And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)
Numerous events during 2013 had many hearts failing for fear. The following journalist reports touch on just a few of these events:
“Syria in context: understanding the war: Reports of a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb on Wednesday, Aug. 21, marked a turning point in the attitude of the United States and its allies toward the Syrian government. Disparate rebel groups have been fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since 2011. Syria has responded by shooting and bombing its people, as well as committing human rights abuses against its citizens such as torture and rape.
“More than 100,000 people have died and millions more, including 1 million children, have fled their homes. Many have left for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq…where they face hardship while awaiting their fate in sprawling refugee camps.
“The consequences of Syria’s war extend beyond its borders, as violence spills into other countries and threatens to destabilize the region. Clashes between Shia government supporters and fighters from Syria’s majority-Sunni population have prompted bomb attacks in Lebanon and Iraq...
“The conflict has unfolded as world powers vie to advance their interests in the region. Russia, one of the Assad government’s strongest allies, has repeatedly stymied western governments’ efforts to find a political solution.”
(Excerpts from Reuters, Oct. 15, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/places/syria)
“Bachmann: Obama arming terrorists proof ‘we’re in God’s end times’: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) over the weekend accused President Obama of arming al Qaeda militants in Syria and said it was evidence ‘we’re in God’s end times.’
“‘This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists,’ Bachmann said in a radio interview with Understanding the Times that was first reported by Right Wing Watch. ‘Now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history.’
“‘Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice,’ she continued. ‘Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, his day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; these days would be as the days of Noah.’
“Bachmann said Obama waived restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act, with the result that taxpayers are ‘now paying to give arms to terrorists, including al Qaeda.’
“Last month, the National Security Council announced that Obama waived some restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act so the U.S. could provide ‘non-lethal assistance inside Syria’ to ‘protect against the use of chemical weapons.’
“‘This action is part of longstanding and ongoing efforts to provide life-saving chemical weapons-related assistance to people in need in Syria,’ the NSC said.”
(Excerpts from The Hill, Oct. 7, 2013) http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/327063-bachmann-obama-arming-terrorists-proof-were-in-gods-end-times)
Comment: Maranatha is an Aramaic word that was left un-translated in the King James Bible. It means roughly, “our lord comes” or “is coming.” At the time Paul spoke these words (1 Cor. 16:22) this was a future event; however, we believe the Lord is already present (Parousia) today. We will have further comments on this in our February paper.
“Egypt in turmoil: Egypt finds itself in another period of bloodshed and political uncertainty. On 14 August two camps in Cairo were broken up by security forces, killing hundreds of supporters of the ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
“During his first year in office, Mr Morsi fell out with key institutions and sectors of society, and was seen by many Egyptians as doing little to tackle economic and social problems.
“Egypt became polarised between his Islamist supporters and his opponents, who include leftists, liberals and secularists.”
(Excerpts from BBC News, Aug. 21, 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23146910)
Comment: In many passages of scripture Egypt symbolizes the world of mankind. Clouds of trouble are coming upon Egypt and the world but God has made wonderful promises: “The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Isa. 19:1-2) “And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them. (Isa. 19:22)
“Holocaust Remembrance Day Begins In Israel: JERUSALEM — Israel dedicated its annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust to mark 70 years to the Warsaw ghetto uprising, a symbol of Jewish resistance against the Nazis in World War II that resonates deeply in Israel to this day.
“…President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both linked the desperate Jewish revolt of 1943 to the warrior mentality that enabled the establishment of Israel five years later.
“‘There was … never a rebellion like it. They were so few and their bravery remained as a model for so many,’ Peres said…
“Netanyahu called the uprising … ‘a turning point in the fate of the Jewish people’ where they transformed from helpless victims into fearless warriors.
“Peres, an 89-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, also linked the Nazi genocide to Iran’s suspected drive to acquire nuclear bombs and its leaders’ repeated references to the destruction of Israel and its denial of the Holocaust.
“‘The civilized world must ask itself ... (how) it is still possible for the leadership, like that of Iran, to openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust,’ he said. ‘Those who ignore the threat of a Holocaust against one nation must know that the threat of a Holocaust against one nation is a threat of a Holocaust against all nations.’
“Netanyahu also cited the Iranian threats to destroy Israel and vowed that there will never be another Holocaust.
“Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe, warned of a sudden upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks and expressed alarm over the rise of extremist parties in Europe - particularly in Hungary, Greece and Ukraine.
“‘Neo-Nazis have been once again legalized in Europe. They are openly sitting in parliaments,’ he said.”
(Excerpts from the Huffington Post, April 7, 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/07/holocaust-remembrance-day-israel-yom-hashoah_n_3033917.html)
“Anti-Semitism is why the Arab Spring failed: [writes Ahmad Hashemi, former Iranian foreign ministry employee, translator and interpreter] In my view, one reason why the Arab Spring succeeded in toppling old dictatorships but didn’t succeed in replacing them with genuine democracy was that narrow-mindedness kept the uprisings’ leadership and supporters from harnessing all existing potential. Instead of dealing with root causes of the problems, they preferred to choose a simplistic answer and solution for all unresolved issues. They had a ‘one size fits all’ diagnosis with a single prescription for all ills: whenever there is a mess, a dilemma or a complicated situation, just point a finger at Israel and the Jews.
“The most abhorrent example of state-sponsored anti-Semitism is theocratic Iran, particularly the current administration.
“Anyone who denigrates Jews, denies the Holocaust and rejects the existence of Israel can turn into a hero overnight. Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites like Edoardo Agnelli, son of the owner of Fiat auto giant, the late French thinker Roger Garaudy (a mentally unbalanced Holocaust denier who I witnessed some years ago receiving a hero’s welcome at the Qom Feyziye Seminary, in Iran), and anti-Israel rabbis such as Yisroel Dovid Weiss and Moishe Arye Friedman are all welcome in Iran only because they hate Israel and deny its right to exist.”
(Excerpts from Times of Israel, April 9, 2013 http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/pro-semitisim-the-road-to-a-prosperous-democratic-middle-east/)
“Obama in Israel…: The White House insisted there would be no huge breakthroughs on President Barack Obama’s first trip to Israel [March 2013] as president — a promise Obama kept. He made some progress in key areas — not hard to do given how little Obama accomplished in the region during his first term. But building on those steps would require the kind of sustained involvement Obama seems hesitant to do.
“Obama did seem to improve his standing significantly with the Israeli public and patch up his bruised relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That’s probably a prerequisite for progress on Mideast peace, even if there’s nothing to show for it right away.
“During Obama’s first couple of years in office, he pursued a strategy on Israeli-Palestinian peace that — intentionally or not — seemed to involve putting greater distance between the United States and the Jewish state. The initial approach sought to set the U.S. up as a kind of fair broker between Israel and the Palestinians by essentially prodding the Israelis to concede to Palestinians’ longtime demands that Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank cease before talks could resume.
“It didn’t work and helped generate significant political blowback in the U.S. that dogged the president all the way through the 2012 election.”
(Excerpts from POLITICO, March 24, 2013 http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/obama-israel-trip-89255.html)
“Netanyahu Maintains Tough Stance against Iran (Oct. 1): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to Washington D.C. to meet with President Obama to discuss the situation with Iran, including Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s recent overtures toward thawing relations with the west. The meeting between Netanyahu and Obama comes less than a week after Obama had spoken with Rowhani on the phone, the first time the leaders of the United States and Iran have talked in 34 years. During their meeting, Netanyahu and Obama present a united front when it comes to Iran having nuclear weapons. Obama assures Netanyahu that the U.S. will still turn to military action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. (Oct 2): Netanyahu gives his annual speech at the United Nations. During the speech, he refers to Iranian President Rowhani as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and warns the international community not to be fooled by Rowhani’s recent overtures. ‘I want there to be no confusion on this point. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,’ Netanyahu says.”
(Excerpt from Infoplease October 2013
Comment: They will not always stand alone. “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:2-3) “And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." (Amos 9:15)
“In Focus: North Korea’s Nuclear Threats: North Korea has been issuing near-daily threats against the United States and South Korea, and sometimes at United States forces in the Pacific. In one of the boldest warnings, the North said it could carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States. Many analysts are extremely doubtful that the North could hit the United States mainland with a missile, whether nuclear-tipped or not. Some of its missiles could, however, hit South Korea or Japan and American forces there, analysts said.
“Why is North Korea threatening the United States now? Because the United States led the successful push for sanctions at the United Nations to punish North Korea for its nuclear test in February, its third. The North also often ratchets up its political speech during joint United States-South Korea military exercises, which it portrays as a threat. One of those exercises is continuing.
“North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006. It is widely believed to be capable of at least making crude nuclear devices. North Korea has a sizable arsenal of short-and medium-range missiles, and is developing longer-range missiles. A recent assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded with ‘moderate confidence’ that the North now knows how to make a nuclear device small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.”
(Excerpts from New York Times, April 16, 2013
There were too many terrorist attacks in 2013 to mention all in detail. As of October 16, 2013, Wikipedia listed 248 separate incidents of terrorism for the year through September 30. Here are a few of the most notable:
“French Troops Head to Mali (Jan. 1): In response to a plea from the Mali government, France sends its military forces to the country to fight against extreme Islamist militants. …French President Francois Hollande says in a statement, ‘French forces brought their support to Malian army units to fight against terrorist elements. This operation will last as long as is necessary.’ (Jan. 17): France sends reinforcements, bringing the number of French troops in Mali to 1,400. Reinforcements are needed because the militants have seized much of the country and the battleground has expanded.”
“At Least 41 Engineers Are Held Hostage in Algeria (Jan. 16): Islamist militants take about 40 foreign hostages at a remote BP site in Algeria. At least sixty armed militants attack the BP gas field. Among the engineers who are taken hostage are several British and U.S. citizens. Many fear that the hostage situation is a result of the conflict in Mali. (Jan. 17): Algerian forces raid the site where the hostages are held. According to officials in Algeria, 37 hostages are killed in the raid, including three Americans. Also in the raid, 29 kidnappers are killed and three are captured.”
(Excerpts from Infoplease January 2013 http://www.infoplease.com/news/2013/current-events/world_jan.html)
“Multiple Bombs Explode during the Boston Marathon (Apr. 15): Multiple bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two bombs go off around 2:50 in the afternoon as runners finish the race. At least three people are killed. One is an eight year old boy. More than 170 people are injured. … (Apr. 18): … the FBI releases photos and video of two suspects in the hope that the public can help identify them. …Just hours after the FBI releases the images, the two suspects rob a gas station in Central Square then shoot and kill a MIT police officer in his car. Afterwards, the two men carjack a SUV and tell the driver that they had set off the explosions at the marathon. Police pursue the vehicle into Watertown. During the shootout, a MBTA officer is shot and one of the suspects, identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26, is killed. A suicide vest is found on his body. (Apr. 19): The other suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, age 19, remains at large for several hours, causing a massive manhunt and lockdown for all of Boston, Cambridge, and many other surrounding communities. The manhunt ends that evening when he is found alive, but seriously injured, hiding in a boat behind a house in Watertown. The two suspects are brothers and had been living together on Norfolk Street in Cambridge. They have lived in the U.S. for about a decade, but are from an area near Chechnya, a region in Russia.”
(Excerpt from Infoplease April 2013 http://www.infoplease.com/news/2013/current-events/us_april.html)
“Somalian Militants Terrorize Luxury Mall (Sept. 21): Shabab [Arabic word meaning “the youth”] militants attack an upscale mall in Nairobi, killing nearly 70 people and wounding about 175. The siege continues with persistent fighting between government troops and militants. The attack is meticulously planned, and the militants prove to be challenging for the government to dislodge from the Westgate mall. Shabab, based in Somalia, says the attack is in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s role in helping Somalia battle the militant group. In the wake of the violence, the ICC suspends the trial of Deputy President William Ruto so he can return to Kenya and assist in managing the crisis.”
“Historic Christian Church Destroyed by Taliban (Sept. 23): Two suicide bombers linked to the Taliban attack the All Saints Church in Peshawar, killing more than 80 people and destroying the historic church. It is the deadliest attack against Christians in Pakistan’s history. Shiites, also a religious minority in Pakistan, have also been targeted by the Taliban in the past year. The attack prompts many to question if the government should move ahead with plans to begin negotiations with the Taliban.”
(Excerpts from Infoplease September 2013 http://www.infoplease.com/news/2013/current-events/world_sept.html)
While terrorism continues to be a worldwide problem, in the U.S. it is far exceeded by gun deaths. CNN.com reports that in 2010 there were 13,186 deaths worldwide as a result of acts of terror while there were 31,672 gun-related deaths in the US alone.
Yet, it appears unlikely stronger gun control measures will be enacted any time soon. After the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, CT that killed 20 first-graders along with six adults, the ensuing gun control debates quickly died down. The Huffington Post reports that since Newtown, there have been at least 16 mass shootings in the U.S. which killed four or more people other than the shooter. The Navy Yard shooting on September 16, which left 13 dead, was the deadliest.
Comment: We look forward to the Kingdom when “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) All injurious things will be eliminated in the Kingdom.
U.S. National Debt: On October 17, 2013, the National Debt Real Time Clock reflected a debt of $16,964 trillion or $53,532 for each U.S. citizen and $148,134 for each U.S. taxpayer. An alarming average of about $4 billion is added each day. Our paper No.139 of January 1, 1967 reported a debt of a “fantastic figure of about 330 billion,” an increase of more than 5,000 per cent in 47 years! It is truly unimaginable that such a debt could ever be repaid. Some fear our major creditors (China, Japan, etc.) will not continue to support U.S. debt.
“The Senate and House Approve Last Minute Budget Deal to Avoid Fiscal Cliff (Jan. 1): In the early hours of January 1, 2013, the Senate approves a deal to raise tax rates from 35 to 39.6 percent for those earning more than $400,000. The deal also temporarily suspends across-the-board spending cuts. Later that night, the House also passes the legislation. The House’s vote ends the long dramatic showdown over the fiscal cliff with only a few hours left of the 112th Congress.”
(Excerpt from Infoplease http://www.infoplease.com/news/2013/current-events/us_jan.html)
“Congress Fails to Stop Budget Cuts (Mar. 1): Congress and President Obama do not reach an agreement in time to stop the large budget cuts to federal spending. As the cuts go into effect, Congressional leaders pledge to end the disagreements over the federal budget that have threatened to shut down the government for the last two years. President Obama responds to the budget cuts in a news conference where he says, ‘I don’t anticipate a huge financial crisis, but people are going to be hurt.’”
(Excerpt from Infoplease http://www.infoplease.com/news/2013/current-events/us_mar.html)
“Standoff over Obamacare Results in Government Shutdown (Oct. 1): Congress fails to agree on a budget and pass a spending bill, causing the government to shut down. The failure to pass a bill is largely due to a standoff over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare...Overall, the government shutdown forces about 800,000 federal workers off the job.”
(Excerpt from Infoplease http://www.infoplease.com/news/2013/current-events/us_oct.html)
“Government reopens after shutdown…: The bill passed late Wednesday [Oct. 16] ended a stalemate…allowing Congress to meet a critical Treasury Department deadline with one day to spare.
“Enforcement of the debt limit is suspended until Feb. 7, setting up another confrontation over the national debt sometime in March, independent analysts estimated. Meanwhile, federal agencies are funded through Jan. 15, when they might shut down again unless lawmakers resolve a continuing dispute over deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.”
(Excerpts from The Washington Post Oct. 17, 2013 http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/government-reopens-thursday-after-congress-passes-budget-deal-raises-debt-limit/2013/10/17/dbe7889a-371b-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story_1.html)
Comment: Our government is increasingly dysfunctional. We look forward to Christ’s Kingdom when “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…” (Isa. 9:7)
Financial problems were not confined to the U.S. Europe has been dealing with a debt crisis for the past several years. During 2013, the problems unexpectedly surfaced in Cyprus:
“Understanding the Cypriot bank crisis: …The Cypriot economy was doing well and was relatively unscathed by the global recession in 2009. The problems began when neighbouring Greece faced financial and economic meltdown. For historical reasons Cypriot banks had a high level of lending in Greece and invested heavily in Greek government bonds.
“However, bondholders in Greece were forced to give up substantial sums owed to them by the Greek government… under the terms of a bailout package agreed last year. Cypriot banks suddenly found themselves with a gaping hole in their finances as a result of their exposure in Greece. The Cypriot government wanted to stand in for its ailing financial institutions but given the size of the banking sector it asked eurozone members for a bailout.
“The assets held by Cypriot banks accounted for eight times the country’s economic output (GDP), which explains why the Cypriot government did not want its banks to fail but did not have enough financial clout to step in and salvage them.
“In the early hours of March 25, eurozone finance ministers hammered out a final deal. Cyprus would get €10 billion in bailout money on condition that it would wind down Laiki, the second largest bank. Depositors with bank funds of less than €100,000 were spared the pain, a move aimed at maintaining the European deposit guarantee on savings. But those with amounts in excess of €100,000 stood to lose as much as 40 per cent of their money or even more.”
(Excerpts from Times of Malta.com March 31, 2013 http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130331/local/Understanding-the-Cypriot-bank-crisis.463528)
Comment: “Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (Jas. 5:3)
“Pope Benedict XVI stuns world, announces retirement: VATICAN CITY – The conservative pope who brought tweeting to the Vatican stunned the Roman Catholic world Monday, becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign as leader of the 1 billion-member church.
“…not all Americans have been thrilled with Benedict’s rule. His handling of sex abuse issues has drawn criticism from some victims’ advocates.
“‘When forced to, he talks about the crimes but ignores the cover-ups, uses the past tense as if to suggest it’s not still happening,’ said David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. ‘He has vast powers and he’s done very little to make a difference.’”
(Excerpts from USA Today Feb. 11, 2013 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/02/11/pope-benedict-xvi-resign/1908779/)
“The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in the 15th century: … in the [year] 1415. But the last uncontested pope to resign was Celestine V, more than 120 years earlier, in 1294.
“Gregory’s resignation was a relatively uncontroversial political move made at the request of church officials, during a time when there were three claimants to the Chair of St. Peter. His decision to step down was the first step in a series of compromises that eventually ended the Great Schism, and consolidated power under a single pope, Martin V.
“The case of Celestine, on the other hand, was extremely controversial. His successor, Boniface VIII, imprisoned him in unsanitary conditions in a castle near Naples, where he died of disease less than a year later. He became so despised that when Italian poet Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy 25 years later, he placed Celestine in Hell’s antechamber: ‘I saw and recognized the shade of him / Who by his cowardice made the great refusal.’”
(Excerpts from USA Today, Feb. 11, 2013 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/02/11/pope-resignations/1908819/)
“Pope Francis, the pontiff of firsts, breaks with tradition: Vatican City (CNN) – Call him Pope Francis, the pontiff of firsts. When Jorge Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday to reveal himself as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, he made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first to assume the name Francis.
“As pope, Bergoglio takes the helm of a Catholic Church that has been rocked in recent years by sex abuse by priests and claims of corruption and infighting among the church hierarchy.
“The 76-year-old Bergoglio, who served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope to take the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, revered among Catholics for his work with the poor. St. Francis is viewed as a reformer of the church, answering God’s call to ‘repair my church in ruins.’”
(Excerpts from CNN, Mar. 13, 2013 http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/13/world/europe/vatican-pope-selection)
Comment: Legend claims St. Francis of Assisi received this command when Jesus spoke from a crucifix in the dilapidated Church of San Damiano. Evidently, Francis feels he’s now called to repair the “church in ruins,” but Babylon is beyond repair. “And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee…” (Rev. 18:23) The proclamation since A.D. 1878 has been “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4)
“Irish Catholics still believe in heaven but not so much in hell says new poll: A recent poll carried out by Behavior & Attitudes for the Irish Sunday Times on religious beliefs has yielded some very interesting results.
“Of the adult Irish Catholics polled, 82 percent said they believed in God, but when it came to attending a church service or mass weekly, only 34 percent could say they did.
“When it came to heaven and hell, 76 percent said they believed that St. Peter waits at the gates, while 46 percent believed that hell exists.
“The results of weekly mass attendance among different age groups were somewhat unsurprising. The young have poor attendance (in the 18-34 bracket, only 14 percent attend) while the attendance rates increase with age (30% in the 35-54 bracket and 61% of those over-55).
“The Association of Catholic Priests’ Fr. Brendan Hoban recognizes the challenges ahead.
“‘This is the looming crisis,’ he said. ‘[We are] out of synch with the world they live in. We are failing to resonate with [them].’”
Protestant churches are also struggling:
“Take your pick: Give mainline Protestants a new name: Could re-branding rouse the dwindling mainline Protestant troops?
“The dozen church groups under the mainline umbrella — including United Methodists, Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians (USA) and American Baptists — have been flagging for years. Mainline Protestants made up 18 percent of U.S. adults in 2008. Fifty years ago, its members were the church of the Establishment.
“Scholar and Presbyterian pastor Carol Merritt recently suggested a new name might stem the slide, especially if it conveys the Mainline’s rising diversity and social justice leadership:
“‘I, for one, am tired of pretending that we want to hang out at the Country Club and eat cucumber sandwiches in fancy hats. We are not some sort of Southern upper-crust elite society.’”
(Excerpts from Religion News Service, Oct. 4, 2013
“Southern Baptists: Agree to disagree over Calvinism: (RNS) Can’t we all just get along?
“That was the question that Southern Baptists, torn between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, seemed to be asking as they opened their two-day annual meeting in Houston.
“Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, created a 19-member advisory committee that produced a report in time for the meeting called ‘Truth, Trust and Testimony.’
“Baptists have been divided over Calvinism since their denomination began in 1845, but Page said Monday (June 10) that disagreements had reached a tipping point.
“The 3,200-word report calls for mutual respect among the differing factions…
“‘We agree that the Gospel should be proclaimed to everyone, but we differ as to whether or how every hearer will be enabled to respond,’ the report says.
“Tammi Ledbetter, managing editor of the South Baptist Texan news journal, said it’s really up to individual Southern Baptists to determine what happens next.
“‘In a way I suspect all the people who really give a flip about this are here right now or listening on the Internet, so it’s really up to all of you as to what happens with this,’ said Ledbetter, the sole woman on the committee. ‘We can talk it to death and I think we probably have. What matters is what you do with your life in the way you relate to other people.’”
(Excerpts from Religion News Service, June 11, 2013 http://www.religionnews.com/2013/06/11/southern-baptists-agree-to-disagree-over-calvinism/)
Comment: By “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) we understand that Election has been in progress during the Jewish and Gospel Ages while Free Grace is God’s gracious provision for the world in general during the Millennial Age.
“A Breakthrough Year for Same-Sex Marriage: In 2013, the Supreme Court and several states weigh in on same-sex marriage. With more states legalizing same-sex marriage and two key Supreme Court rulings, 2013 was a breakthrough year for gay marriage in the United States. While other countries like France and Russia faced fierce protests over gay marriage laws in 2013, a shift in public opinion happened in the United States. According to a July 2013 Gallup Poll, 52% of Americans would support a law that would legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states…
“Even the newly crowned Pope Francis spoke up for the LGBT community in 2013. In a September interview published in international Jesuit journals, he said, ‘A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.’”
(Excerpt from Infoplease
“Boy Scouts End Longtime Ban on Openly Gay Youths: The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday ended its longstanding policy of forbidding openly gay youths to participate in its activities, a step its chief executive called ‘compassionate, caring and kind…’
“Some conservative churches and parents said the Scouts were violating their oath to be ‘morally straight’ and said they would drop out.”
(Excerpts from New York Times May 23, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/us/boy-scouts-to-admit-openly-gay-youths-as-members.html
“After high court rulings, what will religious conservatives do? …One of the most devastating lines of attack against gay marriage foes is that they are hypocrites who castigate gays and lesbians even as they divorce and remarry and commit adultery and cohabitate and have children out of wedlock.
“Guilty as charged, say some Christian leaders, who argue that this week’s rulings should be the spur to Christians to confess their sins and put their own house in order so that they can show Americans that believers actually practice what they preach.”
(Excerpt from Religion News Service June 26, 2013 http://www.religionnews.com/2013/06/26/after-high-court-rulings-what-will-religious-conservatives-do/)
Comment: The churches are increasingly embroiled in social issues and focus little attention on the important doctrines of the Bible such as the Ransom, Resurrection, and Restitution, among many others.
CORRECTIONS: In the printed version of our November 2013 paper No. 675, page 7, last paragraph, third sentence, the word “begotten” was inadvertently used when the word should have been “unbegotten.” This sentence should read: “It seems reasonable that That Servant noticed these two texts when he unhesitatingly gave us an unbegotten class, which we call Youthful Worthies, to be won after all the Saints have been gathered.” Also, on page 8, paragraph 3, please strike “(By That Servant, Souvenir Notes, 1910, pages 205, 206)” which was inadvertently included after the last sentence.
The date of our Lord’s Memorial is April 12, 2014, after six p.m.
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Please go to http://epiphanybiblestudents.com/other to read the following papers:
· Where Are The Dead?
· What Is The Soul?
· The Resurrection of the Dead
· Two Distinct Salvations
· God’s Great Sabbath Day
· The Great Reformer
· The Permission of Evil
· The Day of Judgment
· God’s Standard
Printed copies will also be mailed upon request.
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