Dear Brethren and co-workers in Christ:
It has felt like a grueling week because of all the writing and question answering that I have been doing. While I normally write a lot (and answer a lot of questions), some of the items that I worked on for the next edition of the Bible News Prophecy magazine, as well a other matters, seemed overwhelming. Then while finalizing this letter, the electricity went out for a long while.
The amount of writing for the websites, emails, magazines, and other literature needs to be done, but the pressure to get it done, as well as the two weekly YouTube videos, sometimes seem to be a bit much.
However, whenever I start to consider that one or more aspects of the final phase of the work seem overwhelming, the following two portions of scripture come to mind:
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)
6 ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)
Truly, it is by God’s Spirit that the work will be finished. We have so far accomplished a lot and more will be done.
When certain problems and glitches arrive, the following passages seems applicable:
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)
We must move forward, in our personal lives as well as with the work. Just before our power went out, I agreed to a radio interview today. So, despite the electricity problem, I also ended up doing a syndicated radio interview related to the recommended sermonette topic for the week and spoke out against the acceptance of the homosexual agenda (and read portions of Romans 1:18-32).
Kiswahili and Tagalog
We received printed copies of our Bible News Prophecy in Kiswahili and Tagalog and mailed a few off. While most of the magazines in the language of Kiswahili were printed in Kenya, we also had some printed up in California. The response to having a Kiswahili edition has been positive.
We are trying to determine the most cost-effective way to get printed materials to Kenya and Tanzania. While it is cheaper to print many items in the USA, the cost of freight normally more than doubles the cost for the materials.
If we have the future April-June 2014 edition ready before I go to Africa, and perhaps I will go there in early April 2014, I probably will bring copies with me that time in order to try to save money. It is my intent to have a small educational conference in Nairobi, Kenya and possibly a much smaller one in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
We have a tremendous amount of financial needs to assist our brethren in Kenya and Tanzania. And most of what we need is not normal assistance to the poor (which is also helpful and needed), but enough funds so that our minister there, Evans Ochieng, can make more visits to congregations, so that congregations can have places to meet, and so that a myriad of other needs (like chairs and songbooks) can be met. Few there can watch our videos over the internet as they do not have computers nor regular internet access. Thus, having Evans Ochieng, for example, be able to visit the various scattered congregations is imperative, not just a nice to do thing.
Africa already takes a substantial portion of our budget and I again request that all pray about this.
Recall what Jesus taught:
37 “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
We also want to go through every door that Jesus opens for us (cf. Revelation 3:7-13).
Speaking of doors, when I mentioned the arrival of the Kiswahili edition of our magazine to Dixon Cartwright, editor of The Journal: News of the Churches of God, yesterday, he asked some questions and also asked for more information. So, I wrote up more information about it and the international nature of the work of the Continuing Church of God. He may include some information about us in the next edition of The Journal: News of the Churches of God.
Report from Our Minister in Kenya
I asked our minister in Kenya, Evans Ochieng Kisiengo, to provide some information about himself to share with you. He once was part of the Global, then Living, Church of God.
Today, he sent me the following:
I was born into the family of Prisila Oloo and Christopher Kisiengo. My parents were Catholics who were keeping Sunday. this is where I grow since it was the only denomination which was common in My area. Funny thing that I was not baptized in the Catholic religion.
I tried several times when my elder sister and my age mates were going for baptism, but I was always failing. The reason I can’t tell because it happened in such a way that is impossible to tell…
I met a pentecostal preacher when he was teaching about baptism and was explaining how baptism can only be done in the river or a lake not by a small water in the glass or any container. I was surprised because he was explaining how Jesus was baptized in the river not by sprinkling water or poring in the face. And he read the books of 1 John 2:6 (Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did) Psalms 119:105( your words are a flashlight to light the path a head of me, and keep me from stumbling. Verse 106 (I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again and again: I will obey these wonderful laws of yours).
