Letter to the Brethren: January 23, 2020

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from the Five Cities region of California.

We hope you are well.

One of the things we did out of the ordinary this week was that we mailed donation receipts to all the US financial supporters that we have mailing addresses for last Friday.

If you do not receive yours in a week or so, let me know and we will work to get you another one.

2019 Spending

This seems to be a good time to discuss US financial support.

Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

In the CCOG we really do focus on others and reaching the world with the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Gross income for 2019 ended up 7.3% higher than 2018.

Recently, someone asked me if we would provide additional details as to how the US office of the Continuing Church of God spends the funds it received.

Overall, if you sent the CCOG a US check for US$100.00 in 2019 here is how it was spent:

  1. Support to or for Africa, Serbia, Haiti, Mexico, and the Philippines $59.68
  2. Internet proclamation $8.41
  3. Printed publications $20.31
  4. Video and animation production $6.03
  5. Foreign final phase of the work $2.75
  6. US Feast of Tabernacles’ costs and US travel $2.37
  7. Administration and US legal expenses $0.45
  8. Salaries, health insurance, and retirement plans for US leaders $0.00

Yes, most of our money goes to support the physically and spiritually poor as we work to fulfill Matthew 24:14, Romans 11:25, the Ezekiel Warning, and Matthew 28:19-20.

1. Support to Africa includes paying for ministerial expenses, gospel proclamation, travel, printing literature, certain translations, distributing literature, meeting space assistance, supporting the poor (Galatians 2:10; Romans 12:13; cf. James 2:14-16; Hebrews 13:16; Isaiah 58:7; Proverbs 28:27), including widows and orphans (James 1:27). And yes, since we print and distribute literature in Africa, we spend more on literature production than is shown in item 3. Support ‘for’ includes expenses paid to people who were traveling to some of these places. Funds to Serbia provide ministerial and other support, including producing materials (mainly electronic) to reach and teach people, not only in Eastern Europe, but also around the world. While most of the direct support for Haiti comes from the Canadian office, the USA office helps advise on this, as well as has not asked for funds to reimburse for literature it produces and sends to Canada in order for that office to better be able to provide support for Haiti. Mexico expenses were related to sending Louis Rubin to visit as well as paying expenses related to the Feast of Tabernacles there. Philippine expenses were mainly related to sending Jay Chiang to handle a funeral as well as some expenses related to the Feast of Tabernacles there. The vast bulk of the money in this Support category goes to Africa as that is where the vast majority of our members reside and where many fruits are being produced.

2. Internet proclamation includes paying for servers, URL fees, and our Google campaign to reach people around the world. The Google campaign has now made 178 million computer impressions with parts of the Philadelphian message.

3. Printed publications include the production, printing, and distribution of the Bible News Prophecy magazine in various languages as well as various books and booklets. The costs here also include formatting non-English literature in forms that it can be available on the internet as well as forms to allow it to be printed in the USA and Africa.

4. Video and animation production covers the costs to produce the BibleNewsProphecy videos, CCOG animations, the Behind the Works video, and the creation of DVDs that are sent to some international locations for the Feast of Tabernacles. It also, sometimes, includes cost for sermon production–but those costs are negligible.

5. Foreign expenses (incurred outside the US) related to the final phase of the work (essentially long-term proclamation matters and international connections). US expenses related to the final phase of the work are in other categories (like printed publications and internet expenses).

6. US Feast of Tabernacles’ costs include what the hotel charges for the meeting room and some travel and other expenses. This category also includes other travel, which tends to be low. An example of US travel would be costs associated with Deacon Richard Close making a baptizing and counseling tour.

7. Administration and US legal expenses. This tends to include a few office supplies, mandatory government fees, and telephone costs. US legal fees for 2019 consisted in my contacting a copyright attorney to ask about the viability of producing youth Bible lessons that another church once copyrighted–this was a very small charge. My business office does NOT charge the CCOG for use of space, electricity, postal machine use, etc. Now, it should also be mentioned that for those who send funds via PayPal, PayPal deducts between one – three percent and those costs are not reflected here as we used the example of someone sending a US check. Let it be pointed out that PayPal is still the most cost-effective way of sending US dollars from outside the US and is also conveniently effective for US supporters that use it.

8. Salaries are not paid to leaders in the USA. People such as myself, Richard Close, Steve Dupuie, Louis Rubin, and Terry Nelson (who is about to go to Africa on CCOG’s behalf) are not paid—we all have freely donated time. Nor have we paid their spouses. Nor have we funded any retirement nor health insurance plans. It is not that we would not consider having a paid US ministry, but we had none in 2019. (Note: We did not list all our unpaid USA volunteers, only those that we from the Grover Beach office have requested to travel on CCOG’s behalf).

It appears that never before in Church of God history have so few helped so many with so little for so long in order to have the impact that the Continuing Church of God is having.

We strongly believe that whatever you send is well spent to support the Philadelphian remnant as we work on Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20 while we strive to be ready for the short work and our part in the final phase of the work.

Hear the words of Jesus:

 2 … The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10:2).

Pray for more laborers for the harvest. Thank you for your support.

Feast of Tabernacles

In 2020, Feast of Tabernacles’ services are to begin the evening of October 2nd and continue until the Last Great Day which is October 10th.

We have begun to contact a couple of cities in the USA, but have not finalized a location yet.

But now it is time to plan for it, no matter where you live.

Here is something from the old Worldwide Church of God, with one minor edit, regarding financial planning:

One major concern in planning for and attending the Feast is finances.

Thankfully, God has shown us the way to handle the financial aspect of attending His annual feast days.

God explains feast finances for us in Deuteronomy 14:22-27: “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes forth from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place which he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herd and flock; that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses, and spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not forsake the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you” (Revised Standard Version).

We have called this tithe or tenth part of our income a second tithe; however, the Bible nowhere calls it by a specific name. We have more commonly referred to it in recent years as the festival tithe, as that is what it is used for.

This tenth of our income is not used for God’s Work or the preaching of the Gospel, as the festival tithe belongs to us, to use in the way God specifies. God provides for the needs of His Work by His first tithe. The first tithe belongs to God and is not for personal use.

Here are some commonly asked questions about the festival tithe and their answers, based on biblical principles.

What is the festival tithe?

Simply stated, the festival tithe is a tenth of one’s increase (income from personal effort), which is set aside for use in attending the annual festivals ordained by God.

How is the amount of the festival tithe calculated?

It is a tenth of your gross net income, exactly the same amount as God’s first tithe or tenth.

Is this amount commanded, or is it optional?

As the previous quote from Deuteronomy showed, saving the festival tithe is commanded by God, just as much as God’s first tithe is commanded. Since it is a part of God’s law, it is sin not to set a full tenth aside for the specified purpose.

How is it to be used?

The basic use of this money is to finance attendance at God’s festivals, including (as specifically mentioned) food and beverages. The festival tithe would also cover travel expenses to and from the feast site, motel or hotel expenses and other related costs.

May any of this money be used to buy clothing?

The primary use of the funds is for travel, lodging and food.

However, in some cases, people may not have sufficient or proper clothing to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. In such cases, where there is sufficient money to take care of the other needs as well, it would be permissible for a person to use some funds to buy proper clothing so that he might be better able to go to the Feast and rejoice as God commands (Deut. 16:11).

This permission in unusual circumstances, however, has been used by some to justify large or expensive purchases of clothing or even whole wardrobes. Using the festival tithe in this way violates the basic spiritual intent of the law.

What about using some of the funds for car repairs?

In some cases the family or personal car is not in condition to make the trip, or to safely make the trip, to the Feast site. Under such rare circumstances, if sufficient funds are available for the other necessities as well as minor car repairs, it would be within the spirit of the law to make repairs. In other cases it would be wiser to consider alternate transportation.

What about purchasing gifts?

Some members have purchased gifts for their children so that the children might better enjoy the Feast. Gifts for small children at Feast time helps make the Feast special for them — a time to look forward to each year.

But in other cases, some people have overdone the giving of gifts at Feast time, sometimes buying expensive items they couldn’t really afford. Usually such items are used during the rest of the year as well. This goes far beyond the principle of using the festival funds to provide a joyous, happy Feast.

Is it proper to use the festival tithe for side trips?

The use of this money to visit natural wonders or special scenic areas or places of historical interest on the way to or from the Feast certainly could make the Feast more enjoyable as well as profitable.

Some scenic wonders, such as the Grand Canyon or Carlsbad Caverns, can preach eloquent sermons to the glory and magnificence of the God who created them. Limited funds for even short side trips to such areas would certainly be well spent.

However, long trips involving excessive costs and time and taking you away from the direction of the Feast site should not be paid for with festival funds. If in doubt, counsel with your minister about this or any other questionable expense.

I have heard that it is permissible to borrow from the festival tithe if I pay back an additional one fifth.

This mistaken idea comes from a misunderstanding of Leviticus 27. This chapter has nothing to do with the festival tithe, but an altogether different matter.
Borrowing from the festival tithe is not borrowing but stealing. Quite a number have learned the hard way that this “borrowing” does not work. Here is a letter pointing out this very thing from a member who wrote after the last Feast of Tabernacles:

“Dear Mr. Armstrong,

“This has been the most spiritually enriching Feast of Tabernacles.

“I learned the hard way not to ‘borrow’ second tithe for my own use. Soon after I did so, my work ‘dried up’ and God showed me that without His blessing I could not replace the stolen second tithe.

“When I finally appealed to Him to help me replace the second tithe I took, I again had work, but all my sources of income did not pay until after the Feast, so I didn’t have the money to use during the Feast.

“I had enough second tithe to enjoy the Feast, but with the amount I had stolen the Feast could have been even more enjoyable. I am now able to restore the second tithe I stole but the Feast is over and I can only send it in to you as excess second tithe. I have learned my lesson. I will never steal second tithe for my personal use again.”

I have more festival tithe than I need. What should I do with the excess?

There are always those who have insufficient tithe to attend the Feast, or not enough to go and pay for normal expenses.

To provide for this need, it has always been the practice of the Church members who have more than they need to turn in this excess to the Church. The Church then, through the local church pastors, uses these funds to take care of such needs.

In the past, unfortunately, there have often been insufficient funds to send every less fortunate person every year. It would be wonderful if everyone could attend every year. The following scripture indicates that such people should be provided for:

“You shall keep the feast of booths seven days, when you make your ingathering from your threshing floor and your wine press; you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns” (Deut. 16:13-14, RSV).

The only way some of these people would be able to attend would be for others who have excess funds to assist them. Jesus said that it was more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Those who do give for this purpose will have the special joy that comes from being generous and having an unselfish attitude. (Neff L. The Festival Tithe – Your Questions Answered. Good News, September 1981)

The one ‘edit’ was that I crossed out the word “gross” and replaced it with the word “net.”

Why?

Because honest taxpayers really do not have control about how much money the government takes, hence it is more appropriate to tithe on income after income taxes (net income) than gross income (income before taxes) as that is a better reflection of ones “increase.”

That being said, while part of the old Worldwide Church of God, my wife and I did tithe on the gross. And while sometimes on paper it looked like we would not be able to handle our expenses, it did work out.

Have faith in God and try to arrange your finances so you will be able to obey Him.

There was another question in that article that perhaps would be good to put here as well:

I have heard some members talking about the tithe of the tithe. What is this?

Several years ago, because of the considerable expenses of providing the facilities and handling year-round administrative needs for the Feast, Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong directed all members of the Church to send in one tenth of their festival tithe to cover these costs. This is commonly referred to as the tithe of the tithe.

It pays for all the festival facilities, whether Church-owned or rented; operation of the Fall Festival; and other year-round festival-related expenses.

These questions and answers should help you use your festival tithe and to rejoice before God at the Feast.

In the CCOG, the ‘tithe of the tithe’ is used to pay for Feast expenses in the USA as well as to support Feast of Tabernacles’ expenses for non-USA sites.

To learn where we have or expect to have festival locations this year, check out link to Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2020. Here is a link with photos related to last year’s festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuyar9zu6o4

We expect to update the Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2020 link throughout the year as we get more information.

Note: If you are one who is setting up a festival site in your country, please send me an email once you know the location. My email address remains: COGwriter@aol.com

World News Items

There have been fires and so many other disasters in Australia, that Breaking Israeli News reported yesterday that it sounds a bit like the ten plagues of Egypt (see BIN: Australia Hit With Fire, Hail, Dead Animals, Darkness in one Week: On Anniversary of Ten Plagues). Biblical prophecy does point to events reminiscent of those plagues (see also Reasons, Proofs, and Ramifications of the Ten Plagues of Exodus), but what is happening in Australia right now is not that.

Speaking of plagues, there are concerns that the Wuhan coronavirus may become a major problem as multiple millions of Chinese travel for the Chinese New Year which begins Saturday (see ‘China Confirms Coronavirus Tied to 4 Deaths Can Be Transmitted Among People;’ Airports in Asia, USA, and Australia implementing passenger screenings). Even the USA has been affected by the coronavirus (see Coronavirus hits USA. Chinese New Year’s festivities cancelled. Is eating bats a cause for the coronavirus?). Jesus warned of pestilences as part of the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:8).

The World Economic Forum is taking place in Davos, Switzerland (see Davos conference controversies and ‘Amazon Go Cashierless Stores Will Soon Allow Customers To Use Their Palms To Process Payment As World Moves Closer To Mark Of The Beast’). There were trade and other frictions with the USA and Europe’s new Commission President called for Europe to have a credible (meaning significant) military capabilities on its own(see DW: EU’s von der Leyen: Europe needs ‘credible military capabilities’). This will happen and will not end well for the USA (Lamentations 1:1-2; Daniel 11:39) nor its British-descended allies (cf. Daniel 8:24-25; Isaiah 17:3).

The military and economic dominance of the USA will end. Related to the economic part, the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) as well as certain other Asian nations are working to bypass the USA dollar in trade (see ‘Is BRICS Dodging US Dollar?’ EAEU wooing India?). While it will take some time to push aside USA dollar dominance, it will happen and steps to try to make that happen are going on now.

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: 2020s: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times? 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: Pergamos Era and the Antichrist. 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.

Concluding Comments

The prophet Isaiah was inspired to write the following:

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)

Brethren, what we are seeing from YouTube, various governments, academics, and media outlets is a a professed worldly wisdom that is not good. They do not wish to retain God in their knowledge (cf. Romans 1:28-32).

Yes, this was expected. And we will see more of that (cf. Revelation 13) as we get closer to the return of Jesus and the establishment of the millennial Kingdom of God.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer