From the President . . .
Greetings brethren around the world,
Today is August 17. Summer is just about over! Youth camps around the world have completed their course, and here in the United States school has begun for many students. The autumn festival season is here in just a month. On the Sabbath of Sept. 16, God’s people around the world will assemble before Him as we observe and reflect on the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets.
As that Feast approaches, we are reminded of the triumphant return of Jesus Christ, the “revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19) at the first resurrection, and the end of this current, evil age which will usher in the peaceful, joyous, righteous millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
As we approach that Feast, we are also reminded of what precedes the expectant triumph, joy and promise of Christ’s return: four horsemen, then two more “seals” representing the great tribulation and heavenly signs, followed by six trumpets, with a seventh trumpet and its seven “bowls” (Revelation 6, 7, 8, 9, 16-19) bringing very trying times upon this earth and God’s people.
Leading up to the return of Jesus Christ, He admonishes us and encourages us to “be ready” (Matthew 24:44). He warns us against the dangers of our love for Him and His way growing cold in an age of lawlessness—which we undeniably are living in now. The deepening of the way of lawlessness will only increase and intensify as time goes on. And the pressure on us will increase to conform to this world.
We must not conform, but be transformed to God’s way of life.
The allure of the world: don’t be deceived
He warns us not to be deceived by the allure, words, logic or reasoning of this world. Some deception may, sadly, even come from within our own midst. Deceit is already out there and with the advent of artificial intelligence and its alarming rise in public use, it will intensify to levels we cannot even imagine.
Christ warns that the deception will be so great and deceitful signs and wonders so impressive that they would deceive, if possible, even the elect (Mark 13:22). We could be in danger of falling to that deception if we are “not ready,” not watching, not preparing for that day even as we look forward to and anticipate the return of Jesus Christ.
As we, God’s called out ones, wait for His return, we must become “ready,” submitting to God as He prepares us for what lies ahead before Christ’s return. We must keep our vision fixed—“fix our joy”—on His return. But we must also realize and accept the reality of trouble and trials that lie ahead, using this preparation time before that Day of Trumpets to become ready and able to “withstand in that evil day” (Ephesians 6:13).
Brethren, use this next month between now and the Feast of Trumpets to become spiritually ready to observe these upcoming Holy Days in the manner in which God commands. More than ever, determine to grow closer to God. Be “coming out of this world,” learning to trust more and more in Him; understanding He is the only Savior—the only way to salvation.
Finding new ways to preach the gospel
As God’s people—His Church and His Body—Christ also tells us in Matthew 24 that this gospel—His gospel—will be “preached in all the world as a witness to all nations.”
That’s our job, our commission. And we are making plans to go forth and preach His gospel—proclaiming the message He wants us to give to the world—plainly, boldly and clearly in ways we haven’t before.
Last week in this update and in the Council reports you were forwarded, you saw the results of the 30-second TV, YouTube and Google ads that were run. The results were so encouraging. We are at work to continue those ads for the next 10 weeks. In addition, we have an additional step we will take that will take the message to the world in a way we haven’t tried before. It will use the power of technology, our video studio capabilities and global advertising, combined with the talents of our media and marketing staff, which God has provided. And we will strive to continually sound forth that message boldly.
Most of all though, it will be preached because it is the message God has given us to proclaim. Pray for His work to be done. Pray for His message to be on our minds and that He will provide the words, tone and technological vehicles to get His message out in the way He wants.
It is all about His message and His will to be done. Please ask for His guidance for us here at the home office—and for all of your brethren—even more so “as we see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24).
Our prayers are with all of you. Have a wonderful day of preparation and an inspiring and rewarding Sabbath day.
In Christ’s service,Rick Shabi
From Ministerial and Member Services . . .
Death of Jerry Shallenberger
Jerry Paul Shallenberger passed away peacefully on Aug. 7, 2023, at the age of 62 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Jerry was an elder in the Atlanta, Georgia, congregation of the United Church of God. Jerry was a loving father, husband, and follower of Christ above all else; his family and faith were his world.
Anyone who knew Jerry knows his sense of humor lit up rooms. His joy, jokes and laughter helped build so many strong relationships over the years. He loved sports and games, particularly volleyball and ping pong. He was an avid Cubs fan since he was a young child.
Jerry’s excitement for the Kingdom was contagious, and he wanted to share that excitement with everybody. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Charla; three boys and their wives, Andrew, Ryan and Rachel, William and Kathryn; and his precious grandchildren, Charlie, Sadie and Elliott. His family and friends eagerly await the day to reunite with him in God’s perfect kingdom.
New Assistant Pastor
Stephen Bouchette, an elder from the congregation in Metro East, Illinois, was hired in July for continued ministerial training. He now serves as an Assistant Pastor with pastor Mark Welch for the congregations in Cincinnati, Ohio. Your prayers are much appreciated for a smooth and successful transition for Stephen, his wife Sarah, and their family.
On Aug. 10, 2023, David Stiffler was re-credentialed as an elder by the United Church of God. He and his wife, Sara, serve in the Little Rock, Arkansas, congregation.
On Aug. 12, Darrell Keisel was ordained into the ministry. He and his wife, Janet, serve the congregation in Central Illinois.
Youth Instruction Family Study Guide
In this Family Study Guide we review God’s commands and expectations for how to remember the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is a day to honor God, a day of rest, a day to assemble together and a day to do good towards others. What can we learn about our relationship with God from the story of God giving manna to Israel in the wilderness? What can we learn about obeying the Sabbath by seeing how Jesus observed the Sabbath? Additionally, this Family Study Guide gives suggestions for family discussion questions and activities that can help to look forward to the weekly Sabbath.
You can read and download this study guide at: ucg.org/members/family-study-guides/ten-commandments-fourth-commandment
Hebrew Calendar Study Paper and Appendices Available
In December of 2021, The Council of Elders approved “The Hebrew Calendar Summary” doctrinal study paper. And in May of 2023, the Council approved the “Hebrew Calendar Appendices” doctrinal study paper. Both of these papers are available online at ucg.org/study-papers.
—Council of Elders
Good Works Seeking Volunteers
Good Works is seeking three volunteer participants to serve at the youth camp in South Africa, preferably at least one male and one female.
Camp experience is required, either as camper or staff (though staff experience is preferred).
Dates: Dec. 17–28, 2023 (please allow 3–5 days pre/post camp for travel).
Cost: 50% airfare (based on economy ticket prices and reasonable itineraries reviewed by Good Works staff) and all necessary immunizations required by South Africa (scholarships available).
Deadline to apply: Sept. 15, 2023.
For more information email Lena VanAusdle at Lena_VanAusdle@ucg.org or to apply visit: ucg.org/members/service-projects/united-youth-camp-south-africa-2023.
Feast Sermon Program
The need for DVDs and CDs has dwindled in the past few years. We at the home office will be providing curated sermon recordings for the Holy Days, but they will now only be available for download from our website. Here is the direct link: ucg.org/sermon-disc-program.
We realize there will be some shut-ins and others who will need recorded sermons and help to access them. Here are a few suggestions:
If the member has Internet access, our curated sermons will still be available on the United Church of God website.
For those who do not have home Internet service, many new televisions allow a memory stick to be inserted into a TV to play video and audio files. A local volunteer can download our sermon recordings from ucg.org/sermon-disc-program and copy them onto a memory stick or SD card for the member or shut-in to use. Memory cards these days can fit numerous sermons on them.
If the shut-in does not have a television that can play video or audio through a memory stick or SD card, a player can be purchased that connects to most TVs. Here is one example: amzn.to/3OfzkLo. Note, this model allows both HDMI and the older TV “analog” connections.
The cost to purchase any necessary equipment for a person to play sermons from a memory stick or to gain Internet access, will be a cost savings for the Church over producing and mailing CDs and DVDs very quickly. We encourage each congregation to help its shut-ins in this way.
If a DVD is still needed, someone in the local congregation would need to download the files and burn a DVD for the shut-in. This would be the most labor intensive and costly choice over time.
Remember, the Feast sermons will be available online at ucg.org/sermon-disc-program and will also be shared on the United Church of God, an International Association Facebook page.
If you would like to receive updates during the Feast, we ask that you register at ucg.org/members/feast/sites/2023/unable-to-attend, letting us know that you are unable to attend. During the Feast, you will be able to access a live webcast of one of two Feast sites.
For inquiries or questions in this regard, please contact Scott Buchanan (email@example.com) at the home office.
—Steve Myers, Ministerial and Member Services
The United Church of God is still seeking candidates for Client Relationship Specialist, Video Editor and Receptionist. Details about all of the current job postings for the Church may be reviewed at ucg.org/members/news/current-job-openings.