Calling for Sunday Rest
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Just before the annual May Ten Commandments Day, it is perhaps important for us to consider what is happening in the area of Sunday laws and the separation of church and state. This month our study will address this and update you concerning these things. There is much that is happening and it behooves us to keep our eyes on it.
But before I take up our topic for this month, I should mention a few things that are important to you. Perhaps you have watched the DVD about Hartland College. I hope you have found it a great blessing and have been encouraged that there is a school where young people can train for missionary work along the principles of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. Hartland College is a great place for young people who want to work for God. If you know young people with that intention, please share the DVD with them. If you need more copies you can contact Hartland College and ask for more. Their phone number and address is on the DVD label.
To begin today, let us bow our heads in prayer. Our Father in Heaven, once again we come to You humbly to seek your guidance in our study of prophecy. It is hard to imagine that the time of trouble is nearly upon us, but we pray that we will be faithful, and that you will open to us the principles of righteousness and truth. As we study the Sunday law movement, we pray that You will open our eyes and help us see things out of thy sacred book more clearly, in light of current events. In Jesus name, Amen.
On August 26, 2006, the Orlando Sentinel ran a story about U.S. Congress Representative Katherine Harris (a Republican from Florida) who claimed that “God did not intend for the United States to be a ‘nation of secular laws’ and that separation of church and state is a ‘lie we have been told’ to keep religious people out of politics.”
“’If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence, you are going to legislate sin,’” Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention… Harris… said her religious beliefs ‘animate’ everything she does, including her votes in Congress.
“Harris,” said the Sentinel, “has always professed a deep Christian faith. But she has rarely expressed such a fervent evangelical perspective publicly.”
Though some criticized Harris as having a notion that politicians have been “chosen or anointed,” she was firm. “’We have to have the faithful in government’ because that is God’s will. Separating religion and politics is ‘so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers,’ she said. ‘And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women,’ then ‘we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our Founding Fathers intended, and that certainly isn’t what God intended.’”
Let us think about what Representative Harris said. In her view, conservative Christians should be the ones in public office, and should make the laws of the land. While this sounds good to Christians, it is important to understand prophecy. Prophecy tells us that when Christians gain control of the government there will be oppressive enactments to form the image of the beast, and eventually enact Sunday laws against God’s true commandment keeping people. Last November Katherine Harris tried to leave the House of Representatives and join the U.S. Senate. Fortunately, her election bid for the senate was defeated and she is no longer in Congress even as a Representative. Perhaps the angel’s are holding back the winds of strife. But this whole episode shows us that there is an undercurrent among some to increase the profile of religious people in high positions with rather radical views. They are working to elect people as rulers who will enact religious laws, which will inevitably involve Sunday laws.
The present, and I believe temporary return to democratic control of the U.S. Congress involves issues that revolve around President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war for the most part. It may also partly include some of the constitutional changes that he has made almost unilaterally since September 11, 2001. But frankly, the American people are not very concerned about the erosion of their constitution. They are primarily unhappy with body bags coming home from Iraq with no end in sight.
Let us read from Revelation 13:15-17. “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
These verses tell us that politicians will eventually make laws enforcing rest and worship on Sunday and eventually forbidding the worship of Christ on the Bible Sabbath. These laws will increasingly be focused on those who refuse to worship the beast, the Roman Catholic Church, on Rome’s holy day – Sunday. There will also eventually be a death penalty for refusing Rome’s authority. Rapidly, the laws and systems to enforce the no buy, no sell decree and death penalties are being put in place in the name of fighting terrorism. May God help us to be faithful to the Ten Commandments now, so that we will be faithful then.
I also want to show you from the Spirit of Prophecy what is planned for God’s people. This is from the book Great Controversy, pg. 592. Notice the unity that is coming to church and state. “The dignitaries of church and state will unite to bribe, persuade, or compel all classes to honor the Sunday. The lack of divine authority will be supplied by oppressive enactments. Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth; and even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we shall see exemplified the prophet’s words: ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Revelation 12:17.”
The movement is afoot in other countries as well. On December 25, 2006, The Australian, reported on the comments of the Anglican Archbishop at a Christmas midnight mass in Brisbane to “Reclaim Sunday.” I will read some of the article.
“AUSTRALIANS need to reclaim Sundays for family, friends and community life, Brisbane’s Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall says.
“People should spend time with each other and have a chance to reconnect, he told the congregation at midnight mass at Brisbane’s St John’s Anglican Cathedral.
“In previous generations, Sunday was a day kept sacred, not just by churchgoers, but by most Australians, who tended to spend the day with family, friends and the local community.
“But the loss of the traditional Sunday, a day of downtime where the pace slowed and families and communities had time to interact, was a threat to the fabric of Australian life.
“’No one seems to have enough time any more – time for their children or time for their families or time to do things in the local community outside work,’ Dr Aspinall said. ’We need, now more than ever, a holiday, a holy day.’
“Whether or not Australians were religious or active churchgoers, the rhythm of life itself demanded a day of rest. ‘Our health and well-being as individuals, as families and as a society ultimately depends on it,’ said Aspinall. ‘Each week we need a little time to lift the corner of the veil and catch a glimpse of heaven to allow the principles and power of that world to flow into our everyday life.’
“Meanwhile, Uniting Church Moderator of the Queensland Synod, Reverend David Pitman, said that too often, Australians were motivated by self-interest rather than concern for the well-being of the whole community.
“’The end result of our apathy and selfishness is that many issues in our society are dealt with on the basis of political expediency rather than with the specific intention to act justly for the good of all,’ said Pitman. ‘That is why unemployment, poverty, homelessness and child welfare continue to be major problems in our nation.’ But the birth of Christ showed people they were meant to be active participants in what God wants to achieve for all humanity, Reverend Pitman said.
‘The year 2006 had been challenging for Australia with more overt racism than had been seen for many years and industrial conflict. ‘When we face crises of this kind in our society, we can be passive spectators making useless comment from our armchairs, or we can adopt a position of self-interest and pursue goals which benefit only ourselves and those who agree with us, or we can become genuine participants in working for outcomes which ultimately benefit the majority,” he said. ‘There is a choice involved here that we all need to make, said Pittman. ‘Through the birth of Christ, God chose to become involved in our world, for our sake. We have the opportunity to become involved for the sake of others, seeking to make this world the place that God intended it to be.’”
I’m sure you noted that these men are calling to make Sunday a “holy day,” not just a day of rest and relaxation for secular reasons. They also suggested that historically even non-religious people made Sunday sacred. While that is hard to imagine, it is not difficult to understand that secular people no doubt took advantage of a day off work to do their secular things and spend time with their families. Keep in mind that the definition of keeping Sunday sacred is quite different from the idea of keeping the Sabbath sacred. Sabbath keepers know the Bible instruction not to conduct business such as buying and selling on the Sabbath as well as refraining from other secular activities. But Sunday keepers don’t keep Sunday in the same way as the Bible enjoins on the Sabbath, giving the clearest evidence that they don’t really view Sunday as a sacred day. It is just an expedient that has political advantage for Rome.
You also probably noted that the argument to support Sunday included the idea of benefiting only the majority, not the minorities that might object to such a law.
Not many people would argue that a government can’t make laws requiring rest one day a week. Most would not argue that a government doesn’t have a right to even require that day of rest to be Sunday wherever possible. But the key issue is that these conspirators are trying to develop a political argument that Sunday should become a holy day, not just a mere secular day of rest.
Though the United States and other nations are not quite yet ready for Sunday laws, there are movements afoot to bring them about. The Bible tells us this. Some of you will probably remember that we have quoted Psalm 94. Let us remind ourselves of it again. It is vs. 20 & 21.
“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.”
Notice that the conspiracy is to make mischief though a law that will condemn the righteous. The next two verses tell us what God is going to do about it.
“But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off.”
The Bible tells us that God is the Rock of our refuge. If we are living the Ten Commandments which was the rock in the Most Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary, and which is the transcript of the character of Christ in the Most Holy Place of the celestial sanctuary, He can indeed be our defense if we honor Him and live by those principles of the law of His character.
The scriptures tie protection into obedience to God’s Rock or His Ten Commandments which is His character. This is really important. I hope and pray that you will do what I am doing. I have prayed that the Lord will purify me and send all my sins before hand into judgment, so that He can blot them out. Notice what 1 Timothy 5:24 says, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” In other words, those who are faithful to Christ, have their sins taken into judgment before the close of probation. Others do not. This is the difference between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous are having victory over their sins and they don’t do them any more. Their sins can be sent beforehand into judgment and blotted out, so that when the close of probation occurs, they are purified and ready to stand for Jesus without a mediator, though they are under the greatest pressure to yield to the control of Satan.
I want to have victory over my sins now and not do them any more, so that He can cast them into His wonderful forgetfulness, and never remember them again. Until I have victory over them, He cannot blot them out because I keep doing them. My confessed sins are still resting on the sanctuary in heaven waiting for me to be purified in my heart and life. When I have victory over them, he can blot them out completely and never have them come back to challenge His justice in saving me eternally.
How do I have victory over my sins? Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” So if Jesus lives in you, you have His character, His law in you and you won’t sin any more, because it is no more you that is living, but Christ. Isn’t that wonderful?! The trouble is that most people don’t allow Jesus to take over their lives. Please my friend, let Jesus take over your life today.
The Sunday law conspiracy is being held back by the angels of heaven. They are preventing the fulfillment of the prophecy until they know that everything possible has been done to save anyone who is willing to be saved. God is so merciful, but His mercy will not last forever. The time will come when the angels will be told to let go of the winds of strife, and God’s people will be thrown into the Sunday law crisis with its oppression and ultimately its death penalty.
Pope Benedict XVI is following in the footsteps of John Paul II in calling for Sunday sacredness. He knows that he has all the Sunday keeping churches with him. They use the same arguments to overthrow the Ten Commandments. It is going to be easy for all the other Sunday keeping churches in the Americas, Europe, the African continent, Asia, Eurasia and the South Pacific to follow Rome’s lead and pressure their governments to enact Sunday laws when there is a sufficient crisis to justify enforcing Sunday worship. Remember that apostate Protestantism in the United States will force Sunday worship in the new world, while Rome will enforce it in the old world and in the countries she controls. Other countries will follow her lead.
On December 1, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Cardinal Francis Arinze in charge of the meeting of the Congregation for Divine Worship, that was having a study day about the Sunday Mass.
Here is what pope Benedict XVI said in his letter. “Sunday” wrote the Pope, “remain[s] the fundamental seedbed and the primordial nucleus of the liturgical year… a fragment of time pervaded by eternity…”
What does “primordial nucleus” mean? It simply means that Sunday, is the central focus of worship and that all other church activities and benefits surround it. It is the original and most essential element that gives rise to all the rest of Rome’s worship and around which the rest of Rome’s teaching would have no meaning. That is what Pope Benedict XVI means by “primordial nucleus.”
If Benedict was talking about the true 7th day Sabbath, he might have a point – at least to some extent, about it being the nucleus around which all else circulates. But he is talking about Sunday observance, not the Bible Sabbath.
“Today,” the Pope continued, “it is more than ever necessary to reiterate the sacred nature of the Lord’s day and the need to participate in Sunday Mass.”
So the Pope’s point is that Sunday worship, and in particular, Sunday mass is the essential sacred moment, rather than God’s sacred holy Sabbath.
“Sunday was not chosen by the Christian community,” he wrote, “rather by the apostles, indeed by Christ Himself Who on that day, “the first day of the week,” arose and appeared before the disciples… Each Sunday celebration of the Eucharist enacts the sanctification of Christian people, until that Sunday without end, the day of the definitive encounter of God with his creatures.”
Of course the Pope is historically wrong about the day being chosen by Christ and His apostles. There is not one shred of biblical proof for that. In fact the Bible actually supports the opposite conclusion, that the ancient Sabbath was maintained by Christ before His death, and by His apostles after His resurrection. His resurrection in no way authorizes a change in something as clear and potent as the Ten Commandments.
The Catholic Church is not the only church calling for Sunday rest. Evangelicals have often argued that the Ten Commandments were done away with at the cross, something that Rome has never historically said. But this teaching only opened the floodgates of immorality. Now evangelicals and others have switched their tactics. They can see that unless the Ten Commandments play an important part in the lives of the people, society will become increasingly immoral. For quite a number of years now, the Protestants and evangelicals have resurrected the idea that the Ten Commandments must be kept as a barrier against immorality. They teach however, that the Sabbath has been changed, or rather done away with at the cross, and advocate Sunday observance instead.
Ellen White predicted that this would happen. She wrote in Great Controversy, pg 586, that the blame for the moral decline is largely laid at the feet of Sunday keeping religious leaders because they do not want to obey God and keep the true Sabbath in accordance with God’s law.
“And as the claims of the fourth commandment are urged upon the people, it is found that the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is enjoined; and as the only way to free themselves from a duty which they are unwilling to perform, popular teachers declare that the law of God is no longer binding. Thus they cast away the law and the Sabbath together. As the work of Sabbath reform extends, this rejection of the divine law to avoid the claims of the fourth commandment will become well-nigh universal. The teachings of religious leaders have opened the door to infidelity, to Spiritualism, and to contempt for God’s holy law, and upon these leaders rests a fearful responsibility for the iniquity that exists in the Christian world.”
So it is essentially the religious leaders who have taught that it is not necessary to keep the law, or that the Ten Commandments were done away with at the cross, which has brought the moral problems that exist in our world today. But now, many of these same churches have switched their position. They still teach that it isn’t necessary to keep the Bible Sabbath, but are now urging that the Ten Commandments must be kept, and that Sunday must be observed as a day of rest in order to improve the morals of society. I’ll read it to you from Great Controversy, pg 588-589, then I will read to you from a prominent and popular evangelical preacher.
“Yet this very class” that is; those who claimed that the law was no longer binding, “put forth the claim that the fast-spreading corruption is largely attributable to the desecration of the so-called “Christian sabbath,” and that the enforcement of Sunday observance would greatly improve the morals of society. This claim is especially urged in America, where the doctrine of the true Sabbath has been most widely preached…
Just before the last Ten Commandments Day in May of 2006, one of the most famous evangelical preachers, Dr. D. James Kennedy, the pastor of Coral Ridge Ministries in Coral Ridge, FL, who has thousands upon thousands of followers, published a new book just in time for the Ten Commandments Day celebrations, called “Why the Ten Commandments.” In it, he skillfully argues that the Sabbath is still to be kept in modern times. One of the key points he makes is that the morality of a nation depends on it keeping the Sabbath. I’ll read it to you. “Have you ever heard the old saying,” he writes, “‘As goes the Sabbath, so goes the nation’? It’s true. When the Sabbath becomes profaned and desecrated, a nation sinks deeper and deeper into the mire of sin. And that has a profound negative impact upon any country. If we are looking for another practical reason to keep the Sabbath holy, here, surely, is an urgent one.
“Christians need to understand that the keeping of the Sabbath really does create a more moral climate in our culture. It promotes an awareness that God and His ways and His laws are important to all of us. Without public morality, our secular laws have less meaning; the result is that lawlessness rises, and our nation sinks into crime, fear, disorder, and injustice.”
Just as God’s servant predicted, popular religious leaders are now attempting to convince Sunday keepers that they are right to continue disobeying God’s commandment, in the name of honoring God’s Sabbath which they define as Sunday. This twisted logic can only come from the source of all rebellion to God – Satan himself. And they press the urgency of the matter to suggest that we must do something about it. The obvious solution is Sunday legislation – which is the natural outcome of such agitation.
Dr. Kennedy continues, “Before [there was a] state, before [there was a] church, before [there was a] family, the first institution God gave to mankind was the Sabbath.” Actually, the family was first. Marriage between one man and one woman was the first institution God gave to mankind, and the second was the Sabbath, but both of them together were designed to protect society from moral decline. By redefining the Sabbath as Sunday, evangelical preachers are now suggesting, and not too subtly that the Christian sabbath is something that the state should legislate. Note that this is a rather blatant suggestion that because the Sabbath preexisted the state, the state ought to observe and protect the Sabbath (meaning Sunday of course). Let me read it again… “Before the state, before the church, before the family, the first institution God gave to mankind was the Sabbath.”
On July 2, 2006, USA Today published an article in which a minister asked for a formal day of rest. “Whether religious or not,” wrote Henry G. Brinton, pastor of the Fairfax, VA Presbyterian Church, “people know that they need to take a day off in order to maintain their sanity and remain efficient and productive at work. But I’m convinced that downtime is not enough. We need a formal day of rest. A true Sabbath gives us time to refresh and renew ourselves, regain proper perspective and redirect our lives to what is good and true and worthwhile.”
“For much of this country’s history, blue laws kept business closed on Sundays, forcing Americans to focus on church-going, rest and relaxation. Although many people resented these limitations, these laws did have the beneficial effect of creating a day of rest. But in the past century, and particularly since the 1960s, states have relaxed these rules regulating business on Sunday as our consumer-driven culture has gone into overdrive.
“What began as a trickle soon became a raging river. Today, almost every mall, theater and restaurant is operating seven days a week. Even in Europe, where church-going has been in decline for years, Sunday has been — until recently — a day in which most businesses were closed, allowing people to spend time with family members and friends.”
What does he mean by a formal day of rest? There might be those who argue that he is merely calling for individuals to specifically set time aside for rest. But this is not the object of this article. The article was about Sunday Blue Laws. This was another public suggestion in the only nationwide Newspaper in the United States, for more Sunday blue laws designed to force people to rest from their labors.
Then on September 11, 2006, exactly five years from the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, the Christian Science Monitor published an article that agitated the issue again. Under the title, “Maybe ‘Blue Laws’ Weren’t so Bad,” David R. Francis asked what the consequences have been after the Sunday blue laws have largely been repealed or weakened.
“It may be no surprise,” wrote Mr. Francis, “that families took advantage of the changes [in the blue laws] to scoot to the mall on Sundays. Faced with such secular competition, attendance and donations at church have fallen.
He cited a recent study done by Daniel Hungerman, an economist at Catholic Notre Dame University and John Gruber, an economist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this study, Gruber and Hungerman find that after blue laws are repealed by a state, “Religious attendance drops about 5 percent on average. About 15 percent of those who had been attending religious services weekly no longer attend so regularly.
“Religious contributions decline 13 percent, or about $109 per person per year. Spending by religious institutions falls by about 6.3 percent.
“Drinking rates by youths go up. Marijuana use goes up. Similarly, the gap between the nonreligious and the religious taking cocaine (3 percent vs. 1.5 percent) closed entirely.
“The study,” said Mr. Francis, “raises an old issue: To what extent should government interfere in activities of its citizens, even when that interference may be helpful?”
Armed with new studies like this, religious leaders will eventually press for a resurrection of Sunday blue laws and even worship laws once Americans are faced with a huge crisis that they think will only be solved by getting America back to God.
The debate over Sunday observance is not confined to the United States. Incidentally, if any of our listeners come across articles concerning the issue of Sunday laws in any country, please send them to us or email them.
On June 25, 2006, the Associated Press reported that in France, Sunday laws have become a point of debate. “Most places in France, you can’t shop on Sunday. The Champs-Élysées (shawzeleezee) is an exception – sort of. You can buy T-shirts at the Quiksilver on Paris’ most famous avenue, but not at the Gap. You can browse for CDs at Virgin Megastore, but forget luggage at Louis Vuitton.
“French businesses and unions have battled for years over whether Sunday should remain a day of rest, worship and leisurely family lunches, and the tug-of-war has left behind a patchwork of baffling regulations on who can sell what and where.
“Now, two high-profile legal battles have raised the question again. Supporters say Sunday shopping would help cut the 9.3 percent unemployment rate, and point to a poll suggesting three-quarters of Parisians like the idea. But the courts have ruled – and the answer is no.
“The debate resurfaced after Louis Vuitton opened a new store last fall on the Champs-Élysées an airy, 21,500-square-foot temple to handbags and high fashion – with the intention of opening Sundays. Vuitton says 70 of its 300 employees were hired for that purpose and were willing to work, and the shop had permission from the top local official.
“But two groups filed a lawsuit – the National Clothing Federation,… and the French Christian labor union…
“Vuitton… argued that it met the complex criteria for opening Sundays, which include being in a touristy area and having a cultural, recreational or sports dimension. The company pointed to the store’s bookstore and art gallery, which was open to all, not just shoppers.
“But in late May, Paris’ administrative court ordered the shop to close Sundays. Vuitton said it would appeal, and in a statement, called the decision “totally incomprehensible.”
“Throughout Europe, laws differ vastly. In Sweden, most shops stay open Sundays. Poland’s stores are open, but the Roman Catholic Church has been fighting to force shopping malls and supermarkets to close. The church is leading a similar battle in Croatia.”
“Officials “know the law is old and stupid, and at the same time they don’t’ want to change it, because of the Catholic tradition and social issues,” said Jean-Patrick Grumberg, president of [the] association of shop owners.
Obviously, the Catholic church still has enormous influence even in a secular country like France. But most shops are closed on Sundays throughout Europe, with some exceptions.
My friends, these things tell us that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. We must be watching. We must warn the world of the impending crisis. We must find ways to reach out to those that don’t know the truth.
Are you ready, my friends? Let us review the Sabbath commandment.
Exodus 20:8-11. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
Notice that the commandment, which is still binding requires the Seventh day, not the first. Have you memorized the Sabbath commandment along with all the others? If you haven’t, this is a good time to do so.
May the Lord Jesus help us understand that the law is the law of love and that when we keep it, we are not returning to legalism, but we are loving Jesus more. Next month there will be the second annual Ten Commandments Day sponsored by the Ten Commandments Commission. This organization is urging all churches to emphasize the Ten Commandments in sermons, and organize community events to emphasize the importance of the Ten Commandments in society. I intend to report on their movements, so stay tuned.
Let us pray. Our Father in Heaven, Thank you for giving us your sure word of prophecy. As we see the onward marching events in this time of rapidly fulfilling prophecy, we pray that we might be given special grace to love you and keep your law fully. If Jesus lives in us, we have His character and it is no longer I who live, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God… Oh Lord, come in and live your life in us so that we will be like Jesus and do just exactly as He did. He kept the Sabbath, and when He lives in us, and puts His character in us,we will also keep His Sabbath holy because we love Him. May His righteousness inspire us with power and hope for the future we pray, in Jesus name,
Prophetic Intelligence Briefing
The following is a prophetic intelligence briefing for those who love the appearing of Jesus Christ and are watching the fulfilling prophecies. We can see the signs of the times telling us that we are nearing the world’s great crisis. May the Lord find us faithful.
Our first item: Walls Going Up Everywhere
On Monday, February 12, 2007, the South China Morning Post ran an interesting article about the walls and barriers going up all over the world. It seems like the great wall of China has its modern counterparts. And the American project to put a fence along its border with Mexico is a small project compared to some of these. Listen…
“If good fences make good neighbours, then the world is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of neighbourliness. They used to wall cities: now they wall whole countries.
“India is well on the way to being walled, except along the Himalayas, where the mountains do the job. The barrier along its 3,000km border with Pakistan is largely complete, except in the parts of Kashmir where the steep and broken terrain makes it impossible to build the usual two-row, three-metre-high fence, with concertina wire and mines between the two fences. And India is now building a 3,300km barrier to halt illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
“The majority of walls springing up around the world are there to stop either terrorist attacks or illegal immigration, but sometimes they also serve as a unilateral way of defining desired borders. That is certainly true of the 2,700km of high sand or stone ramparts backed by wire fences, mines, radar, troop bunkers and artillery bases that seal off the western Sahara – annexed by Morocco in 1975 – from the camps of Algeria from which many of the former inhabitants waged a guerilla war until the 1991 ceasefire.
“It is equally true of the wall that Israel is building through the occupied West Bank. The country has long and heavily mined and monitored barrier fences along is external frontiers with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and around the Gaza Strip, but the wall in the West Bank… penetrates deep into the Palestinian territories at several points to leave Jewish settlement blocs on the Israeli side, and it cuts off predominantly Arab East Jerusalem from the West Bank entirely.
“Pakistan is building a 2,500km fence with Afghanistan; Uzbekistan has built a fence along its border with Tajikistan; the United Arab Emirates is erecting a barrier along its frontier with Oman; and Kuwait is upgrading its existing wall along the Iraqi frontier. But the most impressive barriers are certainly those around Saudi Arabia.
“For several years, the Saudi kingdom has been quietly pursuing a U.S.$8.5 billion project to completely fence its porous border with Yemen. But its highest priority now is to get a hi-tech barrier built along the 900km border with Iraq.
“The new wall will include buried movement sensors, ultraviolet night-vision cameras, face-recognition software and quite probably automated weapons in addition to the usual electrified fences, concertina wire, dry moats and mines.
“By comparison, the apparently endless debate about building a relatively low-tech fence along the 3,360km U.S. border with Mexico to cut illegal immigration seems like an echo from an innocent past…
“The walls are going up all over the world, and most of them will not come down for a long time, if ever.
My friends, these walls reflect the increasing tensions in our world. Walls will not keep out the problems. Nor will they prevent wars. Don’t forget that there are other walls and barriers as well such as technology barriers in immigration check points, security barriers around aviation operations, electronic barriers at the entrances of many buildings.
Next: Another Round of Bird Flu
The International Herald Tribune reported on February 12, 2007 that “a 20-year-old woman died of bird flu Sunday, taking Indonesia’s fatalities from the virus to 64, the highest of any nation in the world.
“The woman’s death came as Pakistan and South Korea reported new bird flu cases in poultry over the weekend.
“’The Indonesian victim had a history of contact with sick chickens,’ said Nyoman Kandun of the Health Ministry.
“’She died early Sunday,’ said yogi Prayogi, a spokesman at Garu Hospital in Wast Java Province, adding that two of the woman’s neighbors also were admitted to hospital with symptoms of the disease…
“On Saturday, Pakistan and South Korea reported new bird flu cases in poultry, underlining findings by the United Nations that this season’s wave of the virus came mostly from reared rather than migratory birds.
“On Saturday, the health authorities in Pakistan confirmed H5N1 in the capital, Islamabad, in what was the country’s third case this week… There have been no cases of people being infected with the virus in Pakistan,” at least not yet.
“South Korea confirmed its sixth case of bird flu on Saturday despite the culling of poultry after earlier cases, raising concerns that quarantine measures had failed to control the outbreak.
It appears that pestilences which Jesus predicted in Matt 24 are still making progress toward a pandemic that will greatly affect everyone on the planet. No walls can stop the spread of this kind of pestilence.
Time magazine reported that in “Egypt, three family members died in late December of H5N1, probably contracted from infected poultry in the household. On January 12, Nigeria announced a cull of some 20,000 birds after two farms reported outbreaks.”
In Thailand “more than 100 ducks were found dead from H5N1 on Jan. 10.” The H5N1 virus was found in Hong Kong in a dead scaly-breasted munia found in a “crowded shopping district on New Year’s Eve, and a crested goshawk collected on Jan 9” tested positive for the disease, prompting concerns that the virus had returned to the city that reported the world’s first human cases in 1997.
“Seven of Vietnam’s 64 provinces have reported poultry outbreaks this year, and more than 30,000 birds have been culled since December. Officials fear that caged birds transported on crowded buses and trains during… Lunar New Year festivities could spread the virus throughout the country. Over the past four years, 42 people in Vietnam have died of avian flu.
“Indonesia, where millions of people reside in close quarters with live poultry, led the world with 57 human fatalities by the end of 2006. Four more people have died since Jan. 10, and several patients remain hospitalized. The 18-year-old son of one victim tested positive for H5N1 as well, raising fears of human-to-human transmission.
Stay tuned to this one… There is more to come.
Next: No Power to the People, Europe’s Foundering Constitution is Back.
Do you remember the European Constitution that got defeated by referendums in France and the Netherlands? Well, it is back. Newsweek, Feburary 5, 2007 reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel… is determined to revive the… treaty. “At Davos last week she declared it an indispensable ‘road map’ to Europe’s future. ‘People must trust us,’ she said, arguing that only a constitution spelling out why the Union is good for Europe could restore popular confidence.’ Yet in fact her efforts threaten to make Europe less efficient, transparent and democratic than ever.
“Six years ago, European leaders may have truly believed in democratic renewal. Today, most cannot wait to get back to the quiet deals in closed ‘intergovernmental conferences.’ Proposals for ‘democratizing’ Brussels are off the agenda. Referendums are shunned. One prominent German supporter of a democratic EU confessed: ‘Of course it will never happen. The governments don’t want it.’”
Europe, my friends, is becoming more controlled not less. Keep watching as the old world principles are put into effect with new world technology… The Holy Roman Empire is soon to rise again.
Next: Nicaragua is still largely controlled by the Roman Catholic Church.
Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos signed a bill November 18 to ban all abortions, even when they could save the life of a mother. No legislator in this largely Roman Catholic nation voted against the ban on October 26, though 9 abstained and another 29 did not show up,” reported Christianity Today in its January issue. While banning most abortions is a good thing, it is obvious that in Nicaragua, the Church has enough power to pressure lawmakers to make unpopular laws, or just abstain or not show up for such votes if they disagree with them. “Nearly all Latin American countries restrict abortion; Chile and El Salvador ban them altogether. Nearly all Latin American countries are Roman Catholic.
Next: Christians Must ‘Let Go’ [of] Some Beliefs for Sake of Peace, says a Theologian.
On Wednesday, November 29, 2006, the Tennessean, published an article with a surprising twist.
“To live peacefully with Muslims and Jews, Christians must put aside the notion that their faith requires the creation of a Christian kingdom on Earth, a Lipscomb University theologian told an interfaith gathering at the university.
“We are not going to get very far in our relationship with Jews or Muslims if we do not let go of this idea,” Lipscomb professor Lee Camp said at Tuesday’s conference.
The unusual gathering of several dozen clergy and lay people was devoted to resolving religious conflict in Nashville and around the world. “We need to forsake the Christendom model,” Camp said. “The most basic Christian commitment … is that we say we believe in the Lordship of Jesus. But, if we claim that, how can a Muslim or Jew trust us, if we say Jesus is the Lord of all Lords?”
Co-sponsored by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, the daylong conference was prompted by a desire to begin a dialogue about global religious conflict.
After five years of rising gas prices, disturbing privacy issues that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and the fear of terrorism, it became apparent that everyday life in Nashville is directly affected by religious conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, conference organizers said.
“We felt like the larger community is calling for this,” said Larry Bridgesmith, executive director of Lipscomb’s newly established Institute for Conflict Management.
Panelists representing different faiths presented their own views on how to begin to bridge the religious divide.
For Kahled Sakalla, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville, some of the answers lie in better education about Islam in the non-Muslim world.
Allah, the God Muslims worship, is the same God Christians and Jews worship, and the Quran recounts the same biblical stories of Mary and Jesus, he said.
“Yes, we have differences, but it’s important to focus on commonalities,” said Sakalla, one of four panelists representing different faiths who addressed the Lipscomb conference.
Mark Schiftan, rabbi of the Temple in Belle Meade, said he also believes people of faith must begin to look for common ground. “If all of us believe we were created in God’s image, then we have to believe that everyone else is also created in God’s image,” Schiftan said.
Charles McGowan, president of the Christian group Operation Andrew said: “It’s important to us in Nashville that we be proactive. Religious leaders must engage one another if we are going to experience in this city the peace and calm we all desire.”
But the issues that have divided the world’s religions for millennia are so deep and fundamental — ranging from the question of whether the land of Israel rightfully belongs to the Jews and whether there is one way to salvation — that tackling them will require both dialogue with other faiths and a more introspective look at one’s own beliefs, panelists said.
Some liberal theologians have suggested that different faiths are all variations on one another and that beliefs are all basically the same, a position with which Camp deeply disagrees.
Instead, he believes, Christians must not back away from their beliefs but further examine them and their own history.
First, Christians must examine their “sins of omission,” he said — such as not taking the time to learn about other religions. Then they must look at their “sins of commission.”
“We have such short historical (memory) spans as white Christians,” he said. “There is a history of anti-Semitism, the violence and bloodshed of the crusades and cultural imperialism. We have to deal with the reality of what Christians have done, which in some cases has been to kill people.”
Camp described himself as a conservative Christian but conceded his opinions may be viewed as “radical” by other evangelical Christians.
Christians must shed the idea that they need to promulgate a worldwide Christianity, he said.
“If I hold to a model of Jesus … what I’ve committed to in my baptism is loving my enemy,” Lee said. “I’m committed to not killing you, but to serving and honoring you. It’s an exclusive commitment to the way of Christ, not to the exclusive authority of Christ.” Sakalla said there may never be reconciliation on the fundamental theological divisions.
“Every religion has different teachings,” he said. “For Muslims, it’s: Do you believe in one God and that Muhammad” is his prophet? “I don’t think we can teach individuals that the way you go to heaven in other religions is OK. You have to teach differences.”
This article was no surprise in light of the ecumenical movement. Yet it is significant in the sense that it raises the question about what other beliefs will have to be given up to avoid religious conflict. Will the Bible Sabbath need to be given up? Will the Bible truth on the non-immortality of the soul be one of those doctrines? The idea that religious conflict can be solved by a minimization of distinctive doctrine is not a valid idea. A “generalized” Christianity will not change the perspective of Muslim’s for example. Nor will a “generalized” ecumenically homogenized Christianity, change Rome’s ultimate purpose to bring all churches under her control.
Next: Russia Gets Reproved for Religious Restrictions
“In a significant challenge to Russia’s 1997 Religion Law, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russian officials wrongfully denied legal status to an outpost of the Salvation Army. Christianity Today reported that “the October verdict levied a fine of 10,000 euros, payable to the evangelical church’s Moscow office.
The Salvation Army initially registered with the state in 1992. After the restrictive Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Association passed in 1997, however, Moscow’s city government rejected the church’s re-registration application. The government raised several minor objections to the application, all of which the [court] deemed petty. Officials also accused the Salvation Army of being a ‘militarized organization…’”
“In mid-October, the national government introduced legislation to more closely monitor the activities of nongovernmental organizations. Dozens of foreign aid groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, had to suspend work while awaiting approval of their registration applications.
“’It’s just one further sign of the tightening that’s going on,’ said Russian Ministries president Anita Deyneka, ‘and the increased control and restrictions under Putin.’”
Russia is headed back to the kind of nation it was before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Next: Russia under Putin is Headed Back to Soviet-Style Authoritarianism.
In a speech at a Hillsdale College national Leadership Seminar held in Chicago, Andrei Illarionov described the destruction of freedom in Russia under Putin. The following excerpts are taken from Imprimis, the Hillsdale College monthly publication.
“First, there was an assault on the people of Chechnya. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of the Chechen people. People in Chechnya lost their independence, their political rights and – many of them — their lives. Many Russians lost their lives as well.
“Then there was an assault on the Russian media. This time many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of the media. As a result, the media lost its independence—first television channels, then radio stations and newspapers. And now the censors are turning their attention to the Internet.
“Then there was an assault on private business. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the freedom of private business. So private business has lost its independence and has become subjugated to the caprice of the executive power…
“Then there was an assault on the independence of political parties. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of political parties. As a result, independent national political parties ceased to exist.
“Then there was an assault on the independence of the judiciary. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend the independence of the judiciary. Now, there are no more independent courts or judges in Russia.
“Then there was an assault on the election of regional governors. Many Russian people thought that it was not their business to defend free elections of regional governors. Today, regional governors are appointed by the President, and there are no more independent regional authorities in the country.
“Then there was an assault on the independence of non-governmental and religious organizations. Finally, some people tried to defend the freedom of these organizations, but it was too late. And now even those who want to resist have neither the resources nor the institutions required to fight back.
“As a result, Russia has ceased to be politically free. For 2005, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World ranks Russia 168th out of 192 countries. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report ranks Russia 126th out of 159 countries. The World Economic Forum calculates that Russia is 85th (among 108 countries) in avoiding favoritism in government decisions, 88th (also of 108) in its protection of property rights, and 84th (of 102) when measured by independence of the judicial system…
My friends, if you pay attention to what this insightful gentleman has to say, and you have been paying attention to western legal revolution in recent years since September 11, 2001, you will recognize that this is exactly how religious freedom will be assaulted in the west. Little by little the bevy of constitutional institutions that constructed freedom in the first place and ultimately held them together and protected religious liberty, such as freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to privacy, and other personal rights; the balance of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the independence of the judiciary, etc., these institutions will be, and are being assaulted one by one, little by little, as much as the people can tolerate especially in a time of fear. One by one they are being eroded and undermined. Eventually, once they are all effectively dismantled, religious freedom will be the last and final frontier to be assaulted.
Next: Smile, You’re on N.Y.P.D. Camera
“The New York Police Department has generally had the public on its side when it comes to securing the city since the Sept. 11 attacks,” said the New York Times on February 17, 2007. For their part, New Yorkers seem perfectly willing to put up with inconveniences, including traffic stops and bag searches. But the police have more and more overstepped their bounds by routinely and indiscriminately videotaping demonstrations of every kind, even peaceful ones. A federal judge was right this week to order the police to curb this conduct.
“The practical effect of the order is to compel law-enforcement officers to obey guidelines that require them to state a reason to suspect unlawful activity before they videotape demonstrators. They must also get department authorization. That’s a modest requirement. The city contends the current practice is not strictly unconstitutional, but the prospect of being photographed by police while merely protesting can have a chilling effect on free speech.
“The city agreed in 1985 to abide by guidelines for police tactics as part of a settlement of a lawsuit by Vietnam-era political activists. Four years ago, after the 9/11 attacks, a judge agreed to give the police greater powers to investigate political groups. Unfortunately, the cops ignored the part about having a rationale for video surveillance.
“This week, the same district court judge, Charles Haight Jr., rebuked the city for that failure. He said it was fine for the police to videotape the hundreds of bike riders who take to the streets on the last Friday of every month as an environmental protest, because the riders have a history of traffic violations. But taping a peaceful demonstration by activists for the homeless in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s home, as was done in 2005, was pointless because the group posed no security threat.”
Next: Religious Leaders Press Rice on Mideast
WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A delegation of religious leaders met with the U.S. secretary of state to urge the country to take a more leading role in promoting peace in the Middle East.
Condoleezza Rice met six religious leaders from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, including the retired archbishop of Washington D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, on Monday at the State Department.
Cardinal McCarrick said the meeting was “substantive and excellent.” Rice spoke with the Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders for about 45 minutes.
Before the meeting with Rice the leaders released a statement which was signed last month by the 35 members of the leadership initiative.
The statement affirmed peace as “an essential of faith” in all three religious traditions and asserted that the United States has “an inescapable responsibility and an indispensable role to provide creative, determined leadership for building a just peace in the Middle East.”
In a letter sent to Rice, the religious leaders asked for the meeting with the secretary and acknowledged her “personal commitment to the creation of a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel, with security and peace for both peoples.”
When that happens, national ruin will follow, just as it did in the former Soviet Union, and as it is now in new Russia.
Well, our time has run out… Until next time, may God bless and keep you and your family in His loving and protecting care as we near the end. Keep the faith!
Just before the annual May Ten Commandments Day, it is perhaps important for us to consider what is happening in the area of Sunday laws and the separation of church and state
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