roughly 70 percent of all applications for asylum sought by people fleeing Chechnya.

"Haider accused Chechen asylum seekers of 'excessive violence' in the southern province of Carinthia, where he is governor, and blamed Chechens for a rise in rapes and other sexual assaults in the province of Upper Austria. Chechens, Haider said, have 'a heightened potential for violence' and should not be readily admitted into Austria... Haider said it was 'incomprehensible' that Austria granted asylum to more than 2,000 Chechens last year. At the same time, he said, neighboring nations such as Slovenia did not approve a single application.

"He said more Chechens were reaching Austria and applying for permission to stay now that European Union border controls have been dismantled along the country's borders with relative EU newcomer nations Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Haider, who founded the somewhat more moderate Alliance for the Future of Austria in 2005, is best known for mocking Jews and praising some of Hitler's policies while he was at the helm of the Freedom Party."

Islam's Teaching About Jesus Christ

AFP reported on January 13:

"A director who shares the ideas of Iran's hardline president has produced what he says is the first film giving an Islamic view of Jesus Christ, in a bid to show the 'common ground' between Muslims and Christians. Nader Talebzadeh sees his movie, 'Jesus, the Spirit of God,' as an Islamic answer to Western productions like Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster 'The Passion of the Christ,' which he praised as admirable but quite simply 'wrong'... Islam sees Jesus as a prophet, not the [Son] of God, and does not believe he was crucified... The film, funded by state broadcasting, faded off the billboards but is far from dead, about to be recycled in a major 20 episode spin-off to be broadcast over state-run national television this year...

"[In the] movie, God saves Jesus, depicted as a fair-complexioned man with long hair and a beard, from crucifixion and takes him straight to heaven. 'It is frankly said in the Koran that the person who was crucified was not Jesus' but Judas, one of the 12 Apostles and the one the Bible holds betrayed Jesus to the Romans [Talebzadeh said]...

"In [the] film, it is Judas who is crucified. Islam sees Jesus as one of five great prophets -- others being Noah, Moses and Abraham -- sent to earth to announce the coming of Mohammed, the final prophet who spread the religion of Islam... Shiite Muslims, the majority in Iran, believe Jesus will accompany the Imam Mahdi when he reappears in a future apocalypse to save the world.

"... the TV version of [the] film will [allegedly] further explore the links between Jesus and the Mahdi -- whose return Ahmadinejad has said his government, which came to power in 2005, is working to hasten."

Austrian Politician Attacks Muhammad and Islam

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 14:

"Susanne Winter, a right-wing politician with the FPÖ party running for a city council seat in the city of Graz, blasted Muslims on Sunday, saying that 'in today's system' the Prophet Muhammad would be considered a 'child molester,' apparently referring to his marriage to a six-year-old child. She also said that it is time for Islam to be 'thrown back where it came from, behind the Mediterranean.'... she also claimed that Muhammad wrote the Koran in 'epileptic fits.'

"In an interview with the daily Österreich published on Monday, Winter continued the onslaught saying that child abuse is 'widespread' among Muslim men and that Graz is facing a 'tsunami of Muslim immigration.' In 20 or 30 years, she warned, half of Austria's population would be Muslim.

"Her comments have resulted in a storm of protest in Austria, with politicians and commentators of all stripes taking Winter and her party to task. Austrian prosecutors are also looking into the possibility of filing charges against the 50-year-old politician for incitement...

"But despite the strong reaction generated by Winter, such rhetoric is hardly foreign to political campaigns in Austria. Her party was brought to international prominence by Jörg Haider, the notoriously right-leaning politician who found success in the 1990s and earlier this decade with a mixture of xenophobia and nationalism. He has since moved on, but his rhetoric has remained the same. Campaigning recently for his new group, the Association for Austria's Future (BZÖ), he said, 'We are still allowed to say Gruss Gott,' -- the traditional Austrian greeting -- 'and don't have to praise Allah.'..."

The Austrian Press Agency, NetWorld, reported on January 15 that Winter allegedly received death threats from a radical Islamic group, which is reportedly operating in Serbia. The group claims that Winter must be killed, and that every Muslim is entitled to kill Winter. In addition, a video surfaced on the Internet, which was later withdrawn by the Internet provider as inappropriate, showing a picture of the September 11th attack on New York, with an accompanying text, stating that something similar could also happen in Austria, and that Winter would be responsible.

NetWorld continued to state on January 16 that even several Habsburg emperors could be viewed as "child molesters"--if one was to follow Winter's rationale. It was pointed out that in 1483, French Emperor Charles VIII married three-year-old Margaret of Austria, a daughter of Emperor Maxilimian. Further, in 1649, 14-year-old Maria Anna of Austria was married to her uncle, Spain's King Philip of Spain; and in 1666, 15-year-old Margarita Teresa married her uncle, Emperor Leopold I.

German Head of Catholic Church Resigns

Deutsche Welle reported on January 16:

"Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the head of Germany's Catholic Church, has announced that he will vacate his post on Feb. 18 [after having led the country's bishops for over 20 years]. The sometimes controversial, but respected bishop is known to have had health problems last year... Considered to be a relatively liberal Catholic theologian, the cardinal... became deputy head of German bishops in 1985 and was appointed chairman in 1987. He has held that post longer than any other bishop.

"He is viewed as a moral authority in Germany, and became a symbol for the Catholic Church in the country. But he has not always appealed to everyone... Lehmann upset many Muslims last year, when he spoke out against Islam enjoying equal status to Christianity in Europe."

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 15 that Lehmann is one of the few church leaders who was not afraid to oppose Rome, and that his resignation signifies a loss for German Catholics. The magazine reported that he observed with concern the growth of the Catholic Church's "Roman centralism."

Church Trial Against Galileo "Reasonable and Just"?

VIS reported on January 16:

"The Pope will not make the visit he was scheduled to make tomorrow, 17 January, to Rome's 'La Sapienza' University for the inauguration of the academic year, according to a communique released yesterday evening by the Holy See Press Office... The 'events' to which the note refers include a petition to the rector signed by 67 professors asking for the invitation to Benedict XVI to be withdrawn, and protests by groups of students who yesterday occupied the rector's office to demand the right to demonstrate within the university campus on the day of the Pope's visit.

"The signatories of the petition take exception to a talk given by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1990, and in particular to a phrase he used on that occasion to the effect that 'in Galileo's time the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The trial against Galileo was reasonable and just.' The future Pope's remarks, a quote from a work by the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, were made in the context of a talk on the crisis of confidence in science, in which he used the example of changing attitudes towards the case of Galileo."

Closer Ties Between China and Taiwan?

The Associated Press reported on January 12:

"Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party, which supports closer ties with mainland China, won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections Saturday in a major upset for President Chen Shui-bian. The opposition victory is a massive blow to Chen's government, whose hard-line policies were aimed at formalizing de facto independence for Taiwan. Chen, who has been president for eight years, must step down after the presidential elections on March 22... A major election issue was the economy, political observers said. Salaries have remained stagnant and unemployment is high in one of the world's top 20 economies, while the prices of consumer goods have soared -- at the same time as China has enjoyed an economic boom.

"The Nationalists have promised to boost the economy by allowing Chinese tourists to visit the island and arranging direct flights between Taiwan and China... Initiatives that the Nationalists have stalled in recent years have [included] a multibillion-dollar sale of American weapons to the island. It could also see a thawing of the island's often frosty relationship with China, with the Nationalists not dismissing the notion of possible reunification with the mainland -- an issue of serious dispute since the unresolved civil war of the 1940s. China refuses to recognize Taiwan's de facto independence from the mainland. Beijing's attitude towards Taiwan has also been the source of tension with Washington for several decades."

Cloned Animal Meat Safe for Consumption?

AFP reported on January 16:

"The US food safety authority on Tuesday approved meat and milk from cloned animals, clearing the way for them one day to appear on store shelves despite opposition on ethical and health grounds. 'Meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine, and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals,' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official Randall Lutter told a news conference. Lutter said his agency would not require food made from cloned animals or their offspring to be specially labeled, but producers could apply for the right to label their foods 'clone-free.' The FDA however said it did not have enough information to rule on whether cloned sheep and other cloned animals were safe to eat...

"The European Commission has vowed to consult consumers before giving its own ruling in May. The European Food Safety Authority said meat and milk from healthy cattle and pig clones is probably safe for humans to eat...

"US senators last month passed a farm bill that included a measure requiring the FDA to delay its ruling until further studies are carried out. One of the sponsors of that measure, Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, accused the FDA of acting 'recklessly' on Tuesday. 'Just because something was created in a lab, doesn't mean we should have to eat it,' she said in a statement... It will still be years before meat and milk from clones appears in US stores, reports say. The animals involved, clones of the highest quality beasts, are too valuable to slaughter or milk and better used for breeding."

Ethics Violation of Cloned Food

The EUObserver reported on January 17:

"The European Commission's advisory group [EGE] charged with consideration of ethics in science and technology has concluded that at present the production of cloned food cannot be justified. The [EGE] said Thursday (17 January) that due to the level of suffering of the mothers into which a cloned embryo is placed and the health problems of the animal clones themselves, the group 'has doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified.'

"Cloned animals are faced with a wide range of health problems, with a high death rate and a high incidence of disease. Clones commonly suffer from premature ageing; enlarged tongues; squashed faces; intestinal blockages; immune deficiencies; diabetes; heart, lung and liver damage; kidney failure; and brain abnormalities. Surrogate mothers are also burdened with significant suffering and a high death rate..."

First Human-Animal Embryo

Times on Line reported on January 17:

"Experiments to create Britain’s first embryos that merge human and animal material will begin within months after a Government watchdog today approved two research teams to carry out the controversial work. Scientists... will now inject human DNA into empty eggs from cows, to create embryos known as cytoplasmic hybrids...

"The experiments are intended to provide insights into diseases such as Parkinson’s and spinal muscular atrophy by producing stem cells containing genetic defects that contribute to these conditions. These will be used as cell models for investigating new approaches to treatment and for improving understanding of how embryonic stem cells develop. They will not be used in therapy, and it is illegal to implant them into the womb."

Here Come the Human Clones...

The Associated Press reported in January 17:

"Scientists in California say they have produced embryos that are clones of two men, a potential step toward developing scientifically valuable stem cells.

"The new report documents embryos made with ordinary skin cells. But it's not the first time human cloned embryos have been made. In 2005, for example, scientists in Britain reported using embryonic stem cells to produce a cloned embryo. It matured enough to produce stem cells, but none were extracted. Stem cells weren't produced by the new embryos either, and because of that, experts reacted coolly to the research... Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk claimed a few years ago that he'd created such cell lines, but that turned out to be a fraud...

"Scientists say stem cells from cloned embryos could provide a valuable tool for studying diseases, screening drugs and, perhaps someday, creating transplant material to treat conditions like diabetes and Parkinson's disease. But critics raise objections. The process 'involves creating human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them for alleged benefit to others,' said Richard Doerflinger, spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops... Other objections to cloning include concerns about health risks and exploitation if large numbers of women are asked to provide eggs."

Jury Duty--Be Prepared At All Times

The San Diego Union Tribune wrote on January 12 about the jury selection process in St. Johnbury, Vermont. The article stated: "Faced with a shrunken jury pool, a judge resorted to some sidewalk justice in hopes of [filling] it out. [The Judge who was] discouraged when a 34-person pool of potential jurors for a sex case was reduced to 20 people, sent sheriff's deputies into the street Wednesday to summon people to join them. Caledonia County uniformed deputies stopped people in front of the post office, asking if they lived in the county. Those who did and were 18 or older were given a summons to report to the courthouse."

A member wrote us the following note: "I had this happen to me in Palacios Texas years ago, when I went to the post office to mail something.  Thankfully I was able to talk the sheriff out of it on the spot, as it turned out I had a dentist appointment at the time the court date was set!"

Another piece of disturbing news was reported from Colorado. stated on January 17:

"They roamed the streets of Greeley Wednesday morning with stacks of paper and an eye out for people they could summon to emergency jury duty. Weld County and District Court staff handed subpoenas to more than 50 unsuspecting people, telling them they had to report for jury duty Wednesday morning because many of those summoned by mail did not show. Some of the people were just walking around town... [Court administrators] say this is the third time in the last two months they've had to take such extreme action.  Before December, they believe it had not happened in 15 years. Judges and administrators will be meeting to discuss what to do with all those no-shows."

The Associated Press added in its article on January 17, which was posted on The Denver Post:

"With only 39 out of 200 people [summoned] for jury duty showing up Wednesday, court officials with emergency jury duty subpoenas headed to the street to randomly pick 50 people to serve on juries. Witnesses told television stations that administrators approached people walking on the sidewalk, at a grocery store and even a nearby gym, where people in their workout clothes headed to court under a threat of a contempt of court citation... Failing to show up for jury duty after getting a summons... could result in a contempt of court citation."

Q & A

Would you please explain Christ's message to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, as recorded in chapters 2 and 3?

We have already written about this subject in two previous Updates (Update #157 and #187). We explained that it has long been understood and taught by God’s Church that Christ’s message to the seven churches has at least a three-fold application. First, it relates to seven literal churches or church congregations in Asia Minor at the time of John. Then, it describes the history of the Church in seven distinct prophetic "Church eras" from the time of John until Christ’s return. And finally, it points out character traits of spiritual strength and weakness of God’s people throughout the existence of the New Testament Church. Christ’s message to the seven churches, although in some respects directed foremost to individual congregations and/or Church eras (Revelation 2:6, 10, 14-15, 20-23; 3:3, 10, 20) is, in its overall sense, meant for all Christians at all times (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:5-6, 12-13, 21-22).

Regarding the understanding that Christ's message ALSO includes seven church ERAS, please note the following interesting comments by Baptist minister, Dr. Lehman Strauss, "The Book of the Revelation," copyright 1964, 1972, pages 33, 34, 45:

"... each church individually, and the seven churches combined, set forth prophetic anticipation. I see in them seven ages or stages in the life of the Church on earth, commencing with Pentecost... There is a prophetic picture of seven periods of the Church's history on earth... The Laodicean letter, being the last of the seven, anticipates prophetically the end of the Church Age, that period immediately preceding the return of Christ... Our materialistic, inflationary times might well mark the end of the present age..."

In this Q&A, we are going to provide some additional information on Christ's message to the seven churches. We will mainly emphasize the historical relevance and the application of Christ's message to individual Christians. Although we will briefly mention the identity of the Church ERAS, please make sure to review again our previous Updates, #157 and #187, which address that aspect in much more detail.

In all of Christ's messages to the seven churches, He emphasizes the fact that He knows their works. But this does not mean that He approves, in each case, of the particular works in question. After all, we can do good or bad works, and everyone will be judged "according to his work" (Revelation 22:12).

(1) Message to Ephesus (compare Revelation 2:1-7)

The city of Ephesus was the commercial center of Asia. Its temple of Diana was one of the “seven wonders” of the ancient world. At first, the Church brethren did not follow “false apostles” (compare Revelation 2:2: "... you cannot bear those who are evil."). Strauss comments on page 36: "They were intolerant of sin. Today it makes little difference what people are like morally or spiritually, just so we get them into our church and on the membership roll to swell the number. The church at Ephesus was not concerned with the quantity of persons that were added, but rather with the quality."

Nevertheless, they subsequently did tolerate false teachers such as the “Nicolaitans,” a sect believed by many to have advocated licentiousness as the proper way of life (Revelation 2:6). They had become weary and had lost their first love for Christ and His truth and were not as zealous anymore to resist error. That this could happen was partially due to constant persecution from the Romans under Emperor Domitian (whose statute was found in Ephesus and who called himself “god”) and the fact that they were meeting in their homes, or everywhere else they could—scattered congregations with their own pastorship, but without central leadership (compare Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 701).

Historically, the New Testament Church was founded in Jerusalem and transferred later to the city of Pella, around 69 A.D. When Paul traveled to Europe, Ephesus became a second Headquarters. According to tradition, Paul and John died here.

(2) Message to Smyrna (compare Revelation 2:8-11)

Smyrna means "bitter." And so, Christ addressed the Smyrna church as one finding itself in the midst of bitter sorrow and suffering.

Christ encouraged the church to "be faithful until death" (Revelation 2:10). The Greek word for faithful in this case signifies conviction--including the persuasion that with Christ, everything is possible, and there is never a compelling reason to give up.

Although Smyrna was a splendid city, the members themselves were poor (compare Revelation 2:9). Polycarp, the disciple of John, became later the leader of the Church in Smyrna, who refused, in 155 A.D., to renounce Christ and was martyred as a consequence. The persecution mentioned in Revelation 2:10 could refer to ten separate attempts to wipe out Christianity prompted by the edicts of ten different Roman rulers (Strauss, page 43). Or, it might refer to the persecution under Trajan which hit Smyrna extra hard. Historically, a ten year persecution against the Church ("ten" signifies in the Bible a period of testing and judgment) occurred under Diocletian and Galerius from 303 to 313 A.D. Subsequently, in 325 A.D., the observance of Passover was prohibited by Emperor Constantine, and in 365 A.D., Sabbath observance was outlawed as well. God’s true Church was forced to flee “into the wilderness” of little recognition in this world for about 1,260 years, to be able to observe God’s laws (Revelation 12:6).

Strauss makes the following comments regarding Constantine and the Catholic Church, on pages 55 and 56:

"Constantine... declared himself a Christian and Christianity to be the religion of the state. Christian leaders were invited to witness the wholesale baptism of whole regiments of soldiers in Constantine's army. When later almost four hundred bishops met, Constantine was carried on a golden throne and he presided over the council as the recognized head of the church... Today the world is ready to accept the Roman Pope and be subject to him. The Roman Catholic Church claims to be of divine origin, but its 'deeds' and 'doctrine's are hated by Christ."

(3) Message to Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17)

A great altar of Zeus or Jupiter overlooked Pergamos. This town was also the seat of emperor worship. Christians refusing to worship pagan gods or the emperor would often times be killed (compare Revelation 2:13). In addition, Pergamos was a center of healing associated with the temple of Asclepius (or Esculapius) who was worshipped in the form of a serpent (one of the designations of Satan, compare Revelation 12:9).

Christ chided the Church at Pergamos for holding the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14; compare Jude 10-14; 2 Peter 2:15).

Notice these interesting comments by Strauss, pages 53-54: "Balaam conceived an evil scheme that was to produce the downfall of God's people. When he concluded that he could not curse them, he proposed to corrupt them. He suggested that the Moabite girls should seduce the men of Israel by inviting them to participate in their idolatrous and immoral feasts. In this evil perpetration he succeeded (Numbers 25:1-3; cf. 31:16), and through this unholy alliance, this unequal yoke, this mixed marriage, Israel fell. Balaam had followed Satan's old line. When the devil failed to wipe out the godly line through murder (Genesis 4), he resorted to mixture (Genesis 6). This was Balaamism, and it was this evil principle that came into the assembly at Pergamos."

The Pergamos-era began about 650 A.D. under Constantine of Mananoli. He led hundreds of thousands of Christians who became known as "Paulicians." A large portion of those were killed, as one author put it, “by hanging, fire and sword.”

(4) Message to Thyatira (compare Revelation 2:18-29)

The city of Thyatira was a commercial center and famous for its temple of Artemis or Diana. A mysterious figure, Jezebel, is mentioned. Whether a literal woman, a symbolic reference to a great false church (compare Revelation 17) or a reference to the wife of ancient king Ahab, the thought conveyed here is that some in the Church of God had begun to engage in pagan worship of the sun god Baal and his "mother-wife"--the moon goddess Astarte or Isthar (compare 2 Kings 9:22)--including the observance of Sunday and Christmas and Easter celebrations, a doctrine or teaching referred to as the “depths of Satan” (Revelation 2: 24).

Strauss offers this interesting interpretation, on pages 66-67: "Even though the Bible is clear that a woman is in subjection to the man and that a woman is never to usurp authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:1-12), Romanism has reversed this order and millions of Roman Catholic men worship an image of Mary and offer prayers to her... The Jezebel of the last 1,500 years has not changed. Rome never does change. But this Babylon of prophecy will meet with divine judgment when the sovereign Head of the Church comes back to earth again..."

The Thyatira-era began around 1100 with Peter of Bruys in France. He would later become known as Peter Valdez or Peter Waldo, leader of the Waldensians. In the 12th century, Waldensians were known in about 22 European countries. In 1309, they appeared in the Netherlands, and a few years later, Waldensian leaders Walter the Lollard and his brother Raymond preached the gospel in Great Britain. In 1315, records report of 80,000 Waldensians in Bohemia. By 1539, their number had reached 800,000 in Europe.

(5) Message to Sardis (compare Revelation 3:1-6)

The city of Sardis had once been extremely wealthy under the legendary king Croesus. It was still famous in Roman times. Apparently many in Sardis converted to Christianity, but only few remained faithful. Most were, and would be, asleep (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:2).

Christ says in Revelation 3:4 that Sardis had "a few" which had not defiled their garments. Strauss writes, on page 74: "The sad contrast between the 'many' and the 'few' marks the twofold division of the human race. All men travel on one or the other of these two roads. Those who travel with the crowd and stand for nothing might find a certain feeling of security in doing what the majority do. But it is a false security. The fact that so many persons are doing the same thing does not make it right."

Historically, the Sardis era began in 1664 when Stephen Mumford was sent by the Church of God in England to Newport, Rhode Island, to establish the mother church of the Church of God in the United States. In about 1860, the Church of God separated from the Adventist movement. Commencing in 1890, Spanish speaking congregations in Chile and Argentina began to keep God’s annual Holy Days.

(6) Message to Philadelphia (compare Revelation 3:7-13)

Philadelphia was a small town. The brethren had “little strength” (Revelation 3:8); they were humble and content in the midst of a corrupt society. This is the only Church with which Jesus does not find any fault. Christ, who has the key of David (Revelation 3:7; compare Isaiah 22: 20-22), promised them to keep them from persecution (Revelation 3:10), and to give them an open door (Revelation 3:8; compare 1 Corinthians 16:9).

Christ said to the church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:8) that He knew their works, and He approved of them. Strauss explains correctly on page 91 that we "are saved by faith and not by works, but we are saved to work, and for our works we shall be rewarded (Ephesians 2:8-10)."

The Philadelphia ERA began in 1933 with Herbert W. Armstrong’s ministry which would increase in strength and power to become a worldwide work, well recognized by kings, presidents, heads of governments, and influential personalities in the fields of humanity, science and art. At the time of his death in 1986, Mr. Armstrong wondered in a prayer in the presence of the Advisory Counsel of Elders whether he was passing the baton to the Laodicea era. Subsequent events have answered this question in the affirmative.

(7) Message to Laodicea (compare Revelation 3:14-22)

Laodicea was a very prosperous city near Colossae. Christ alluded to this prosperity (compare Revelation 3:17), also by referring to fine wool and eye-salve, two of the town’s products (Revelation 3:18). The city was a banking center as well, and its water supply was channeled from hot springs some distance away, reaching the town "luke-warm" (Revelation 3:16).

Christ said in Revelation 3:15-16 that He wished the Laodiceans were either cold or hot, but that He will spew them out of His mouth, because they were lukewarm. Strauss explains, on pages 97 and 98: "This the Lord is saying to those at Laodicea that if, instead of being lukewarm, they were so cold as to feel the bitterness and severity of that coldness, they would flee to the true warmth of refuge. If we are really cold, and admit to the fact, our confession will lead to the removal of our sin... The Greek word for 'hot' ... means 'boiling hot'... the members in the church at Laodicea were not boiling hot; they were not ardent Christians. They had no enthusiasm, no emotion, no zeal, no urgency. It is possible to have a large measure of doctrinal correctness without the fire of spiritual fervor and affection..."

While all the other messages were directed to the angel [either a spirit being or a human church leader] of a particular city, this message is directed to the angel of the “Laodiceans,” [not Laodicea!], showing perhaps the “individuality” of the people. Halley (pp. 707-708) remarks, “Strange picture. A Church of Christ, with Christ Himself on the outside, asking to be let in to one of His own churches.” Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible concurs, stating on p. 650, “The worst case of all seven is a church so self-satisfied as to be totally blind to its true condition. It is so far from what it should be that Jesus stands outside, knocking for admittance to the lives of individuals who call themselves Christians.”

The message to the Laodiceans should serve as a strong warning for us today who are living in the "Laodicea era." Rather than keeping the doors of our hearts closed, denying entrance to Christ who stands outside knocking, refusing to follow Him and DO what He says, we should obey His command and embrace His promise to His true followers, as recorded in John 14:23: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."

History reveals, as does God's infallible Word, that Jesus did indeed build His Church (compare Matthew 16:18); that commencing with the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, God separated individuals whom He called and to whom He gave His Holy Spirit; that throughout some two thousand years of subsequent history, the Church of God has existed--even though its identity has been often overshadowed by false churches; and that even now, in a time when Satan has caused a scattering of God's people, Jesus Christ still works and rules as the living Head of the Church of God.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link


Updates and Requests

We are happy to report that Paul Voss has been released from the hospital and that he is recuperating at home. However, the healing process is expected to last for two or three months. Your continued prayers for Paul's complete recovery is very much appreciated.

Joe Jones' MRI  showed two ruptured disks in his lower spine. Please pray for God's speedy intervention and reduction of the pain.

Rene and Delia Messier informed us that Delia's sister Alberte is doing much better, and that she is thanking all of us for our prayers. Rene and Delia's son Paul is receiving vitamin and mineral shots every other day.  He has an overactive thyroid, and his white blood count is not good. Paul is asking for continued prayers, and he is very thankful to the brethren.

The Bannen family is asking for our prayers. Betty's husband Brad fell about two weeks ago and hit his head on ice. He is in much pain.

Matt 28:19-20

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program (#152) was posted on StandingWatch, Google Video and You Tube. It is titled, "No--You Are NOT Born Again!" In the program, Norbert Link points out that many well-meaning Christians are convinced that they are born again. But none of them are--if you believe the words of Jesus Christ. He told Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, in the book of John, chapter 3, that in order to be born again--in order to be able to see and enter the Kingdom of God--you must BE Spirit. But no Christian alive today IS a Spirit being; therefore, he could NOT have been born again! Why then is there so much confusion about the born-again concept?

The following video recording of Norbert Link's recent sermon was posted on Google Video:

Bible Study -- Do You Know the Year of Christ's Return?

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, Joan Pope, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Robb Harris, Michael Link, Noelle Link, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

Regular Contributors: Terry and Connie Grade, Kalon Mitchell

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Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermon tapes, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

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

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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United Kingdom: Global Church of God, Box 6111, 6 Slington House, Rankine Road, BASINGSTOKE, RG24 8PH, England

Matthew 5:14

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."

-Matthew 5:14
Church of the Eternal God Booklets

"And the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."

-Matthew 24:14