June 22, 2005
June 22nd, 2005
Dear Brethren and Co-Workers with Christ,
Greetings from Charlotte, NC! Today, as I write, I have been reminded that I just turned 75 years of age. So I am grateful to God that He has granted me 75 years of human life. And I pray that He will use the rest of my life to serve Him and to serve you brethren even more zealously and effectively.
However, even though all of us in Christ’s service have much to be thankful for, we are truly sobered by the recent death of one of our most faithful and dedicated ministers, John H. Ogwyn. As most of you know, Mr. Ogwyn died on Tuesday, June 14, 2005, at the age of 56. He had been suffering for weeks from some type of infection which caused the entire left side of his face to swell up. At first, the doctors he consulted thought it might be cancer, and he chose not to take the massive doses of antibiotics recommended since they admitted that they were not even sure what he had. But by the time the blood test finally came back—showing that he had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—he had just died.
Although we know that God allowed John the Baptist to die at about age 30, the dynamic young evangelist, Stephen to die at what was probably an even younger age, and the original Apostle James to die perhaps in his mid-40s, it still hurts terribly when a very dear friend and absolutely outstanding minister such as John Ogwyn is suddenly taken from us. For he was one of the most kind, truly empathetic, capable and hard-working ministers I have ever known. Brethren and co-workers all over the nation were genuinely touched by his love, humility and spirit of service. As many of you know, he was a vital part of the leadership "team" of this entire Work—a minister, teacher, writer, presenter on our television program, member of the Board and of the Council of Elders. He was all of the above and more, while at the same time having the "heart of a pastor" in continuing to personally serve, counsel, pray for and encourage hundreds of God’s people.
Undoubtedly, with these trials we are experiencing, our heavenly Father is helping all of us realize how weak we truly are, how fleeting is life itself and how much we need God and depend on His mercy and help—day by day and hour by hour. May God Himself help us to learn every lesson, overcome every obstacle and serve Him even more zealously and humbly the rest of our lives!
The Apostle Peter wrote the Christians of his day, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:6-7). As both biblical history and secular history tell us, the Christians of Peter’s day—and of those decades immediately following—suffered terribly. They were beaten, run out of town, beheaded, stoned and sometimes even burned alive! So when Peter speaks of being "grieved by various trials," we can barely comprehend what many of those people went through.
God undoubtedly used those terrible trials to humble His people at that time, drive them to their knees and cause them, therefore, to be even more zealous and "focused" on preparing for the Kingdom of God. Often, the terrible persecutions they went through such as the beheadings of John the Baptist and the Apostle James were state-sponsored. Other persecutions brought on by the Jewish leadership of that time were at least allowed or "overlooked" by the civil authorities. Today, in our more structured societies, that type of trial is not taking place—yet.
But perhaps God is allowing us to go through similar trials of suffering and death and driving us, also, to our knees by allowing some of our people—including leading ministers—to be taken from us through sickness. You see, if we tried to "flee to the next city" (Matt. 10:23) from state-sponsored persecution such as took place back then, the police could simply radio ahead and stop us at the edge of the city or anywhere they wanted! So at least part of God’s purpose in allowing us to be humbled by these sicknesses may be to bring us to deep humility and bring upon us an even more profound awareness of how short our lives are and how powerfully we must focus on His coming Kingdom and genuinely prepare for that Kingdom with zeal!
The book of Acts tells us that after Stephen’s martyrdom, "Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1), and then, "therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (v. 4). It is obvious that God used these terrible events—as bad as they were—to help His people grow spiritually and to "stir" them to get the Gospel all over the Roman world at that time! So even though "God allows bad things to happen to good people," He promises us—in His inspired Word—"and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). May God so "stir" and inspire us to become far more zealous in committing our lives totally to Him in the future, brethren! May He use us ever more powerfully to sincerely and heartfeltly warn our peoples while there is time! Remember the basic instruction our Creator gives in Proverbs 24:10-12, "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?"
Brethren, there has never been a time when people are in greater danger of "stumbling to the slaughter" than the time ahead of us right now! For Jesus Christ—speaking of this very time of the end tells us, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened" (Matt. 24:21-22).
Deeply understanding this—as he certainly did—Mr. John Ogwyn would certainly wish us to heed the above instruction from our Creator. So we have every reason to "press on" and finish with zeal the Work which Christ is doing through His Church. With all of the above in mind, I want to give you a couple of inspiring reports regarding recent growth of the Work which Christ is doing through us, His human instruments. First, Mr. Wayne Pyle reports about our impact on television as follows:
"The growth we are seeing this year is as inspiring as it is fantastic.
The latest July-August issue of the Tomorrow’s World magazine reached a worldwide circulation of 273,000. Since its fledgling beginning in 1999, the magazine has grown at an average rate of 49 percent per year. The current circulation is 34 percent above a year ago, and looks like it will pick up even more steam as the year progresses. Our magazine growth right now is hot.
Tomorrow’s World television is most exciting. This weekend, on Sunday at 8:30 am, we began airing on WHNO-TV, channel 20, in New Orleans for our very first time. With virtually no previous advertising, the first TV program generated 33 phone calls from WHNO-TV viewers, which is an excellent start. The response will improve considerably as the audience builds.
And talking about audience…Today, our statistics, based on Nielsen Media Research data and our own response data, show that the Tomorrow’s World telecast has now been watched at least one time by seven million viewers in the United States and Canada. When you consider our infinitesimal beginning just a little over six years ago, this is quite encouraging.
This weekend we received our 500,000th phone call in the United States and Canada since the telecast began airing on January 30, 1999. For the past six years, the television response has grown at an average rate of 21.5 percent. So far this year, Tomorrow’s World television growth is up 27 percentage points over a year ago.
This very day we received our 1000th phone call from Tomorrow’s World TV coverage in the United Kingdom—in less than 12 weeks! For the first time in many years the gospel is going out to the British peoples.
Our newest TV additions in New Orleans, Denver, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Memphis and other cities, bring our total potential audience up to 82.3 million households in the United States and Canada. The total number of all TV households in the US and Canada number about 123 million. We have about seven million more households to reach in Canada and about 34 million to go in the United States. With God’s blessings, full national TV coverage in the United States and Canada is in sight."
That is truly encouraging and we thank God that He has allowed us the opportunity to reach our peoples with such increasing power! And now an additional encouraging report from Mr. Steve Stiffler, our Internet Coordinator:
"There is exciting news to report as we increasingly utilize the power in the Internet! In January we launched a redesigned Tomorrow’s World (TW) website, which now presents our magazine and telecast in a user friendly format. Encouraging growth has taken place since the launch of this new format. 2005 projections show a 90%increase in the total number of visitors over 2004 and as world events continue to unfold, this number could skyrocket! 1.6 million pages have been viewed since the beginning of the year. This past Monday we launched a redesigned LCG site, which will act as a library of all LCG material. This site will constantly be changing as new material will automatically be rotated to the front for people to see. As material becomes easier for people to find, we expect this site to grow to new levels unseen in the past.
Our Internet advertising has started to take off in a BIG way. Since January, our keyword advertising program on Google has introduced 8.1 million people to our listings. Since June alone, over 2.4 million people have checked us out, with nearly 15,000 click- throughs. Our ads are now appearing in the online editions of the NY Times, Washington Post and LA Times to name a few. In addition to Google, we have started an advertising campaign on Yahoo! which will further display our booklets and God’s message to the world.
We are seeing an increase in website traffic from Europe and the Middle East—from countries such as Israel, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia due to the Tomorrow’s World telecast airing in these areas! We are truly on the tip of a massive iceberg and as Christ allows, many other exciting developments are in the works! Stay tuned!"
Thank God! Our Creator is obviously opening up more and more "doors" for this Work to surge ahead. As we are driven to our knees through the events occurring in the world and even to some of us personally, God will use us with increasing power to prepare the way for His soon-coming Kingdom. Dear brethren and co-workers, let us all "catch the vision" and begin to totally commit our lives—our time, our talents and our resources—to the living Christ to use in His service as He wills. We will certainly be "laying up treasure" in heaven if we do this, and the increasing tens of millions of people out there whom we will reach will be blessed through learning God’s Truth and will be powerfully warned—ahead of time—about the greatest Tribulation in human history. May God help us all be inspired to have part in this—the most important crusade now taking place on planet earth! And, in doing this, we really will be honoring the memory of those who, like John Ogwyn, truly "gave their all" in the service of Jesus Christ.
With Christian love,
—Roderick C. Meredith