Letter to the Brethren: April 17, 2014

Dear Brethren and co-workers in Christ:

Between giving sermons last Sabbath and the First Day of Unleavened Bread, as well as conducting Passover services, doing extra videos, and doing the routine work and postings around here, it has been a full week.

To slightly ease the pressure, I recorded an offertory while in Kenya prepared by Evans Ochieng.  Yet, it ended up with a problem, and once we realized that, the computer we needed to fix the issues on crashed its hard drive.  So, there will be a very short message which will be the recommended offertory for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. Because that was so short, I decided to have a slightly longer than usual sermon for that day.

Perhaps this would be a good place to note that the suggested sermonette for this coming Sabbath is one given by our New Zealand host John Hickey.

Proclaiming the Gospel

This was a strong week on the internet for us.  In addition to tens of thousands of visits, hundreds watched our Passover service video.  We are reaching many.

I ended up doing a last minute radio interview yesterday.  I discussed the situation in Ukraine and explained that neither the European Union nor the Eurasian Union is the answer: they need the Kingdom of God.

I also was a radio guest today. I discussed the situation in Ukraine, how this is causing Europe to look at expanding its military, what Russia is up to, and how some of this ties in with biblical prophecy.  I also discussed the results of a new study on the dangers of being a casual marijuana use (details are in the article Marijuana: Should a Christian Get High?).

This means we reached probably millions over the radio with the gospel of the kingdom and prophetic truths this week.   We are going through some doors that others either cannot or will not go through.

The Continuing Church of God is truly leading the final phase of the work.

Tithes and Holy Day Offerings

Tithes and Holy Day Offerings are coming in via mail and PayPal.  We expect the same will happen next week.

The Journal: News of the Churches of God

A version of an article I submitted to The Journal: News of the Churches of God was published.

The editor (Dixon Cartwright) renamed it Continuing COG moving into Africa. But I would add that we were not ‘moving into Africa’ as we had supporters in Africa within several weeks of our formation.

Anyway, here is the full version of the article submitted (Dixon Cartwright edited some of it down for space as it was a last minute addition to this issue):

The Final Phase of the Work: Reaching Africa

The Continuing Church of God (CCOG), in conjunction with support from the Christian Church of God, Grand Junction, held a conference for Church of God (COG) leaders in Nairobi, Kenya.  The conference which included COG leaders from Kenya and Tanzania ran from April 1st through April 2nd 2014, with meetings before and after those dates.

The conference was intended to clarify true from false leaders in East Africa and to “teach the teachers” so that they could better teach others.

Jesus taught:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

He also taught:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

East Africa is one of the places where Jesus has a lot of disciples.  Unlike places such as Europe and North America, internet access is much more limited in Africa, so to better fulfill Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20, a physical conference for Church of God leaders in East Africa was held, after I made a brief two-day stop in the United Kingdom.

I was able to baptize a man from Mozambique in London on a Friday (March 29, 2014) and then conduct Sabbath services for the first time for the Continuing Church of God in the United Kingdom on Saturday.  On Sunday morning I flew from the London airport to Nairobi, Kenya.

Late Sunday night, CCOG Regional Pastor Evans Ochieng, and his wife Rose (who is a deaconess) met me at the Nairobi airport.  We went into Nairobi together.

Leadership Conference in Nairobi

Monday, Pastor Evans Ochieng and I met on a variety of matters pertaining to the work in Kenya and East Africa.  A printer from Nairobi met with us and we discussed our literature needs and negotiated prices for magazines and booklets.

Later, church leaders from all around Kenya began to arrive Monday evening, and we met with some of them then.  Tuesday, two men came to join us from Tanzania.

Although most leaders had some affiliation with the Continuing Church of God, none had met me prior to the conference.  Most of the leaders who came were part of the Continuing Church of God, but several were not such as Church of God the Eternal, Christian Church of God (Grand Junction), etc.  This was a unique type of conference with people from so many different groups and backgrounds, and also included several open question and answer sessions.

The conference took place in the Karibu Hotel in Nairobi Kenya.  Karibu is a Kiswahili word meaning “welcome,” and we welcomed leaders from all over Kenya as well as from Tanzania.  Nearly all attendees had to travel great distances via buses to attend.

Elders, deacons, deaconesses, and local hosts attended the conference.  There were a total of 34 leaders in attendance.  These leaders represented over 400 congregants, not all of which were part of the Continuing Church of God.

In Kenya, in accordance with Jesus’ words for “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you,” many subjects were covered from explaining it is all about love, to church history, to the Godhead, to the date & time for Passover, to marriage & divorce, to baptism, to tithing, to prophecy, and to the final phase of the work.  There are many physical needs in Kenya, and we also attempted to address some of them.

The conference was held on Tuesday and Wednesday, with after conference meetings lasting until almost midnight and into late Thursday.  The conference itself was a major success.

Many leaders left Thursday morning to take the long (up to ten hour) bus rides back to their homes.  Some stayed later, and I have had meetings all day and into the evening with them.  Because of airline issues and mechanical problems, it took me five jet planes, four vehicles, and 50 hours to travel as directly home as the airlines would allow.

Laborers for the Harvest

I have repeatedly asked brethren in CCOG to follow Jesus’ admonition to:

38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  (Matthew 9:38)

Well, at this conference in Nairobi, I met many current and potential laborers for the harvest.  The conference provided additional training to them so that they can assist the work.

As far as leaders new to the CCOG, after the conference, one of the attendees who asked for a meeting with myself and Pastor Ochieng, became part of CCOG.  This was John Owak.  For the past ten years he had been a minister in the United Church of God (UCG). John Owak explained that he had been studying CCOG literature for some time (he had also contacted me in the past), and the conference convinced him he wanted to be part of CCOG.  We discussed also differences in the governance, prophetic understandings, and the work between CCOG and UCG. He then asked if we would accept him as a volunteer (unpaid, and he did not ask for a salary) pastor of the CCOG in his geographic area, working under the direction of our Regional Pastor Evans Ochieng, myself, and ultimately Jesus Christ.  Pastor Ochieng and I agreed and welcomed him into the CCOG.

Leaders once part of GCG, LCG, WCG, COGaIC, COGIT, COGTE, CG7, SDA, and/or VWCG, but now part of CCOG also attended.  This was the first time I had been able to meet any of them in person (some had email contacts with me prior).  CCOG has over 20 congregations in East Africa.

CCOG leaders at the conference showed a tremendous appreciation for the depth of the doctrines, church history, prophetic, and other topics covered.  Their discernment of various details related to CCOG and the final phase of the work was impressive.  Many in Africa seem to have much more insight into spiritual matters than others elsewhere and my hope and prayer is that those outside of Africa will be like them, search the scriptures to see that what we teach is so (cf. Acts 17:10-11), and have the proper zeal to support the final phase of the work. Many there also noted that a certain boldness in proclamation was needed, that they did not see this in other groups claiming to be COG, but did see it in the Continuing Church of God.

Pastor Evans Ochieng commented that proper unity of the COG in Kenya has been restored because of CCOG. He also said that CCOG restored more doctrinal, historical, and prophetic detail than any other group, and since this is the time of the end, all should realize that all things needed to be restored (cf. Matthew 17:11). He said it should be clear to those interested in the truth that CCOG was the group doing this and the group that had the consummate truth (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15), and thus had the Philadelphia mantle (cf. 2 Kings 2:9-14; Revelation 3:7-13).

I personally was impressed at how many of the leaders at the conference explained the depth that they had studied CCOG literature and why they concluded that only CCOG could be leading the final phase of the work.

Plans for the Work in Africa

On this trip, I carried as many Bibles, Bible News Prophecy magazines, and new church history booklets as the standard weight limits allowed into Kenya.  So much so, that both suitcases seem to have sustained some damage from the weight on them.  I intentionally brought light-weight luggage in order to maximize the amount of literature I could bring with me.  The new church history booklet was a hit at the conference.

