At the beginning of the New Year, we look back at the results of the year past with thankful hearts to the Lord for all our blessings. We express our appreciation in the words of the Psalmist: "I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High." (Psa. 9:2) "Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." (Psa. 25:22) We are optimistic because we know the Lord will adjust all iniquities when He judges the world in righteousness.
Crime is rampant the world over. Also, we have had calamities, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Good people have gone to aid those who have endured these calamities. God's eye is on the good and the evil (Prov. 15:3). "Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in the heart." (Psa. 125:4)
1996 IN REVIEW:
(1) President Clinton is re-elected and Republicans retain control of Congress.
(2) TWA's Flight 800 crashes off Long Island, killing 230 people.
(3) A suspect in the Unabomber bombings is arrested in a Montana forest.
(4) During the Olympics in Atlanta, a bomb explodes, killing one and injuring 111. Security guard Richard Jewell is named as a suspect, then later cleared of the crime.
(5) A blizzard paralyzes Eastern states, causing 100 deaths and $1 billion damage.
(6) Scientists say they find possible signs of life in a meteorite from Mars.
(7) Hurricanes Arthur and Fran strike the U.S. mainland, and Hortense kills as least 16 in Puerto Rico.
(8) The Clinton administration is rocked by scandals, including Dick Morris' resignation, the Whitewater convictions of Robert and Susan McDougal, Paula Jones' sexual harassment case and controversy over missing FBI files.
(9) The standoff with a Montana militia calling itself the Freemen lasts 81 days.
(10) The U.S. Army is sent to Bosnia to enforce a peace accord. Clinton extends their stay through 1998. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown dies in a plane crash during a tour in the war-torn region.
(11) A whistle blower says tobacco companies knew their product caused cancer and covered it up. States file suits to recoup costs of Medicaid patients.
(12) A truck bomb in Saudi Arabia kills 19 American soldiers.
(13) A campaign-funding scandal emerges at end of campaign season with reports that millions may have been illegally donated.
(14) Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire erupt in chaos.
(15) Russian election returns Boris Yelsin to power. Yelsin later undergoes successful quintuple by-pass surgery.
(16) Bus bombings in Israel kill 44. Israeli election brings new conservative government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
(17) China calls for unification with Taiwan. China conducts live-fire missile tests and U.S. sends aircraft carriers to Taiwan Strait.
(18) In an Army sex scandal, charges are brought against drill instructors stemming from their alleged sexual relations with female recruits.
(19) The Southern Baptist Convention calls for a boycott of Disney.
(20) Merger mania hits the telecommunications industry, affecting Time Warner, Turner, Disney, ABC and MCI.
(21) The O. J. Simpson civil trial begins.
(22) Sixteen schoolchildren and a teacher are massacred in Dunblane, Scotland.
(23) Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorce.
(24) The minimum wage rises.
(25) The stock market breaks the 6,400-point level of the Dow Jones industrial average.
(26) The Irish Republican Army ends a cease-fire in Britain with a new bombing campaign.
(27) Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan tours Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Nigeria.
(28) Congress passes, and Clinton signs, legislation changing the terms of the welfare entitlement system.
(29) Federal appeals court overturns racial preferences in Texas college admissions case; California votes to eliminate preferences in state contracting, hiring and college admissions. Texaco settles racial discrimination suit for $140 million.
(30) Kurds fight each other in Iraq. Iraqis shoot at patrolling planes; the United States shoots back at missile bases.
(31) Congress opens up the nation's airwaves with passage of a historic telecommunications overhaul.
(32) Corporate America fights a growing sense of insecurity among its workers.
(33) Explosion in San Juan destroys building, killing at least 17 people.
(Excerpts from The Orlando Sentinel, December 15, 1996)
"Marching Into Darkness: The Olympic myth of a peaceful world enjoying fun and games just blew up in Atlanta. The one world so beloved of speechmakers at the games is a world none of us lives in any more, if it ever existed.
"We live in a world being slowly closed in by security checks, iron gates and fear of flying. A random survey of the past 10 days of world news reveals more than a dozen terrorist actions around the globe, not to mention scores of other terrorist campaigns in progress but temporarily dormant or just being planned.
"Terrorism is the world war of our era, and it is getting worse, moving inexorably to what experts call 'the big one' – the entry of nuclear or chemical blackmail on the scene...
"Less sanguine observers might conclude that what we are witnessing is not new freedoms but new license, not global democracy but universal anarchy, a technological Tower of Babel. More contact with different people is not breeding understanding and tolerance – if anything, it is merely rounding up more faces into which more bigots can scream fewer coherent opinions.
"More technology is not proving liberating, it is becoming more dangerous. The FBI has warned that Islamic terrorists, planning to blow up dozens of American airliners, were communicating on the Internet using an unbreakable electronic code which was distributed freely against government advice by libertarian advocates of the philosophy that 'information wants to be free.' There again is that naive belief that good intentions will defeat evil beliefs – what an Israeli might call freier (sucker) philosophy."
(Editorial from The Jerusalem Post, July 28, 1996)
Science: "What's So Great About Mars? Life on Mars? Who cares except the scholars of great knowledge, who will seek billions of dollars to seek out life on Mars, a planet long dead? If you believe in God's word, man's life is here on Earth, and this planet is near death because of man's greed, and each day man poisons it more.
"Millions of people starve each year, and that problem could be solved here on Earth, yet man spends billions of dollars to seek out life in this universe. Let's get real and solve our problems among nations, for there is nothing out there in the vastness that can save our Earth, period." (By Fred O. Rogers, The Orlando Sentinel, August 18, 1996)
"'Calm down and watch your wallet.' Ralph Degennaro, executive director of Taxpayers For Common Sense, warning that the finding of possible life on Mars could lead to big boosts in federal space budgets. (U.S. News & World Report, August 19, 1996)
"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the word of the law." (Deut. 29:29) "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7) "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Eph. 3:5)
Forget space: "I suppose that you cannot discourage the dreamers. The rock from Mars – is there life there? The water on the moon – absolutely amazing. At this point we can produce hydrogen and oxygen. So what!
"A better idea, in my opinion, is to close down the whole space program and put all those talented people to work solving the problems we have here on Earth. Drugs, crime, poverty. If I seem like a bleeding heart, I am not." (By Ian Macdonald, The Orlando Sentinel, December 12, 1996)
Return to earth: "Every time I see a rocket go up, I see millions of dollars go up that could be used for food and health care. If we took those millions of dollars and made Earth a paradise, we shouldn't have to search for other planets to escape to after we've made this one hell." (By Audrey Ripel, The Orlando Sentinel, December 12, 1996)
VIEWPOINT: "There's much we don't know about life on Earth, why go to Mars? Some purport to have found evidence of life on Mars. So what? There is evidence of life on the African continent, and nobody seems too concerned about that.
"In my opinion the so-called evidence of so-called life on some so-called Martian rock is a scam to prime the budget pump for billions of dollars for a manned flight to Mars. I say no way.
"Assuming anybody ever got there and didn't die on the way, once they were there, what would they do? Take a few snapshots and come back. What would they report? 'Well, Mars looks just like its photographs – kind of rocky, reddish and empty.'
"Why spend a zillion dollars for that? Especially when no government on Earth, least of all the United States, has a spare zillion to spend. As for the question, 'Are we alone in the universe?' heck no. There are 5 billion of us tripping over each other on this planet. We had better concentrate on preserving life on this planet rather than wasting billions of dollars to find out that life isn't on Mars.
"There are a lot of useful things the U.S. space program can do, but a manned mission to Mars isn't one of them. And the time to put the quietus on this project is before the publicity machine gets fully cranked up.
"You and I do not need to know if there is other life in the universe. We need to know how to live usefully on this planet without destroying it in the process. There is a lot of exciting work and study to be done in every field of human endeavor.
"We don't even know really how to live together without quarreling and frequently killing each other. We have a lot to learn about helping people learn. A great deal of what people suppose today is knowledge is pseudo-knowledge, unproven theories, and outright myths." (By Charley Reese, The Orlando Sentinel, August 18, 1996)
Looking back over the past two years and looking ahead at prospects, we must admit that there still is no agreement as to what will happen next. The bulls, bears, optimists and pessimists all have statistics to prove the opinion that the stock market will continue to rise.
The majority of financial people say that the reason for the stock market growth is that the people who we consider in the mature adult market invested in CDs back in the 1970s and 1980s when they were paid a premium interest, have invested this in the stock market. This has caused the stock market to grow. Two things drive the stock market – earnings and purchases. People buying stock that doesn't pay dividends can run up the price if there are more buyers than sellers.
It was very obvious that while running for re-election the President of the United States was not going to let the stock market deteriorate. At the time of this article, there are low earnings coming out in the fourth quarter, and how this will affect the market will be seen in the first quarter of 1997. Interest rates did not drop as low as predicted for 1996, but they are still at a low and satisfactory rate so that businesses can expand on borrowed money.
Christmas sales are reported as not good this year, and they were not good last year. One of the reasons is that personal debt is at an all time high. Last year one of the things driving the economy was new technology in the computer industry, but even computer sales have slowed down this year.
General Motors plans to get rid of 50,000 employees and farm out more work because small companies can produce the items they need to assemble their cars much cheaper than General Motors can.
Business outlook recession: There is no way to tell when it will happen, but business is getting soft. How serious it will get no one can be certain as evidence is very thin. Without a textbook recession the signs are becoming worrisome for 1998 and most economists watch for these danger signs of recession: spiking inflation brought on by shortage of energy and labor, which is true today; tight labor conditions in many areas are threatening to push wages higher and that will cause inflation. Most recessions come when the Federal Reserve raises the interest rates to nip inflation. Inventory building or lack of sales leads to production cuts and job losses. This can happen quickly if consumer spending dries up. Unexpected jolts such as the Gulf War or an Arab oil embargo will hurt.
There are no clear signs of a recession just around the corner. Signs will probably start showing up sometime next year, or possibly as late as 1999. We all know that it is best to keep in mind that a recession is out there somewhere. It will happen. Don't just shrug it off in your long term planning.
Jehovah's Witnesses: We would think the Witnesses would have us forget their fiasco of 1925 when they taught MILLIONS NOW LIVING WILL NEVER DIE. However, they say in their Watchtower of January 1, 1997, that was a mistake. "But today that statement can be made with full confidence." (col. 1, par. 1 on p. 11)
We have often compared the Witnesses to the chameleon that changes its color, as they frequently change their teaching. But usually there is "method to their madness." They now teach: "This 'great crowd [meaning them, of course] now 'renders sacred service' in the earthly courtyard of his house of worship. – Rev. 7:9,15." The offer of life is the bait used to persuade people to join them. Quite a few will join them because most people's strongest wish is to live. The Witnesses boast of their numbers, thinking numbers are their strength. But numbers are their weakness, just as others who teach error are much more numerous than are the Witnesses.
The Laymen's Home Missionary Movement: They teach that their Consecrated Epiphany Campers will be first in the Kingdom after the Worthies. But we see very little about this class in their magazines. However, we are told they continue to teach this error privately and in their conventions. Also, they teach that the "overlapping of the Epiphany into the Basilea" has been going on since 1954-56, which means that their overlapping is longer than their Epiphany proper. Brothers Russell and Johnson both taught that the Epiphany and the Time of Trouble are one and the same. When the Epiphany ends the Time of Trouble ends. The worst features of the Time of Trouble have not occurred yet – worldwide Revolution and Anarchy, with Jacob's last trouble at the end of Anarchy. The Man of Sin is to be destroyed in the Epiphany, and the Man of Sin is still with us (2 Thes. 2:3).
Catholics: "'The Pope Says We May Descend From Monkeys' is the headline in Rome's IL Giornale. The Pope and Darwin: Did God create mankind in his image, as the Bible says, or did humans evolve from animals, as Darwin theorized nearly 150 years ago? According to Pope John Paul II, evolution may be the better explanation. Weighing in on a debate that has divided Christians for decades, the pope declared that evolution is 'more than just a theory' and is fully compatible with the Christian faith. But in a letter to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he also reaffirmed church teachings that while the human body may have evolved gradually, the soul 'is immediately created by god' in each person.
"The pope’s statement may rankle biblical fundamentalists, who take the Genesis creation story literally, but it is likely to have little impact on the Roman Catholic Church, which has long looked favorably on evolution. In 1950, Pope Pius XII called evolution a 'serious hypothesis' worthy of study. And as early as the fifth century, St. Augustine warned against a literal reading of the Genesis creation account. But John Paul II went further than previous popes in declaring that 'convergence' of scientific evidence gathered in the past 50 years makes 'a significant argument in favor of this theory.'
"This isn't the pope's first attempt to reconcile religion and science. In 1988 he declared that the church had erred in condemning Galileo Galilel in 1633 for asserting that the Earth revolves around the sun."
(By Jeffey L. Sheler, U.S. News & World Report, November 4, 1996)
At what point in the evolutionary process was the soul "immediately created by God" and put into the body? In Genesis 2:7 it is stated, "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." So the soul is made up of the combination of the body and the breath of life. As soon as man received the breath he became a living, conscious, sentient being – a soul – able to think, feel, smell, see and hear. Then when the breath is removed from the body the body disintegrates and the soul ceases to exist. But through the Ransom sacrifice of Jesus the soul (a body with breath) is to be restored in the resurrection (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29). There is no Divine spark in man that lives on after the body goes back to dust. If scientist and religionists could but understand that the complete man is a soul, including body and breath, then they would not have so much confusion. "The soul that sinneth it shall die." (Ezek. 18:20) If we had a soul that never dies, why should there be a resurrection?
"Pope will face hostility in France: Past Papal visits to France inspired barely stifled yawns. Many French, it sometimes seems, would give God himself a Gallic shrug.
"But as Pope John Paul II prepares for his fifth visit, apathy has given way to growing hostility. The pontiff, who for years has tried to coax 'the eldest daughter of the Church' out of her indifference, may have roused a dozing giant.
"Leftist activists are protesting government funding of the September 19-22 visit. Hundreds of disillusioned Catholics are renouncing their baptisms. Thousands more, angry over the punishment of a popular renegade bishop, plan to simply sit this one out.
"This week, a crude homemade bomb was discovered in a church where the pope will make one of his first stops. In the St. Laurent-sur-Sevre basilica in western France, police found an inscription in Latin and French: 'In the name of the pope, boom.'" [The pope's visit went off without incident as far as we know.] (Associated Press, September 4, 1996)
"CHURCH OF ENGLAND offers new description of hell: A Church of England commission this week rejected the idea of hell as a place of fire and unending torment, describing it instead as annihilation for all who reject the love of God.
"'Christians have professed appalling theologies which made God into a sadistic monster and left searing psychological scars on many,' said a report by the church's Doctrine Commission, titled 'The Mystery of Salvation.'
"'There are many reasons for this change, but amongst them have been the moral protest from both within and without the Christian faith against a religion of fear, and a growing sense that the picture of a God who consigned millions to eternal torment was far removed from the revelation of God's love in Christ,' the report said. (The Orlando Sentinel, January 20, 1996)
BAPTIST: "Southern Baptists vote to attempt to convert Jews: NEW ORLEANS – The Southern Baptist Convention on Thursday adopted a resolution calling for efforts to convert Jews to Christianity. And, for the first time in many decades, the denomination's domestic missionary agency has appointed a missionary to undertake such work.
"Early reaction to the Southern Baptists' resolution, adopted by nearly 14,000 delegates at the close of their three-day annual meeting here, suggested it may strain relations with Jewish groups.
"The resolution said the 15.6-million-member denomination, the largest in American Protestantism, would 'direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews.'
"And a Baptist spokesman, Herb Hollinger, said that just before the meeting, the denomination's Home Mission Board, based in Atlanta, had appointed a missionary to work among Jews in the United States.
"Resolutions of the convention are advisory rather than being binding on any of the denomination's 37,000 congregations. But both this resolution and the missionary appointment put the Southern Baptists at odds with several other major Protestant denominations, all of which in recent decades have encouraged dialogue between Christians and Jews while discouraging efforts at conversion.
"News of the resolution, and of the missionary appointment, brought criticism from leading Jewish specialists in interreligious relations.
"'My reaction is that this is a great setback,' said Rabbi A. James Rudin, interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee. 'By singling out Jews as a target for conversions, its a great disservice not just to Baptist-Jewish relations but to Christian-Jewish relations.'
"Rabbi Leon Klenicki, interfaith affairs director for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said he felt 'very sad' about the resolution.
"'Especially after the Holocaust, Christians have no right to talk about a mission to the Jews,' Klenicki said." (By Gustav Niebuhr, N. Y. Times News Service, June 14, 1996)
Reformed Church In America: "One Way? Christian debate: can non-Christians be saved? SPRING LAKE, MI – After 25 years in the pulpit at the head of a congregation of nearly 1,000 people, the Rev. Richard Rhem would seem fitted more for a role as a denominational leader than as a denominational lightening rod.
"But instead a storm is raging around him. Some here call him a heretic. The regional church authority censured him in July, holding him 'in disrepute before Christ, the church and the world.' His congregation, loyal to him, has voted to secede from the parent church.
"The reason for the dispute is that Rhem says he no longer believes that faith in Jesus is the sole way to salvation. Jews, Muslims and others, he says, may be as likely to enter heaven.
"In departing from traditional Christian doctrine that proclaims Jesus alone as Savior, Rhem has shaken the Reformed Church in America, a denomination of about 200,000 members that has roots in the Netherlands of the 16th century and its modern headquarters in New York.
"But the controversy illuminates a far broader division emerging among Christians over how to regard other faiths. Over the centuries church teachings on salvation have been varied and nuanced, but at their core is the conviction that only through Christ has God made salvation possible.
"In recent decades, however, some prominent theologians like the late German Jesuit priest Kurl Rahner have wrestled with the question whether non-Christians can be saved through their own religions. And Roman Catholicism's Second Vatican Council, in the early 1960s, and subsequent Protestant efforts encouraged substantial interfaith dialogue, especially between Christians and Jews.
"But none of those initiatives changed the core teaching of salvation only through Christ, a tenet that for some Christians, particularly conservative evangelicals, means nonbelievers face hellfire. ["For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." (Rom. 11:32)]
"Now, in a widening rift among Christians, some urge greater missionary zeal as the Southern Baptists did recently in resolving to convert Jews, while others argue for dialogue and seeking understanding with non-Christians, not proselytizing. And some, prominent Protestants and Catholics among them, have said God's covenant with the Jews was not superseded by the coming of Christ.
"In an often cited Biblical verse (John 14:6), Jesus declared, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.' That essential teaching of the Christian faith, Rhem's critics say, is now at stake here in western Michigan. (By Gustav Niebuhr, NY Times Service, October 27, 1996)
This is just one example of how the traditional churches are disintegrating. "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:16) This He has done and they are no longer His mouthpiece; they no longer receive the truth and what truth they did have has become polluted with nonsense.
For centuries Christians of all sorts have prayed "thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." But so very few realize that in this simple prayer is noted the two distinct salvations – one in heaven, the other in earth. Other scriptures which teach the same thing are: Jude 3, the "common salvation" and Hebrews 2:3, "so great salvation."
All will concede a heavenly salvation, but not the earthly. If there be no earthly salvation, what does Isa. 26:9 mean? "For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Surely this does not mean those of the heavenly salvation for they have already learned righteousness. And Isa. 11:9, "for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." So we need not be overly concerned about the non-Christians for their time will come during the Lord's Kingdom reign – the times of restitution (Acts 3:19-21).
"Church accused of tricking youths into being baptized: WOBURN, Mass. – A Baptist church used promises of pizza and basketball games to attract hundreds of children, then gave them full baptisms, parents charge. Prosecutors and police in five communities on Tuesday were investigating complaints against Anchor Baptist Church. Parents say the church enticed teens and younger children onto buses on at least two occasions in July. Instead of getting pizza, the children allegedly were taken to the church in Woburn, made to sit through a long service, then told to undress and put on robes. Those who complied were dunked into a tank of water, parents say." (The Orlando Sentinel, August 28, 1996)
"Protestant Memberships Slide Further In Numbers: Membership in a number of mainline Protestant denominations is continuing to slide, according to the National Council of Churches' 1996 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
"Since the 1995 edition of the yearbook was published, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has become the mainline Protestant church that lost the most members, 98,630, a 2.6 percent drop. The United Church of Christ lost 28,868 members, a 1.89 percent loss, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) lost 20,373 members, a 2.13 percent loss.
"The Roman Catholic Church remains the nation's largest religious body, with 60,190,605 members. It is followed by the Southern Baptist Convention, with 15,614,060 members; the United Methodist Church, with 8,584,125 members; the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., with 8,200,000 members; and the Church of God in Christ, with 5,499,875 members." (The Orlando Sentinel, March 30, 1996)
"Canadian Call: A resolution calling on members of the United Church of Canada in the province of British Columbia to encourage 'firm and positive attitudes' toward the Jewish community was unanimously approved at the Church's annual conference held May 4.
"The resolution acknowledges that anti-Jewish feeling and teaching in the Church 'have contributed to and are in large measure responsible for anti-Jewish atrocities through the ages.'" (World Jewish Congress, June 1996)