Passover last night was uniquely meaningful under the full moon shining most prominently in a cloudless sky. Because of the present distress of the COVID-19 pandemic, we met in households with no more than a few. No congregational meetings. But, that made us focus even more on our personal communion with Jesus Christ expressed through the symbols of the unleavened bread and wine. It was a most reflective time away from the busy distractions of our hectic lives.
At the Passover service, I thought about close friends who had recently suffered personal losses. I asked forgiveness for my shortcomings. I thought of all the suffering of our world waiting for deliverance, as eloquently expressed by the apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (Romans 8:18-25 Romans 8:18-25  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
 For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope,
 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for?
 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
American King James Version×)
We do look with hope for better days and they will surely come!
While under a “stay at home” order, home office personnel have nonetheless carried on the business of the Church, hardly missing a beat. Connie Seelig reports that last week we sent out more than the usual amount of literature. In Cincinnati, we rejoiced in two online weddings as well as two baptisms. There has never been a time where we have exchanged so many encouraging emails and text messages keeping one another’s spirits up. We thank you all for your encouragement and prayers. I feel your uplifting prayers and God’s upholding hands for continuing His Work. We pray for you. When this is over, we will all come out better, wiser and stronger.
On Mondays at the home office, we usually hold an employee meeting where we talk about the coming week. We held the last two meetings by video conference, and everyone seemed to appreciate them. This past Monday we had 48 connections to our meeting with several connections hosting more than one person. We heard short reports from our operation managers, ABC coordinator, human resources, and our attorney. We also heard from Jorge de Campos, who is stranded in Canada, and Aaron Dean, who is in East Texas.
We’ve had numerous video conferences for regional pastors, ABC faculty, editorial and member development that have kept us up to date on all our administrative functions. The spirit among us is even more mission-intense as we work under these conditions.
With so many staying at home in their communities, we’ve appreciated seeing children playing and families walking together down our street. We’ve had more random conversations with our neighbors. In an act of kindness, our neighbor brought us over a loaf of fresh-baked bread last week.
In the Press
Tom Treece, long-time columnist for the Monroe News in Monroe, Michigan, (located between Detroit and Toledo) wrote a column that was also carried by the Sault News of Sault Ste. Marie in northern Michigan. The Sault News reported:
“COVID-19, obviously, has our attention, but I’ve been wondering if perhaps God is using it to get our attention.
“Searching the Internet I found ‘The Horsemen of Revelation: The Pale Horse of Pestilence’ published by the United Church of God.
“It references the first three Horsemen—religious deception (false religion), war and famine—before detailing belief that the fourth Horseman, ‘the pale green horse’ and its rider, signify disease.
“COVID-19, obviously, has our attention, but I’ve been wondering if perhaps God is using it to get our attention.
“I know many don’t believe in Him or His instruction book for life, the Bible, but what got me wondering was a narrative I found on Facebook.
“It read, ‘In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, “You want to worship athletes? I’ll shut down stadiums; musicians? I’ll close arenas; actors? I’ll close theaters. You want to worship money? I’ll shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You won’t go to church and worship Me? I’ll make it so you can’t even go to church.”’
“The piece then shares God’s instructions for how to deal with COVID-19—or any negative entity—in 2 Chronicles 7:14 2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
American King James Version×; I urge you to read it.”
You may be interested in reading the full column at: https://www.sooeveningnews.com/opinion/20200406/tom-treece-covid-19-could-be-used-to-get-our-attention
Featured in Local Newspaper
I also want to mention that our Clermont County (Ohio) newspaper featured a story about our weekly webcast that reaches upwards of 10,000 people. Here’s the link: https://www.clermontsun.com/2020/03/25/united-church-of-god-doing-national-webcast-for-weekly-service/
Death of Ossie McKay
With deep sadness and great sympathy for his family, we report that Ossie McKay in the Ballymena, Northern Ireland, congregation died of COVID-19. He was hospitalized on Thursday, March 26, and died Friday, April 3. He was on a ventilator. No one was allowed to visit him, including his wife Elizabeth, son Richard and daughter Lorraine.
Pastor David Fenney could not get to Northern Ireland to visit and anoint him because all flights were suspended. They were not able to get an anointed cloth to him until just minutes before his death.
He was in his mid-seventies, but in good health. He was a pillar in the Ballymena congregation and worked closely with pastor David Fenney in overseeing the congregation of 20-30 brethren.
The funeral was conducted yesterday, Tuesday, by longtime church member Raymond Moore and only a very few were allowed to attend.
This is a great loss for Ballymena, our congregation in Northern Ireland. Mr. McKay had been a member of the Church of God for over 30 years.
The family thanks everyone for their prayers, cards, and messages. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers during these coming difficult days.
Cards for the family may be sent to the UK Church office address, from where they will be passed on.
United Church of God
PO Box 705
Beyond Today Magazine Reader Survey
Peter Eddington sent me a report with some of the latest responses to our March-April Beyond Today magazine reader survey. A valuable set of data is being received from the 23 questions asked, and the comments are very encouraging.
Eight hundred readers have completed the survey so far. Later we will publish a more comprehensive analysis for you. Here are some highlights from the survey results:
• I appreciate being exposed to new points of view or ways of thinking about things — 90% Strongly Agree or Agree.
• I feel engaged by the content of the magazine — 90% Strongly Agree or Agree.
• The content of the magazine is relevant to our society and the times in which we live — 93% Strongly Agree or Agree.
• I am interested in articles on basic Bible teachings (such as heaven, hell, soul, salvation, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, grace, Sabbath, Holy Days, etc.) — 94% Strongly Agree or Agree.
• I am interested in articles on how to better live a Christian life — 93% Strongly Agree or Agree.
• I am interested in articles on Bible prophecy — 95% Strongly Agree or Agree.
• 87% say they read all or most of each issue of the magazine.
• 34% who filled out the survey are age 59 or below.
• 66% who filled out the survey are age 60 or above.
Here are a few of the comments:
• The magazine content is excellent. Keep up the good work! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH. WRITERS DO A GREAT JOB.
• I would like to see a permanent Q + A Feature. A beautiful magazine.
• I have been reading The Good News and now Beyond Today for at least 25 years! I have learned things that have helped me grow in my spiritual walk beyond my expectation, and pray fervently for your continued ministry. May God richly bless you all!
• Overall a fantastic Christian publication. Would like to see far more content on Science and the Bible.
• I look forward to my BT magazine and the Sunday morning TV shows. I also support BT financially.
• I really look forward to your magazine. It’s the height of my day to read and reread it, and I like to keep each issue. They’re so informative.
• Discovering the truth is the best gift I’ve ever received and I thank God for that awakening and BT and UCG for their pastors. My next step is to keep every Sabbath holy and progress with increasing in knowledge, and this is the way. Thank you all. “Thy Kingdom come.”
• I have developed personally and spiritually since I started reading Beyond Today and thank you for your good work.
• I love the magazine. I like most the articles on prophecy and how they relate to us today, particularly the books of Daniel and Revelation. Thank you ALL for all your the hard work.
• Thank you for your very informative magazine and other booklets. They have deepened my understanding of the Bible and “made sense” of many passages which were previously a mystery to me.
• I have found this magazine to be a wonderful source of biblical prophecy relating to current world events.
• I am really glad that I found Beyond Today! It has given me back my close relationship with my Creator and Christ Jesus. I have learned more with all of your publications, booklets and videos. Thank you so much United Church of God. You all teach the true gospel and the coming Kingdom of God. God bless you all.
• I totally disagree of your position on Saturday being the Sabbath, as Jeremiah 31:31 Jeremiah 31:31Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
American King James Version×talks about the new covenant. Well that’s Jesus. And Jesus rose on Sunday. Even the early Christians adopted that. And your position where you seem to promote vegetables to eat and not meat. 1 Timothy 1 vs. 4. Well also your reliance on the Old Testament and observances to reflect the rules of the Mosaic law are incorrect. Galatians 3:10-14 Galatians 3:10-14  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them.  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
American King James Version×. But I still like to read your magazine as it has many other very interesting topics that are well written and in depth! So I appreciate that!
The upcoming May-June issue of Beyond Today will focus on what we can learn biblically from the current COVID-19 health crisis.
Keep your spirits up at this momentous time. One of the best ways to do that is by helping others keep their spirits up. It’s infectious—a good infection.
Again, we pray for you and your families. Take this time to discover more about your Creator, yourself and your relationship with Him and to those around you.
We wish you all a meaningful Days of Unleavened Bread season to rejoice and reflect on our becoming unleavened as Jesus Christ was.