Greetings from Charlotte,
These are truly interesting times. The very disunited United States is scheduled to inaugurate a new president on Friday and at least 68 House of Representatives members say they will refuse to show up for the occasion. This show of disrespect is unprecedented. At the same time, Germany is fearful of any kind of accommodation between the United States and Russia. Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference, has stated that he “would like to see” that “no responsible German politician” will repeat the sentence, “there can be no military solutions.” Dr. Meredith has stated on quite a number of occasions, in various ways, that he believes this is going to be a watershed year and it certainly is shaping up that way. Meanwhile, Mr. Ames and I both recorded Tomorrow’s World telecasts this past week and we reviewed a program that was recorded with the studio upgrades. I think all of you are going to appreciate the changes, which cost very little money. We changed the orange bubbles out and lightened the earth shot. This really brightened up the picture. There will be a ministerial change this year with Mr. Rodger Bardo and Mr. Stephen Elliott switching responsibilities. After 13 years in Arizona, Mr. Bardo will be moving to take over the Southern California congregations and Mr. Elliott will be moving to take over the Arizona congregations.—GEW
Using the Internet More Effectively
The Internet is an exciting tool the Church uses to preach the Gospel to the whole world. At the same time, it presents unique challenges. We have always presented the Truth free of charge and will continue to do so; however, when we post everything we have on our Web sites, with no means of knowing who is reading our material, this creates some difficulties.
For example, we were on television for over four years in Hong Kong until the station ceased operations. During that time, we had thousands of people responding to the telecast by going to our H.K. Web site. And without a cost-effective telephone service, we were not able to capture names, addresses, etc., except for a few hundred that signed up for a monthly e-mail newsletter. We embarked on that initiative as an act of faith, because we are commissioned to go to the whole world. We knew that we would not be able to do things in Hong Kong or China like we do in the “Western” world, but the result is that we have no idea who these people were and no way of contacting them. If we had their e-mail addresses, we could have informed them of a new offer, a new station, or a Tomorrow’s World Presentation. The same is true in India, where our primary source for people responding to our telecast is by means of our Web site.
We have encouraged people everywhere to sign up for our digital magazine, but when the whole magazine is already on our Web site, and therefore available without subscribing, there is little incentive to do so. What we plan to do going forward is to offer a portion of the magazine on our Web sites, but if one wants to read the whole magazine right away, one must subscribe (thus giving us an e-mail address). Otherwise, he or she must call or write for a hard copy subscription. We will still make the whole magazine available after the next issue comes out so it will still be available, but with a delay for some articles for as much as two months.
In addition, we hope to offer enhancements, additional material that will only be available with a digital subscription. The intent in all this is not to take away, but to give more to the subscribers and to make it possible for us to better serve these individuals going forward.
The reason for this announcement is to inform all of our members the reasons for these changes. This is not unusual in today’s Internet world. We will remain different from others in that we still provide everything free of charge.—Gerald Weston
We received this sobering note from Mr. Rob Tyler, Regional Director of Australasia, about the health of one of our elders in Australia, Mr. Mal Jennings: “About three years ago Mr. Jennings was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has been keeping it at bay through natural therapies. However, recently it seems the cancer has become more aggressive, his PSA readings are high, and he has been experiencing more pain in his legs and back. As a result, he is also quite fatigued from a lack of sleep. Mr. Jennings is the Pastor of our congregation in Perth, Western Australia. Mr. and Mrs. Jennings are, of course, faithfully hoping and praying for God’s intervention and healing, and would very much appreciate your prayers and the prayers of the brethren, as they face this serious health trial.”
Death of Mr. Joe Picker
This week we received the sad news that Mr. Joe Picker, elder in the Richland, Washington congregation, died last Friday, January 13, after a battle with cancer of the esophagus. Here are excerpts of a note sent out by Washington pastor, Mr. Brandon Fall:
I wanted to let you all know that Mr. Joe Picker has finished his course and died peacefully at the Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. He was surrounded by the Picker family, who had remained supportive until the end. He had a full and enthusiastic life of 72 years. He will be always remembered for his contagious smile, his generous heart, and his unwavering love of God and His Truth. Even in his last days in the hospital, he was a light to the whole floor in the critical care unit. He was the favorite patient of all the nurses, and despite his ups and downs, always seemed to be quick with a smile and kept a positive perspective. Even the surgeon was unusually touched by Mr. Picker and told the family, with tears in his eyes, that he had the utmost respect for their dad. He impacted all of our lives in a positive way and his legacy lives on through his family and his Church brethren whom he loved and served. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Mr. Picker’s life is sealed and he is ready for the resurrection. We will all certainly miss Mr. Picker, but know this is only our temporary training ground for the real life to come.
Mr. Fall reports that Mrs. Picker and her family are doing well under the circumstances, and have been strong through the entire experience. Cards of encouragement and support can be sent to the Headquarters office, and we will forward them on to Mrs. Picker. Here is the address:
Mrs. Linda Picker
c/o Living Church of God
2301 Crown Centre Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28227
Live Streaming and Passwords (Must Read)
We are happy to see that more and more pastors are using technology to stay connected to their congregations. The Internet can be a powerful way to do that, especially as many brethren are geographically spread out and the pastor can’t be in the same congregation every week. With that in mind, we ask you, brethren, please do not share passwords outside of your area.Your pastor’s sermons are prepared and designed with your local congregation in mind—not for brethren across the country or around the world.
From experience, we have seen that some brethren stay at home instead of going to services if they can watch a streamed service from another congregation. Church services are a commanded assembly, where we are not only attending to learn, but also to “stir up love and good works… exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). God’s word warns us that as the end draws near, we should not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (verse 25). With that in mind, please make every effort to attend when you can (of course, stay home if you are sick!). And when you do view or listen to your pastor’s messages from home, please do not share the password outside your pastor’s area.
Passover 2017—Repeat Announcement
Important Notice to All Pastors: In 2017, the Passover Service will be observed on Sunday evening, April 9. Please let us know as soon as possible if any of the congregations you serve will need additional Passover Service supplies (bread trays and/or wine trays or glasses) or a copy of the Passover Service recording and letter instructions (available in English, French and Spanish). The Passover Service recording for 2017 has been made by Mr. Peter Nathan. To ensure timely delivery and to save on shipping costs, we need this information before February 13 for international congregations, and by March 13 for U.S. congregations.
Also, please let us know of any scattered members who are unable to keep the Passover with a congregation and who need to receive the Passover Service recording and letter instructions for observing it at home. International requests should be received before February 13 and U.S. requests before March 13. Please direct your requests to the Church Administration Department at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Help Us Maintain Accurate Files—Repeat Announcement
We would like to remind brethren to notify us when they move or change their contact information (phone numbers, e-mail address, etc.). You can update your mailing address and contact information directly through your MyLCG account on www.cogl.org. Having accurate files allows us to send you literature and other communications in a timely manner and reduces costs associated with returned mail.
Midwest Family Race and Retreat Weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas—February 17-20—Repeat Announcement
Please join us on President’s Day weekend, February 17-20, for the LCG Midwest Family Race and Retreat Weekend. It will again be held at the Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center in Fayetteville. The weekend will begin on Friday evening with check-in, pizza and fellowship in the dining hall. On the Sabbath, we will provide a continental breakfast, there will be a Bible Study, a spaghetti lunch, and Mr. Ames will give the sermon at the afternoon service. After the Sabbath, the Great LCG Food Truck booths will provide dinner. Get your team of four together to participate in the 2017 Amazing Race. That will begin on Saturday evening and finish up on Sunday afternoon. Childcare will be provided for those wishing to participate in the race. Rooms at Mount Sequoyah are $89 for two double beds and single beds are available at $40 per night. (These prices include breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the Sabbath as well as breakfast and lunch on Sunday.) Rooms are assigned first come, first served, so get your reservation in soon! Please register on our Web site www.lcgfayetteville.org (not an official LCG Web site) or sign up on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/
lcgfayetteville/) (not an official LCG Facebook page). If you have any questions, you can e-mail email@example.com. More information on activities and race teams is available on the Web site and on the Facebook page. For local congregations: if you plan to attend for Sabbath services only, please register for the Sabbath so we can be sure to plan for food and seating.—Gene Hilgenberg
Amazon Smile—A Free, Easy Way To Help the Church Financially
If you ever make purchases using Amazon, please consider using Amazon Smile. Just shop at smile.amazon.com, and 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible purchases will be donated to the Church. Just sign in at smile.amazon.com and select the Living Church of God as your charity. You can then purchase the same products at the same prices, but Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase to LCG. This is a free, easy way for you to make a donation to the Church, and if we all do this, this can result in thousands of dollars a year in extra contributions that we can put to work preaching the Gospel around the world. Thank you for your prayers and your support of God’s Work!—Wyatt Ciesielka
Improved Online Donations Interface
Many people now make purchases, pay bills and do their banking online, so a few months ago we deployed a new, secure online donations system to make it more user-friendly to pay tithes or make offerings online. The feedback is that people really like this new system. Online donations reduce paperwork for you, and they also reduce paperwork and administrative time for headquarters. Then, in December, we added functionality to the donations system to support “recurring” donations. Many of us in the office, and increasing numbers around the world, have been using the “recurring donations” feature for the past few weeks, and it works great. It is easy to set up. Just click the “donate” link at the bottom of the Web sites.
Feast of Tabernacles
Feast Planning for This Year
Why talk about Feast planning… in January? Truly, it’s an every-month-of-the-year project. The Festival Office works year-round to prepare for the Feast. In addition, possible sites for 2018 are being discussed even now. Some may wonder, “Why so early?” The reason is that meeting venues commonly book their space out several years in advance. Unless the Festival Office signs contracts for venues ahead of time—meaning sometimes one or two years in advance—we are left to scramble at the last minute trying to find a venue.
We also understand that in this day and age, obtaining affordable plane tickets and booking reasonable housing can be a challenge for the brethren, if it has to be done at the last minute. Accordingly, the Festival Office and the Internet Department are working together to prepare the Festival Web sites for this coming Feast. Within the next month, we hope to be assigning pastors and elders to 2017 Feast sites, as well as surveying pastors about their recommendations for Festival advisors and other service needs related to the Feast. We hope to have more information about Festival Registration as these plans come together.—Festival Office
Living Youth Program
Friday Evening Online Teen Bible Study
The online Teen Bible Study on Friday evening, January 27 will be on “The Feast of Tabernacles—When the Whole World Will Be Called.” This is Lesson 30 of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. If you haven’t had the opportunity to join us for one of the online Bible Studies, we encourage you to do so. It is a wonderful way to start the Sabbath day.
The Bible Study runs from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. (Eastern time) and the chat room will be open for a half hour before and after the study. You can find instructions for joining the Bible Study and also access it at livingyouth.org. We hope as many of our youth as possible will join us for this wonderful opportunity for godly fellowship and learning. For those of you who are unable to make it to the study, archives of previous Living Youth Bible Studies can be found on the Living Youth Web site.—Sheldon Monson
Call for On-Campus Students in Charlotte: For those seeking a unique and exciting learning opportunity, LU is now accepting applications for full-time students to study on campus in Charlotte, North Carolina beginning in the fall of 2017. On-campus students experience special opportunities beyond online study. Students meet for weekly discussion classes with many of their professors, including Dr. Germano, Mr. Ames, Drs. Douglas and Scott Winnail, Mr. Ken Frank, Mr. Peter Nathan, Mr. Wyatt Ciesielka, and Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden. Weekly Assemblies are delivered by many of the Church leaders based in Charlotte and around the world. Monthly student outings and other social activities are planned and students also participate in congregational opportunities unique to the Charlotte congregation and Headquarters (including Spokesman Club, Singles’ Bible Studies, Outreach activities, service during Council of Elders and Ministerial conferences, and much more). Student housing is available for both male and female students. Most of our on-campus students also participate in our work-study program—working part-time in different departments throughout the Work and Living University. Student work-study helps defray most living costs. Application to the on-campus program can be made online through the University Web site (www.livinguniv.com). Additional details and requirements can also be found online, as can an estimate of costs associated with on-campus study.
If you are interested in on-campus LU study and have questions, please contact us. At this time we can only accept on-campus students who are legal residents of the U.S. Our hope is to expand this opportunity to international students in future years, as God allows. Interested students should plan to complete their applications by February 2017. Those with no previous college should submit college entrance test scores (ACT or SAT) along with other application materials and should plan to take that examination as soon as possible. You can find out more about these exams through a local high school guidance counselor or local community college or university testing service. Home-schooled students are also encouraged to apply. If you have questions about on-campus study or to find out more, please contact Dr. Scott Winnail at 704-708-2292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pray for the President: Friday, January 20, 2017 marks the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. As a new American President takes the helm, we are reminded, as God’s people, to pray for our leaders. Notice what Paul wrote: “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Pray for the President. Pray for other world leaders. Pray that our governments will uphold our freedom to worship God in peace, without harassment. And pray for the Work. For Paul also said: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Why should we pray for our leaders? Not only for our personal comfort and safety, but also, perhaps more significantly, so that our leaders, through their authority, would keep open the doors needed to take the Truth to the world. Our job is to witness to the world—and to work with those who respond and repent. And God wants all mankind, ultimately, to repent! Let’s pray for our leaders, for God’s will to be done, so we have open doors to take the Gospel to the world, while there is still time.
Have a wonderful Sabbath,
News and Prophecy—January 19, 2017
Who Will Decide the Fate of Israel and the Palestinians?Seventy nations just completed a day-long summit in France with the aim of “kick-starting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians” and maintaining the two state solution (BBC, January 15, 2017). The irony of the meeting is that Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the meeting! Also sobering was the fact that Britain refused to sign the joint statement at the end of the summit. “The summit ended with delegates warning that neither side should take unilateral steps that could jeopardise future negotiations” (ibid.). The Bible refers to Jerusalem as a “cup of drunkenness” to the surrounding nations (Zechariah 12:2). It has historically been difficult for many other nations to control or invade Jerusalem. International actions discussing the future of Jerusalem without involving the resident peoples may foreshadow future events. Christ warned that, in the time of the end, Jerusalem will be “surrounded by armies” and “trampled by Gentiles” (non-Israelites) for a season (Luke 21:20-24). It appears that nations or a nation from outside will forcibly take control of Jerusalem and usher in the “abomination of desolation” that Christ foretold (Matthew 24:15). World events are speeding up, and we are beginning to see more clearly how God may fulfill some of His end-time prophecies. One of the most exciting prophecies regarding Jerusalem is that Christ will one day make it His world headquarters! For more, view our telecast “Jerusalem: City of Peace.”
Rich and Poor Gap Widening: The gap between the rich and the poor is growing larger. Eight billionaire businessmen “have more combined wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion people in the world put together” (Euronews, January 16, 2016). “The Oxfam report added that since 2015 the richest 1 percent has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. It said that over the next 20 years, 500 people will pass on over $2.1tn to their heirs—a sum larger than the annual GDP of India, a country with 1.3 billion people” (The Guardian, January 15, 2017). Human solutions aim to “take from the rich and give to the poor”—but income redistribution will not solve the problem. The biblical approach focuses on changing mankind’s character. Scripture reveals that some poverty is due to carelessness and irresponsibility (Proverbs 6:6-11; 21:13; 24:30-34). It also indicates that poverty can result from injustice and oppression of the poor by rich people who harden their heart and ignore those in need. This attitude will ultimately bring God’s wrath and punishment (Isaiah 5:5-7; Amos 4:1-3; 5:11-13). God destroyed ancient Judah, calling it Sodom, and condemning it for relishing in their luxury and sins of “pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door” (Ezekiel 16:49, NLT). Christ came to preach the Gospel to the poor in order to give them hope of a better future (Luke 4:19)—including a future liberation from their poverty! To learn more, read our encouraging article “Lifting the Burden of Poverty.”
Give to Others and Live Longer! Researchers followed participants for 20 years and discovered “there is a link not only between helping [others] and beneficial health effects, but also between helping and mortality” (Time, December 27, 2016). The study, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, “found that people who occasionally watched and cared for others lived longer than people who didn’t.” The research focused on people older than 70 and “found that grandparents who watched their grandchildren, and older adults who helped their adult children, were more likely to be alive 10 years after their first interview at the start of the study. Among the people who did not provide this type of care, half of the group died five years after the start of the study. Even outside the family, providing care had a longevity benefit. Among older adults who provided care for someone in their social network, about half lived for seven years after the initial interview. The people who didn’t only lived an average of four years later.” God expects us to have concern for those in need. Christ directed His followers to care for the needy: “… inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). God also commanded “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:3). God promised blessings—such as long life—for those who obey Him (Psalm 91:16). It is exciting to see research support the benefits that God says are inherent in living His way of life. It truly is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)! For more about the blessings of giving, read “The Give Way.”—Scott Winnail, Francine Prater, Justin Ridgeway, and Chris Sookdeo