I was shocked when I heard all these verses and turned my mind from being a catholic and changed to be a pentecostal where I was baptized in water…
Every time I was studying the bible, I found that the bible is guiding us to keep the sabbath not Sunday, since it is one of God’s ten commandments (Exodus 20:8-11;-Remember to observe the sabbath as a holy day.Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular works, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest before the lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves-whether men or women-or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days, the lord made the heaven, earth and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day and set it a side for rest). And it is a sign between God and Mankind.( Ezekiel 20:11;- There I gave them my laws so they could live by keeping them. If anyone keeps them, he shall live. And I gave them the sabbath- a day of rest every seventh day-as a symbol between them and me, to remind them that is is I, the Lord, who sanctifies them, that they are truly my people).
Even though I was studying God’s sabbath I was still keeping Sunday but under pressure, because when I was asking my pastors questions about sabbath, they were giving me negative answers and were ready to fight me because they were considering me as a person who is bringing division in the church.
Many people accepted my teachings about sabbath but before the pastor most of them turned away from me and siding with the pastor simply because of fear. So it was a big problem to me till one sabbath day
morning when I made a decision in my mind to trace a place where I can get those who are keeping God’s sabbath. On my way I met SDA members who were moving for sabbath services. When I talked with about which day they are keeping, they told me that they are keeping sabbath. That is how I became a SDA member…
I stayed in SDA till I became a preacher who can move every place to preach. One day when we went to open a new sabbath school, I was the guest speaker for that occasion. It was a wonderful preaching and many turned to be SDA members and it was a total success to the church. At late hours we were in bible study, but among us was a man who had been a co-worker to WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD. This man started to go against our teachings like:
1;- How we are keeping passover. In SDA we were partaking passover 4 times a year. And the bible says ones year. (Leviticus 23:5)
2;- How we were preaching about going to heaven after resurrection for 1000 years. The bible says no going in heaven for 1000 years but instead Christ is coming back to rule on earth for 1000 years…
He had two booklets in his hand. And since I was wondering if he was biblical, I received those booklets from him to study them. They were titled “God’s Holy Days or Pagans Holidays?” another one was “The Gospel of the Kingdom” by Armstrong.”
This is how I was called in God’s church where there is a whole truth and is a pillar of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14.
I was baptized in WCG where I stayed till Tkach brought apostasy in God’s church. This was the time I decided to walk out from WCG. We stayed for some period before we joined any group.
It later happened when I was reading the book of Ten Commandments by Dr. Roderick Meredith. I decided myself to place where Meredith was. Because I knew that according to the book he wrote, he could not follow false doctrine of Tkach. This is why I joined Global Church of God. We kept the feast of Tabernacles with them that year. Again after the feast we got a massage again that Global is divided, when Larry Salyer and his team went one way and Meredith and his team also one way. It was a sad story actually. I decided to join Living church of God with Meredith. In LCG I hosted five different groups. Because of character issues with a minister there that LCG would not resolve, I refused an ordination from him and decided to affiliate with another group. Later I had hands laid upon me and was ordained.
I have been serving as a Church of God minister in Kenya for more than 10 years.
In 2013, I contacted Pastor Dr. Bob Thiel of the Continuing Church of God (CCOG). I knew of him back when I was part of the Global and Living Church of God. I was interested because of the zeal to do the work that CCOG had. I contacted him as wanted to learn more about the work that the Continuing Church of God has been doing.
After reviewing many CCOG articles, looking over CCOG literature, sending many emails, meeting with others here, and having conversations with Dr. Thiel, I asked to represent the Continuing Church of God as a minister here.
At present I am overseeing 20 congregations in Kenya and one in Tanzania and now do so as a minister for the Continuing Church of God. There are also others in Tanzania that I hope to meet with who are affiliated with the Continuing Church of God.
Evans Ochieng sent more information than this about himself, and I hope to have that included in the next edition of our Bible News Prophecy magazine.
Year-End Accounting Matters
We closed the accounting books on 2013 about two weeks ago.
After sending out the last Letter to the Brethren, we then sent out annual receipts to those who have contributed financially to the Continuing Church of God. Since they were all sent nearly a week ago, those in the USA should be receiving them this week and those in other lands most likely later.
Your contributions have helped us reach millions over the radio and on internet, supported our production of magazines in at least five languages, assisted with Holy Days and the Feast of Tabernacles, supported the production of weekly BibleNewsProphecy channel sermonette videos, supported the production of weekly ContinuingCOG channel sermon videos, aided the poor, and assisted our brethren around the world, especially in Africa.
World News Events
US President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union address this week. He and I have different views about what has been happening and what will happen in the USA (see Obama and the real ‘State of the Union’). This led to an idea for the suggested sermonette for this week Barack Obama and the State of the Apocalypse.
While I am neither a supporter of the Democratic or Republican parties (the two major political parties in the USA), since the Bible says to “”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), I decided that certain comments Barack Obama made needed to be addressed.
One of the more prophetically naive related statements Barack Obama said in his State of the Union Speech was:
Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known.
This is prophetically naive as the Bible shows that it will be a European power that takes over the land with the strongest fortresses (Daniel 11:39; watch also Can You Prove that the Beast to Come is European?). In the 21st century, the land with the strongest military is the USA, and to a lessor extent, its Anglo-Saxon allies. Because American political leaders in both major parties do not sufficiently understand Bible prophecy nor the identity of the peoples of the USA and its Anglo-Saxon allies (see Anglo – America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel), American leaders are unwittingly placing more and more trust in Europe. While most in Europe do not now intend to destroy the USA (Isaiah 10:7), ultimately a force led by a European leader will (Isaiah 10:5-11; Daniel 11:39).
Furthermore, while he may believe it, I do not believe that Barack Obama’s statement about Europe is true from a European perspective. The continental Europeans have been outraged by revelations that the USA and UK have been spying on them. They are outraged that a leaked US government document says that the “close friends” of the USA are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. They are outraged to learn that the USA spies on Germany about as much as it does on Russia. They are outraged that the USA has attempted to gain economic advantage over Europe through this espionage (see also The Snowden Leaks are Leading to the Destruction of the USA and/or watch Are the Snowden NSA leaks leading to the destruction of the USA?). They will not forgive and forget.
Because of the European outrage, in appeasing moves Barack Obama has promised to reduce espionage on Germany and parts of Europe, He has also promised to share practically all USA espionage data and collection techniques with the Europeans. This is dangerous and will be a contributing factor not only to the destruction of the USA, but also the rise of the European Beast power (cf. Revelation 13:16-18). Appeasement, may have delayed, but did it not prevent WWII. Appeasement for giving future enemies detailed communication and espionage information and protection will be a factor for the loss of the USA and its Anglo-Saxon descended allies in what could be called WWIII.
Over in Germany, there are some conferences going on. Some believe that in one of them, the disgraced former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is daring to make a comeback (see In Munich ‘Guttenberg dares comeback’ and German leaders push for stronger military role). Other German leaders are calling for Germany to take more direct military action in the future, which is consistent with some of the writings of Herr Guttenberg. Baron Guttenberg had a major dis-railing of his political career when he was accused of plagiarizing major portions of his doctoral dissertation. This caused him to resign his position and exile himself to the USA (where he undoubtedly is learning more about how the USA operates). While his ‘mortal” political wounds probably have not yet healed, they may well do so (cf. Revelation 13:3). Karl Guttenberg is one I have considered could be a candidate to be the final King of the North that the Bible warns of (see also Might German Baron Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg become the King of the North?). He remains one to watch (see Matthew 24:42-44; 25:13; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 21:34-36; Acts 20:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 20).
Around the world, more and more are giving Pope Francis praise and publicity. This week it was announced that Pope Francis will be on the cover of the magazine Rolling Stone (he will be the first pontiff ever so featured in it). Also, in Argentina, a painting of Pope Francis as “Superpope” has captured the attention of some (see Pope Francis portrayed as “Superpope”). Whether or not Pope Francis will be the last pope, the final Antichrist, is still not clear (his age would seem to be a factor against it, but does not completely rule him out), he has taken steps that the final Antichrist would be expected to take. At minimum, Pope Francis has taken steps which will make it easier for the final Antichrist to rise up.
In ‘entertainment news,’ my former church association has put out two recent commentaries condemning the watching of fictional violence (see posts 1/30/14 a.m. and 1/23/14 a.m. at the News of Those Once Affiliated with GCG page).
While there can be issues with fictional violence, the same group seems to remain unwilling to discourage its membership from encouraging real actual violence by refusing to condemn being fans of the sport of American tackle football.
On Sunday, the major American football (this has nothing to do with the sport in the USA called soccer) game, called the Superbowl, is scheduled to be played. Several of the top leaders in my former church are fans of American tackle football, and most likely will have their own role in encouraging this violence of that sport by planning on watching that game on February 2, 2014.
That group seems interested in condemning make-believe violence in its commentaries. Below is a commentary that I submitted to them, years ago, while I was a member of that group, that they would not publish:
Football: A Season for Christians?
The National Football League recently made a deal with its players so that NFL football would be able to be played this year. Probably not coincidentally, there have also been a variety of news reports about permanent injury from playing that sport lately.
Should Christians support violent, harmful, sports like American football?
Regarding violent sports, the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught:
To harm the other fellow and to gain by doing so for self is a kind of competition that is wrong. Hostility toward the other is sin…
Boxing at Ambassador College is definitely banned. God did not create the human brain and head to be pummeled and knocked senseless by an antagonist.
Wherever a game in sports involves antagonists–in hostile attitude to harm the other and/or to “get” from the other–to get the best of the other then a harmful, satanic and evil attitude enters in, and the sport is evil, not good…
Football (American football) is a violent body-contact sport. It is often played with an attitude of hostility and is dangerous and is fraught with physical injury…Soccer does not embody the same evils. (Plain Truth, July-August 1984)
Jesus reminded people that the Bible taught, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NKJV, unless otherwise indicated), while the Apostle Paul added that “no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesians 5:29).
After seeing the injuries that some of my high school football-playing colleagues suffered, I could not reconcile the scriptures with encouraging American football. There are better ways for Christians to learn principles like teamwork from other sports or activities than watching actual violence.
John the Baptist taught, “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14, KJV), so what about violent sports? The New Testament also warns Christians against being violent or approving of those that are (Romans 1:28-32). Interestingly, as far back as the second century A.D., history records that early Christians would not watch violent sports (e.g. Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus).
Years ago, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith wrote that avoiding bodily harm was an important health law (Seven Laws of Radiant Health, 1955).
Since it is best to avoid bodily injury, should Christians encourage others to put themselves intentionally in harm’s way?
That would not seem to show love toward your neighbor.
Other competitive sports are not necessarily in the same category as American tackle football or boxing. In golf, one plays against one’s own self and score and, although winning is a competition, winning involves doing better than, but not in any way harming, an opponent.
The Apostle Paul seemed to endorse individual sports like track and field (1 Corinthians 9:24-25), which (when properly played) do not involve harming an opponent.
Baseball, softball, volleyball, touch football, and many other team sports do not have to involve hostility nor harm to opponents. Herbert Armstrong felt that when they were played with God’s attitude towards others that these were examples of acceptable sports for Christians to watch or participate in. And yes, some people do sin watching and/or playing various team sports. But many team sports, such as soccer (which most of the world calls football) or volleyball, do not have to be played in a hostile manner that is evil.
While “love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:9), what do sports like American football or boxing do? This is something that Christians should think about
Those interested in learning more about why Christians should not be entertained by violent sports should the article Is American Football Evil?; there is also a YouTube video Should Christians watch American football?
A sermon of related interest may be Christians, Violence, and Military Service.
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 also is some Choral Accompaniment online).
- Opening prayer.
- Sermonette which for most will be a recorded one titled: Barack Obama and the State of the Apocalypse. There are related written articles such as Obama and the real ‘State of the Union’ and Prophecies of Barack Obama? 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 will be a recorded one titled: Apostle John: The Disciple that Jesus Loved There is a related written article titled The Apostle John, sometimes called John the Evangelist. 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. So, this is an option we have made available (but we are also looking into ways to improve that as well).
Brethren, love is what the Bible truly is about. But who are we to love? Notice the words of Jesus:
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:44-48)
Brethren, “let Philadelphia love continue” (Hebrews 13:1 semi-literal translation). Both towards our converted brethren and those that God will call later (everyone else).
Bob Thiel, Pastor and Overseer
Continuing Church of God