Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Greatest Gift

What is the greatest gift God has given us?

Life. Existence.

Life and all that life makes possible, within God's plan for the salvation of mankind and bringing us into His family.

If we had never been born, no other gift could have any meaning for us.

"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

Not so much this physical life. Most people appreciate being alive, but not everyone. In this evil world, some people's lives are so empty and miserable, they do not even like being alive.

But this physical life is just the beginning of an opportunity to have eternal life in God's kingdom and family.

That is the greatest gift.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spanking and Child Discipline

There is a trend in modern times in many western nations of some parents and activists taking a stand against spanking children. Sometimes parents quietly choose to raise their children without spanking. Sometimes activists campaign against spanking in public forums and even lobby for legislation to outlaw spanking. As I understand it, there are actually laws against corporal punishment of children in some countries. Even in the United States, corporal punishment can be interpreted by some as child abuse and there may even be some risk of being called into court if a parent physically disciplines his or her child. That is not common, but it can happen.

Most people's views about spanking are probably influenced by their experiences, either their experiences with their own parents when they were growing up or their experiences raising their own children. Those who have experienced right spanking know what right spanking is, and they can see the benefits of it, and they are more likely to favor spanking as a form of discipline and teaching for children. Others who have experienced no spanking, wrong spanking, or physical abuse often conclude that all spanking is wrong. They cannot tell the difference between right spanking and wrong spanking because they have never seen right spanking. They don't know how to do it and they don't know what it looks like. They often do not even know it exists.

Right spanking in the family is usually invisible to outsiders for two reasons. One, when a parent uses spanking the right way, he doesn't have to do it very often. The child develops the habit of obedience early and doesn't need to be spanked frequently. Two, in the current environment of some activists trying to label all spanking "child abuse", parents are even more private in the way they spank their children than they were in the past. This makes right spanking even more invisible to those who would most benefit from seeing it - those who have never experienced it or seen an example of it.

Satan is the deceiver of the whole world, and he tries to weaken families (Revelation 12:9). He deceives the world about child rearing just as he deceives the world about religion.

Some who are against spanking are only against corporal punishment but not against other forms of punishment such as time-outs where a child must sit in a corner for a certain number of minutes, or denial of privileges (such as no desert), or whatever. But some are against ALL forms of punishment, and some say that the Bible teaches grace and forgiveness, not punishment, and we should practice that principle in raising our children.

But God gives us instructions in the Bible about child discipline. He not only instructs us to teach our children the right way by correcting them with punishment, but He sets us the example, showing that He punishes His own children, that is, true Christians in His true Church, who are His own sons and daughters.

Does God punish Christians, His own children, to teach them lessons?

Hebrews was written to the Church (Hebrews 3:1). Notice Hebrews 12:5-11: "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Notice that the writer of Hebrews says that if you are without chastening (punishment), you are not a son (or daughter) of God (verses 7-8). In other words, if God doesn't punish you, you are not really a Christian.

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent....He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:19-22).

Furthermore, God teaches parents to include punishment as a teaching tool to teach their children the right way to live. "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (Proverbs 13:24).

Thus God teaches us both by instruction (Proverbs) and example (how He deals with us, His children in the Church), that we should include punishment as a tool to teach our children for their good.

God teaches punishment, and He does not exclude corporal punishment, that is, spanking. In fact, in speaking of the "rod" (which I assume is a kind of whip, not a hard rod that can injure) in Proverbs 13:24, God uses a physical form of punishment as an example of punishment.

What are the characteristics of right spanking?

It should not be more harsh than is necessary to produce obedience. You don't have to spank your child till he cries necessarily, for example. The object is learning the lesson, not tears. You know by the results. Suppose your child disobeys, you give him a light spanking, not enough to make him cry, but he learns to obey. Then that is sufficient. But if he still does not obey, then the next spanking should be harder, whether he cries or not. The goal is to teach obedience and right behavior, not humiliation and tears. Usually small children will cry, but if they don't cry, don't try to make them cry.

It should be fair. Spanking should come after the child has clearly heard and understood your instructions and disobeyed. If you are in doubt, do unto your child as you would want God to do to you.

Spanking should never cause injury. It should never be done in anger, but in love, to help the child.

Spanking should be consistent, applied to every incident of disobedience the first time, without delay, without repeating the command, no exceptions, so the child does not imagine he can get away with disobeying. Done this way, the child will learn to obey his mother and father the first time he is told to do something, promptly, automatically, without argument. There will not typically be arguing, fighting, and power struggles, and there will be few tears. The child will be happy and obedient and responsive to right teaching.

I have seen spanking, the right way, work very well to produce well-behaved, loving, and happy children, and balanced, confident, responsible adults. I have not seen that result without spanking. I don't say it is impossible, just that I haven't seen it myself. Those attempts by parents to raise their children without spanking or with minimum spanking that I have seen have led to bad results.

Laws against spanking are absolutely wrong and oppressive. God has given parents the responsibility to raise and discipline their children.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Effect of United States Presidential Election on Europe

Because of the economic decline of the United States and the budget deficit, federal spending will have to be reduced. How it is reduced depends on who is in power. Had Mitt Romney and the Republicans won the election, spending reductions would have been primarily in the domestic sphere. But with President Obama and the Democrats in power, spending cuts will be more severe for the military.

American military power is being reduced and will be reduced more, and this may be a long-term trend. And that prospect can put fear into the hearts of European leaders who understand the world and its dangers.

Thus, the leaders of Germany and the leaders of Europe will have a greater sense of urgency to build strong European unity and a strong European military.

This world is a dangerous place, and it will continue to be so. The earth's population grows faster than resources, and nations will compete for limited food resources and energy resources. Europe must import food and fossil fuels to survive, and they must have the protection of a strong military to keep access to those resources secure. If the United States cannot provide that military power, the Europeans have to develop it themselves.

Not only does the re-election of President Obama keep a president in power who is more willing than the Republicans to reduce our military, but it shows where the American people stand. If Americans are willing to elect a president who is willing to weaken the military, then Americans seem likely to do the same in future elections. This may spell the beginning of the end of the United States as a superpower.

In the past, European leaders may have been trying to build a "United States of Europe" from a motive of ambition. Now fear can be a motive, fear of losing the effective protection of the United States while not being strong enough to protect themselves.

So they are likely to push with a greater sense of urgency for European unity and a strong, united European military force.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Should Members or Ministers Be Disfellowshipped for Disagreeing about the Calendar, New Moons, or Eating in Restaurants on the Sabbath?

Should a member or minister in a Church of God organization be disfellowshiped for disagreeing with the leadership of that organization about the calendar, about new moons, or about the issue of eating in restaurants on the Sabbath?

A key is whether the member or minister is causing division by promoting his view among other members contrary to the policy of the leadership that Christ has put in the organization he attends.

"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18). "These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit" (Jude 19). "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

There is organization in the Church, and Christ has placed certain men in positions of authority, and while that authority has limits and does not include authority over our faith in God and His word ("Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" - 2 Corinthians 1:24), that authority does include the authority to make binding decisions about the work of the Church, including decisions about what doctrines will be officially taught by the Church, and members and ministers under that authority should not undermine that authority by contradicting it openly in conversation with other members. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,..." (Ephesians 4:1-14). "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18).

God is not the author of confusion - 1 Corinthians 14:33. It is discouraging and creates division when a member is seeking to be taught by the ministry, and then hears another member criticize what the minister has taught. We come to Sabbath services for peace and fellowship, not controversy and disrespect. People who cannot keep their mouths shut about their disagreements should stay home, and if not, then the ministry should put them out promptly.

However, if the member does not openly talk among the members about his disagreements, but discusses them privately and respectfully with those ministers or leaders over him in an effort to either understand or get a change made in Church teaching, properly going through channels as he should, he should not be disfellowshipped simply because he does not agree with Church authority about what God is saying in the Bible.

Let me state here my position on the issues I mentioned, so you can know my biases about that, then I will talk more about the issue of being disfellowshipped.

I personally do not think that God teaches, through the Bible, that it is wrong for a Church of God member to eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath. I think the calendar that Mr. Armstrong and most Church of God ministers and members observe is the correct one. And I do not think that God teaches in the Bible that members are required to observe new moons. Yet, while I currently believe these things, I have an open mind and am willing to be corrected from the Bible if I am wrong.

Nevertheless, if a member or minister avoids restaurants on the Sabbath for reasons of conscience, observes new moons, and rests on the holy days according to a different calendar, he should NOT be disfellowshiped for those things, provided he does not try to promote his views among the membership.

That is what the Bible teaches.

Should a member eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath if he believes the Bible teaches against it? "But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). This of course is not talking about restaurants, but it is teaching a principle, and the principle applies today.

What about the calendar?

There was a time when Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God taught that Pentecost was on a Monday. That was an error, and Mr. Armstrong corrected his mistake when he learned that it was a mistake. I was not in the Church of God at that time, but I heard or read later that some who understood it was a mistake before Mr. Armstrong corrected it quietly rested on Pentecost Sunday, according to their understanding of the Bible, while also assembling for fellowship on Monday with the Church. They were not disfellowshipped, but rather they were later spoken of in a positive sense of the right way to handle disagreements. They did not create division or try to promote their views. In fact, it was not even well known among other members that these people were resting on the Sunday before the Church kept Pentecost on Monday because they did it quietly, not talking about it openly.

Likewise, those who believe the Church of God should be observing a different calendar can rest on the holy days according to that calendar, for conscience sake towards God, but they should do it quietly, not talking about it, and they can still attend with the Church when the Church assembles. They can also observe new moons, in their own personal observance, without promoting new moons among other members. And when Christ comes, He can explain to whoever is wrong what their error is, but in the meantime we can have peace in the Church. That is God's way. We obey God first, but we show respect for the authority of the offices God has placed in the Church.

Is it hypocrisy to quietly observe different days without talking about it? Is it hypocrisy to keep silent? Not at all.

Do we say everything we think? If your close friend makes a mistake, do you always tell him his mistake? If a woman changes her hair arrangement, if you don't like it, do you always tell her you don't like it just so you won't be a hypocrite? If you hear something bad about someone, are you a hypocrite if you don't spread it around? We know how to keep some things confidential out of a motive of love. That is not hypocrisy.

In Paul's day there apparently was some differences of opinion about eating meat sold in the marketplace that had been offered to idols. Paul said it was not wrong to do so - that was his official teaching, just as it is the official teaching of many Church of God fellowships today that it is not wrong to eat in restaurants on the Sabbath. He taught that it was permitted to eat meat offered to idols. But what did he say about the person who thought it was wrong to eat meat offered to idols? Did he say, "put the rebellious person out"? No he didn't.

Here is what he taught: "Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

Paul taught us to bear with those who, due to lack of knowledge, had a sensitive conscience about doing something that we know is not wrong, but they think it is. Not only are we to bear with them, but we are even to avoid doing the thing the other person thinks is wrong in front of him, lest he be tempted to do the same, even though we know it is not really wrong. Thus, we should not even tempt someone into eating in a restaurant on the Sabbath if he or she thinks it is wrong.

Let me paraphrase what Paul said, changing "eating meat offered to idols" to "eating in restaurants on the Sabbath", to illustrate the point: "Now concerning eating in restaurants on the Sabbath: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating in restaurants on the Sabbath, we know that is not wrong....However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the people working in the restaurant, until now see eating in a restaurant as causing employees to break the Sabbath; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But eating in restaurants does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in a restaurant on the Sabbath day, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to also eat with you? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if eating in a restaurant on the Sabbath makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat in a restaurant, lest I make my brother stumble".

Now, I am not advocating that the whole Church stop eating in restaurants on the Sabbath and the holy days because of a few that might view that as wrong. It might not be a bad idea though to be aware if a member feels that it is wrong and not push him or her to eat with you in a restaurant on the Sabbath. If you notice a member consistently declining to eat after services in restaurants, you might make a mental note and perhaps make a point of inviting him or her to your house or apartment for a Sabbath meal.

But here is my main point. We are not to put people out of the Church for having a sensitive conscience or for lack of knowledge about a point of Christian living. Paul did NOT say that someone who doesn't want to eat meat sacrificed to idols is causing division or is "unteachable" or has a bad attitude. And the same is true today for someone who thinks it is wrong to eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath or who wants to quietly observe new moons in their home by marking the day and doing extra Bible study, or whatever.

Here is a similar passage: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake; for 'the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.' If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience' sake. But if anyone says to you, 'This was offered to idols,' do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for 'the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.' 'Conscience,' I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).

Now Paul had already said that it was not wrong, in itself, to eat meat that had been offered to an idol, yet in the presence of one who would think it was wrong, he would not eat it. Is that hypocrisy? Not at all. It is a matter of not giving offense unnecessarily. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:6-7).

Where is the Christian love in putting out someone who doesn't understand or agree with a point of doctrine that is not foundational? Where is the Christian love in disfellowshipping someone because he is trying to obey God to the best of his understanding, or because he is trying to believe what God says in the scriptures as best he is able to understand? That is what the Pharisees did to the disciples of Christ. They put them out of the synagogues. "His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue" (John 9:22). Look at the attitude of the Pharisees: "They answered and said to him, 'You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?' And they cast him out" (John 9:34).

We live in a society that takes the concept of "toleration" to a wrong extreme, a society that teaches there are no absolute values and that we should be tolerant of sin and of doctrines contrary to the Bible. "Everyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's opinion - opinions are all equal," they say. "Let's just accept everyone and every viewpoint - they all have merit." This is ridiculous of course, but we must not go to the opposite extreme of becoming intolerant of anyone who disagrees with the majority or with Church of God leaders on minor points of Bible understanding. We must not forget that while Paul was not tolerant of those who caused division, he was tolerant of some differences of opinion.

Read Romans, chapter 14, the whole chapter, and try to reconcile that with the idea of disfellowshipping someone who wants to observe new moons or doesn't want to eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath or wants to rest on the holy days according to a different calendar. Notice especially these verses. "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things" (Romans 14:1). "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:3-4). "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it..." (Romans 14:5-6). "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way" (Romans 14:10-13). "I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean" (Romans 14:14).

Today, we do not have to deal with the issue of meat sold in the stores that has been offered to idols, and when Paul speaks of some observing a day and some not, the Bible does not make clear what days he is talking about (except other Bible passages make clear he is not talking about the Sabbath). But God has inspired Paul's writings about this to teach us principles we are to apply to other things.

Ministers and top leaders of Church of God fellowships will give account to Christ if they treat members harshly without a biblical reason. "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered" ' " (Ezekiel 34:2-5).

After everything that has happened in the Church of God, does anyone think this only applies to ancient Israel?

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

Chapter 6 - Obtaining God's Help -- Practicing What We Preach

Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry, Chapter 8

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Results of the Election

Breaking News! President Obama wins re-election!

Well, I guess you already know that.

What does the re-election of President Obama mean?

Well, for one thing, if things go very much worse for the United States in the next four years as a result of the policies of the last four years under President Obama, the Democrats can't blame a Republican president for what goes wrong. Imagine that Mr. Romney won the presidency, then shortly thereafter the roof began to cave in because of the policies of President Obama and the Democrats, especially high deficit spending - the dollar collapses, gas prices surge, millions lose jobs, inflation explodes. Do you think people would understand that what happens happens because of government policies for the last several years? Or would they blame Mitt Romney and the Republicans?

But that won't happen. President Obama will live with and be accountable for the effects, or much of the effects, of what he has done in office the last four years. He won't be able to so easily blame things on former President Bush as he has in the past. The "fruits", at least some of the fruits, of what he has already done will become more visible in the next four years. Health care is one example. Many of the provisions of the new health care law did not take effect right away but will over the next four years. It is as if President Obama realized that those effects will make his health care plan unpopular and he wanted to delay those effects until after he ran for re-election.

Also, the fact that the election is over means that uncertainty about who the president will be is over, and that could cause the pace of world events to increase.

Up till now, there has been a degree of uncertainty about who would be president of the most powerful nation in the world. That uncertainty is over.

While natural disasters are not under the control of man, men in power can and do make decisions that can create or prevent man-made disasters. Great events in the world are often produced by major human decisions. And if anyone has been waiting to see who will be president before making a decision or taking an action on the world scene, they need wait no longer. If anyone has been waiting to see if a new president who is more or less favorable to their cause would take office, that wait is over.

So decision-driven events may speed up.

For example, suppose Israel has been waiting to see who would be president before taking military action against Iran. They may have thought that a new American administration would work with them more favorably in dealing with Iran. Now they know that President Obama has been re-elected for another four-year term. And they know it will not take Iran four years to finish their development of the atomic bomb. So what advantage is it for them to wait longer?

Iran apparently is enriching enough Uranium for five atomic bombs. If I remember correctly, Vice-president Biden said in his debate that Iran was at least six months away from enriching this Uranium sufficiently to build atomic bombs. He also said, in trying to minimize the urgency of the problem, that Iran doesn't have a bomb mechanism yet to put the enriched Uranium into. But making an atomic bomb with enriched Uranium is not difficult once you have the enriched Uranium.

There are two designs for an atomic bomb and two materials you can use to fuel the explosion. The two designs are the "gun" design and the implosion design. The two materials are bomb-grade enriched Uranium (Uranium 235) and Plutonium. You can use either enriched Uranium or Plutonium in an implosion device, but you can only use enriched Uranium in a gun design bomb. Plutonium won't work with the gun design.

The gun design bomb is easy to make and does not require testing. You have two pieces of enriched Uranium, each of which is less than critical mass and thus incapable of fueling a self-sustaining chain reaction because most of the neutrons coming out of atoms as they split fly out of the piece of Uranium before hitting another atomic nucleus. The gun design is basically a small cannon that fires one piece of sub-critical mass Uranium into another, and when they are together, their combined mass is more than critical mass and the chain reaction occurs. This is a simple design, not hard for any nation to make.

The implosion design is more difficult technically. One sphere of Uranium or Plutonium is compressed by a surrounding layer of high explosives until it achieves critical mass because it is in a smaller volume, and then a chain reaction occurs. It is difficult to make an implosion bomb because of the difficulty of getting a perfectly symmetrical explosion to compress the core evenly. It requires precision electronics to simultaneously set off detonators all around the outside of the explosives layer, and it requires precision designed explosive "lenses", pieces of high explosives that have a certain shape and explode at a different speed than the main explosives to even out the explosive wave before it hits the core, or the core will not compress properly. This is a difficult design to achieve.

Excuse me for going off on a tangent. My point is, Iran can quickly and easily make a gun design bomb once they have the enriched Uranium - almost any nation could do it, probably in a few weeks. So for all practical purposes, Iran will have a bomb as soon as they finish enriching the Uranium. And the vice president said they were six months away from having that enriched Uranium. Six months is not a long time.

If Israel has been waiting till now because they hoped a Romney administration will give them more help and support, that wait is over.

Also, if terrorists have held back to a degree from attacking targets in the United States because they were afraid of the effect of such attacks on the outcome of our election, they no longer have that reason to hold back.

Those are just examples. Another might be the dollar. Whether the dollar remains the chief trading and reserve currency of the world depends largely on market forces as well as decisions by leaders of governments. There has been pressure on the dollar because of our government's deficit. The government spends much more money than it collects in taxes, and our government's debt is increasing. At some point, if the deficit is not brought under control, the government must inflate the dollar, and when and if that happens, world business and governments are likely to abandon the dollar as a reserve and trading currency and turn to an alternative, probably the Euro. When that happens, prices of every internationally traded commodity or type of goods, whether produced here or in foreign countries - oil, food, autos, everything traded internationally - will become vastly more expensive for Americans, and that could send our economy into a very deep recession or even a depression. Yet, even with our deficit spending, the dollar has not yet collapsed. Why? It may be that international concern about the dollar has been moderated by the expectation that a new government might bring spending under control.

Now everyone knows there will not be a new government for some time. The president is the same, the Senate is still controlled by the Democrats, and the House of Representatives is still controlled by the Republicans.

So I am speculating that the pace of prophecy-fulfilling events in the world may tend to speed up over the next six months or year.

Many of us will be affected by these things and they may produce trials for us, and we will need more than ever to have faith in God.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pre-Election Thoughts

I am writing this the night before election day, around midnight Monday night. I cannot resist sharing a few thoughts about this election, before it occurs.

In polls and predictions, President Obama seems to have the edge, but the race is close enough that it could go either way.

Those of us who pray about the election should pray that God's will be done, and that too can go either way.

God sees the big picture and He knows His timetable for end-time events. We might have our preferences as to how the election will turn out, but God is wiser than we are and has access to more information and knowledge than we have - excuse my understatement.

I can think of reasons for either candidate to win to help bring about end-time events.

If God wants to give the Church of God and the United States more time before the end, giving the nation more time to repent and giving the Church more time to preach the gospel and the warning message (and to repent also - we in the Church need to repent of our Laodiceanism, our lukewarmness towards the things of God), then God may cause the candidate whose policies are better for the welfare and strength of the economy and the nation to win. That could slow down our decline as a nation so we do not fall too quickly, giving us all more time to do what we need to do.

On the other hand, God may let the candidate whose policies will further weaken the United States win in order to speed up our decline if time is to be short.

There are other possible factors.

The current administration in the last four years has been putting into place or leaving in place policies whose effects will take time to be realized and have not yet been realized. Those policies include economic policies, deficit spending, tax laws, and foreign policy. Health care is an example. Many of the provisions of the health care law have not yet taken effect, but will in the next four years.

How those effects are realized can have an enormous effect on the election of 2016 (yes, I think there will be an election in 2016 - I feel strongly the tribulation will not begin before then). Perhaps in God's sight it is fitting that the current administration have to deal with and be held accountable in the next four years for policies it has put in place in the last four years.

One thing I think about is abortion and Roe vs. Wade. Abortion is probably one of our greatest sins as a nation, one that most members of traditional Christian churches can understand is a serious sin. Yet, the decision to allow women to have abortions is not directly made by the country's elected representatives. It is made by a Supreme Court that maintains the decision of Roe vs. Wade, a decision that says that the Constitution of the United States gives women the right to have an abortion if they choose. I think it is a bad decision, not just in terms of policy, but a bad legal decision. The Constitution does not give a woman the right to have an abortion. Nevertheless, no Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs. Wade since the ruling was made.

The next four years are likely to be tough ones, and whatever party is in control is likely to get a strong measure of the blame. If the Democrats win this time, it is likely, in my opinion, they will lose big in 2016.

Mr. Romney may not have a strong enough commitment, nor might he be politically strong enough if he wins, to put conservative Supreme Court justices into place that are willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

But if there is a political landslide in 2016 with a Republican president strongly committed to fighting against abortion and a strong conservative majority in the Senate to approve his choices for Supreme Court, the stage could be set at that time for eventual overturning of Roe vs. Wade. I think that landslide is more likely if President Obama wins re-election and has to take responsibility for the problems that will come to the surface in the next four years, economic problems and foreign policy problems, problems caused by his decisions of the last four years.

Why might God want Roe vs. Wade overturned?

This is speculation on my part of course, but as long as Roe vs. Wade stands, people in this country can feel they are not responsible for abortion. It is the decision of a Supreme Court over which the voters have no direct control. But if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, then for the first time in decades the decisions about abortion law will be made by the Congress and president who are elected by the people. Abortion will become a major issue, much bigger than it is now. And if, after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the voters elect representatives who pass federal laws guaranteeing women the right to have abortions, then abortions will continue, but the people of this country will better understand their responsibility for that. They will be less likely to think, it is the fault of the Supreme Court, not the people.

Also, if abortion becomes a bigger issue, as it would if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, then that will simultaneously focus the minds of people, especially religious people, Protestants and Catholics, on the immorality of our country, and this will help them understand the tribulation when it comes.

The overturning of Roe vs. Wade will make abortion a bigger issue because it will mean that the voters will have control - they can elect representatives who can pass laws either against abortion or for it - it will no longer be a decision dictated by the Supreme Court. That will make abortion a bigger campaign issue in future elections.

One political note. Do Bill and Hillary Clinton want President Obama to win? They must openly support him, but do they really want him to win? Mrs. Clinton is probably next in line for nomination by the Democratic party after President Obama. Does she want to run defending the results of President Obama's administration for eight years, results that will become more obvious in the next four years, or does she want to run attacking the track record of Mr. Romney for the next four years, years that may see economic and foreign policy turmoil far greater than we have seen before? It may be that they are not that enthusiastic about the re-election of the president, though they must outwardly support him, and that may be true for others in politics and the news media who have the sense of realism to know what the next four years will be like, yet would like to see the Clintons back in the white house (and Mrs. Clinton be the first woman president of the United States).

We pray that God will work out his will and purpose in guiding the election results, and I am sure this is a prayer God will answer one way or another.

Sometimes what seems bad news turns out to be good news for the long term when God works out events.

Look at Pearl Harbor. In the immediate results, it was a disaster for the United States. We lost many lives and many of our battleships were destroyed or crippled. Yet in the long-term scheme of things, Pearl Harbor helped to accomplish the victory of the English-speaking people over the Axis powers. It brought the United States out of its isolation and into the war, and it arouse a fighting spirit among all the American people. Had the United States not come into the war at that time, victory over Germany would have been more difficult and less certain. Also, while the Japanese crippled our battleships at Pearl Harbor, they left our fuel supplies in Hawaii and our aircraft carrier force intact. Their commanding admiral was a cautious man and he did not order a second strike, which might have knocked out our fuel supplies, supplies that would take a long time to replenish. Our aircraft carriers were saved because they were not in Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning. They were at sea on training maneuvers. And while it was not fully realized at that moment, battleships were no longer the main weapon at sea - aircraft carriers were what counted. We later won the battle of Midway with aircraft carriers, and battleships were not significant in that battle because of the short range of their guns compared with the long range of carrier-based aircraft.

So however the election turns out, God can guide it for ultimate good in ways we do not see at the time. God's business is teaching mankind lessons, and He can use the election for that purpose.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poll Results for the Question, What Percentage of People in English-speaking Nations Will Hear a Strong End-time Warning Before the Tribulation

The poll I have been displaying asked the question, "In your opinion or estimate, what percent of adults in English-speaking nations will hear a strong warning from the Church of God about the tribulation BEFORE the tribulation begins?"

Although I have planned to keep this poll open longer, I am closing early because there seems to be technical problems with the poll - results keep disappearing. I first noticed the problem a week or so ago. Up to that time about 10-12 people had responded, but the results changed to zero overnight. Then, just recently the results came back. I mentally noted the numbers in case the results disappeared again, and sure enough they did.

So I am closing this poll and will report the results of the votes of those who responded so far. Probably I will wait a while before I have more polls until I have more confidence, or more hope, that results will not vanish.

Here are the responses I received for this question:

3 people (25%) said they thought 90-100 % would hear a warning before the tribulation.

3 people (25%) said 50-90 %.

2 people (17%) said 10-50 %.

3 people (25%) said less than 10 %.

1 person (8%) responded, "no opinion."

I believe these numbers are accurate or very close, but I am relying on memory. I did not expect the results to disappear a second time.

I myself voted in this poll and am one of the three who said 90-100% would hear a warning before the tribulation begins.

Here is why I believe most or all adults in the English-speaking nations of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will hear a strong warning message of the tribulation to come BEFORE the tribulation begins, while there is still time for them to repent if they so choose.

God is a God of love, and the Bible shows that it is God's way to give warnings of consequences of sin and warnings of His punishments that are coming, BEFORE the punishment comes. You can see that theme throughout the Bible, literally from Genesis to Revelation.

Genesis 2:17: "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Notice, God did not just command the man but not tell him the consequences of disobedience. He also warned him what would happen if he disobeyed.

Revelation 22:18-19: "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

God made Jonah give a warning message to Nineveh when Jonah wanted to run away (Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-10, 4:1-3, 11). God told Ezekiel the blood of the people would be on his head if he did not warn the people (Ezekiel 3:16-27, 33:1-11). In Proverbs, God teaches us to hold back those headed towards destruction (Proverbs 24:11). Giving someone the warning he or she needs is an expression of love, and God is love (1 John 4:8).

God warned ancient Israel by the prophets, and they were persecuted for it, but God was determined to give the warning before He sent them into captivity. The books of Moses are full of warnings of the consequences of sin (Deuteronomy 4:25-28, 28:15-68).

So it is God's way to warn. And all things are possible for God (Matthew 19:26, 28:18). So why would not God empower the Church to give the English-speaking people, all of them, a strong warning before the tribulation comes?

People need to hear a warning message from God BEFORE the tribulation begins so that they know that God was fair to warn them while they still had time to repent. Then, in the tribulation, they can remember that they heard the warning and accept responsibility for their failure to heed the warning, and in accepting their responsibility for the punishment that comes upon them, they can begin to repent, which is a necessary prerequisite for Israel to become a model nation for other nations to follow in the millennium. But if any man or woman goes into the tribulation without first hearing a warning, that man or woman will tend to blame God. That person will say, "I didn't know I was wrong to keep Christmas and Easter and Sunday - nobody told me that was wrong, so how could I know? This isn't my fault. God isn't fair to punish me. If I heard a warning, I would have heeded it, but God never gave me a chance." That is not an attitude that leads to repentance.

How would you like to deal with someone like that in the millennium?

So, in my opinion, God will somehow empower the Church or some part of the Church to get a warning message out to all the tribes of Israel, all who will go through the tribulation, before the tribulation begins. I do not know how. Maybe He will bless the Church financially, enough to get a strong message out to everyone. Perhaps He will give some ministers or leaders in the Church of God miracle working powers that will cause people to pay attention. I do not know. I only know that God has the power to make it happen.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Chapter 4 - Why Preach the Gospel

Chapter 3 - The Ezekiel Warning