April 23rd, 2020
Greetings from Charlotte,
This week I recorded the program “Why Does God Allow Pandemics?” The program offers a brand new DVD titled “God Answers His COVID-19 Critics.” This is being fast-tracked to get it out as quickly as possible. We continue to see large numbers of new subscribers, adding 2,334 between April 14 and 21. We held a meeting this week regarding plans for activities coming up throughout the remainder of the year, including summer camps and the Feast of Tabernacles. These were early discussions and we need to consult with the Council of Elders, Festival Coordinators, and Camp Directors before making any decisions. We will likely have to put in place plans A, B, and maybe C, as we simply do not know where we will be in the upcoming months. As our nations begin to open up, please use wisdom, and let us continue to pray for one another. Please take note of the announcement below regarding Mrs. Lynn Meakin, the wife of Mr. John Meakin, a long-time minister in the U.K.—Gerald Weston
Second Passover—Repeat Announcement
The Second Passover this year is on Friday, May 8, which means that it will be observed on Thursday evening, May 7, shortly after sunset. This Passover is for those baptized members who were unable to take the first Passover due to unavoidable circumstances, as instructed in Numbers 9:1–14. If you have any questions, please contact your pastor.
Live Stream Information for Sabbath Service on April 25
Headquarters will stream the live Sabbath Service on Saturday, April 25, at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time, USA). All brethren should plan to tune in at that time. For those overseas, where the time difference makes this impractical, or for those needing Spanish or French translation, a recorded (and/or translated) version will be available at a later time. Please note that there is a phone call-in number for those who do not have Internet access (toll charges may apply).
Prayer Request for Mrs. Meakin
Mrs. Lynn Meakin, wife of long-time UK minister John Meakin, this week received confirmation of the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and she has been referred to a local palliative care team. She feels fine as pain killers take effect, BUT most especially because of people’s prayers and God’s intervention. She thanks everyone from the bottom of her heart for their prayers and messages of support. Mr. Meakin writes, “Please continue to pray for Lynn and our family during this difficult time. She trusts God totally and is at peace, knowing that He can heal her at any time and that He will not allow her to die until HE decides it’s time for her to enter His rest, and unless He knows this is going to work out for a greater good. Our God, as we all know and as she always says, is an AWESOME God!”
Storms in Alabama and Mississippi
Alabama Area Pastor Anthony Stroud was awakened by his doorbell at 6:30 a.m. last Sunday, April 19. No one was at the door, but he went outside to check because the wind was very strong. Extremely dark and dancing clouds caught his attention, and he immediately began to pray for God’s intervention, not knowing if it was a tornado he couldn’t see in the dark, or if one was forming. Within about a minute, the clouds began to break apart and it became slightly lighter, though rain and powerful winds continued. He phoned the more than a dozen brethren who live in the same community, and all were safe. Mr. Stroud reports, “The rain continued all day long and [there is] no doubt to me now that God gave us favor, as I had never, other than television, seen any clouds look the way these did… we probably did not just have a tornado, but probably more than one. [To say that] God intervened is an understatement. God had spared us and others as well. Downed trees were everywhere, and some houses were severely damaged and hidden by fallen trees. [But] apparently there was no loss of life and very minor injuries [in the area]…. even when we may not be aware of it, God does show mercy to all. I just wished [others could] understand this as God’s people understand. Thank God for His mercy!”
All the brethren in the path of severe wind storms that went through Mississippi this morning, April 23, appear to be safe and none suffered damage. Area Pastor Ed Breaux reports that the winds also spawned a tornado, which passed very close to the community where a longtime member lives. The F-4 tornado on April 12 also passed a couple miles from that same member.
Feast of Tabernacles
Feast Registration Will NOT Open on May 17
It had been planned and was earlier announced that Feast of Tabernacles registration would open on May 17. However, because of uncertainties due to the Coronavirus pandemic, registration will not open on that date. Stay tuned for more information as the situation progresses.
Are You a Friend of God? There is an old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” While this is not always true, the nature of our relationship with God is very important. The Apostle James warned, “friendship with the world is enmity with God… whoever… wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). As many have learned over the years, you cannot have one foot in the world and one foot in the Church of God. So, how do you become a friend of God? Paul states we must “come out” of this world and begin to live a different way of life (2 Corinthians 6:17). We cannot behave one way at church and a different way when we go home. James writes that we must humble ourselves, submit to God, and “draw near to God [making time to pray and study His word] and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8–10). This follows Moses’ advice, “you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Abraham was a friend of God because he believed, trusted, and obeyed God (Genesis 15:1–6; 26:5; 2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). Jesus told His disciples they could be His friends if they followed His commandments to love God and their neighbors—and that He would reveal all things to them (John 14:15; 15:12–15). Let’s strive to become friends of God and Jesus Christ so we can reign with Them in the coming Kingdom of God (John 14:3).
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
News and Prophecy—April 23, 2020
Will Coronavirus Reshape the Middle East? Oil prices are plummeting, and for Middle Eastern nations that rely on oil revenues to support their economies, this is very bad news. Iraq’s 2020 budget assumes that oil’s average price for the year will be $56 (U.S. dollars) per barrel (The Spectator, April 4, 2020), yet oil has dropped to less than $20 per barrel (as of this writing) and continues to show weakness. The grounding of national Arab airlines due to a drastic reduction in travel and cancellation of annual pilgrimages and other celebrations will further decrease national revenues.
Some nations in the region, like Iran, were slow to react to the pandemic, and several major leaders have now died from the virus. Officially, Iran has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world—yet unofficial reports suggest the death rates are far higher than reported. Woes and concerns of collapse extend far beyond Iraq and Iran. The Spectator paints a bleak picture of the region: “Yemen is at high risk of collapse. Lebanon has defaulted on its external debt and is functionally bankrupt. Syria is destroyed. Libya has fallen apart. The demographic displacement produced by conflict in these countries provides an ideal environment for viruses to spread; as does Gaza, one of the most densely-populated places on the planet.” Saudi Arabia and some of the UAE nations may pull through the pandemic in the best shape.
The people of these nations are suffering, even as their leaders are working to manage this crisis. Once the pandemic passes, the balance of power may shift across the Middle East. Iran, for instance, is increasingly looking toward China for assistance. What many fail to remember today is that God guides the course of history (Job 12:23; Daniel 4:25). The Bible predicts that a “king of the South” will arise in the Middle East at the end of the age (Daniel 11:5). Could a strong leader—capable of leading the whole region—rise from the ashes left by this pandemic? Current events in the Middle East could be setting the stage for his arrival. For more details on this sobering topic, read or listen to The Middle East in Prophecy.
Chernobyl Nuclear Fallout: Decades after the worst nuclear disaster in history, the now-shuttered nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, is in the news again. Thirty-four years ago, the plant’s reactor number 4 melted down. Since that time, the surrounding radioactive towns have been almost vacant, and the site has become a tourist attraction. In the last few weeks, a major forest fire burned very close to the now closed but still hot nuclear reactor (BBC, April 13, 2020). The fires burned trees in what is called the “exclusion zone”—a radioactive area that surrounds the old nuclear plant. The burning trees released radioactive material stored inside the trees. While the fires have been put out, the ash from the fires has drastically reduced air quality and carried radioactive particles into the nearby capital city of Kiev (Forbes, April 17, 2020)—although radiation levels appear to be within acceptable limits.
Chernobyl is a reminder of the long-lasting impact of nuclear disasters. Since the 1986 meltdown, the amount of radioactive cesium in the area has decreased by almost half, yet the surrounding area still possesses dangerous levels of radiation. The forest fire reveals that the environment can absorb this radioactivity but can also release it again. Chernobyl is just one of dozens of sites around the globe that are either still radioactive or are used to store radioactive wastes. In the U.S. alone there are over 80 sites temporarily housing radioactive nuclear waste. Soon, Jesus Christ will return and not only clean up the mess left behind by well-meaning but shortsighted human beings, but also provide the wisdom we lack to live safely on our planet and handle its resources wisely. Romans 8:19–24 informs us that the entire creation is waiting for that future event—a time when the world around us will be released from the “bondage of corruption.” What will our planet be like after this happens? To find out, read or listen to The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like?—Scott Winnail and Francine Prater