Letter to the Brethren: March 19, 2020

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from the Five Cities region of California.

It has been a strange week around much of the world because of steps taken because of concerns associated with the coronavirus now called COVID-19.

COVID-19

Because of fear of spreading COVID-19, the Five Cities school district cancelled all classes effective this past Monday. There are school closures throughout the USA, Africa (including Kenya), and Europe (including Serbia). Many countries have also declared a ‘state of emergency.’

Yesterday, officials declared a shelter-in-place requirement for San Luis Obispo County (where I am writing this from) and stated that ‘non-essential’ businesses are to be shut down today. This was also done in many other counties in California a few days ago. The economic, including debt, ramifications of these moves and other actions related to COVID-19 may be staggering.

In our area as well as other parts of California and the USA, shelves in some grocery stores have been pretty bare as my wife and I found out when we tried (and failed because there was none) to buy bread on Sunday:


Trader Joes, Arroyo Grande CA
(Joyce Thiel photos 03/15/20)

Anyway, since we could not buy bread, Joyce made some as we had flour at our house.

Real and imagined fears related to COVID-19 are damaging the world economy, and in the case of the USA and Europe, at least, increasing government debt. Increased USA debt will be a factor in its destruction per Habakkuk 2:6-8. COVID-19 may well be a factor that will help lead to the ultimate reorganizing of Europe and the rise of the Beast as foretold in Revelation 17:12-13.

Several counties in California have essentially put people on quarantine, and now everyone in France is supposed to do some type of filled out form in order to travel outside of their homes (see AP: Government issues historic restrictions amid virus outbreak; Form now needed to leave your house in France).

The restrictions on movement and the discouragement of physical cash because of COVID-19 are paving the way for the acceptance of the 666 Beast and total government financial control. Now, however, as Jesus said, “do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet” (Mark 13:7). Jesus also said:

33 … In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)

32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

While you should take reasonable precautions, you do not need to fear.

Perhaps I should mention that our elder in Serbia, Aleksandar ‘Sasha’ Veljic told me that a bank basically told him that because of COVID-19 he should use digital forms of payment instead of cash. He related that to the warnings we gave in our video COVID-19 Leading to 666?

As far as physical things associated with COVID-19 go, the following link has information on that as well as other links some may find helpful: CDC: COVID-19 spreading; How to tell if you have the coronavirus, cold, or allergies; Symptoms and preparation recommendations.

Now, with all the quarantines and travel restrictions being imposed, what about attendance at weekly Sabbath services?

Our policy has always been, and still remains, if you have a contagious disease, you should not attend church services.

In this time of COVID-19, if you think you may have a fever, you should not attend services. If you are not feeling well, please stay home.

As far as ‘social distancing’ goes, church leaders in their respective countries and local groups need to decide the relative safety of holding Sabbath services (though in some places landlords and/or government officials may be placing their own limits–the early Christian church met in houses and that is one thing that can be done when meeting halls are not around and/or there are governmental restrictions) as not only are they closer to their situation, they can react to local conditions in a timely way.

If any person is not comfortable being in a group at this time, they may wish to stay home. And, of course, we do have services available online which is what most native English speakers we have are doing already.

Tuesday, the BBC reported that German, “Chancellor Angela Merkel has banned religious services and told people to cancel any domestic or foreign holiday travel” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51918596 03/17/20).

While we cooperate with government authorities when we can, we do not believe that government authorities should interfere with the ability to hold holy convocations or other biblical observances.

As the Apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Hence, yes, we believe that true Christians should, for example, keep Passover next month. Though in some areas, it may be wise to have only very small groups meeting together.

Spring Holy Days

In a few weeks, the Spring Holy Days will begin.

Passover, which is for baptized members only, should be observed shortly after sunset on the Roman calendar date of April 7th. The Night to Be Observed begins at sunset on the Roman calendar date of April 8th and starts the Days of Unleavened Bread? which lasts until sunset April 15, 2020.

Preaching the Gospel to a High School


William Kirui and other congregants

Pastor William Kirui of Motosiet/Transmara in Kenya told me he was able to speak to “high school students at SIMOTWET secondary school” last Sabbath about the Kingdom of God. He asked me to pray that they would properly understand it, so I have. That being said, it is great that some cultures are still open to getting the gospel of the kingdom preached. He and I met in Nairobi in 2017, when he was then ordained a pastor.

Sermonette and Baptisms in the Philippines


Roy Baconguis and the newly baptized

Roy Baconguis was once in the old Worldwide Church of God (baptized in 1989), and later in PCG, After leaving PCG he came to CCOG. Prior to coming to the old WCG, he was a former minister of an evangelical church. He has been serving as a volunteer leader for us in the Philippines and has been regularly conducting Bible studies. He asked permission to be involved with baptism last September, and has now conducted the first ones.

Because I knew that my sermon on Exodus 37-40 would be shorter than usual, plus I wanted to produce new offertory messages for the Days of Unleavened Bread, last week I decided that the recommended sermonette message would be from Roy Baconguis from Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines.

A couple of days after making that decision, Joe and Fe Lumpay informed me that Roy Baconguis was planning on baptizing two people, Here are their names: Florife B. Gumahad, 69 y/o, and Nena E. Baconguis, 62. Roy, had been conducting to them Bible study for over a year already with them and a third person. And, all three were baptized!

Jesus said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

So, the angels had three times the joy!

John Hickey

Please pray for our New Zealand host John Hickey who is still also assisting with some of the editing of our publications. He has had major health struggles for several years and believes he may not continue to live for much longer.

Answered Prayer, Update, and Prayer Request

This morning, Evangelist Evans Ochieng sent the following report:

Pastor Dr Bob ,

Greetings from Kenya.
Since I was having my daughter and my son Emanuel in the hospital, I couldn’t manage to travel.  Through the prayers of brethren from all coners and you, they are now doing well and are out from the hospital. Marie and Emanuel are doing better now.  Thank you very much for your prayers.
I got chance yesterday to visit Kisii elderly and women in rift valley.  I gave Kisii them fund to start the project. They promised me that they are going to do better. After that I went to meet Pastor Sawek and some women.  I met him in Kilgoris with the women representatives Mary. I gave them the promised fund.  So I remain with the funds of Nyakach which I’m going to give them tomorrow. They thanked Terry Nelson so much for the help. I give thanks to the church for wonderful work we have done in Kenya.
Another thing we still need more prayers to the daughter of Fredrick Omondi my elder son. His daughter happiness is sick and needs prayer.
Kenya also needs prayer.  The corona virus has invaded Kenya.  This is a serious matter that needs more prayers.
Evans

It is great to hear that our prayers were answered regarding his two hospitalized children. Also, Pastor Sawek sent me a couple of emails today thanking us for the financial support that we had promised. Please remember to pray for Evangelist Ochieng’s granddaughter as well as the COVID-19 situation in Kenya. Plus, the locust situation which he did not mention in the above email.

Speaking of funds in Africa, we sent money to Malawi in order to purchase two water pumps to assist them on Tuesday.

World News Items

The Temple Institute says that it still has a potential ‘red heifer’ that it is hoping will be fully red (it has some hairs not quite reddish enough) and possibly ready to sacrifice in a year (see Temple Institute claim Red Heifer may be ready to sacrifice in one year). According to a Jewish Rabbi named Azariah Ariel, they hope to be able to sacrifice it on the Mount of Olives. The Temple Institute believes that the blood of a red heifer will provide the way for the most thorough cleansing to allow for a ‘third temple’ and ‘daily sacrifices,’ whereas Christians point to the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from sin, therefore we do not need animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9-10).

Now if certain experts determine that they do have a suitable ‘red heifer,’ some religious Jews will likely point to that as a reason that their desire for daily animal sacrifices must be approved. Since the Bible shows that daily animal sacrifices will stop (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:7) just prior to the start of the Great Tribulation, obviously they must first start. We are getting closer to that day!

Regarding COVID-19 and prophecy, there are two items to mention here.

The first is that at least one influential academic leader in Iran wants to deliberately spread COVID-19 (see Iran warns that millions may die from COVID-19 after its Alireza Panahian calls for deliberate spreading of the disease to fulfill Islamic prophecy related to the Mahdi). Basically, many Shi’ite Muslims (which is the type most Iranians are) believe that a leader called the Imam Mahdi will rise up after a period of chaos. Since COVID-19 is causing chaos around the world, some Shi’ites want to increase that chaos. While the Shi’ite Mahdi really does not exist, the Bible does tell of a time a ‘King of the South’ will arise and lead a confederation of predominantly Muslim lands in the Middle East and North Africa (cf. Daniel 11:40-43; Ezekiel 30:2-8). Attempts by some in Iran may well cause some of the ‘troubles’ Jesus prophesied (Mark 13:8) and could possibly end up encouraging other Muslims to unite.

The second item to mention is that the US intends to add to its massive debt because of COVID-19 (see ‘Trump’s economic rescue package could approach $1 trillion’). This will ultimately result in disaster (cf. Habakkuk 2:6-8).

The third item to mention is that US President Donald Trump upset the Germans by pushing his ‘America first’ agenda too far (Bare shelves in California: COVID-19 is a warning to wake up. Trump makes the Germans furious. What message may God be sending to end time Christians?).

Notice the following:

16 March 2020

The news that Donald Trump has sought to buy up the exclusive rights to a promising Covid-19 vaccine from a German biotech firm has been greeted with anger. During a global crisis, when all of humanity is at risk, our sense of fairness – and our own self-interest – makes this shameless attempt to buy the right to life (with little regard for those it excludes) seem immoral. …

Trump’s move to buy up exclusive use of a candidate vaccine for Americans does not bode well. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/16/trump-coronavirus-vaccine-big-pharma-president-drugs-industry-profit

16 March 2020

German government ministers have reacted furiously to reports the Trump administration has tried to buy exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a German firm.

An explosive report in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag cited German government sources as saying the Trump administration offered a “billion dollars” to secure exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by the firm CureVac, “but only for the USA.”

The German health ministry told Reuters the report was accurate: “We confirm the report in the Welt am Sonntag,” a representative said.

Following the report, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, insisted on Sunday that the government would not allow President Donald Trump to push ahead with such a plan.

“German researchers play a leading role in drug and vaccine development, and we cannot allow others to seek exclusive results,” he told the media group Funke.

“Germany is not for sale,” the country’s economy minister, Peter Altmaier, told the broadcaster ARD on Sunday, according to AFP.

Karl Lauterbach, a senior German politician and professor of health economics and epidemiology, tweeted in response to the story: “The exclusive sale of a possible vaccine to the USA must be prevented by all means. Capitalism has limits.” https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-germany-covid-19-vaccine-not-for-sale-donald-trump-2020-3

This was pushing “America first” beyond anything that can be considered proper. Donald Trump has been effectively telling the Germans that the USA does not care if they live or die–Germans do not like that. The Germans are really angry about this and are not likely to forgive and forget–hopefully all can see how this could be used by them to later decide to lead an attack on the USA.

In other disaster related news, some UN officials believe another major locust plague will hit soon (see ‘Plague of locusts set to descend upon Middle East in time for Passover’). This may affect our brethren in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and elsewhere, so please keep this in your prayers.

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: Godly Submission. 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: Exodus 37-40: Finishing the Work. 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

With all the reality and hype about COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) going around, the following came to mind:

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

Brethren, trust God, for we are destined to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

At risk of repeat, remember that Jesus said “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer