Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

We hope you had a fantastic week.

We have been working on many things, both in the USA and overseas.

One relatively minor thing has been reviewing the audio quality of our videos as some have noticed issues.  We recently tried a new microphone as someone advised us to use a ‘shotgun’ microphone.  However, for some reason although it was supposed to bring better sound quality, it gave more of a muffled audio playback.  So, we switched back to the previous microphone last Sabbath for the sermon recording.  We still are looking to see if there are some settings that we might be able to adjust.

African Conference

As mentioned before, we are planning on holding a conference in Nairobi, Kenya in February 2017.

We had a similar conference in 2014.

The main difference this time is that we hope to have leaders from more countries.

In 2014, we had leaders from Kenya and Tanzania.

For the 2017 conference, we hope to have leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania. We may also have some from other countries.

In addition to my own attendance from the USA, we hope that Aleksandar ‘Sasha’ Veljic from Serbia, will also be able to attend.

Back in 2014 we only had about 270 people in Africa who were part of the Continuing Church of God. We now have over 2000.

Because of that, this will be a more expensive conference to put on as we will have more leaders attend via bus, plus have leaders who attend via air. And cost is the reason that we have waited nearly three years to have this conference.  The famines in Tanzania, Kenya, and other parts of Africa have taxed our funds–and still are.

Yet, we really do need to get the leaders together to give them a chance to meet, discuss their needs and concerns, and go over various teachings and priorities of the Continuing Church of God.

Richard Close Visits Michigan and Kansas Congregations

As announced earlier, deacon Richard Close is trying to visit our scattered brethren in the USA.

He was able to visit our congregations in Almont, Michigan and Wichita, Kansas.

Here is a photograph from Almont taken by Terry LaFrance:

almont
Almont, minus three (photographer and a couple who were unable to attend that day)

In time, we hope he will be able to visit others throughout the USA and Canada.

More Internet Censorship

For quite some time, I have warned that there would be more censorship of the internet.

Facebook and Twitter have been called out for their censorship and biases:

November 18, 2016

In an attempt to rationalize the fact that Donald Trump has been elected as the next president of the United States, a growing movement is lashing out against “fake news sites,” even labeling them responsible for the election results. …

Facebook and Google have responded to the hysteria by announcing their decision to ban what they deem to be fake news sites from their advertising platforms. This is a cause for concern for many reasons.

As Edward Snowden pointed out, “[t]o have one company that has enough power to reshape the way we think, I don’t think I need to describe how dangerous that is.” Snowden addressed the fake news issue in detail via Beambot at Fusion’s Real Future Fair on Tuesday.

“I don’t think many people need to have this explained to them, that when you type something into the Google search box, it’s Google that decides what you get back. When you go to your Facebook page, it’s Facebook that decides what news it is that you see on your page.

When you go to a platform like Twitter, or any of these, really, the voices that are heard are the ones that are selected and permitted by the corporation.”

He identifies the source of the problem as a lack of competition.

There seems to be no alternative to the larger services. Because of this network effect, because [of] the first mover advantage. When you get a Google or a Facebook or Twitter in place, they never seem to leave.”

His solution? Don’t rely on Facebook for your news. By banning websites from their platform, they are essentially telling users they aren’t intelligent enough to decide for themselves what is and is not news.

As Snowden put it,they’re creating more silence than they are creating more speech.” http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-18/snowden-world-stop-letting-facebook-control-your-news

November 18, 2016

Days after Twitter unleashed a purge of so-called “alt-right” accounts, deleting users without explanation, many speculated that this would lead to an angry backlash in which conservative pundits using Twitter would voluntarily leave the struggling social network in protest over Twitter’s suddenly rampant, and dubious, censorship.

Overnight, this was confirmed when actor and prominent conservative commentator James Woods tweeted that “Since @Twitter is now in the #censorship business, I will no longer use its service for my constitutional right to free speech. #GoodbyeAll”

He also changed his bio to say “Twitter has now sadly abdicated its position as a sole beacon of free speech. Voltaire’s famous dictum has been quietly buried by these left wing savages.” http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-18/backlash-prominent-conservative-james-woods-quits-twitter-censorship-protest

Twitter made the news a few days ago when it said is would go against “atl-right” accounts. Here is a complaint about it from The Atlantic:

November 16, 2016

Twitter emerged during the 2016 presidential election as the pre-eminent means by which pro-Trump troll accounts—many of them automated, located outside the United States, often in Russia—disseminated false news and attempted to drive opponents off social media altogether.

Twitter has responded by periodic crackdowns against people known or suspected of organizing abuse. Breitbart.com’s Milo Yiannopoulos had his verification status stripped, and ultimately his account suspended, for his role fomenting the campaign against Leslie Jones.

In the case of Richard Spencer, however, there is no evidence of harassment or incitement to harass. The same can be said of most (although not all) of the other accounts suspended on November 15. These suspensions seem motivated entirely by viewpoint, not by behavior.

Let’s pause here for the necessary caveats: Twitter is a private actor; it has no First Amendment obligations to anybody. It is a for-profit entity, seeking to maximize the value of its service. It can turn away anyone it likes, subject only to non-discrimination laws—and personal belief is not a forbidden ground of discrimination. Twitter is acting wholly within its rights.

I’ll add a second group of caveats; these maybe a little more controversial than the first. Social-media platforms are not common carriers. They are entitled to turn away customers who behave in ways inconsistent with the platform’s identity and purpose. Americans have wide rights to post and view pornography—but there are strong business reasons why Instagram, for example, insists that Americans exercise that right somewhere else. If Twitter decides, “This is not the place for political discussion,” that’s Twitter’s prerogative.

But, of course, that’s not what Twitter has done. Politics remains welcome at Twitter, as its most famous user, the president-elect, can attest. What Twitter is saying is that some and only some speech will be policed, by standards that can only be guessed at in advance.

That’s socially undesirable for a lot of reasons, but consider just this one: It’s precisely the perception of arbitrary and one-sided speech policing that drives so many young men toward radical, illiberal politics. On campus especially, but also in the corporate world—and now on social media—they perceive that wild and wacky things can be said by some people, but not by others. By useful comparison: On the very same day that Twitter suspended the accounts of some alt-right users, DePaul University forbade a scheduled appearance by the broadcaster and writer Ben Shapiro. Shapiro is not an alt-rightist; in fact, the Anti-Defamation League reported last month that Shapiro is Twitter’s single most frequently targeted victim of anti-Semitic abuse by alt-rightists. But Shapiro is a scathing polemicist and provocateur—an alumnus of the same Bannon-Breitbart empire that incubated Milo Yiannopoulos—and DePaul expressed worry that his appearance on campus might provoke violence.

The culture of offense-taking, platform-denying, and heckler-vetoing—now spreading ever outward from the campuses—lets loudmouths and thugs present themselves as heroes of free thought. They do not deserve this opportunity.

Of course, this is not new.

I have reported about censorship from organizations such as YouTube (a Google company) and Facebook before.

Facebook is directly involved with censorship, as is Twitter.

How does they try to justify it?

By pointing to ‘Community Standards’ guidelines.

Here are some of Facebook’s policies from its Community Standard’s pages:

We remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety. …

People use Facebook to share their experiences and to raise awareness about issues that are important to them. This means that you may encounter opinions that are different from yours, which we believe can lead to important conversations about difficult topics. To help balance the needs, safety, and interests of a diverse community, however, we may remove certain kinds of sensitive content or limit the audience that sees it.

While the above may seem reasonable to many, the reality is that internet censorship is a real threat as how the above is interpreted can lead to inappropriate censorship. Facebook used to allow COGwriter Church of God News page items to directly go to my page as part of an RSS feed, but stopped that a few years ago.

Twitter still carries the headlines of the posts from the page, but one day it may declare that this is either “alt-right” or “religious extremism” or whatever else it may chose to use as ‘justification’ to stop it.

This censorship issue on social media is so serious that we in the Continuing Church of Goddecided, because of an incident with YouTube, to come up with an alternative to YouTube if we were seriously faced with its censorship again (a sermon by Steve Dupuie allegedly violated ‘community standards’ essentially because he said that Christians needed to obey God’s written word–I filed and appeal to YouTube and they decided they should not have censored that sermon).

The USA no longer has the type of ‘freedom of religion’ or ‘freedom of speech’ its founders envisioned. And while neither Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube are part of the government of the USA, they do not support the agenda or the morality of the Bible.

The time will come when the USA, and likely some private companies, will apparently stop the efforts of websites like this one. As well as our numerous video channels on the internet.

Notice a report about loss of free speech in Europe:

November 18, 2016

  • According to New Europe, in Leeuwarden, “about twenty opponents of the plans [to establish asylum centers] in the region received police visits at home.” In other words, the Netherlands are engaging in state censorship, thereby raising the question: Is the Netherlands now a police state?
  • In the town of Sliedrecht, police came to Mark Jongeneel’s office and told him that he tweeted “too much” and that he should “watch his tone”: his tweets “may seem seditious”. His offense? One tweet said: “The College of #Sliedrecht comes up with a proposal to take 250 refugees over the next two years. What a bad idea!”
  • In September 2015, Die Welt reported that people who air “xenophobic” views on social media, risk losing the right to see their own children.
  • While ordinary European citizens risk arrest and prosecution for “xenophobic” remarks, a German EU Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, called a visiting Chinese delegation of ministers “slant eyes” (“Schlitzaugen“). European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has promoted Oettinger to be in charge of the EU budget.
  • Clearly, the law is not equal. EU Commissioners can make “xenophobic” remarks and get a promotion; European citizens, for exercising their right to free speech, are arrested and prosecuted.

In Europe, is the enemy now the governments? Evidence is mounting that expressing even a mild opinion that runs counter to official government policy can land you in prison, or at least ensure a visit from your friendly local Kafkaesque police. Has Europe effectively become a police state?

Several European governments are making it clear to their citizens that criticizing migrants or European migrant policies is criminally off limits. People who go “too far,” according to the authorities, are being arrested, prosecuted and at times convicted. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-17/europe-lets-end-free-speech

The world is getting less tolerant of speech.

Consider the following prophecy:

13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time. (Amos 5:13)

The above indicates that even those that are doing nothing wrong will need to be silent at the coming evil time.

Yet, currently, it is still time to:

1 Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)

Which is what we in the Continuing Church of God are doing. We have denounced, not only sins that the world sometimes seems to consider politically correct, but also sins that many claimed COGs will not do, because of their own concerns about their political fates and/or fates that could happen if they offended their financial supporters if they told the truth to truly fulfill Isaiah 58:1.

For years, this website has warned of civil unrest in Europe and the USA and has mentioned that Islamic issues will be a factor in both those regions.

Many in and out of the government have plans and are watching the internet with plans to deal with materials that they some day hope to silence.

Notice the following from the Bible:

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation;
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,
3 Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows — bitter words,
4 That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear.

5 They encourage themselves in an evil matter;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, “Who will see them?”
6 They devise iniquities:
“We have perfected a shrewd scheme.”
Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep. (Psalms 64:1-6)

And while you might think that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from surveillance, consider that many in the government of the USA consider that not supporting homosexual marriages, etc. are extremist. I also saw someone once on a documentary that stated that people who believed in the millennium could not be trusted and should be considered as potential terrorists. The fact that we in the Continuing Church of God would be considered pacifists, does not change the fact that since we hold to millennial and other biblical views that we will not be improperly classified by government employees with various agendas.

The Prophet Amos was inspired to record the following:

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,
“That I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine of bread,
Nor a thirst for water,
But of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
And from north to east;
They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
But shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)

Notice that the Bible tells of a time that will come when the word of God will not be found. And that would seem to be because truth from it will be taken off the internet. In the 21st century, the internet is accessed by people in every country, and thus some type of internet restriction/suspension/site removal is coming.

We are getting closer to this time.

That is part of why we in the Continuing Church of God are preparing for the ‘short work’ (Romans 9:28) and the coming ‘famine of the word.’

Despite the first amendment to the US Constitution, I have warned that more censorship on the internet is coming. And more has come.

In time, the ‘famine of word’ will hit. But do not worry (Luke 12:32), Jesus’ message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God will reach the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14).

World News Items

People in various parts of the world are concerned about the election of Donald Trump to be the 45th president of the United States. Europe is particularly concerned (see ‘How President Trump Could Actually Reduce Danger Of War In Europe For The U.S.’ ‘Make Europe great again’). The election of Donald Trump is marking a major turning point for Europe.

After going to Europe to try to give some reassurances, US President Obama went to Peru for a meeting intended to give assurance to mainly Asian nations that the USA would continue to be a reliable trading partner (see ‘Asia-Pacific Leaders Seek Obama’s Reassurance After Trump Win ‘). As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump declared that he would tear up the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) on his first day of office. This agreement did not include China, and many believe TPP was proposed to reduce Chinese influence in Asia and other parts of the world.  The probable scrapping of the TPP agreement is likely to result in China increasing its influence and bringing more Asian nations closer to China. One reason this is of prophetic interest is because Bible tells that a confederation of “kings of the east,” which would be expected to include China and various other Asian nations, will get together and head to Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

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 many who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is by Jay Chiang: Do Not Fear. 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: CCOG, a corporation sole, not a 501(c)(3). 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 new 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 ContinuingCOGchannel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE Bible News Prophecy channel.

Concluding Comments

The prophet Amos was inspired to record the following:

3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?
Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it?
Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?

7 Surely the Lord God does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
8 A lion has roared!
Who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken!
Who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:3-8)

Brethren, people around the world are still in shock because of the election earlier this month in the USA.

But we do not need to be in fear like the world:

2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

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

Brethren, we have the prophetic word of God, as well as hope in the resurrection and the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer