Letter to the Brethren: April 12, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from Grover Beach, California.

We hope and pray that you were able to grow spiritually during the Days of Unleavened Bread this year. A Spring Holy Day report from Rift Valley, Kenya is included in this letter.

Before getting more into that,  let’s mention that we decided to do a two-part sermon series on dating. While that is not a topic that we have covered in sermons before, it is something that Christians need to know about, whether they are single or married.

We are now formatting a new booklet on the subject (the one shown in the sermons is a single ‘proof’ copy from the publisher) which we expect to finalize this month. An online version is available: Dating: A Key to Success in Marriage, but we expect to produce a printed version relatively soon. We also expect to get the booklet translated into several languages and sent the final text to two of our translators this week.

Also, we are considering getting our short animation, First Date: Worldly vs. Christian, translated into French, Spanish, and perhaps other languages (that particular animation may not be as applicable in African languages). We may also get future animations translated as well (such as two we are currently working on related to God’s existence).

Rift Valley

We received a report related to Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread from Pastor Tiongik Sawek in Rift Valley, Kenya, including some photographs:

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ,

Our passover went on smoothly having received reports from Njoro and their groups, Mau and their groups and Bomet and Transmara Chilani, Takitech, Motosiet, Chebunyo, Kabolecho and Cheramgoi.

Although we witnessed heavy rainfall on that day, there was satisfactory turn out of members.

below find the attached photos from when we began the passover to the recent most sabbath.

During all that period we kept in touch with Pastor Ochieng.

God bless you,

Pastor Sawek

 

 

As mentioned before, those in Rift Valley are relatively new to the Church of God and Pastor Sawek, Evangelist Ochieng, and others are working to help them understand “the way of God more accurately” (cf. Acts 18:26).

We have never received a footwashing photograph before. This may be something that I will want to use at the www.COGwriter.com website next year as it helps visualize something Jesus told us to do, that we have not shown in that manner in the past.

New Congregation

Evangelist Ochieng reported that a congregation has decided to come with us:

Pastor Dr Bob,

Greetings from kenya.
It was a happy Sabbath when I met with our new congregation that most of them came out from COGWA and UCG. I met with 18 brethren. I was accompanied by Granton Otieno from Migori, my daughters,Nevila Awuor, Marie Goff and  Elizabeth Auma. Who wanted to go and see our new brethren. I was also accompanied by Bradox Ouma who was driving us. Granton was also accompanied by Otieno Manase from Migori. I really met with very good people who are strong in Faith.  The service was very excellent.  After the meeting, we went to meet with  another congregation Otho.Granton has been visiting this congregation most of the Sabbaths.
Since these people left COGWA and UCG, they have a problem of where they can meet on Sabbath. Now they are just meeting under the tree and when it is raining, they have problem.  So I told them that we shall try to help them to get hall where they can meet on Sabbath.
Evans
   
Gribe, Kenya Congregation and host Jacob Otieno

While we are NOT trying to take people out of other COG groups, we are open to those who are in other groups who contacted us, like these people did.

Bible News Prophecy Magazine in Chichewa

We finally have had our first Bible News Prophecy magazine translated into the language of Chichewa! Here is a link: Nkhani Za Ulosi M BAIBULO April – June 2018.

Wikipedia says there are 12 million native speakers of Chichewa. Chichewa is spoken in parts of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia.

Evangelist Evans Ochieng is planning on printing that magazine in Kenya and bringing copies with him the next time he visits Malawi (those in Malawi would likely be the ones to distribute them to Mozambique and Zambia). It is too expensive to print them in the USA and then pay to ship them to Africa. Hence, the plan to print them in Africa:

MALAWI AND MOZAMBIQUE
I will travel to Malawi and Mozambique on 19th April 2018. I want to try if the magazines can be printed before I travel. If they fail to be ready before I travel then I Will go without them but my aim is to take this chechewa translation to Malawi.
Evans

Consider, now, the following about the Apostle Paul and Barnabas:

25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:25-27)

Chichewa is a Gentile language and many who speak it are interested in the truth of the good news of the Kingdom of God.

We are working at getting most of our booklets translated into the Chichewa language as well, including the one titled The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

US Government Monitoring and California Proposed Law

A member in Canada let us know about the following:

April 7, 2018

U.S. Homeland Security to compile database of journalists, bloggers and ‘media influencers’

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking to create a searchable database of hundreds of thousands of news sources, journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” for the federal government, a move a DHS spokesman called “standard practice.”

In a job request posted last week to the Federal Business Opportunities website, the main contracting website used by the federal government, DHS wrote that it is seeking a contractor that is able to monitor up to 290,000 global news sources, track media coverage in up to 100 languages and can “track online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry publications, local sources, national/international outlets, traditional news sources, and social media.”  …

Data to be collected would also include an analysis of each news source’s “sentiment,” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum and circulation.

The database of “top media influencers” would include “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.” https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/04/07/world/u-s-homeland-security-compile-database-journalists-bloggers-media-influencers/#.Wsj0OJch0uU

The Department of Homeland Security sparked concerns among media circles after news spread that the agency was creating an online database to monitor journalists, bloggers, social media influencers and others.

Word got out after Bloomberg Law surfaced a job posting from DHS seeking a contractor for a “media monitoring services” project. The job entails creating a searchable database that has the ability to track about 290,000 news sources, both foreign and domestic, according to the DHS’s statement of work.

The contractor will help DHS monitor “traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event,” the job description reads.

“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.”

The online platform should also be able to instantly translate media from 100 languages, including Chinese and Russian, into English. It should also be able to analyze the coverage’s “sentiment” and “momentum.” 04/06/18 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/homeland-security-searchable-database_us_5ac7f41de4b07a3485e4bb1d

Of course, the FBI has a long history of tracking journalists, but many questions remain: Will the journalists on the list be notified they’ve been added? Do they have any control over what data is added about them? The bid’s language, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant,” seems to imply journalists will have profiles with a variety of information. Does that open the door to connect this info with any other data DHS can get its hands on: job histories, criminal histories, a list of phobias, etc?

President Trump has used his Twitter account to lash out at individual journalists before. The implication of a stridently anti-press administration with a database of journalists is troubling, yet, given the surveillance power of the American government, feels almost inevitable.

No value for the bid has been disclosed. Responses are due April 13th. https://gizmodo.com/homeland-security-wants-to-build-an-online-media-influe-1825060190

Years ago, George Orwell wrote a book called nineteen-eighty four. It warned about a totalitarian government that had electronic surveillance everywhere. One of the statements repeated in the book was “Big Brother is watching you.” Monitoring the press and classifying reporters and people who post on the internet is a dangerous and Orwellian step.

Disturbingly, the USA is doing more and more of this.

Notice the following related to a bill proposed in the State of California:

April 9, 2018

A California state senator has proposed a bill “to kill free speech” that would require state-sanctioned fact checkers to approve Web content.

The proposal doesn’t mention the First Amendment.

Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft explains the plan comes from Richard Pan  …

The bill is the “Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan,” or SB1424.

“Existing law prohibits a person, among others, from making or disseminating in any advertising device, or in any manner or means whatever, including over the internet, any statement concerning real or personal property or services that is untrue or misleading, as specified,” Pan wrote.

“This bill would require any person who operates a social media, as defined, internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among other things, a plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, the utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories, providing outreach to social media users, and placing a warning on a news story containing false information.”

In lawmaker-speak, the reference to “fact-checkers” means only workers approved by the state.

It provides:

(a) Any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with physical presence in California shall develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Internet Web site.
(b) The strategic plan shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(1) A plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories.
(2) The utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories.
(3) Providing outreach to social media users regarding news stories containing false information.
(4) Placing a warning on a news story containing false information.
(c) As used in this section, “social media” means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.

Asked Gateway Pundit: “Getting the picture? It’s a free speech killer. …” http://www.wnd.com/2018/04/bill-requires-state-fact-checkers-to-approve-news-before-its-published/#DCtjIshXvuDBrhKK.99

If the above proposed bill becomes law, it could effectively destroy the way we handle the www.COGwriter.com website as we have a physical presence in California. That site is responsible for hundreds of thousands hearing about the CCOG and The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

While SB1424 sounds ‘unconstitutional,’ government officials have allowed enough ‘exceptions’ to US Constitutional freedoms to suggest something like this is possible. Yet, if something like that happened, we would probably have to have consider having COGwriter handled somewhere other than California.

Please pray that the above proposal does not become law. Though it is NOT yet time for the famine of the word, we may well be first affected by numerous restrictions, as we have been expecting them for some time.

Consider the following from the Bible:

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation;
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,
3 Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows — bitter words,
4 That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear.

5 They encourage themselves in an evil matter;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, “Who will see them?”
6 They devise iniquities:
“We have perfected a shrewd scheme.”
Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep. (Psalm 64:1-6)

With electronic media, “big brother” (the government) can watch you in ways that were not possible in the past. And, perhaps it should be mentioned that conceivably, everyone who posts on platforms such as Facebook is a blogger and ‘media influencer’ as the US government already considers posts on the Internet to be ‘media.’

Please understand that some in the USA believe that ALL who believe in the millennial reign of Jesus are religious extremists and potential terrorists. Also, the message of the good news of the Kingdom of God is also considered to be religious extremism by many. Freedom of religious speech is threatened on many fronts. And while you might think that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from surveillance, consider that many in the government of the USA consider that not supporting homosexual marriages, etc. are extremist. I also saw someone once on a documentary that stated that people who believed in the millennium could not be trusted and should be considered as potential terrorists. The fact that we in the ContinuingChurch of God would be considered pacifists, does not change the fact that since we hold to millennial and other biblical views that we will not be improperly classified by government employees with various agendas.

Consider what is happening now with the following in mind:

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13, KJV)

While I fully expect technology will result in real and fake statements being attributed to me and others in the Church of God by evil people who hate the Bible.

Something similar, but worse is coming.

Jesus said:

4 … the night is coming when no one can work. (John 9:4, NKJV)

4… the night cometh, when no man can work (John 9:4 KJV)

The Prophet Amos was inspired to record the following:

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,
“That I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine of bread,
Nor a thirst for water,
But of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
And from north to east;
They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
But shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)

The Bible clearly tells of a time that will come when the word of God will not be found. And that would seem to be, at least partially, because it will be taken off the internet. In the 21st century, the internet is accessed by people in every country, and thus some type of internet restriction/suspension/site removal is coming–this will one day happen to the Continuing Church of God!

Plans to monitor those who post information on the internet is a step in that direction.

See also: Preparing for the ‘Short Work’ and The Famine of the Word.

World News Items

On Sunday, the Hungarians re-elected Viktor Orban as their Prime Minister. Some see his victory as a sign that “strongmen” will rise up in Europe (see BBC: Viktor Orban victory in Hungary: German minister warns EU; CNN: Beacon to Strongmen). At least one, called the Beast, will do so according to Bible prophecy (Revelation 17:12-13). Viktor Orban sees “sees himself as a defender of “Christian” Europe” (see BBC: Viktor Orban victory in Hungary: German minister warns EU; CNN: Beacon to Strongmen).

On Monday and Wednesday, respectively, we also saw leaders in France and Germany make Catholicism-supporting statements in Europe this week (see also Germany’s Dobrindt decries Islam after France’s Macron promotes Catholicism: Steps towards a new ‘Holy Roman Empire’?). A church-state alliance, with a strongman dictator, will arise in Europe (Revelation 13 & 17) and we keep seeing reports that more in Europe are inclined to support that. Supporters of the Church of Rome, while supporting such an alliance, do not understand that the Bible shows that the supporters of the Beast will turn against their Church of the City of Seven Hills (Revelation 17:16-17). This is something that many in the other COGs do not seem to realize.

In the Middle East, there are more rumors of war. The USA has been indicating that it expects to take military action against Syria for a claimed use of chemical weapons (see Chemical weapons: Is the USA signalling it is about to bomb Syria again?). Israel attacked Syria at least once this week, and wants Iranian forces out of Syria. The Bible is clear that the time will come when Syria’s capital will be destroyed (Isaiah 17:1). The stage for that is now being set.

Speaking of wars and rumors of war (cf. Matthew 24:6), the Chinese may be curtailing purchases of US debt as part of their strategy to deal with the beginnings of a trade war that has been going on (see Trade War? China has seemingly stopped purchasing US Treasury notes).

The world does not need more wars, but the return of Jesus and the establishment of the millennial portion of the Kingdom of God.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week:

  • 2-3 hymns (our songbook, The Bible Hymnal, contains the materials from the 1974 Bible Hymnal from the old WCG with new covers, plus ten additional hymns; there is also some Choral Accompaniment online).
  • Opening prayer.
  • Sermonette, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: Could the Shroud of Turin Be Real? 12 Reasons to Consider. Other sermonettes are available at the Bible News Prophecy channel.
  • Announcements (if any; though for many it will be this letter) and one hymn.
  • Sermon, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: The Art of Christian Dating.  Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

Note: If you have a slow internet connection, you can watch these by starting the video, then below it (and towards the right) look for an outline of a gear–if you click on that, it will allow the YouTube video to be played with lower video quality, but at least it will not stop often–you can select a quality as low as 144p. If your internet connection is still too slow (as my home one is) and/or you prefer audio messages to audio-visuals ones, go to the YouTube link for the message, click on SHOW MORE related to the description. You will then see something that says, “Download MP3.” Below that is a link to an MP3 file. Most computers (and even some cellular telephones) will allow MP3 files to be downloaded and played. This is an option we have made available (but we are also looking into ways to improve that as well)–and, of course, we have written article options. Some people have found that if their internet connections are not fast enough, that they can simply listen to the messages that are found at the Bible News Prophecy online radio channel.

IN CASE YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A ‘LETTER TO THE BRETHREN’ FOR ANY WEEK, REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE MANY SERMON MESSAGES ON THE ContinuingCOGchannel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE Bible News Prophecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

This past month or so, we have been making progress on animation scripts and new booklets.

It is likely we will put out more new booklets in 2018 than any other single year.

The New Testament encourages us to reach those that we can (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20), in whatever ways we can (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Notice also the following:

49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. (Acts 13:49, KJV)

We publish by making materials available online, by actually printing and distributing literature, as well as through speaking live in many areas.

Consider also the following:

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15)

Justin Gonakumoto contacted me again from Zambia about urgently sending Radson Mulozowa from Malawi to meet with those there again.

As mentioned, we are currently looking to send one or more to Malawi (like Evangelist Ochieng). He and/or Radson Mulozowa expect again to go to Zambia.

Pray for our ability to successfully go through those doors that Jesus opens for us (cf. Revelation 3:7-13).

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer