Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities region of California.

Much is going on and we have been busy on matters related to preparation for the Spring Holy Days and the final phase of the work.

Passover

As Christians should realize, Jesus kept the Passover annually (Exodus 13:10) from the time of His youth (Luke 2:41-42) and throughout His entire life (Luke 22:15).

Passover was observed on the fourteenth day of the month of the first month (Leviticus 23:5; called Abib in Deuteronomy 16:1 or Nisan in Esther 3:7). It occurs in the Spring season of the year.

Although Jesus changed several practices associated with it (Luke 22:19-22; John 13:1-17), our Savior also told His disciples to keep it (Luke 22:7-13). Also the New Testament is clear, that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, killing sheep and putting blood on doorposts (Exodus 12:6-7) is not needed anymore (cf. Hebrews 7:12-13,26-27; 9:11-28).

The Apostle Paul specifically taught that Christians were to keep Passover in accordance with Jesus’ instructions (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 11:23-26).

The Bible teaches that Jesus “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) to be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Thus, God’s plan of salvation through His Holy Days and festivals, including Jesus being the “Passover lamb,” was known before humans were placed on the planet. That is why some of the celestial bodies were placed in the heavens to be able to calculate them!

Pretty much all churches recognize that the Bible teaches that Jesus fulfilled something associated with Passover when He was killed.

The famous Passover in the days of Moses showed the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-38). Moses recorded God’s instructions about this as well as the calendar (Genesis 1:14; 2:1; Exodus 12:1) and His feasts (Leviticus 23). The Passover basically became the first of these events annually picturing to God’s children His great plan of salvation.

In the Old Testament, the Passover pictured deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and God’s intervention. But, prophetically, it was also looking towards the time that Jesus would come and be our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; cf. 3:16-17).

On Jesus’ last Passover as a human being, He continued to keep it at the time of the late evening and told His disciples to keep it (Luke 22:14-19; cf. John 13:2,12-15) and on the 14th of Nisan/Abib (cf. Luke 22:14; 23:52-54).

Jesus, however, changed several of the practices associated with its observance.  Jesus made the unleavened bread and wine an integral part of Passover (Matthew 26:18, 26-30) and added the practice of footwashing (John 13:12-17). Passover is only to be taken by properly baptized Christians (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Romans 6:3-10; Exodus 12:48; Numbers 9:14).

Despite the fact that Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:3-10) and the Greek term used in the New Testament (oinos) refers to wine (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8), various ones have claimed that it was grape juice, and not wine, that was used for Passover. The Jews, themselves though, use wine at Passover (Hisrch EG, Eisenstein JD. Wine. Jewish Encyclopedia. 1907, pp. 532-535).

How do we know that grape juice was not possibly used by Jesus?

Grapes are normally harvested around September and Passover is usually in the Roman calendar month called April. In Jesus’ day, they did not have modern sterilization or refrigeration. Hence, grape juice would have spoiled between the time of harvest and Passover.

Others have noted that it was IMPOSSIBLE for Jews to have stored grape juice that long (Cf. Kennedy ARS. Hastings Bible Dictionary. C. Scribner Son’s, 1909 p. 974). Therefore, only wine, which can remain unspoiled for even many years would have been used.  (The use of alcohol, like wine, is endorsed the Feast of Tabernacles in Deuteronomy 26:14, but not required.)

Christians are not to be “drunk with wine, wherein is excess” as Paul wrote (Ephesians 5:18, KJV). Only a very small of wine in normally consumed at Passover (about a teaspoon full or less–for those with concerns about alcohol, it can be as little as one drop).

In 2017, Passover will be right after sunset on the Roman calendar date of Sunday, April 9th. Only true Christians who have been baptized, properly have had hands laid upon them, and have examined themselves should take Passover per 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 and 2 Corinthians 13:5.

We made a new Passover video for 2017. Here is a link: CCOG Passover Service

Here is also a link to the article: Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Night to Be Observed

The Bible indicates that Egypt was a type of sin from which the children of Israel had to be delivered (cf. Exodus 13:3; Revelation 11:8). The Bible shows that Christians today live in a world which is a type of spiritual “Babylon” (Revelation 17:1-6).

The Bible records the following:

42 It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations. (Exodus 12:42, KJV)

This is the observable night of our Lord, when he brought them forth out of the Land of Ægypt: this night all the children of Israel must observe in their generations. (Original Douay Rheims)

For Christians, the Night to Be Observed pictures our taking action to leave spiritual Egypt (cf. Revelation 11:8)–this is something that should cause Christians to rejoice. It is the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Historically, the Night to Be Observed normally involved a festive dinner. The dinner normally included, but was not limited to, unleavened bread.

The Night to be Observed will be after sunset on Monday, April 10, 2017. That evening, some may also wish to watch the video: The Night to Be Much Observed.

The Days of Unleavened Bread

The Bible, in Leviticus 23:7-8 teaches that both the first and last days of unleavened bread are times for a holy “convocation” (NKJV), a “sacred assembly” (NJB). The evening of the fifteenth of Nisan (which begins that holy day) begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which involved eating (cf. Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:6).

We Christians recognize that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on Passover and that we are to try to live, as He did, without sin and hypocrisy, of which leaven symbolically can represent (Luke 12:1).

The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about this:

And, as the Israelites went out with a high hand (Numbers 33:3), in great exultation and elation over their deliverance from bondage, so does the newly begotten Christian start out his Christian life — up in the clouds of happiness and joy. But what happens?

The devil and sin immediately pursue after the newly begotten son of God — and soon the new and inexperienced Christian finds he is down in the depths of discouragement, and tempted to give up and quit.

Notice Exodus 14, beginning verse 10 — as soon as the Israelites saw this great army pursuing them, they lost their courage. Fear came over them. They began to grumble and complain. They saw it was impossible for them to get away from Pharaoh and his army, because he was too powerful for them. And they were helpless. So it is with us.

Our Strength Not Sufficient!

But notice the message of God to them through Moses: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord … for the Egyptians … ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you”! How wonderful!

Helpless, we are told to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He shall fight for us. We cannot conquer Satan and sin, but He can. It is the risen Christ — our High Priest — who will cleanse us — sanctify us — deliver us — who said He would never leave us nor forsake us!

We cannot keep the Commandments in our own power and strength. But Christ IN US can keep them! We must rely on Him in faith.  (Armstrong HW.  God’s Holy Days-or Pagan Holidays-Which? Worldwide Church of God, 1976)

Purpose of Festival

But let us learn the full significance of this. WHY did God ordain these feast days? What was His great PURPOSE? Turn now to Exodus 13, verse 3: “…Moses said unto the people, Remember THIS DAY, in which ye CAME OUT from Egypt…” This was the 15th of Abib. Verse 6: “Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day shall be a FEAST unto the Eternal… This is done BECAUSE of that which the Eternal did [a MEMORIAL]… and it shall be for a SIGN” — (miraculous PROOF of identity) — “unto thee upon thine hand, and for a MEMORIAL between thine eyes” — WHY? –”that the LORD’S LAW MAY BE IN THY MOUTH… Thou shalt therefore KEEP this ordinance…”

Oh, beloved brethren, do you see the wonderful meaning? Do you grasp the true significance of it all? Do you see God’s PURPOSE? The PASSOVER pictures the DEATH OF CHRIST for the remission of sins that are past. The accepting of His BLOOD does not forgive sins we SHALL commit — it does not give LICENSE to continue in sin — therefore WHEN we accept it, our sins are forgiven only up to that time — PAST SINS.

But shall we stop there? Past sins forgiven. But we are still flesh beings. We still shall suffer temptations. Sin has held us in its clutch — we have been SLAVES to sin, in its power. And we are powerless to deliver ourselves from it! We have been in BONDAGE to sin. Let us understand the picture — the meaning. (Armstrong HW. What You Should Know About the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread. Good News, March 1979)

To what degree should Christians put away sin? Completely, as Jesus taught, “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Leaven symbolically can be a type of sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  Like sin, leaven puffs up.

As seven is God’s number symbolizing completeness, Christians are to follow the Passover with seven days of unleavened bread.  The meaning and the symbolism is not complete with just Passover. Passover pictures the acceptance of Christ’s blood for the remission of past sins and the death of Jesus.

In 2017, the Days of Unleavened Bread begin after sunset on April 10th and run through sunset April 17th. Church services, “holy convocations,” are to be participated in on April 11th and 17th.

Offerings are normally taken up on those two Holy Days.

Unleavened Bread Recipes

There are many types of unleavened bread.

My wife Joyce tends to bake more during the Days of Unleavened Bread than she normally does the rest of the year.

Here is one of several recipes that she thought she would share:

Lemon Ricotta Bars

For the Crust:

2 cups organic flour
3/4 cup organic powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 sticks (or 12 tablespoons) melted unsalted butter

For the Filling:

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup organic sugar
5 free-range eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup organic flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
powdered sugar for dusting the finished bars

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Make the crust:  Combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the melted butter and mix until combined.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch baking pan.  (You may need to dip your fingers into a little flour or powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.)  Bake for 15 minutes until golden, then set aside to cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

3.  Make the filling:  In a blender, combine the ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, flour, lemon zest, and salt.  Blend until smooth, then taste to make sure it is sweet enough for you.  If it’s not sweet enough, add a bit more sugar.

4.  Pour the filling over the baked crust and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the filling is just set.  Allow the bars to cool, then cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.  Store leftovers in a sealed contained in the refrigerator.  Yields 20-40 bars depending on size.

Here is another:

Sesame Crackers

2 cups unbleached organic flour
2 cups organic whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Mix together flours, cut in butter.  Add milk, honey and sesame seeds to make stiff dough.  Roll thin and cut with knife into squares.  Placed on greased baking sheet.  Brush tops with milk and prick with fork.  Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes or until desired brownness.

Here is a third:

Caramel Toffee Bars

1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar, packed
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add yolk and vanilla to creamed mixture.  Mix flour into the mixture.  Mix in walnuts if desired.  Put into 13 x 9 inch pan.  Pat out in pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle 8-12 oz. package of chocolate chips over top of crust.  As soon as it’s softened, spread over top and smooth out.

Here is a fourth:

Unleavened Bread

4 tablespoons honey
1 cup oil
1 1/2 cups milk
6 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Blend honey, oil and milk.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Knead lightly.  Roll on floured board with rolling pin.  Place on cookie sheet.  Cut in squares.  Make a few holes in each piece with fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

There are other recipes.  You can see those received from Elder Alexsandar Velice Unleavened Bread recipes).

Death of Solomona Leaana

We are saddened to announce the death of Solomona Leaana in New Zealand. Solomona Leaana was the father of Shirley Gestro and Kayla Morgan, as well as the husband of Fesilafai Fiso Leaana, who God gave a dream (see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God) a few weeks prior to the official declaration of the Continuing Church of God.

John Hickey reported:

Solomona Leaana passed away nearly an hour ago in Middlemore Hospital.

He was diagnosed with Lung Cancer a week or two ago and he also had pneumonia.  It’s been very quick and a shock to the family as he was not one to reveal his feelings.

Solomona Leanna will be missed. We look forward to seeing him in the first resurrection.

Growth in the Rift Valley

Pastor Sawek sent me the following a couple of days ago:

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ we are doing good here in Kenya Rift valley. The gospel is going on well  on Friday 31/03/2014 I went to Alanguat   and I open a church there we were together with Pst Mau Stanley Kibet and some elders of the church  we were happy for the invitation  they wanted us to teach them the scripture of  Continuing Church of God.

We experience a hard journey course  we traveled by foot course of the mountain there were u cant use any means of transport we shall sent somebody to have Passover with them  pray for them as we are doing for a fruitful church which will please God

We shall copy to Pst Ochieng so that we can help each other, by building  church for them.

God bless you

Pst sawek

attached are some photos

  

We are reaching more and more in Kenya.

He also sent me the following today:

REPORT FROM THE CHURCH RIFT VALLEY

I greet you in the Name of Jesus.

We are fine in Kenya Rift Valley. All Bethren are doing well also in Messiah. They are Preparing for Passover which is around the corner. I hope your fine also as you are preparing for it. Likewise to Pastor Ochieng. I do believe that after Passover we shall visit other members who have invited us like Pastor Ochieng.

I am listing the meeting location for Pastor Ochieng so as to scheduled for the date.  We start from Nakuru County that is Njoro David Cheruiyot’s Place there after we go to Merigi the place I visited last week. Next will be Ororwet Mau. From that  we are awaited in Molo Sirikwo. So I did not spoke of the places you are familiar these are the new places but Pastor Ochieng does know.

So  I am waiting for Pastor Ochieng for the feedback thereafter we set the journey. There are places I am able to attend alone which are not far. Know there is harvesting and there are few workmen. We therefore urge that you pray fro us so that this plans may come through.

Greet Alexander and we say thank you for the visit. May God Bless his Work.

N/B. We lost father brother my father Arap Bore, he felt sick for a short time in Molo do also pray for the grieved family. His wife is one of us in the Church. Following the same a man was hit by a fallen tree and died and was buried yesterday. He was a near village neighbor  Pray for the family also.

God Bless You

Pastor Sawek.

Radio

I ended up being on the Zeb at the Ranch program yesterday. This was on 1230 am KBAR, Bell, Idaho (it was from 10:34-10:52 am MST). We discussed prophecy, Syria, abortion, and the wrong direction of the USA. The host, Zeb Bell, stated that he would like to have me on again.

We continue to go through the ‘open door’ (Revelation 3:7-8) of radio when we get the opportunity.

April 17 and 22 in Jensen Beach Florida!

As mentioned before, my family and I expect to be in Florida for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, which will be April 17, 2017. We also plan to be in Florida for Sabbath services on April 22, 2017.

We are planning to meet at the Vince Bocchino Community Center on the grounds of Langford Park, in Jensen Beach. The address is 2369 NE Dixie Hwy, Jensen Beach, FL 34957. We have the Vince Bocchino Community Center rented from 1:00pm and presume services will start by 1:30 pm both days.

If you are in Florida and may wish to attend, please email me: cogwriter@aol.com

World News Items

The European Union responded harsher to the start of the Brexit negotiations than those in the UK expected (see EU responds to Brexit with a stick and carrot). Furthermore, its position on Gibraltar is disconcerting to the UK, as likely was the naval ‘incursion’ by Spain near Gibraltar on Tuesday (see Spain makes naval incursion: EU not supporting UK on Gibraltar). The United Kingdom will one day lose Gibraltar (watch Will the UK Lose Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands?), and we are seeing events that are aligning with this.

Over in Syria, it was reported that chemical weapons were again used (see Chemical weapons again used in Syria). Supposedly, the chemical weapons were removed from Syria during the Obama Administration, but that does not seem to have fully occurred. The USA is blaming the government of Syria, but Russia disagrees (see ‘Trump On Collision Course With Putin After Moscow Denies Syria Behind Chemical Attack’?).

Over in Israel, there has been some more talk about a ‘third’ Jewish temple (see Closer to another Jewish temple in Jerusalem being built?). While some believe that one is necessary for the Jews to resume animal sacrifices, this is NOT the position of the Bible (cf. Ezra 3:6) nor the current ‘Sanhedrin’ in Israel (see Why is a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem Not Required?). Some Jews are having an early “Passover” lamb sacrifice (see Jewish plan to sacrifice ‘Passover’ lamb near Temple Mount), which again, they do not need a temple for.

As a reminder, we also put out Church of God News in Spanish. Not quite as much as in English, but our translator does translate a lot of materials. Here is a link to another one: Spring Day Church of God News in Spanish. We also got the following today:

Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread
Guardando la Pascua y los Días de Panes sin Levadura
http://www.cdlidd.es/guardando-la-pascua-y-los-dias-de-panes-sin-levadura/
The Night to be Observed
La Noche de Guardar
http://www.cdlidd.es/la-noche-de-guardar/

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 many who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: The USA Declared a ‘Rogue Nation’! 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: Egypt and the Plagues. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

Here is a suggested service for the First Day of Unleavened Bread:

  • 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 many who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: Offering After Passover. 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: Christians, Change, and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

Those who would like two sermons for the First Day of Unleavened Bread, may wish to also watch: Exodus Plagues and Prophecy.

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 new 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 ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE BibleNewsProphecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

The Apostle Paul wrote:

7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

Brethren, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are almost upon us for 2017. Examine yourselves to purge out bad habits and other leavening sins.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer