Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:
Greetings from the Five Cities region of California.
The recommended sermonette is a little longer than unusual this week and here is a link: Can the Great Tribulation start in 2022 or 2023?
The recommended sermon for this Sabbath is a little shorter than usual and is by CCOG elder George ‘Doc’ Buchanan. Here is a link:After Death – Heaven or ?
Prayer Requests and a Tornado Report
Bonny Allen sent the following on Tuesday of this week:
I fell on hardwood floor in my living room..@9:30 pm as
was not able to get up. I Crawled to bedroom
and pulled myself up by rail of my bed post, that was last Weds. I
lay in bed on my back for two days .No way to
call for help. phone still in living room.. My son came over to
visit on the third day. What a happy face too see
Lucky I had began a water only fast the day before I fell. But my
only problem was I had NO water.. Until Jack arrived.
I cannot sit up right except a few minutes or it starts hurting.
Lower back both sides of those bones that you can feel.
I had my son look at and said there was no sign of bruising. That
was last Sabbath..
I wanted to ask you to send me and anointing cloth…
And advise Brethren I am still here but cannot sit upright in chair
for only a few minutes..
Luckly I was fasting.. No need for food. But water was gone I did have
a 16oz bottle which I only drank 1/2 of each of those
to cays . Please ask for Prayer for my lower back healing…
I have to go back to my bed and rest . I have been able to use walker
(with son’s watchful eye to get here to pc this morning).
Richard Close’s daughter sent the following three emails:
HiI dont know if you got the news that dad is in the hospital with covid. I spoke to him this evening and he wants to come home but sounds a bit disoriented… not sure if thats the disease or his lack of hearing aids.Elizabeth—————————–Update – emergency surgery for perforated colon scheduled immediately.—————————–Dad went in for emergency surgery for a perforated colon this morning – the surgeon said his vitals are good, but this is a big surgery for an 86 year old man newly recovering from COVID. We are still waiting for more news.I’d greatly appreciate dad being put on an urgent prayer request. Can you help us with that?
In addition to praying for Richard Close, I sent the information to others in CCOG who also requested prayers for him.
Later, yesterday, I got the following email:
Dad is out of surgery and back in his room. He did so well they extubated him before he was out of recovery and he didn’t have to spend time in ICU. We are all rejoicing at God’s mercy. Dad now has an ostomy that he may have for an extended period unless God provides a surgeon willing to risk the reattachment surgery. I got the impression that short list did *not* include the surgeon who performed today … something about dad’s age being a factor. Please pass along our gratitude to the church for their intercessory prayers on his behalf.
That was great to hear.
Bonny and Richard are among our oldest members in the USA. Please continue to pray for them.
One of our members sent the following related to the recent tornadoes that hit in the USA:
The Tornado tracked right thru my Town and the neighboring Town.
But I’m alright.
God can and does provide protection–even through violent physical and spiritual storms.
Trials and Troubles
Many of God’s people are enduring severe and/or numerous trials and difficulties.
Here is something that the late Church of God evangelist Raymond McNair wrote about difficulties for Christians in the July 1967 edition of the old Good News magazine:
You Need To Know Why – Fiery Trials are Necessary
Throughout its history, God’s Church has experienced many persecutions and tribulations. God’s children often experience severe trials and tests! Why? Do you know why a LOVING Creator has decreed that all of His children must go through their share of fiery trials? Read, and understand this. Trials are a vital part in developing spiritual character.
MANY FAIL to realize that TRIALS are really BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE — unpleasant though they may be at the time! You, brethren, need to understand why our loving Father has ordained that all His children must experience a number of temptations, trials, persecutions and tribulations.
God Almighty has deliberately designed the begettal and birth of a child in this life to be a type — an exact picture — of the spiritual begettal and birth which the child of God must experience — before he can be born into His Family.
We were born into this world under terrific pressure! In childbirth, both mother and child usually experience much stress and strain, as well as a certain amount of physical pain.
This is an exact type of the spiritual birth.
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
What are the very beginning steps toward salvation? (1) repentance (2) baptism and (3) the receiving of God’s precious Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). …
WE CAN ONLY BE BORN INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNDER STRESS AND STRAIN — UNDER PRESSURE!
You need to understand why this is necessary, and also how God will permit us to be sorely tried at times!
King David, a man after God’s own heart, will have a very high position of rulership in the Kingdom of God. He will be king over all Israel (Ezek. 37:24; Hosea 3:5; Jer. 30:9). In order to qualify for this high position of responsibility and service in God’s Kingdom, David first had to suffer many trials, persecutions and afflictions. His life was, in fact, full of tribulations.
He understood that God’s people must experience many trials and tests in this life:
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19).
David made some very serious mistakes in his life, and had to be afflicted by God to learn his lesson — the lesson that SIN NEVER PAYS! …
Did David know why God had afflicted him? Certainly! “Before l was afflicted, I went astray [I sinned]: but now have I kept thy word” (Ps. 113:67). He then freely confessed that God was righteous in punishing him: “It is GOOD for me that I have been AFFLICTED; that I might learn thy statutes” (Ps. 119:71).
The zealous apostle Paul also understood the absolute necessity of God’s people going through tribulation in this world — in order to purify them. He exhorted the disciples “to continue in the faith, and that we must through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
He solemnly warned the evangelist, Timothy: “Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION” (II Tim. 3:12).
Paul will certainly have a very high position in the Kingdom of God. The many temptations, trials, persecutions, tribulations and labours which he endured fully qualified him to receive a position of great responsibility.
Have you ever carefully noticed just how much this dynamic apostle suffered and endured for Christ’s sake?
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the cure of all the churches” (II Cor. 11:23-28).
In addition to these trials, Paul revealed that he had certain physical “infirmities” which Jesus Christ had refused to heal — in order to keep Paul humble — so he would look to Christ and glory in God, rather than in what he had done (II Cor. 12:1-9). Paul concluded:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:10). …
The Fiery Trial
Did the Apostle Peter believe the lot of a Christian would be an easy one? No! He revealed that the faith of the Christian must sometimes be sorely tried: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in HEAVINESS through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory it the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:6-7).
This same apostle was also inspired to give the following warning: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning THE FIERY TRIAL which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Pet. 4:12-13).
Christ’s exemplary life — especially during the three-and-one-half years of His earthly ministry — was not a life of idleness and ease but a life filled with constant trials of every sort! He was continually opposed, persecuted, slandered, criticized, and was finally crucified by the very people whom He loved — loved so much that He was willing to die for them!
Yes, Christ knew what real tribulation was. “In the world ye shall have TRIBULATION” said Jesus, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
How does God try and test us? How does He learn what is really in our heart?
We have already seen that God sometimes afflicts us in order to humble us or teach us an important lesson (Ps. 119:71; II Cor. 12:7-10).
God Chastens Us in Love
Yes, God Almighty has to chasten all of His sons and daughters — just as we have to correct our children:
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:5-6).
The apostle Paul then goes on to show that if we “endure chastening,” then God deals with us as with sons.
But if we will not receive this loving correction, then what does God call us? He bluntly calls us (spiritual) “bastards”! We are not really God’s sons at all but are merely pretending to be His sons.
Does Godly chastisement cause us to bear good fruit?
Notice why God chastens us.
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of RIGHTEOUSNESS unto them which are exercised thereby” (verse 11).
God has ordained that this life will not be an easy life — for a very good reason. He knows that, if we have no severe trials and tests, then we become spiritually soft and flabby!
A comfortable mm is a complacent man. A comfortable man doesn’t want to change — doesn’t want to alter the status quo! Why should he? He is quite happy to let things continue as they are. Why change — when everything seems to be going along so very smoothly?
God Almighty knows that we need problems, temptations, trials, necessities, weaknesses, persecutions and afflictions to stir us to action — to stir us up enough to overcome cur spiritual lethargy!
God promises a special blessing on those who steadfastly resist and overcome temptations: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (James 1:12).
How We Are Tried
What are some of the main ways by which we are afflicted? Ways by which we are caused to go on our knees to God in heartrending prayer? What are some of the trials which cause us to really cry out to God (as unto a merciful and loving Father) for help and strength to overcome our trials and tribulations?
PERSECUTION is one of the main ways by which God’s people are drawn closer to Him.
PHYSICAL NECESSITIES often cause God’s people to have to go to Him in prayer. When we don’t have the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter) we are often brought to our knees before our heavenly Father.
WEAKNESSES, PHYSICAL INFIRMITIES AND SICKNESS are often the means by which God brings us back into line. When we are told that we may remain an invalid for the rest of our lives, or when we know that we may actually die of an incurable disease (unless God miraculously heals us!) then this brings us to our sober senses. Such a shock often causes us to get down on our knees in heartfelt prayer, beseeching our merciful God for mercy — for health and healing (II Kings 20:1-7).
OVERPOWERING TEMPTATIONS are often the means by which we are brought to the realization of how weak and wretched our human nature is. Through strong and persistent temptations (fears, worries and anxieties; lust and covetousness; hatred and malice; envy and jealousies) we are often sent to the throne of grace for additional strength to overcome our wretched nature (Rom. 7:14-25).
Has God solemnly promised to deliver us from all of our temptations — if we will only rely upon Him?
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not stiffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13).
When we really repent of our sins and turn from them, accepting the blood of Christ as the means by which our transgressions will be washed away, then we are assured by God that sin will no longer rule over us — will no longer dominate our lives.
God promises: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the [death penalty of the) law, but under grace [pardon)” (Rom. 6:14). Once we are forgiven our sins, God has solemnly promised that sin will no longer reign over us — will not control our lives!
A true Christian must continually suffer trials, tribulations, persecutions, pressures, hardships and temptations of every sort. But God will not let them overcome or defeat us as long as we steadfastly look to Him for complete deliverance:
“For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).
Is it God’s will that His children be kept under a certain amount of pressure? He knows that we need to have continual trials, tribulations and persecutions in order to toughen us up spiritually — in order to show us how weak and helpless we are so that we will always look to Him and rely on Him for everything!
Pressure is Essential
There are several analogies in the Bible — analogies which clearly show us why God permits us to have trials arid tribulations.
The Christian is compared to precious metals — gold or silver — which has to be put into a fiery furnace in order to burn away the dross and impurities. Also, gold and silver must become molten before it can be poured into a mould. This is true with the Christian. We must at least be heated red hot in order to be malleable enough to be able to be easily bent and shaped by the hands of our faithful Creator (see I Pet. 1:7; 4:12; I Cor. 3:12).
The Bible compares the saints to precious jewels or precious stones (Mal. 3:17). Again, it is interesting to note that diamonds, rubies and other precious jewels can only be made under terrific heat and pressure!
So it is with us. We must be subjected to the tremendous heat of our fiery trials and to the constant pressure of temptation, persecution and tribulation — in order to become a precious jewel in the sight of God!
God even compares His people to common clay in the hands of the Master Potter: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isa. 64:8).
God would like to see us prosper and be in health (III John 2) ; hut He will even deny us these blessings if He knows that we need to suffer deprivation, affliction or persecution — in order to cause us to really look to Him as our Provider and our Deliverer from all our trials.
Jesus Christ will reject anyone who remains in a lukewarm condition (Rev. 3:15-16)! He doesn’t want to see us become spiritually drowsy — insensitive to our Creator’s wishes. God doesn’t want us to be spiritual drones.
Spiritual Exercise Is Vital
God Almighty knows that it is only through the constant spiritual exercise of problems, trials, tests, persecutions, temptations and tribulations that we develop real spiritual sinews and strength. If one doesn’t actually tire himself with a certain amount of strenuous daily exercise he can’t develop his body to its optimum and remain in the best physical health.
So it is spiritually. If we don’t daily exercise our spiritual faculties by overcoming and solving our spiritual problems, trials and hardships — then we will not remain in very good spiritual shape. We will then become spiritually weak and flabby. God doesn’t want this to happen!
Yes, brethren, whether we like it or not, this is the type of life our loving Father has ordained that we must lead. It is only those who constantly overcome who will make it into the Kingdom of God (Rev. 2, 3). Only those who exert themselves enough to hang on for dear life — to endure unto the very end — will be saved (Mat. 24:13).
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
We came into this world under terrific stress and strain — under pressure and anguish — and we will not be born into the Kingdom of God unless and until we have proven that we can withstand the pressures and strains of the everyday trials, tribulations, persecutions and temptations of this world.
“If Any Man Draw Back”
But, regretfully, some prefer to give up and quit — to turn back! What does God think of these quitters?
If we wilfully, deliberately sin against God, we will never receive forgiveness (Heb. 10:25-31).
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man DRAW BACK, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38).
Yes, some are not willing to really fight, to endure, to labour, struggle and strive in order to make it into the Kingdom of God. Christ showed that we must really strain if we wish to make it into His Kingdom.
“STRIVE [struggle and strain] to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24).
Furthermore, Christ revealed that it is only those who are so fervent in their desire to make it into God’s Kingdom h a t they are willing to be “violent” with themselves — who actually make it (Mat. 11:12),
Trouble Is Certain, But…
The truth of the matter is that we are going to have trials and tribulations — whether we obey God or not. Job declared:
“Man is born unto TROUBLE, as the sparks fly upward’ (Job 5:7).
Yes, we will have troubles whether or not we obey God. But if we obey Him, He will give us the needed wisdom and strength to overcome all our trials and temptations (I Cor. 10:13).
Hardships, trials and persecutions are certain to befall all who live an upright, godly life. But these tribulations are all designed by a loving Creator to teach us to go to God daily — completely trusting in Him for our every need, including deliverance from all our sore trials.
“If thou faint in the day of adversity [hardship], thy strength is small” (Prov. 24:10).
An all wise, loving Creator God has deliberately designed life in such a way as to include many trials and afflictions. The Almighty even goes out of His way to rebuke and chasten us — in love — so as to keep us on the straight and narrow path.
Knowing this, should we not earnestly desire God’s correction? You need to learn to desire — and even PRAY daily for chastisement from the hand of God!
“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
Don’t ever forget that God corrects us for our good — because He loves us and longs to share with us the eternal inheritance of co-ownership and co-rulership of the whole Universe.
Can you now clearly see how trials, temptations, pressures and hardships have been put here as a blessing in disguise? These tribulations assist us in building the kind of perfect, godly character that we need to possess throughout all eternity.
Thank God for the blessing of these trials! It is through them that we develop godly character!
A minister who was assigned to three areas in which I lived used to teach that a diamond is a dirty hunk of coal that only developed because of pressure.
Notice also the following:
11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Enduring trials, frustrations, and difficulties is not easy–but we need to do so in order to be the best that we can be in the coming Kingdom of God.
Visits in Malawi
Malawi-based CCOG deacon Radson Mulozowa sent in the following pictures and report:
Greetings from Malawi and Mozambique brethren.Let me report about my trip to liwonde, Chileka and Mwanza congregationsChilekaThe meeting was good and they were happy that I visited them and I encouraged them in many things … I shared with them about where are we in prophecy. During my visit I found that they roofed their Church without plastic sheet so I gave some funds so that they can buy plastic sheet and roof it so that they can’t have rainfall problem.From chileka I visited liwonde congregation and we had again wonderful meeting. This congregation is meeting in a rented classroom. I have seen growth in this congregation compared to the last time I visited them.
I visited Mwanza … During all my visit I was with likhuva, wahela and nkhuleme inorder to enquiry about the Philadelphia church of God joining by these brethren. …This week am visiting Mozambique congratulations . Pray for me since during this last time God is opening doors and I don’t want to neglect any door that God will open
To assist with those once part of the group calling itself the Philadelphia Church of God, I sent Radson Mulozowa a link to the article: PCG: Teachings Unique to the Philadelphia Church of God .
Year-End Income Tax Matters
(Public Domain Images)
We are getting close to the end of the Roman calendar year. Those who live in the United States, in order to have their contributions eligible for tax deduction for calendar year 2021, need to send electronic or regular mail donations no later than December 31, 2021. For those who physically mail donations, they must be postmarked by December 31, 2021 to be eligible for deductibility for 2021.
All contributions received via US mail for residents of the United States are to be processed for the tax year based upon the postmarked date on the envelopes.
For contributions received via PayPal, we use the date that PayPal gives us.
The PayPal donation link for the USA is at: https://www.ccog.org/donations/
In Canada the rules may be slightly different for mailed and other contributions, so if you want the tax deduction for calendar year 2021, they likely also need to be made before the end of the calendar year to the CCOG office in Canada.
(In New Zealand, they use a March 31st date to end their tax year.)
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: Can the Great Tribulation start in 2022 or 2023? 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: After Death – Heaven or ? 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 ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE Bible News Prophecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.
World News Items
Officially, the war between North and South Korea has not ended. This week, they agreed “in principle” to end it (see Guardian: North and South Korea agree ‘in principle’ on formal end of war). Irrespective of that, the time will come when these two “kings of the east” will cooperate together militarily (Revelation 16:12)–and some type of likely unity will be in place by then.
The European Union has been working on regulations related to cryptocurrencies–and apparently intends to set the world standards and dominate this aspect of finance (see From Belgium: Cryptocurrency will still be the ‘Wild West of Finance’; but now there will be a new Sheriff in town. And that Sheriff, is the European Union). Whether or not that happens, the Bible shows that a European power will control buying and selling (Revelation 13:16-18), and that would have to entail some type of monitoring and regulating of electronic currency. We are getting closer to the time this will happen!
Tornadoes killed scores in the USA this week, and 54 migrants were killed in a truck accident in Mexico (see Tornadoes cause damage in 5 states; scores appear to be dead). One of the tornadoes may have had the longest track in recorded USA history. Please put the families of those affected by both matters in your prayers.
The Apostle Peter wrote:
1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:1-11)
Brethren, what we go through, what we learn, makes us fruitful. We are to help others and because we do, “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Pastor and Overseer