Letter to the Brethren: May 14, 2020

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from Grover Beach, California.

The initial severe food shortages related to COVID-19 have not come back to our area, though there are some shortages still. Furthermore, the US is seeing a rise in food prices (see ‘US grocery costs jump the most in 46 years’ ‘When money fails’). We have basically been fine here, though some items have been more difficult to attain than before.

As far as church finances go, thus far donations to the CCOG in the USA have not gone down as the result of COVID-19–currently, USA income is up. That is especially good as we have had to send more funds than normal to parts of Africa mainly because of government-caused food problems this year related to COVID-19.

John Hickey

Because of numerous health issues, John Hickey asked me to find a replacement for him as the proof reader for our Bible News Prophecy magazine and other literature. As Jaison Curtis from the United Kingdom had asked if he could volunteer to do this years ago, when I asked him this past week, he accepted.


Shirley Gestro with husband John Hickey

I wish to thank John Hickey for his service as proof reader of the magazine for these many years as well as other service to the Church of God, as well as Jaison Curtis for answering the call.

John Hickey and his health issues remain in my prayers.

Pentecost

We are approaching the Day of Pentecost. In 2020, it is on May 31, and the actual observation begins the evening before at sunset on May 30th and runs through sunset on May 31st. Since that means back-to-back Sabbaths, you should plan accordingly as the Bible teaches, “You shall do no customary work on it” (Leviticus 23:15).

Feast of Tabernacles in 2020

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.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, there may be issues in various locations for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2020. Irrespective of the views of some (e.g. VOA: Are Religious Services ‘Essential’ During Pandemic? COGwriter: Yes, true Christians should ‘gather together,’ though atheists do not understand), we consider holding religious services like the Feast of Tabernacles to be essential.

At this instant, we still intend to hold the Feast of Tabernacles in all countries we have indicated. Information on the expected general locations is included in our article: Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2020.

However, there may be changes in location and how we can conduct services. Yet, we will still intend to hold services for the Feast of Tabernacles and encourage all who can attend to attend.

As far as the United States goes, my initial contact with a hotel in San Antonio, Texas is no longer working there. Our new contact says that all should be fine. She stated that everything is to be open and basically normal in San Antonio by sometime in July, which she interpreted to mean that all should be fine for the Feast of Tabernacles in October. We are in the process of hopefully finalizing a contract we received several hours ago. If that does not happen, we have another hotel in mind in San Antonio.

As mentioned before, we are working on a backup plan in Texas in the event hotels are unable or unwilling to have group conferences in October (such as if government officials install some last minute restrictions). It is our firm expectation to hold the Feast of Tabernacles in San Antonio, Texas or within an hour or so drive of it.

World News Items

COVID-19 is pointing to greater divide in the world, and in particular, the USA (see COVID-19 divides the USA even more. MS: America Has Become A Powder Keg That Is Ready To Explode At Any Time). Expect more civil unrest and violence. The ‘ride’ of the second horseman of the Apocalypse (which happens after the second seal is open) is getting closer and possibly will begin this year. Yet, contrary to the claims of some who call themselves “Church of God,” the fifth seal of Revelation 6 has not been opened and the second, third, and fourth ones need to be open before the fifth one (which is related to the start of the Great Tribulation) is opened.

Related to government restrictions put in place after the outbreak of COVID-19, commentator Dennis Praeger stated that the “the worldwide lockdown is … possibly, the worst mistake the world has ever made” (see Mnuchin Unemployment numbers to worsen; Praeger: Worldwide Lockdown May Be The Greatest Mistake In History). While that is not the case, it may be one of the greatest economic mistakes intentionally made.

On the other hand, perhaps it should be pointed out that some believe that the coronavirus is giving the world an opportunity to build a better society (see USA Today: Coronavirus gives us a chance to rebuild society together. Let’s not blow it.). The Bible does not support that view, but instead indicates that steps similar, but harsher, than those associated with COVID-19 will be implemented by a totalitarian leader. The recommended sermonette for this week relates to this basic topic: COVID 19: Prelude to a New World Order?

Something else that is still going on is Brexit–the BRitish EXIT from the European Union. The Europeans report that the negotiations are not going well as the EU wants to insist that the UK accept its standards and the UK has basically stated that the point of Brexit was to not have to comply with EU directives (see DW: German Foreign Minister Maas warns of hard Brexit as talks stall; COGwriter: What type of New World Order is he pushing for?). This, ultimately, will not end well for the UK, or the rest of Europe for that matter.

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: COVID 19: Prelude to a New World Order? 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: Church Services, Sunday, Heaven, and God’s Plan. 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 Book of Hebrews has the following:

8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Hebrews 5:8-11)

Notice that Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered, which perfected Him. We, too, are to strive for perfection (Matthew 5:48).

Brethren, endure and learn through the tests and trials you suffer from.

Do not become dull of hearing.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer