Good afternoon brethren around the world,
We live in a world that is in a state of change, as we are all aware. During the three years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were confronted with things that we didn’t expect—like lockdowns, limits on the ability to assemble, vaccine mandates and the emergence of combatting “truths,” where one in power could dictate his (or her) “truth,” while making every attempt to censor or cancel opposing viewpoints. Unprecedented division, fractured relationships, an unspeakable decline in the morality and values of the nation, product shortages and inflation resulted.
Accentuating these societal issues was that this pandemic and its effects were not isolated to one region of the world. This was a global event.
Recently in America the “heat” of all this has cooled a bit. The rhetoric is no longer as sharp and you don’t hear as much about people turning each other in because of something they said. We are free to assemble for church services and other gatherings without surveillance, and gas prices have declined somewhat in America, easing the financial pressure of many.
But, there are still signs of where the world is headed if we are “listening,” and not “falling asleep” during this time.
Beyond Today TV program marked
One of those “signs of the times” recently appeared on our Beyond Today YouTube channel. The BT TV program titled “New World Order,” was marked with an “information” or warning message placed by Google, referencing Wikipedia. Here’s what it says below the program title:
“The New World Order is a conspiracy theory that hypothesizes a secretly emerging totalitarian world government.” (Wikipedia)
Isn’t that interesting? The funny thing about this is that the program speaks about the “New World Order” that will bring peace, harmony, joy and abundance to all the world upon the return of Jesus Christ and the beginning of His Kingdom on earth. That is a time we should be talking about and are talking about. The Kingdom of God is the hope and message the whole world should hear—and that all of us and all of mankind should fervently be praying for.
But the message that appeared attached to our television program is a reminder to us that the world we live in continues to monitor what is being said. Increasingly there will be attempts to attack, discredit and mock real truth—the truth of the Bible, the infallible word of God. It will lead to what God inspired the prophet Amos to write in Amos 8:11:
“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.’”
So, we must be about God’s business in preaching His gospel and His truth while there is still time, using the resources available to get His warning message to every possible segment of humanity. They need the truth; they need to hear there is hope.
WEF in Davos
The type of “global control” we see beginning to emerge more fully in the last few years emanates from the “elites” or “exalted ones” of the earth who think they have the insight into how the world should operate going forward. In fact, this group is meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), with a large gathering of government leaders, industry captains, leaders of tech giants and others who feel they are prominent world leaders, are gathered together to discuss the future of our planet.
Those gathered control governments, vast sums of money and the technology and Internet that now encompasses the whole world. They have the ability—through commerce and government—to eventually monitor everything that defines our private lives. They can monitor what you and I say, what we do and where we go, and have the means to control how we spend our money—and they are working on ways to control even the transportation we use.
From the WEF we have seen “climate change” be lifted to almost the status of a “god.” We are told of the need to sacrifice for the future and that a dramatic change in our lifestyle is necessary. We are told the use of fossil fuels, like the gasoline that runs our cars and natural gas that heats our homes, needs to be eliminated. The food we eat, specifically beef products, needs to be examined and reduced, as cattle are represented as a type of threat to our climate. Future pandemics will come, we are told, and new brands of medicine and “vaccines” will be introduced and enforced for the good of mankind. Everyone will be expected to comply and submit.
They envision a society much different than what we have today. One stated goal for the world in 2030 is: “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy.” And you’ve likely heard the rumor of a menu of “bugs” replacing beef in the food supply.
Sounds a bit like the beast power we read about in Revelation 13 and 17—a world-dominating government that controls everyone’s life and has the power to do it.
What is our response?
What is the message for all of us, brethren? Stay awake and don’t get lulled to sleep. During a time when things seem to have quieted a while, bear in mind that the god of this world—Satan—marches on as a “lion seeking whom he may devour.” He doesn’t sleep, and his goal is the destruction of mankind and the prevention of the fulfillment of God’s plan for everyone.
We need to stay awake and keep our eyes on God. Follow Him. Grow closer to Him. Follow His word more closely and diligently. Take the time to get to know Him and understand Him, as discussed last Sabbath in Cincinnati.
All the brainpower, technological genius and think tanks in the world do not know the way to peace or a good future for all of mankind. Salvation and a productive joyful life for all peoples around the world comes only through Jesus Christ and living the way and the truth He has made known to us.
Have a wonderful rest of the week and uplifting Sabbath, everyone.
In Christ’s service,
Coming End to AmazonSmile Donations
As most members are aware, Amazon.com has been willing to donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the United Church of God whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.
This week, Amazon announced that effective this Feb. 20 that program will end. But members (and others) who have taken advantage of ordering through AmazonSmile.com (and who have named the Church as a beneficiary) may continue to do so through that February termination date.
Even with only about a month left to take advantage of that Amazon sponsored benefit, it could still mean thousands of dollars in donations from Amazon to the Church during that period if many members or friends of United take part.
So, for anyone ordering any products through Amazon on or before Feb. 20, 2023, please use AmazonSmile and (if not done already) name the Church as your chosen charity. More information in this regard for can be found at https://smile.amazon.com/ch/95-4529758.
Report on Senior Pastor’s Philippines Trip
We arrived in the Philippines just after midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 11. We enjoyed keeping the Sabbath with 67 who attended services in the Manila congregation. I gave a sermon titled “Six Scriptures About the Beast.” The San Carlos City congregation watched via a webcast.
We were thrilled to meet some who have begun attending since the Feast. We also enjoyed visiting with Wrestley Cinco, who had just returned to the Philippines from serving at the camp in South Africa. The United Youth Corps program sponsored her trip. You may have seen her picture in the Jan. 5, 2023, Home Office Update.
This past Sunday was our annual national council meeting. Due to the pandemic, the last two annual council meetings have been conducted via webcast. The Philippines is blessed to have ten wonderful elders and wives. Three live here in the Manila area and the other seven flew to Manila late Saturday evening. The elders, wives and office employees met in the national office.
We opened with prayer and listened to the reading of the minutes from last year’s council meeting. This was followed by various reports. Bong Remo, who serves as treasurer, updated us on the overall financial picture. Richard Macaraeg provided an update on the work being done through the national office. The three pastors updated us on the three Philippine sites where the Feast was conducted. I provided a brief update on the Feast site in Sabah, Malaysia, since Denise and I spent the first three days of the Feast with the members on the island of Borneo.
We also discussed our need for an ongoing leadership training program. Two of the three pastorates urgently need the younger men to stand up and take greater roles in conducting Sabbath services.
One of our objectives this trip is to meet with younger couples who have been faithfully serving in the local congregations. We will meet with couples in Luzon and Mindanao. This will allow us to better assess future leaders of the congregations in the three pastorates. Pastors have been encouraged to “fast track” these younger men with regard to serving during Sabbath services. Many lessons are learned only by experience in various service roles.
We also discussed the Beyond Today program. It has produced good fruit thus far. We are approaching the 1,000 mark of the names who have been added as subscribers.
We also discussed ways that we can better serve the 40 members in Sabah, Malaysia. One deacon and wife serve that area. Whenever there are baptism requests or weddings to perform, we have sent Filipino elders to take care of their needs. Some live in places far away from Semporna where the congregation meets each Sabbath.
We discussed the LifeNets scholarship program. At this time, 14 students are being financially assisted by LifeNets funds. Over the years, dozens of Filipino students have completed their university training thanks to the LifeNets scholarship program.
The final order of the day was to ballot for members of the 9-member Philippine council. After reading the results of this year’s balloting, the annual meeting was adjourned, and the fellowship continued. Everyone was on such a high since many of the couples had not seen each other in three years.
This week, we have been working in the office. This Sabbath we travel with one elder and wife about 100 miles north to visit the San Carlos City congregation. We have not been there in quite a few years and understand that they have grown in size. The two Luzon congregations will be joined together by a webcast.
The temperatures have been mild thus far with highs in the high 80s. Thank you for your prayers.
—David and Denise Dobson, senior pastor, Philippines
Preaching the Gospel as a Witness to All Nations—Part 2
In Part 1 of this report a few weeks ago, we covered an overview of various media methods used to preach the gospel in today’s world. Let’s now examine one major aspect of this enormous effort which involves the millions of online advertising impressions on Google, Bing and Yahoo Internet search engines which highlight our public proclamation resources.
Through this powerful technology, the United Church of God places search and display ads for the Beyond Today magazine, BT television programs, all of our study aids (booklets), and the Church itself. During the 2022 calendar year, our ads (or “advertising impressions”) were seen by 101.2 million people.
Internet users in countries around the world see our ads and have the opportunity to “click” on them—meaning they are redirected to our website where they can read literature, watch videos, request literature and conduct additional searches if they so choose. Advertising through search engine technology brings far more people to our website at far less cost than we could ever do by our own efforts. For the 2022 calendar year, 215,696 people clicked and ordered something from us.
In another significant effort involving streaming advertising, for the past six years the Church has been running robust ad campaigns on Roku video streaming devices. During 2022 these generated 9.6 millionadvertising impressions and generated 49,679 “clicks.” Twenty-five thousand ads have run each day with hundreds of Beyond Today videos being watched daily. To date, more than one million of our BT videos have been watched on Roku.
Furthermore, Beyond Today video programming has been available for people to view on Amazon Fire TV, Samsung smart TVs, LG smart TVs, iOS devices and Android devices—all of which create a vital witness for the gospel. Please pray fervently for God’s continued blessings on these powerful efforts to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom throughout the world today.
—Peter Eddington, Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services