Letter to the Brethren: February 15, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Yesterday, much of the world celebrated what they call Valentine’s Day. Millions also observed ‘Ash Wednesday’ and the start of ‘Lent.’

None of these are biblical observances, but was something that was adopted because of compromises with paganism.

Notice something from a Muslim source concerning Valentine’s Day:

Celebrating the Valentine Day is not permissible because: Firstly, it is an innovated holiday that has no basis in the Sharee`ah … Christians were aware of the Pagan roots of Valentine’s Day. The way the Christians adopted St. Valentine’s Day should be a lesson for Muslims. In fact, the failure to fully separate Valentine’s Day from its pagan roots explains why Islamic scholars and a number of Muslims avoid adopting traditions of non-Muslims, even though they could possibly be Islamicized …

We should avoid anything associated with pagan immoral practices -…- Islam does not encourage flirting or suggestions of romantic relationships before marriage – Love between families, friends and married people does not need to be celebrated on a day with such un-Islamic origins (Ruling on Celebrating Valentine’s Day. http://www.contactpakistan.com/news/news144.htm, January 31, 2004).

Compromising with and adopting pagan religious practices is not good.

Consider further that the Bible teaches:

5 … My name is blasphemed continually every day. (Isaiah 52:5)

24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. (Romans 2:22-24)

Valentine’s Day causes the name of Christ (through the term ‘Christians’) to be blasphemed among the Gentiles as the Muslim condemnation shows.

And Ash Wednesday?

Time reported the following:

What’s the purpose of Ash Wednesday?

It marks first day of the 40 days of Lent, a roughly six-week period (not including Sundays) dedicated to reflection, prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter. …

Where do the ashes some people put on their face come from?

They’re obtained from the burning of the palms of the previous Palm Sunday, which occurs on the Sunday before Easter, and applied during services. …

What do the ashes mean?

The ashes, applied in the shape of a cross, are a symbol of penance, mourning and mortality… There aren’t any particular rules about how long the ashes should be worn, but most people wear them throughout the day as a public expression of their faith and penance. http://time.com/3713126/ash-wednesday/

So, the ashes are a public symbol? This does not sound like repentance nor humility. Notice what a Catholic-approved translation of the Bible teaches:

16 ‘When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. (Matthew 6:16, NJB)

Thus, Jesus seems to denounce practices that resemble Ash Wednesday. Also, it should be noted that the cross was not a symbol early Christians used (see What is the Origin of the Cross as a ‘Christian’ Symbol?).

No one in the Old or New Testaments was ever recorded as putting ashes on their foreheads in a shape of a cross. Yet, also notice the following claims from the Shorter Book of Blessings by the Church of Rome:

1059. The season of Lent begins with the ancient practice of marking the baptized with ashes as a public and communal sign of penance. The blessing and distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday normally takes place during the celebration of Mass. (As cited in McNamara E, Priest. Ashes Earlier. Zenit, March 4, 2014. http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/ashes-earlier)

The Bible does not show that the baptized received ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. It seems to have been a practice of pagans, however.

Furthermore, Ash Wednesday’s true origins are considered to be a mystery by those who observe it. It was not observed by Jesus, the original apostles, nor any in the early Church. Ash Wednesday and Lent are not mentioned in either the Hebrew or Greek scriptures, commonly known as the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Real Christians do not celebrate holidays like Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, or Lent–instead we observe what the Bible teaches (see also Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?).

African Reports

Radson Mulozowa, our host in Malawi, sent in the following report:

Dear pastor.Greetings from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia.Thanks for the great support you are doing to us. God is opening many doors for his work to expand. May God bless you.

About Zambia I am going next week. I failed to gobefore because I was drown in a river on sabbath when coming from Mozambique for leaders meeting.  I was crossing the bridge then suddenly when I was at the centre. The bridge broke which resulted that I was drown. I thank God that some people assisted to take me out
of the river.

Am ok,now am receiving treatment with a private doctor. I know all success has happen because of your prayers. Continue praying for us.

FLOODS: I have received a Report that some of our brethren in Phaloni congregation are staying in school following the floods that has affected their area.houses.utensils etc has been destroyed by water. Pray for sister Makande, she is in hospital. Am visiting them tomorrow to see them and encouragement them.

Evangelist Ochieng is hoping to go to Malawi again next month.

I also received a report from Deacon Koang Deng in Ethiopia. Evangelist Evans Ochieng is supposed to go there today and stay for a week. Yet the political strife has blocked travel to his region. We do not know if Evanglist Ochieng will be able to get there or not.

This morning, I received the following report from Pastor Samuel Ofosu Gyeabour in Ghana:

May the Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and Hope be with you and all the brethren in the Faith scattered over the world, Amen..!

Dear Bob, l wish to please inform you we’ve started tremendous “Ground Evangelism” at the Northern part of Ghana with the seizure of rainfall.

We therefore sincerely request your prayer support for Spiritual strengthening. …

The rains have completed stopped and we’ve taken advantage of the season to advance the Gospel.

Two weeks have passed since, and we hope to go further with the little we can afford in limitation to finance.

Preparations are also under way for the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread as the Lord Mandates the Decree, but we  haven’t secured a place yet..!

Our utmost regards to you in Jesus Christ, the Saviour.

Evangelist Ochieng is hoping to go to Ghana in the late Spring.

Please pray for the brethren in Africa.

Feast of Tabernacles 2018

As most of you realize, the Feast of Tabernacles (including the Last Great Day) will be from the evening of September 23rd until sunset October 1st in 2018.

We had hoped to announce a site in Virginia, in the USA today, but have not gotten the correct documents yet. Hopefully, this will be finalized by the next letter. If not, we will have to look for a different location.

We also expect to have another site in the USA (probably Wichita, Kansas), one in Canada (probably Kingston, Ontario), one in Serbia (in or near Belgrade), one in New Zealand, and many in Africa in 2018.

Information on all the sites is expected to be updated at the link: Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2018.

World News Items

An advisor to Pope Francis declared that China was the nation that was best implementing Catholic policies and should be an example for the rest of the world (see Vatican’s China plans considered a betrayal by many–but is China the nation that is ‘best implementing the social doctrine of the Church’?). Many, in and out of China, do not see it that way. And many are upset about a proposed Vatican agreement with China that basically will recognize Chinese state control over the Roman Catholic Church in that land (again, see Vatican’s China plans considered a betrayal by many–but is China the nation that is ‘best implementing the social doctrine of the Church’?). The time will come when the church of the ‘city of seven hills’ will make more deals with the coming ‘Beast of the sea’ (Revelation 13 and 17). But the time will come when supporters of that Beast will destroy the Church of Rome (Revelation 17:15-18).

The financial markets in the USA and other places have been a been jittery (see CBS and Jesus on: ‘Why you shouldn’t worry about stocks slumping’).

Despite a campaign statement about keeping the US annual deficit below USD$400 billion per year, analysts are projecting over $1 trillion ($1000 billion) per year (see Conservatives lash out at GOP spending binge; 18 reasons that the Trump Administration has been ‘Apocalyptic’). This will not end well for the USA (cf. Habakkuk 2:6-8).

USA debt and deficit spending have emboldened Gentile nations like Russia and China to take steps to bypass the US dollar for international trade. Currently, analysts expect that the so-called ‘petroyuan’ will be introduced on March 26, 2018 (see Russia prepared to drop SWIFT; China preparing for launch of petroyuan). While that will not eliminate the US dollar, in time, we will see more and more steps to no longer rely on it for international trade. That will greatly affect the economy of the USA.

In the USA, a 19 year-old was arrested today who was believed to have killed at least 17 people (see Teen gunman arrested after at least 17 killed). As people have less respect for biblical morality, we continue to see more and more senseless violence.

Iran and Israel have been in the news because of military skirmishes (e.g. Hezbollah downs Israeli F-16, Israel carries out ‘large scale attack’ in Syria). Although both nations seem to have confidence in their superiority over the other (see Israel and Iran: This will not turn out well for either of them), Bible prophecy shows that both of them ultimately will be damaged beyond what either tends to think can happen (cf. (Isaiah 22:5-12 and Ezekiel 32:24).

Speaking of Iran, some of its leaders have stated an interest in joining the Eurasian Economic Union (see Iran close to joining Eurasian Economic Union; EAEU wants to work with the European Union). If Iran does so, it will be the first nation to join that was NOT part of the old Soviet Union. A coalition of the ‘kings of the east’ (cf. Revelation 16:12) is forming.

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: ‘Passion’ sequel: Descent into Hades. 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: Were the Ten Commandments ‘Nailed to the Cross’?  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 ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE BibleNewsProphecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

Isaiah wrote:

7 How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
8 Your watchmen shall lift up their voices,
With their voices they shall sing together;
For they shall see eye to eye
When the Lord brings back Zion. (Isaiah 52:7-8)

Brethren, thank you for your support of our efforts to proclaim the good news of salvation and the coming Kingdom of God.


Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer

Posted in Letters to the Brethren
About CCOG
The Continuing Church of God, which attempts to represent the most faithful remnant of the Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7) portion of the Church of God, bases its beliefs on the Holy Bible. Read CCOG's statement of beliefs for more information.