I have heard reference made to the "19-year time cycle" in the Hebrew calendar. Would you please explain what this time cycle is?
The Western world is accustomed to a solar year of approximately 365 1/4 days, since the Roman calendar in common use is solar. The months of the Roman year are not related to the phases of the moon, but are of arbitrary length. On the other hand, the Hebrew year is a solar-lunar year, and differs significantly from the length of the Roman solar year. Each month of the Hebrew calendar is related to the phases of the moon. Twelve such months, each 29 or 30 days long, result in a year that has about 354 days, or about 11 days less than a solar year of 365 1/4 days. A common Hebrew year is thus shorter than a Roman year. This is regularly balanced by leap years with 13 months. Leap years in the Hebrew calendar have about 384 days, which is longer than a solar or Roman year. How, then, are lunar months to be related to the natural solar year? Every 19 solar years (of 365 1/4 days) the moon revolves around the earth 235 times, each lunation being about 29 1/2 days. This remarkable astronomical relationship makes it possible to combine 12 common years (of 12 months each) and seven leap years (of 13 months each) together every 19 years. These 235 lunar months equal about 19 solar years. That is, every 19 years the sun, moon and earth return to their approximate positions with respect to each other. Nineteen-year patterns can also be seen in history. For example, ancient Israel spent 38 years (19 x 2) extra wandering in the wilderness. Or, as Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong has pointed out, a "century" of time cycles or 1,900 years (19 x 100) passed from the time the Gospel had been suppressed in A.D. 53 until the Gospel began reaching Europe and other areas of the world as a whole in 1953 on Radio Luxembourg.
How did the different races originate?
The Bible teaches that God "made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). God's Word also tells us that Eve was the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). Therefore, God must have created Eve with the capability to produce children with the varied characteristics that are now manifested in the different races. There must have been great diversity in Eve's offspring. Normally, individuals of similar characteristics are attracted to each other. The children and grandchildren of Adam and Eve would have naturally separated into families of racially similar people, and as they continued to marry within their own groups, distinct racial traits would have become established. It is apparent, then, that God intended that there be different races. God considers all humans His children through Adam and intends that all who repent will ultimately receive sonship in His Kingdom (I Tim. 2:4, II Pet. 3:9, Rev. 21:3-7).
Should women be ordained as preachers?
The apostle Paul instructs in I Timothy 2:12, Revised Standard Version, "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent." See also I Corinthians 14:34. Paul is explaining that it is not proper for women to exercise administrative ecclesiastical authority over men within the Church. In other words, women are not to become Church elders and should not give sermons. Based upon Paul's teachings, the Worldwide Church of God does not ordain women speakers. The New Testament does, however, give a precedent for the ordination of deaconesses (I Tim. 3:8-11, Rom. 16:1). Apparently Aquila and Priscilla, who served under Paul's administration, were deacon and deaconess. In the Church at that time was a powerful, effective teacher named Apollos. Apollos' knowledge was imperfect, though, and "when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:26). Here we find a woman and her husband together teaching a man the way of God more perfectly. Notice also Paul's instruction in Titus 2:3-5. So there are biblical examples of women teaching outside a formal church situation. Parts of the Bible were contributed by women - for example, Hannah's prayer, Miriam's song and the teachings of Lemuel's mother. These were included in the Bible to be read by men and women alike.
Does Mark 16:18 mean we must handle deadly snakes to prove our faith in God, as some groups practice?
No! This verse is a promise of protection, not a command, to those God has called to preach the Gospel (notice verse 15). For example, God fulfilled this promise when the apostle Paul, gathering firewood, was bitten by a poisonous snake (Acts 28:1-6). It is important to realize that Paul was not purposely handling the snake. The incident was completely unexpected. God miraculously protected His servant. Deliberately handling poisonous snakes or drinking deadly liquids, expecting God's protection, is contrary to the teachings of Christ, who said, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" (verse 7). Our booklet What is Faith? explains what real faith is and how to exercise it. This booklet will be sent free to any who request it.