I also brought a new laptop for Pastor Evans Ochieng as well as two CCOG festival banners that can be used at the Feast of Tabernacles.  Having a computer should aid in his managing various aspects of the work in Africa, including literature production.

Because of the tremendous needs in this region, we also sent many Bibles, songbooks, prophetic, books, magazines, and history booklets to arrive after the conference to Pastor Ochieng and others in Africa.   There is tremendous poverty in this part of the world, and many lack their own Bibles or electronic access to scripture.  Us sending Bible and other literature can help remedy this.

Our members there face great adversities from their extended families and society when they leave the religions of their families to embrace the truth of the Bible and live as a real Christian.  Their willingness to suffer persecution and sacrifice for the truth and the work should be an example to all who wish to believe that they are Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) Christians.

George Lemi, a CCOG group leader in Tanzania, and our primary translator of literature into Kiswahili, was able to attend the conference in Nairobi, Kenya.  We discussed with him and others plans to greatly increase CCOG congregants in Tanzania.  We also discussed plans to do so in Uganda and elsewhere.  I was able to baptize another man from Tanzania (Paul Makinda) who came to the conference for me to do so.

At the conference, I noted that many of the leaders spoke two or three languages (normally English, Kiswahili, and/or their tribal language).

Nearly all in Kenya are comfortable with the English language.  Most of those in Kenya and Tanzania are also comfortable in Kiswahili.  Yet, in those areas, as well as Uganda, many are more comfortable in their native tribal languages.  As the bulk of those with the CCOG are comfortable with the Lua language, I proposed to the leaders that we begin to translate the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God into Lua, produce a songbook in the Lua language, our Continuing History of the Church of God booklet into Lua, and ultimately, our Bible News Prophecy magazine into Lua.

We currently produce our Bible News Prophecy magazine in the English, Kiswahili, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog, and Spanish languages.  Although our songbook, The Bible Hymnal, was originally just produced in English, prior to the conference we had begun a project to start to produce an edition in Kiswahili.  A songbook in the Lua language is now in progress and hopefully something will be ready before the Feast of Tabernacles in 2014.

During the conference, I laid out plans for reaching Africa.  This included going over how our current internet sites, field ministry, and radio interviews cover this region of the world.  I also revealed our plans for an Africa-specific website, which is expected to have our materials online in at least three languages, with other languages probable in the future.  I laid out that we should have congregation locations, leaders emails, and even photographs of meeting sites so that it would be easier for interested individuals to attend with CCOG.

The leaders from Kenya and Tanzania were supportive of the plans and seemed impressed that the CCOG was truly interested in Africa and its part in the work.

A Door That is in the Process of Opening Even Further

Although at this time, relatively few people in Kenya and Tanzania have direct access to the internet without going to an internet café (which few can afford), I noticed that nearly all had cellular telephones.

Once more modern “smart phones” become popular in Kenya (I had not noticed any while there), we should be able to reach many, many more than we have been able to over the internet.  Our plans for the internet and congregations should be ready by the time many of those in East Africa will have additional abilities to access them.  This “door” is opened for Philadelphians (Revelation 3:7-8) to proclaim the gospel (cf. Acts 14:28, 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12) of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14) is being opened more for us and we expect to go through it to reach even more.  Please pray that God will more fully open this door for us (cf. Colossians 4:3).

Many aspects of the final phase of the work are right now going on behind the scenes, and like the situation in Kenya, will be ready when the time is right for others to hear the message of the Kingdom of God,

Africa is somewhat functioning as another “proving ground” that the way this work is being led is the way that Jesus Christ wants us to.  We in CCOG also expect to lead what the Bible refers to as the “short work” in Romans 9:28 and many steps are being taken related to that as well.

Additionally, from a physical perspective, there are tremendous needs in Africa and we are always trying to figure out how to best serve the needs of our brethren, including widows and orphans there.

Despite physical poverty, Africa is a significant part of the final phase of the work.  It is my hope and prayer that the comments, perceptions, and support there may serve as motivations to those in other parts of the world to better follow their Philadelphian example and support CCOG as we lead the final phase of the work.

The work of God through the Continuing Church of God is bearing fruit (cf. Matthew 7:15-20) around the world (Matthew 28:19-20) and Africa is showing that this is so.  The conference in Nairobi was a major success, and a step to be able to reach more.

There have been some leaders from different COGs who arrived in Kenya after I did who are attempting to draw/keep members in their organizations (see 04/11/14 p.m. post on the News of those once affiliated with the Global Church of God page).  It should be noted that I never contacted those in Kenya in the various groups to ask them to support the Continuing Church of God.  Instead, ones in various groups, as well as several who were independent, contacted us on their initiative.
It is my hope and prayer that many in Africa can serve as examples to others so that they will realize that we in the Continuing Church of God are reaching people and represent “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

One USA-based CCOG member who saw The Journal article emailed me and asked about our relationship with the group in Grand Junction.  The relationship is basically one of mutual cooperation.

Here are some details: Grand Junction has been involved with Kenya for years.  They asked us last year if those associated with them could attend the CCOG FOT site in Kenya in 2013.  Furthermore, they would like to know who are trustworthy COG leaders in Kenya.  As far as the future goes, it is likely that some of their supporters will attend a Continuing Church of God Feast of Tabernacles’ site in Kenya in 2014 and perhaps there will be other forms of cooperation.

Profile: Jim Cosenza

A CCOG member from the Rocky Mountain USA area asked me recently to provide more information on those that are involved in the Continuing Church of God.

So, I asked Jim Cosenza to provide some information on himself.  Here is what he sent:

My name is James Cosenza. I prefer to be called Jim. I am married to my wife, Kris. We have been married for 46 years and have two children, David and Julie. I was born in Wallingford, Ct. and have lived in Connecticut all my life except from 1968 to 1974 when I lived in Pasadena, Calif. I have a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and a degree in Theology from Ambassador College in Pasadena. I briefly worked for the State of Connecticut before attending Ambassador College. I worked for The worldwide Church of God as a marketing and media analysis until a health issue caused me to leave in 1974. We moved back to Connecticut as a result. Upon recover I became a real estate agent and still work as such.
I was baptized in Nov. of 1967 by a minister in WCG. I first heard Mr. Armstrong on the radio in April 1967. After studying many of his articles and booklets with the bible I became convinced God was using him and he was God’s servant.
I enjoy learning about biblical doctrine and church history. My wife and I enjoy visiting our national parks. As a teen my main interest in life was sports. I played varsity football in high school and played in organized baseball until I was 22. Today I enjoy playing golf.

Jim typically gave 3 or 4 sermons per year in church, and hopefully, he will be able to be a speaker at the Feast of Tabernacles in 2014.  If you are in the Connecticut area for the upcoming Holy Day and wish to attend, you can email him: jcosenza@kw.com.

We are still looking at Pensacola, Florida as the likely USA site for 2014 (see also Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2014).

Passover and the First Day of Unleavened Bread

Passover and the First Day of Unleavened Bread for 2014 are past.

The limited reports we received indicated that they went well where we had groups meet.

The Last Day of Unleavened Bread is almost here, and will begin after sunset Sunday, April 20th and run through sunset April 21st.

World News Events

The first ‘blood moon’ of the tetrad (four expected) for 2014 and 2015 came and went on April 15th.  As we taught would be the case, Jesus did not return then nor did the Day of the Lord begin.  Another blood moon will occur around the Feast of Tabernacles this year and next as well as the Spring Holy Day season in 2015, and Jesus will not occur then either.  However, because a few Protestant leaders indicated that this series of blood moons means something that the Bible does not support (see also Blood moon triggers Protestant apocalyptic debates), this will likely turn some off on real biblical prophecy.

In India, a ‘third gender’ was recognized by its Supreme Court.  And while this ruling seems mainly focused on those whose genitalia has been surgically altered, the homosexual lobby may well try to use this in other areas to promote their agenda.  And speaking of promoting their agenda, a US federal judge has ruled that the State of Ohio must recognize homosexual marriages, despite its own laws against them.  Both of these items are in the post titled India’s Supreme Court recognizes a ‘third gender;’ Ohio forced to recognize homosexual ‘marriages’.

Speaking of judges, one in the USA ruled that killing babies with heartbeats was ‘constitutionally’ protected (see Federal judge overturns ‘heartbeat’ abortion restriction).  Many modern leaders are causing people to err, and this will not end up well per Isaiah 9:16.

In the USA, a racist leader was arrested for the killing of three people in Jewish buildings.  Racial hatred is wrong.  The shooting, however, reminded me that various people consider that because of our biblical beliefs, that we in the Continuing Church of God are Jewish, even though I am unaware of us having any Jewish members.  Throughout history, various people associated with the Greco-Roman churches have persecuted those in the Church of God and sometimes considered us to be Jews.  Racial hatred is wrong, but persecution will come to us, despite our actual ethnicities (see also Former KKK leader arrested for shooting of Jews; what else may happen?).  Over in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, the separatists there told Jews that they need to register with them or face expulsion and loss of their properties (see Jews in Donetsk told to register or face losing their property and rights to live there! Maybe the Geneva agreement on Ukraine will stop this.).  This is outrageous racial/religious hatred reminiscent of preliminary steps taken against Jews in the second world war .

On the economic front, the USA accused China of undervaluing its currency, while the International Monetary Fund warned the USA that it needed to make reforms or the IMF would essentially look to replace the USA dollar with a different set of currencies in the world (see US Treasury says that China is intentionally undervaluing its currency; IMF warns USA.).  When the USA dollar is no longer the world’s primary reserve currency, the economic ramifications to the USA will be severe.

Argentina accused the UK of provoking hostilities in the Falkland Islands because of some of its planned military exercises (see Argentina accuses Britain of provoking ‘hostile actions’ in Falklands’ region).  Despite the fact that nearly everyone on the Falklands wishes to remain part of the UK, that situation will not last forever and those in the Falklands will find themselves under other domination in the future (cf. Deuteronomy 28:45-63; Leviticus 26:23-25).

The USA issued warnings to Russia as some buildings in eastern Ukraine were seized by pro-Russian supporters; Russia itself says it is not directly involved and that it has concerns about the government in Kiev (see USA again warns Russia about being involved with Ukraine; Russia goes to the UN).  Kiev responded with military action against some of those who seized buildings, but that did not turn out as well as Kiev expected (see Kiev and Russian actions unsettle many in eastern Ukraine and some prepare to flee: Will you be ready when it is time for Christians to flee?). A temporary deal was reached in Geneva today that is intended to reduce the tensions and stop bloodshed (see also Jews in Donetsk told to register or face losing their property and rights to live there! Maybe the Geneva agreement on Ukraine will stop this).  We will see how long this lasts as there are tensions in the region.

Ukraine has the potential to cause Europe severe financial problems as well as to motivate it to develop more of its own military resources.  Former German Defense Minister Karl zu Guttenberg had something published today where he indicated that Europe needed to stop being ‘wishy-washy.’  While the motivation for more military action has happened (e.g. European Technology and the Beast of Revelation), more is expected (cf. Revelation 13:4).

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is our suggested format for Sabbath services this week:

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. So, 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 that we list each week.

Spring Holy Day Suggestion

Here is our suggested format for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread (April 21, 2014):

Concluding Comments

Notice the following from the Apostle John:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.  (1 John 2:15-17)

Brethren, during these days of unleavened bread, we tend to feel a bit more separated from the world.  Our spiritual separation from the world is something to always keep in mind.

We are to be in this world (John 17:11) but not of it (John 17:19).  The Days of Unleavened Bread are an additional reminder of this.


Bob Thiel, Pastor and Overseer
Continuing Church of God

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.