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Letter to the Brethren: March 11, 2021

Letter to the Brethren: March 11, 2021

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from the Five Cities Region of California.

The Spring Holy Days begin later this month.

For 2021, Passover is to be observed after sunset on March 26th. The Night to Be Observed is after sunset on March 27th. And the Days of Unleavened Bread run from sunset March 27th through sunset April 3rd.


Unleavened Bread

This past Sunday, Joyce and I began the process of deleavening. That is, the removal of leaven from our house. This looking for leaven to remove parallels examining ourselves to put sin out of our lives at all times, but in particular in this case, at the time of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

While originally this was done on the 14th of Nisan, in modern times, those of us in Western homes (and also who own automobiles) often have more to go through in part of a day. So, to do a more thorough deleavening, we will start a couple of weeks before. This also is a bit more efficient as we tend to find leavened products to consume, as opposed to throwing out at the last minute.

Here is something that the late Dr. Herman Hoeh wrote when part of the old Radio Church of God, regarding leaven:

Be sure that all leaven is removed from your premises. Don’t store it in some other room. Removing leavened products which cost a few cents is just one way God has of testing you to see how much you prize obedience above money and the pleasures of this age. By following His will, God has promised to give you more in this life in return for what you give up in loving obedience to Him (John 10:10). 

It is wise to arrange your purchases so that when the Passover comes there will be little leaven to discard. …

Perhaps some of you are wondering what leaven is. A leavening agent is any substance that is used to puff up or produce fermentation causing dough to rise. Yeast, soda, baking powder, cream of tartar when combined with a leavening agent, are such products. Bread, crackers, some prepared cereals and cakes, and some bought pies contain leaven and should be avoided at home and at restaurants during the festival. Homemade unleavened pies, cereals, and unleavened bread are to be used instead, together with all the regular meats, milk, fruits and vegetables you normally eat, for the festival of Unleavened Bread following the Passover. Cakes with beaten egg white used purposely as a substitute for leaven should not be used. But beaten egg white on pies, etc., is not a leavening agent.

At first it may seem strange to do without leaven in a festival, but once we come to know the mind of God and of Jesus Christ, we see the lesson of obedience it teaches. “Happy are you if you do these things,” Jesus said (John 13:17).

As there are many products containing leaven, be sure to examine the labels of all products on your shelves. As will probably happen, there will always be some leavened material that somehow escapes! A very good type of the hidden sins that we don’t always discover upon conversion. We must always throw away this forgotten leaven — a type of sin — upon discovering it. (Hoeh H. HOW to Observe God’s Festivals. Good News, January 1959)

Symbolically, leaven pictures hypocrisy and sin.

Now, one of the ways we show we have repented this time of year is the process of deleavening. The Bible says to have no leaven in our houses during the seven days of unleavened bread:

19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. (Exodus 12:19)

Not only did the children of Israel do this, early Christians also observed the same time. Notice something that Polycrates of Ephesus wrote in the late second century:

And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV. Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

One way we examine ourselves this time of year is to stop and deleaven our homes and vehicles. This gets us to pause and consider that just like leaven is all around us, so is sin. And just like leaven needs diligence to remove, so does sin. It also shows us that because we may find leaven in places that we did not think could have it, we may have sins in places we think are not possible.

One year, after my wife Joyce and I had deleavened pretty much the whole house, we thought we did a pretty good job. Then, I inadvertently looked under something in our then four-year old son’s room. And there I found a package with some type of leavened product in it. Now, we had thoroughly cleaned his room, and we still are not sure how or where he got what we found, but it was right there. So, we got rid of it.

We did not say, well there is no way we have a problem in that part of the house, once we saw it. When we saw it, we took immediate action to remove it. And that is what we should have done.

Note: It is not acceptable to remove leavening from your property if you just bring it back once the Days of Unleavened Bread are over. The lesson is to remove leavening entirely from our lives, which represents that which promotes corruption. We are not just to temporarily avoid sin, but are not to return to it or bring it back in our lives.

Let’s look at something else the Apostle Paul wrote:

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:27-31)

Why mention these here?

Two reasons.

The first is that we need to be careful about being judgmental towards our brethren (cf. Matthew 7:1). Many Christians, and not just Laodicean ones (Laodicean is made of of two words which essentially mean ‘judgmental people’), have problems with judging brethren. Might YOU have that problem? Many who claim other Christians have certain problems, have those same or similar problems themselves.

The second is that some people focus on the physical deleavening a lot more than they do in examining themselves and working to repent of sins, known and unknown.

As Christians we are not to have the wrong focus:

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11)

Now does this mean we should not deleaven our homes?

No, we still should.

Notice this:

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:23-28)

We are to do the physical, but not neglect the bigger picture. The Pharisees did the physical, but neglected the bigger picture. They did a lot for show. We are not to imitate them, we are to imitate Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1), and do the physical and spiritual as He did.

Now, the Apostle Paul wrote this:

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

Paul is clearly teaching that to take this bread and wine, one must examine oneself. This also supports the concept of an annual examination. The deleavening that is supposed to accompany Passover helps us focus on our faults and sins, and thus helps fulfill this command from Paul to examine ourselves.

And although He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), we have (1 John 1:9-10). And we need to repent, and this time of year should persuade us to spend more time doing so. Hence, the admonitions from the Apostle Paul to examine ourselves.

And that means to change when we find something. That is what repentance is all about.

Now, we (my wife and I) used to go through our pockets and every little thing we owned to deleaven. When one is relatively new (and this would probably the first 7 or so years after baptism), there are more areas that need to be changed. In time some should have changed. In time, however, we were careful about having leaven, where we ate it, etc., to make that type of cleaning less necessary. Instead, after time, we spent more time on the focus of where we knew leaven would be–it is not that we did not look elsewhere, but our focus became where we knew leaven would be or would likely be. In time, from a spiritual perspective, we should get a better understanding of where we have problems that we need to change and repent of.

Repentance is NOT just about one time confessing our sins, claiming to believe that Jesus is our Lord, so we can be baptized and no longer repent.

Leavening Agents and Pride

What are leavening agents?

Here is some information from the old Worldwide Church of God:

Just what is leaven? Which foods are to be avoided during the Days of Unleavened Bread?

God uses leaven to typify sin (I Cor. 5:1-8). Sin puffs up just as physical leaven puffs up (verse 2). Unleavened bread is a type of an unleavened life.

To understand exactly what is included in the leaven we are to avoid during the Days of Unleavened Bread, let’s first notice some of the Hebrew words translated “leaven” in the Old Testament. Mechametz refers to leavening agents — substances used to puff up or produce fermentation, causing dough to rise. Yeast, bicarbonate •of soda (baking soda) and baking powder are such substances.

Another Hebrew word rendered “leaven” is seh-ohd. This literally means “sourdough,” a naturally fermenting yeasty batter that was the most common leaven of the Israelites, and which is still often used to cause baked goods to rise and become light in texture.

These leavening agents cause foods to become chametz. This Hebrew word is translated “that which is leavened” in Exodus 12:19. It is also translated “leavened bread” in a number of places. It refers to all foods that leaven has caused to rise, including bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies, some prepared cereals and pies. A few candies and other foods also make use of leavening agents. If you are in doubt about any product, check the list of ingredients on the wrapper.

Instead of eating leavened bread, we have the positive command to eat unleavened bread (Ex. 13:6). We may also eat unleavened pies and cereals together with all the meats, drinks, fruits and vegetables we normally consume.

Most stores carry a variety of unleavened breads. Always check the ingredients on the label to be sure. Or, you may enjoy making your own.

Some have asked about using egg whites in baking. Egg whites should not be used as a substitute for leaven, in a deliberate attempt to circumvent the spirit-of the law. On the other hand, beaten egg whites used in meringue on pies and other desserts do not constitute a leavening agent. They have not been used to puff up any product baked of flour or meal.

Others have noticed the term “yeast extracts” on the labels of certain foods and have wondered if they should be avoided. These are derivatives of yeast that cannot be used as leavening agents. It would therefore be permissible to use a product containing yeast extracts provided, of course, that it does not contain any actual leavening agent. Some people also buy brewer’s yeast from health food stores. This form of yeast is totally dead and should not therefore be considered as leaven. It should also be mentioned that cream of tartar, by itself, is not a leavening agent either.

Occasionally a question comes up about beer or other fermented drinks. There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture to indicate any restriction on the kind of beverages we consume during the Days of Unleavened Bread — no mention of these being the “Days of Unleavened Beverages.” The fact is that in all cases where the Days of Unleavened Bread are mentioned, the reference is always to the example set by the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt without any leaven in their dough (see Exodus 12:39). There is no reference to the invisible yeast or result of it in either beer, wine or other beverages.

Naturally fermented wine was customarily consumed by the Israelites at God’s festivals. If God had intended a ban on fermented beverages during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it would undoubtedly have been mentioned. In fact, such mention would have been necessary. Yet the command adds no more than is found in Exodus 13:6-7: “Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread… and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.”

If you are unsure about any particular food and unable to find the answer, you should refrain from eating it, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

If partway through the Feast you find some leavened product that somehow escaped your scrutiny, put it off your property immediately. This is a type of those hidden sins that we don’t always discover upon conversion. We must keep on putting out sin (leaven) until the process is complete, as is signified by the very fact that there are seven — the complete number — Days of Unleavened Bread.

God intended the Days of Unleavened Bread to be a type to remind us that we are to be unleavening our lives spiritually by putting out the spiritual leaven of sin — not for seven days only, but throughout our entire lives! “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor. 5:8). (Questions & Answers. Good News, March 1981)

Also, here is a list some may find to be helpful:

The Following is a List of Leavening Agents

Active Dried Yeast
Ammonium Carbonate – also known as “Hartshorn”
Ammonium Bicarbonate
Baker’s Ammonia
Baker’s Yeast
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Bicarbonate of Soda
Dipotassium Carbonate
Monocalcium Phosphates (Ca(H2PO4)2)
Potassium Bicarbonate – also known as “Potash” or “Pearlash”)
Potassium Carbonate
Sodium Aluminum Phosphate
Sodium Bicarbonate – also known as “Saleratus”
Sourdough Starter Yeast

What are not leavening agents?

The Following Are “Not” Leavening Agents

Autolyzed Yeast
Brewer’s Yeast
Corn Starch
Egg Whites
Polysorbate 60
Potassium Bitartrate (Cream of Tartar)
Sorbitan Monosterate
Tartrate powder
Torula Yeast
Yeast Extract

Hopefully, this will help those who have questions about which items should be gone prior to the first Day of Unleavened Bread each year.

Note: Historically, beverages such as beer and wine were NOT discarded by the children of Israel. There are not bread and they do not have leavening abilities as commonly sold. The removal is for the days of Unleavened Bread, so that is a reference to mainly grain-containing leavened items and leavening agents themselves.

More on leaven can be found in the article: Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?

Physically, leavening agents “puff up” grain containing products and make them look larger than they would be otherwise.

People often want to look more influential, etc. than they really are.

Notice what God really wants:

8 He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Satan’s problem was that he refused to walk humbly. He was the anointed cherub (Ezekiel 28:14–he had it all–but his pride got in the way (cf. Ezekiel 28:17). Humans often let their pride get in the way (Proverbs 29:33–and pride puffs people up (cf. 1 Timothy 3:6). Most will not do what God says as their pride and human reasoning, influenced by Satan, gets in the way.

Consider also:

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

20 He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he. (Proverbs 16:18-20)

Do you really trust God and not yourself? Can you humble yourself and really change your faults? You can with Jesus’ help (Philippians 4:13).

Do not be among those to whom God says:

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you, (Obadiah 3)

Humble yourself and change.

Deleaven your property and your life.

Holy Day Calendar Updated

We have had a calendar of the biblical holy days through 2026 for some time.

This past week we extended that to include dates through 2033.

Here is a link: Holy Day Calendar.

Here is the portion related to Spring Holy Days:

Holy Day*2021202220232024202520262027202820292030203120322033
PassoverMar 27Apr 15Apr 5Apr 22Apr 12Apr 1Apr 21Apr
Apr 17Apr 7Mar
Apr 13
Unleavened BreadMar 28-Apr 3Apr 16-22Apr 6-12Apr 23-29Apr 13-19Apr 2-8Apr 22-28Apr
Mar 31-Apr 6Apr 18-24Apr 8-14Mar 27 – Apr 2Apr 14-20
PentecostMay 16Jun 5May 28Jun 16Jun 1May 24Jun
Jun 5

Knowing when the Holy Days are coming does assist with planning–particular on matters of work, school, and travel.

And yes, it is possible (even very likely) that Jesus will return BEFORE 2033.

At this instant, we are looking doing a Facebook promotion to let more know about the timing of God’s Holy Days.

In the future, we may print small wallet-sized cards to distribute in the future. Before then, we also expect to put some of the further out dates in our online booklet: Should You Keep God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?

Daylight Saving Time

Sunday at two a.m., the USA and some other nations change their clocks to go off of Standard Time and back to Daylight Saving Time.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Time isn’t on your side this weekend.

One less hour (of sleep) isn’t the end of the world, but you may be a bit sleepier Sunday morning.

Time to abide by the adage to spring forward (though it’s not yet spring). The shift from standard to daylight saving time comes at 2 a.m. local time Sunday across most of the United States. Consider setting clocks an hour ahead before bed Saturday night.

Daylight will begin to last longer into the evening but the sun will take an hour longer to emerge in the morning.

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas. 03/09/19

At 2 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, March 10, those in the USA and many other nations will need to spring our clocks forward – and losing an hour of the day – for Daylight Saving Time. Sunset will be an hour later.

Because of that, sunset will be over an hour later next Friday.

Since we observe the weekly Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday this can be helpful for planning.

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: Dangers of the Churchmosquagogue? Other sermonettes are also 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: Was There an Exodus? Were the Israelites in Ancient Egypt? 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.


World News Items

New Zealand had an 8.1 earthquake as well as some other major ones. We have seen an increase of earthquake activity so far in 2021 (see ‘2021! The highest number of major quakes ever recorded in the first 65 days of a year!’). Jesus told of a time of “earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7, NKJV) and we should expect to see more.

Last Sunday, Switzerland narrowly voted to essentially ban Islamic burqas (see Swiss approve ‘burqa ban.’ Islam will be pushed out of Europe). Full or partial bans on wearing burqa-type face coverings in public are also in place in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark and the Netherlands. While there will be some temporary religious compromises with Islam, the time will come when Islam will be forced out of Europe (cf. Revelation 13, Daniel 11).

In the USA, the Satanic Temple is suing the State of Texas to prevent the State from having women view an ultrasound of their unborn babies before having an abortion (see LSN: The Satanic Temple sues Texas for regulations that ‘interfere’ with their abortion ‘destruction ritual’). In other abortion news, the USA has changed its policies to once again have government funding of some abortions in the USA and abroad. The Bible teaches that those that shed innocent blood are evil (Isaiah 59:7).

Concluding Comments

God’s word has the following statement:

2 This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. (Exodus 12:2)

In 2021, that month (called Nisan or Abib in Hebrew) begins once the sun sets on March 13 of 2021.

It is consider to be a time of spiritual renewal in the sense that the Bible says to examine yourself before Passover, and obviously some time BEFORE Passover is needed to do that.

The Apostle Peter wrote Christians are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)–and hopefully you have been doing that.

Brethren, hopefully we will do more of that in this upcoming spiritual year–despite the deceit and other issues we see in the world today.


Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer