Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:
Another full week. In addition to normal routine matters, I spent time working on the next edition of the Bible News Prophecy magazine in English and Spanish.
Size of the Continuing Church of God
Some have wondered how many members/congregants are in the Continuing Church of God. Because we are scattered this is hard to know for certain.
As reported before (see Letter to the Brethren: October 23, 2014), over 500 attended our Feast of Tabernacles’ sites in 2014. More could have come, but we had some border issues in Tanzania and some other issues in Nairobi, Kenya. Some elsewhere could not make it for financial, distance, or other reasons. As it turns out, other scattered groups and individuals have asked to be part of us, since the Feast of Tabernacles.
Today, at my request, Pastor Evans Ochieng sent me a detailed report about members/congregants in Kenya and Tanzania. His report did not include some recent ones who have contacted us, nor some with interest in Uganda or Sudan. For my part, I also have not included numbers for 2-3 groups that are distantly related to us in Asia. Nor have I counted all who may actually be with us–but tried to only include those that I was fairly certain were with us.
Based upon those parameters, I calculated a total.
As of December 18, 2014, there are at least 680 members/congregants in the Continuing Church of God. We have members in all inhabited continents, as well as various islands. We have at least twenty congregations, as well as scattered ones in many locations.
The vast majority of our members live in Africa. We who live outside of Africa provide literature, internet, financial, and theological support to Africa. We have helped build meeting locations there and supported various widows, the poor, and orphans. Tithes and offerings of those who live in Kenya and Tanzania remain there for the needs of the work and brethren in that region.
I would also like to say something in defense of the African congregants. Some have claimed that Africans only go to where there is money and that this is why so many have supported us. There are some points to make:
- Africans are often spiritually-discerning. This should be praised and not criticized. Africans, whether on that continent or elsewhere, are sometimes willing to stand up for what is right when others will not.
- Certain other groups have much more money as well as proportionately more money (many have the vast of their members from Western nations and a minority from Africa) than the CCOG does. If money was the issue, the Africans would go to the groups with more of it.
- Africans, on the continent of Africa, represent about one out of the every six or so people in the entire world. We are to reach (Matthew 24:14) and teach them (Matthew 28:19-20), as well as go through whatever doors Jesus opens for us (Revelation 3:7-8). A great door has been opened for us to reach people in Africa (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12).
- It is difficult to be in any Church of God in the poorer parts of Africa. Family members will sometimes shun you, it is difficult to get work, and one is easily fired for trying to keep the Sabbath and Holy Days. It can take great faith to be in true church while facing such difficulties.
- Pastor Evans Ochieng, and those originally with him, already had financial support from another group before he and they decided to switch to the Continuing Church of God. Thus, it is improper to impute financial motives for the move. Some cannot accept the fact that Africans have come to us because we represent the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15) and are actually leading the final phase of the work (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).
- Others who came to us before and after Pastor Evans, etc. simply have not received substantial financial support. There are limits on what we can send to Africa as Africa is not the only continent we are working with.
- God has worked with Africans in the past (Jeremiah 38:7-18; Acts 8:26-39: see also Africa: Its Biblical Past and Prophesied Future) and seems to have indicated that many in the Continuing Church of God would be of African heritage (see Dreams, the Bible, and the Continuing Church of God). This does not mean that none could leave us, but only that Africans are part of God’s plan.
Anyway, we continue to have growth in various parts of the work and are pleased that many in Africa and elsewhere are supporting us.
Africa Youth Camp
Received the following report on the youth camp held in Kenya this past week:
It is of great joy and happiness to report that the Continuing Church of God is not only making progress towards the Everlasting Kingdom with only the old but pushing and training everyone together so that all could know and love to walk even as Christ walked.
This was portrayed by having a youth camp to teach and train the youths to believe and walk the way of Christ. As we all know that we are truly living in a very deceived world with no hope and no help but to us who believe in God, we must have hope and believe that our help comes from the Lord. It by having such a youth camp as the one we had this year in Kenya that we can also make the young to also know God and have hope in God. Psalm 105:1 “ Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his Name; make known His deeds among the people”
The Continuing Church Of God is trying to have everyone whoever old of young to know God and live with Christ in this deceived world and to help everyone know how to call upon God’s name: all our help comes from Him.
It has been very clear to our understanding that the Continuing Church Of God is truly fulfilling Matthew 28:19 and also Matthew 24:14 And I want to call upon everyone to; Isaiah 55:6 “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near”
The youth camp was wonderful and everyone who came enjoyed being at the camp. It started on Thursday and ended on Tuesday and was attended by 71 youths five pastors and two cooks . There was great joy as the youths were singing songs of praise to the Lord, giving and reading verse and having the opportunity to learn from each other and also uniting to walk closer to our savior Jesus Christ. They learned new things amongst them and they truly saw the need and the importance of the young camp.
It was indeed wonderful and even the elders who had the opportunity to attend as Bartholomew Otieno, Charles Osutwa, Charles Arton, Ezekiel, among others did not only teach and train the youths but they also learned from the very inspiring Dramas and sermons from the youths. And we hope God willing the youth camp should be yearly to help the young know how to live with Christ in this deceived world.
And let us all know; Isaiah 60:19 “ The sun shall be no more, thy light by day neither for brightness shall the moon give light upon thee but the Lord shall be upon thee everlasting light and thy God thy Glory”
I would indeed thank everyone who made it Physical and spiritually
possible to have the youth camp 2014 in Kenya. May God sincerely bless you …
It is fantastic that we got to have a camp for many of the youth in Kenya this year. The camp was held December 12th to 16th 2014.
Computers to Africa
Ten computers arrived in Mombasa, Kenya. That is on the opposite side of the country than where Evans Ochieng lives. He has not reported that he received nor distributed them yet as transport across Kenya takes some time.
The November 30, 2014 edition of the publication called The Journal: News of the Churches of God was sent out by its publisher a couple of days ago.
It included some information which I sent out in October related to Feast of Tabernacles’ reports (see Letter to the Brethren: October 23, 2014).
Although it reported about our Feast of Tabernacles’ sites, The Journal did not include photos of the sites in New Zealand nor Africa, even though the publisher had asked for them and we submitted them. The only photo included was from the Orlando, Florida site.
On other matters, The Journal also mentioned me by name in a different article. Here is some of what was reported:
Bob Thiel of Arroyo Grande, Calif., founder of the Continuing Church of God, publisher of the blog COGWriter … says he is relieved that the PCG purchased the Edstone campus rather than the WCG’s old Ambassador College grounds.
Mr. Thiel has criticized the PCG as becoming too eager over the years to acquire relics of the old Radio/ Worldwide Church of God. “I have considered PCG’s fascination with attaining old WCG items to be on the idolatrous side, so at least this purchase of property in England ended up not being a continuation of that,” wrote Mr. Thiel in a Nov. 14, 2014, blog entry.
“Yet, because it is in England, this does give the appearance that PCG is still trying to appear more like the old WCG, which had a campus there.”
In 2009, the Philadelphia Church of God purchased a 12-by-15-by-25-foot sculpture formerly located on the WCG’s Ambassador College Big Sandy campus called Swans in Flight .
Mr. Armstrong’s prayer rock
Originally commissioned in 1969 by Mr. Armstrong, the swans lately rest in a 40,000-gallon reflecting pool on a mall at the entrance of the Armstrong Auditorium of PCG’s AC campus in Oklahoma. Also on display on that campus is a 14-inch “prayer rock” said to have been used by Mr. Armstrong to lean on while kneeling in prayer when he lived in Oregon in the 1920s and ’30s.
A small group of PCG members embarked on an expedition to Oregon to find the rock. After consulting with descendants of friends of Mr. Armstrong, they found a rock that they said fit every detail that Mr. Armstrong had given in his autobiography about the rock.
When Gerald Flurry later saw the rock, he was convinced that it indeed had been Mr. Armstrong’s rock, and he ordered that it be displayed on the PCG’s college campus. The rock arrived on the Oklahoma campus Aug. 15, 2002.
Two years later the PCG spent more than $100,000 purchasing items auctioned off by the WCG in its liquidation of the assets of its Ambassador College Pasadena Campus. A nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano and two seven-foot-tall candlestick holders were among the items purchased. In a July 17, 2004, sermon explaining the church’s purchases, Gerald Flurry noted the items had been picked out and acquired by Herbert Armstrong himself.
I stand by my writings that PCG sometimes seems to eager to acquire what could be considered as relics. The Apostle John warned Christians against idolatry (1 John 5:21).
The Journal tends to be read by people who once had some type of connection to the old Worldwide Church of God. Four visitors who attended the Feast site in Florida came because our festival sites were listed in The Journal.
World News Events
In the USA, another debt raising spending bill was approved by its Congress (see U.S. Senate approves $1.1 trillion spending bill–the ‘debt is almost mathematically impossible’ to repay). It has been observed by various writers that the USA really cannot pay back its debts. The Bible teaches that this will end in disaster (Habakkuk 2:6-8).
Also in the USA, more names of potential presidential candidates got some press coverage (see Candidates Bush, Christie, and Rubio?). However, short of national repentance or the establishment of the Kingdom of God, no American politician will be able to fix the problems that the USA has.
While the USA increases its debt, some have noticed debt increases in Europe (see Obama signed $1.1 trillion spending bill; Will social unrest hit Europe in 2015?). More civil unrest will hit Europe and even secular sources are starting to see that. This unrest will likely be a factor in the rise of the final Beast of the Sea of Revelation 13.
Yesterday, Europe upset the Israelis on two fronts. First, a court ruled that Hamas should not be listed as a terrorist organization. And second, the European Parliament voted to increase recognition of a Palestinian State. Various people in Israel were outraged by some of this (see EU court rules Hamas is NOT a terrorist group, then EU pushes for Palestinian recognition; peace hopes for Middle East in 2015).
Also in Europe, specifically Germany, there have been protests against the Islamization of Europe (see German anti-Islamization marches highlight concerns). More protests are planned as many in Europe feel that Islam is negatively affecting their culture and that too many Muslim immigrants have been allowed to remain in European countries. For years I have warned that there would be protests against Islam in Europe–expect more protests in the future. Europe will essentially drive Islam out of the continent in the future.
There was a hostage crisis in Australia this week (see Australia’s hostage crisis: Iranian gunman wanted Islamic Flag) as well as other terrorist and militaristic deaths in Pakistan and Syria (see Taliban killed at least 141 in Pakistan; 180 killed in Syria fighting).
Eventually, a confederation will form in Middle East and North Africa to deal with these and other issues. It is likely that Western leaders will support this in their misguided attempts to stop Islamic-related terrorism. And although a temporal peace will come to the region (cf. Daniel 9:27), it will be broken and result in disaster (Daniel 11:31, 40-43).
The Pope Francis got credit this week for improving relations between the USA and Cuba (see NYT: Papal diplomacy leading to a thaw in Cuba-USA relations). The Bible tells of a church located in Rome that is highly involved with human governments, and this event shows all who will pay attention that the Vatican does still have political influence.
Suggested Sabbath Service
Here is our suggested format for Sabbath services 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 emailed-letter will be a recorded one: World Council of Churches Peace Plan. A related written article is: World Council of Churches launches global peace network with UN interest. Other sermonettes are also 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 emailed-letter will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: What do Catholic and other scholars teach about Christmas? A related written article would be: What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? 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 that we list each week.
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 Bible News Prophecy channel.
Income Tax Matters
Those who live in the United States are reminded that for contributions to be eligible for tax deduction for calendar year 2014, all donations mailed must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2014.
All contributions received via US mail for residents of the United States should be processed based upon the postmarked date on the envelopes.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)
Brethren, during this season where the world pushes sentiment associated with a repackaged pagan-holiday, do not be drawn into it. The truth is that Jesus was not born on December 25th, the early followers of Christ did not observe the day of His birth, but instead kept the biblical holy days. The biblical Holy Days are the part of the truth associated with the true worship of the true God.
Bob Thiel, Pastor and Overseer
Continuing Church of God