Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from the Five Cities Region of California.

COVID and the Feast of Tabernacles

As most of you realize, the Bible commands:

34 … ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.

37 ‘These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, (Leviticus 23:34-37)

Services are to begin the evening of September 20th and continue until the Last Great Day which is September 28th in 2021.

Of course, if someone has a communicable disease, like COVID, they should not attend services until after they have completely recovered. Last year, I advised a couple of families that shared a house at the festival site in San Antonio to quarantine a few days, because of a non-COVID illness (a type of ‘cold’). They did, and we had no problems at the actual site, and no one ended up with COVID either.

Anyway, despite governmental and other restrictions related to COVID policies, we had 20 festival sites around the world in 2020 and expect to have about 27 (including several very small video sites) in 2021 (we still have not finalized several locations, particularly in parts of Africa).

But that does not mean that COVID cannot be a threat or that we have not been impacted by various restrictions.

Several in North America and Africa who will be traveling to serve in other nations have had to get a vaccine in order to be let in those countries. Even before COVID, certain counties have always required certain vaccines in order to enter (like the Yellow Fever vaccine for many African nations). Regarding CCOG’s actions on this in 2021, I personally spoke with someone in each of the households who were considering international travel for CCOG and told them 1) the nation(s) they want to visit and assist at the Feast of Tabernacles would not let them in if they did not get one of the vaccines, 2) that they did not have to go if they did not want to, and 3) if they still wanted to go they would need to get the vaccine. All in that category either decided to get a vaccine or otherwise plan to do so shortly. Though I did not mention Romans 12:1 to them, the Apostle Paul said Christians should be willing to be a living sacrifice–and while that does not mean we try to harm ourselves, we should be willing to suffer (Romans 8:17), if need be, for the Kingdom of God.

Personally, I do not care for vaccines, nor believe that government officials have told the full true story about them. Yet, even before COVID have written that if one was necessary to work to fulfill Matthew 24:14 and/or 28:19-20, it would be something I would be willing to do.

That position was shared before in a Letter to the Brethren last year. For more about that, see the article: CCOG on vaccines.

As far as COVID restrictions go for 2021, we had planned for my wife Joyce, our son David, and myself to go to Australia for the first portion of the Feast of Tabernacles. However, the Australian government will not allow this because of its COVID policies, so, once again, Australia will be a video site.

In 2021, we had planned for Steve and Ruth Dupuie to go to the Philippines for the Feast of Tabernacles, but governmental restrictions will not allow this. Jose Lumpay emailed me last week, after he received festival DVDs we sent him. He essentially is planning to have three very small basically video sites in that nation: Camotes Island, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro City.

In 2021, we expect to have our first Spanish language site in Puerto Rico. It now has some restrictive entrance requirements that we are looking into, yet it is my hope that my family will be able to attend there the last two days. We plan to be at the USA site at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for the majority of the Feast of Tabernacles.

In 2021, we expect to have our first site in Panama, which requires a COVID test to enter. While Panama is a Spanish-speaking nation, this site will likely mainly be English. More details are expected to be announced later.

In Africa, government COVID restrictions may affect the size of our sites. This is one reason why we have not finalized the number and location of our sites. Kenya-based evangelist Evans Ochieng is hoping to go to Malawi, as well as possibly Mozambique and Ethiopia before the Feast of Tabernacles to help finalize matters.

New Zealand has blocked outsiders, but allows those in the country to gather, so we are not anticipating other significant COVID difficulties there.

We are working on matters related to Haiti, and COVID is really not a major factor.

Canada has had tough restrictions, but some of those were partially lifted as of this past Monday. At this instant, deacon Richard Close, as well as Steve and Ruth Dupuie, plan to go there.

In India and Serbia, we do not anticipate any massive COVID restrictions, but plan to hold services even if certain matters change.

As far as Serbia goes, elder Aleksandar Veljic sent a link as to where that site will be: http://www.tara-planina.com/planinska-kuca-topalovic.htm

As far as the USA goes, one of the reasons that Tennessee was selected was because it has had less COVID restrictions than some other states. As far as masks, etc., those are optional–though the hotel could impose some restrictions. In 2020, the hotel in Texas required them in the lobby and elevators, but that was all. We were not required to wear masks during services–this is expected to be an individual decision again in 2021.

That being said, please send me an email if you plan to attend the CCOG Feast of Tabernacles in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee–you do NOT need to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn to attend. So, please send me an email if you intend to attend. My email address remains COGwriter@aol.com

Information on all our expected festival sites can be found in the following link: Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2021.

Report From Eastern Europe

CCOG elder ‘Sasha’ Veljic sent the following report:

Update on recent contacts.

In the several last weeks, the CCOG elder in Serbia has been contacted by Sabbath keepers in Romania and India.  We have taken a good opportunity to witness the truth to them.

Three individuals from Romania contacted me last month.  One of them I met several years ago when he visited my home town and interviewed me about the canon of the Bible.  He and his friends were making a documentary on how the Bible became a book.  So, last month, he told me there were some friends of his who wanted to discuss with me about the Bible doctrines.  We tried to schedule the meeting on Friday night, but it failed several times due to various factors that occurred (health issues, tiredness).  Then we scheduled it for Saturday evening and it worked.  Since it was after the Sabbath, several of us in Serbia were available for connecting with those individuals.  I felt far more confident to have other CCOG members involved because they would remember things that I might forget.

Other than my old friend, there were two other individuals.  One happened to be a former SDA minister, who gave up on his career when he realized that SDA teachings are in collision with the Bible.  Another said he was now a former SDA member, and he claimed he kept the Holy Days.  They asked me about the difference in teachings.  With the help of other CCOG members I outlined to them the main doctrinal differences.  They were interested particularly about the canon, the Kingdom of God (on the earth) and God’s Holy Days.  The one who claimed he kept Holy Days had to realize that the Messianic group he kept them with really does not have a true understanding of the meaning of those days.  So, we had a cordial three hours of discussion which ended on a friendly term.  Those three individuals continue to follow our work on Internet as I have directed them also to CCOG web site.

Last month I was also approached over Facebook by an individual from India.  He claimed to be a part of a larger Sabbath keeping group, numbering about 30 pastors.  He is based in the Indian state of Telangana.  Now, I was very careful since we have had provocations coming from India and some individuals who posed to be Sabbath keepers and were supposedly interested in CCOG teachings.  They also supposedly kept the Holy Days.  I managed to decry them by simply asking them some questions which true Holy Day keepers would know the answers.  I never heard back from them.  Now, the individuals who approached me did not claim to be a Holy Day keeper, nor did he mention having anything to do with Herbert Armstrong legacy, unlike the ones who tried to provoke us.  He only claimed to be a Sabbath keeper and asked me if I could address their meeting with any message I choose.  So, last Sunday, as a part of their Bible study, I was invited to give a message.  However, since they meet on zoom, and have prayer and singing prior to the message, plus the time needed for translation, I was able to only deliver a small segment of what I wanted to say because the meeting ended after 40 minutes.  Regardless, they were very thankful that I took some time to address them and when they will be able to pay for zoom services, I will be invited again to speak.

In spite of the fact that I was not able to deliver the message I had for them, it was a good opportunity to actually meet with those Sabbath keepers online.  As far as I could distinguish, they are not provoking, nor did they ask for money.  (I have had quite a number of individuals from Facebook asking for money, especially from Kenya).  These people seem to be genuinely interested in the truth and they have prayer and singing and a translator who translates the message to their native tongue.  And so, it was one of those opportunities when I was able to reach out an audience that so far has not been reached.

Sasha

It is great that we are getting contact from people with interest in eastern Europe and India.

We are reaching people in lands far and wide (cf. Matthew 24:14, 28:19-20).

Protestant Book Promotion

A CCOG member suggested some time back that we do a promotion of the book: Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism, which is available free online. To try something different, yesterday I signed up for a promotion of the printed version on Amazon.com. While I am not anticipating a financial profit, since Amazon does pay for sales, I have used my company funds, not CCOG funds, to pay for this limited promotion.

Anyway, this promotion may be a door (cf. Colossians 4:2-4; Revelation 3:7-8) that can reach people we otherwise would not reach.

There are no reviews of the book online, and perhaps that will change soon as many have read it.

Suggested Sabbath Day Services

Here is a suggested Sabbath day service for our scattered brethren and other interested people:

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 ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE Bible News Prophecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel. There are also messages in the Spanish language at the CDLIDDSermones channel.

World News Items

In a party-line vote, the Senate of the USA agreed to spend another $3.5 trillion, mostly through borrowed money as well as the hope the ‘infrastructure’ spending will increase economy activity (see VOA: US Senate Approves $3.5 Trillion Budget Resolution; COGwriter: Does this tie in with a ‘last generation’ prophecy?). Whether it does that or not, it looks to be a factor to increase the official debt of the USA. The time will come when that will end in disaster (cf. Habakkuk 2:6-8), even if it looks to take a while for that to happen (per Habakkuk 2:3).

There was an article this week that came out pointing our parallels to the pre-Holocaust treatment of Jews and several ‘COVID-related’ policies (see Like 1938? They asked for papers, classified businesses as ‘non-essential,’ and then … ). The stage is being set for more totalitarian controls, such as those mentioned and alluded to in Revelation 13.

The Taliban has made strides in Afghanistan (see VOA: US Admits Afghanistan ‘Not Going in the Right Direction’) and there are also concerns about the stability in Libya (see Taliban gaining in Afghanistan and Russia gaining in Libya? What does the Muslim Brotherhood want?). In the Middle East, Lebanon-based Iranian-ally Hezbollah and Israel had some military encounters (see Hezbollah chief vows retaliation for future Israeli strikes in Lebanon’ ‘Bennett: Israel won’t accept rocket attacks from Lebanon’). Israel said earlier it is prepared for a multi-front war (see After second tanker incident, Israel says it is ready to attack), with it presumed that fronts might include Iran, Syria, Gaza, and/or part of Lebanon. Such a regional war could be a prelude to the peace deal of Daniel 9:27–as well as possibly a prelude to the rise of the prophesied King of the South of Daniel 11:40.

Concluding Comments

Here is the fourth commandment from the Old Testament:

Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it; six days you labor and have done all your work, and the seventh day [is] a Sabbath to your God YHWH; you do not do any work, you, and your son, and your daughter, your manservant, and your handmaid, and your livestock, and your sojourner who is within your gates—for [in] six days YHWH has made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that [is] in them, and rests in the seventh day; therefore YHWH has blessed the Sabbath day and sanctifies it. (Exodus 20:8-11, LSV)

Here is a version of it in the New Testament:

He spoke in a certain place concerning the seventh [day] thus: “And God rested in the seventh day from all His works”; and in this [place] again, “They will [not] enter into My rest”; since then, it remains for some to enter into it, and those who first heard good news did not enter in because of unbelief—again He limits a certain day, “Today,” in David saying, after so long a time, as it has been said, “Today, if you may hear His voice, you may not harden your hearts,” for if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken after these things concerning another day; there remains, then, a Sabbath rest to the people of God, for he who entered into His rest, he also rested from his works, as God from His own. May we be diligent, then, to enter into that rest, that no one may fall in the same example of the unbelief, for the Word of God is living, and working, and sharper—beyond every two-edged sword—and piercing as far as [the] division of soul and spirit, of joints and also marrows, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart; and there is not a created thing hidden before Him, but all things [are] naked and open to His eyes—with whom is our reckoning. (Hebrews 4:4-13, LSV)

Brethren, do not be like those who disbelieve.

We all need to keep God’s Sabbath.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer