Greetings from Charlotte, The pace with which the COVID-19 crisis is evolving keeps all of us on our toes as decisions and changes need to be made constantly. Transitioning to Sabbath services by means of electronic transmission is not entirely new to the Church, but the scope of the task creates challenges for us. Many members lack basic knowledge of how to connect to a livestream and ministers may lack the knowledge of how to help those less technologically astute. This is where we will need patience, as members may experience difficulties in some areas. However, there is no need to panic, as we will all get through this.
One challenge that we face is avoiding rumors. We have already heard a number of speculations and pronouncements floating about. They often begin with a grain of truth, perhaps something that was considered and/or discussed, but get passed along as though a decision has been made. This is how truths turn into “half-truths” and total errors. These do not benefit anyone, so please be patient. We will record a message updating everyone on developments in the Church during this COVID-19 crisis, and post it on the LCG website at the end of each week. These messages will be approximately 15 minutes in length. And, we may post additional messages as needed.
Due to the serious nature of the current crisis, I am calling for a Church-wide fast for the Sabbath of March 28. We will livestream the service from Charlotte and it will be recorded for those unable to log in live. Time of services will be 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Savings Time).—Gerald Weston
COVID-19 Crisis and Local Congregation Arrangements—Must Read
Mr. Weston held meetings this week with HQ and visiting ministry, as well as many ministers online, to discuss how to handle Sabbath and Holy Day services over the next few weeks, plus many other issues related to the present situation. In short, all LCG Sabbath and Holy Day services will be conducted online, not in person, during the current crisis. We don’t know how long this will last, but it appears it will be with us for a number of weeks. Pastors will be working out details on how to conduct these remote services and how brethren can access them in their own homes. If you have any questions about arrangements being made in your local area, please contact your pastor.
Pastors will also be working on arrangements so that brethren can keep the Passover in their own home, with baptized household members. Two options are available: (1) Pastors who are set up with livestreaming and/or phone hookups may conduct the Passover online with brethren in their area; and, (2) Pastors who are not yet set up with livestreaming or phone hookup may opt to have brethren in their area use the recorded Passover DVD, conducted by Mr. Ken Frank. Instructions are being distributed on how to self-administer the Passover. There will also be a link on MyLCG for the recorded Passover service, as well as instructions.
Mr. Weston also explained in his meeting with the ministry that the Night to Be Observed should also be kept in our own homes, with members of our own household. The goal is, again, to limit physical contact with others outside our household, as government and health officials have strongly advised. Brethren are encouraged to, during the evening, call other brethren on the phone or through the Internet, with programs such as Skype, to fellowship electronically, but not to meet in person.
Some areas will have a livestreamed NTBO message from a minister at the beginning of the evening, but due to differences in time, some will have to rely on the Night to Be Observed recorded message provided by Headquarters or your regional office. This message should be played at the beginning of the evening. A link to the NTBO recording (YouTube) will be sent to all ministers as well as posted on MyLCG for all brethren to access.
Finally, Mr. Weston encouraged the ministry in meetings this week to encourage brethren to take care of one another during this crisis. Phoning each other, assisting with ordering groceries (for delivery—many stores offer this) for those who cannot get out, checking on elderly members, and other acts of kindness are ways to show love in a time when some can suffer from great anxiety and loneliness. Now is the time to show we care, when others need it most.
Preparing for the Passover in Your Own Home
As explained elsewhere in this issue of The World Ahead, all LCG brethren should prepare to keep the Passover in their own home this year, as a result of the current COVID-19 situation. While this may be an unusual and unique experience for most of us, it is not for shut-ins, some of whom have been self-administering the Passover for years.
Your Pastor will have more instructions about the details of how the Passover will be conducted in your area. However, all brethren should begin now to make preparations for self-administering the Passover:
(1) Wine: Members should obtain a small amount of red wine (grape juice is not acceptable). This should be done soon, in case grocery or liquor stores in your area unexpectedly close. Be sure you obtain natural, unfortified wine. Alcoholic content will be between 10–13 percent, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, or any other natural wine. Wines containing 19–20 percent alcohol are fortified and should not be used (the label will tell you the percentage of alcohol).
(2) Unleavened Bread: Members can purchase or prepare a small amount of unleavened bread. If you intend to purchase Matzos or Ry-Krisp (which is unleavened), you are encouraged to purchase it soon, in case your neighborhood grocery stores close unexpectedly or are out of stock. You may also make your own unleavened bread.
(3) Written Instructions: We will post detailed written instructions on keeping the Passover in your own home on the MyLCG website (www.cogl.org). We will also send them to all ministers for distribution as needed. (Note: All U.S. households are also being mailed a copy of the Passover instructions with an accompanying DVD.)
If you have any additional questions on how to conduct the Passover in your home, please contact your pastor.
No BRiC Weekend in Charlotte This Year—Repeat Announcement
Charlotte will not host a BRiC weekend for singles this year on the Memorial Day weekend. This was decided to be the safest course to take, given the uncertainty of how the coronavirus pandemic may play out.
The Living Education courses continue to be available for study as we face this health crisis around the world. With all the anxiety created by the latest news, studying the word of God is an antidote to becoming discouraged and fearful. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to add the Living Education courses to your diet of healthy study, take a moment and browse through the available coursework. Just go to lcgeducation.org and click on the Online Classes button.—Jonathan McNair
Feast of Tabernacles
Care Regarding International Travel for the Feast—Repeat Announcement
COVID-19, the coronavirus, has now been declared a global pandemic. One of its greatest dangers is that it is highly contagious, and the general population has no immunity to it. It is a killer to a small percentage of those who contract it, and about a fifth of those who contract it become seriously ill. The rest may have mild, flu-like symptoms, but still spread the illness as they continue to go about their normal activities instead of seeking medical assistance or quarantining themselves. Therefore, this is something to take seriously and, as we know, it is causing disruptions all over the world. We cannot predict what conditions will be like seven or eight months from now for the Feast of Tabernacles. We will keep the Feast, but we may need to cancel or limit travel to some sites. Governments, at any time, may ban group gatherings where they deem necessary. Therefore, please do not make reservations or final travel plans until we see how this is going to shake out. You may even want to consider attending your locally assigned site this year rather than traveling halfway around the world by air. As the scripture counsels us, we should take precautions when we see trouble on the horizon (Proverbs 22:3).
Living Youth Program
Living Youth Friday Evening Bible Studies Suspended for Summer
The online Friday evening Teen Bible Studies are now suspended for the summer and Feast break. They are scheduled to resume on Friday, November 6. Archives of previous Living Youth Bible Studies can be found on the Living Youth Programs Live archive page at https://live.livingyouth.org/archive/.—Josh Penman
For those who are able, it would be appreciated if you would use the online donation system to make contributions and offerings—including the upcoming Holy Day offerings—during this time of crisis. This would allow funds to go directly into our accounts instead of relying on postal and other mailing systems which might be overloaded as more people are asked to stay home. It would also alleviate the burden of our office staff at this time. Just go to lcg.org and click the “Donate” button at the bottom of the page, or click or paste https://www.lcg.org/donations into your browser. There is also an “Online Donations” button in the member section of MyLCG.
For those who are not able to donate online, please avoid sending cash through the mail, as it may be stolen. For mail-in donations (tithes and offerings) please use checks instead of cash.
A Time of Reckoning: Today, many assume—or live—as if there is no God and have little knowledge of what is in the Bible. Our modern generation blames climate change, viruses, and corrupt politicians for our problems and looks to science and medicine for solutions. Few see any connection between the fires and floods, droughts, famines, and insect infestations, and now epidemic and pandemic diseases that are striking our world and the biblical laws and prophecies contained in the Scriptures. However, the Bible reveals there is a God (Psalm 14:1) who is going to judge the world (1 Chronicles 16:33) and that Jesus Christ is going to return and eventually save the world (John 4:42). While science and medical technologies can help identify and treat physical problems, the real need today is to make a connection between godless behaviors that are causing our problems and repent (change). The Bible plainly reveals that when people obey God’s laws there will be blessings, but when we violate those laws there will be consequences (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). Today, around the world, we violate God’s instructions about marriage (Genesis 2:24), homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22), cross-dressing (Deuteronomy 22:5), diet and health (Leviticus 11), abortion (Jeremiah 2:34), and many more. Millions are unaware of the biblical promise that we will be blessed for obedience to God’s laws (Exodus 15:26). Today, many are also totally unaware that there is a judgment coming—a time of reckoning—on a world that has forgotten, or never knew, the true God (see Jeremiah 2:17; Hosea 4:9–10; Isaiah 24:5). As we approach the Passover and as we see climactic events that point to the end of the age, we need to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:26–32) and draw close to God (Isaiah 55:6–7) so we can point out why these events are happening and offer real hope—the Gospel—to a confused and dying world.
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
News and Prophecy—March 19, 2020
COVID-19 and Prophecy: News of the coronavirus is everywhere. Governments are closing borders, air travel is being restricted, schools are being closed, workers are being sent home, and people are being confined to their homes. While many are fearful and others might be wondering if this is the end of the world, what does the Bible say—and not say?
The Bible has long prophesied pestilence and disease will impact the whole world at the end of the age (Revelation 6:7–8). Scripture also warns that plagues will hit Israelite-descended nations due to their rejection of God and His laws (Leviticus 26:16; Ezekiel 6:11). For those unaware of Bible prophecy, events like the COVID-19 pandemic may come as a shock. But, for watchful students of Bible prophecy, this pandemic should not be a surprise.
Jesus Christ warned that at the end of the age “wars and commotions” (confusion, instability, a state of disorder) will be major noticeable events (Luke 21:9)—but He added that we should “not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” We must be cautious at this time, but not fearful, because plagues like COVID-19 must occur. Christ prophesied “pestilences” will come upon us. Experts note that society is unprepared for COVID-19 and that we must also prepare for future epidemics like this—some even more dangerous (EuroNews, March 14, 2020). As we’ve noted, the Bible assures us this is so. While there are many end-time events yet to occur, the fulfillment of these prophecies are signs that Jesus Christ’s return is drawing closer (Luke 21:28). To learn more about the “signs” that will lead up to the return of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, be sure to read or listen to Fourteen Signs Announcing Christ’s Return.
Tensions Rise in East Africa: Amidst the devastating locust plague and COVID-19 pandemic, tensions between Kenya and Somalia have reached a fever pitch as Somalia’s civil war continues to tear that country apart (Deutsche Welle, March 13, 2020). The al-Qaeda-linked terror group, al-Shabab, is also in the fight, and their raids have spilled over into Kenya. During a recent incursion into Kenya, eleven people were killed and a Kenyan border town was nearly destroyed. The Kenyan report on the incident reads, “This action amounts to an unwarranted attack by foreign soldiers with the intention of provoking Kenya.” Kenya and Somalia have also been at odds over disputed territorial waters.
Even more alarming is the increasing risk that this feud between two nations may pull in other regional players. While Kenya’s government is strongly supportive of one of the regional leaders in Somalia, the leadership of Ethiopia find him abhorrent and support Somalia’s central government. Kenyan government officials have examined the possibility of annexing part of Somalia in order to protect against border incursions—an action that could provoke a greater response from both Somalia and Ethiopia.
The fighting in East Africa is ultimately between different tribes and ethnic groups who are warring for territory and power. Many are being killed or displaced through these actions. Jesus Christ warned that one of the signs of the approaching end of the age would be news about “wars and rumors of wars” and that “nation [ethnic group] will rise against nation [ethnic group], and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:3–7). To prevent His end-time disciples from being taken by surprise at His return, Jesus advised believers to “watch” (Matthew 24:42) and to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 44). This means both watching the world around us and being attentive to our own spiritual condition. For more instructions on this important and timely subject, be sure to view our telecast “How to Watch World Events.”—Scott Winnail and Francine Prater