Update 188


Looking To God

On Saturday, April 9, 2005, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Looking To God.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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But I Think…

by Norbert Link

Have you ever had someone respond to you, by saying: “but I think…”, followed by a lengthy explanation of his or her personal opinion?

It happens all the time, doesn’t it? And far too often, it occurs in areas in which the person you are talking with has absolutely no expertise and experience — whether it is in the field of business, law, education — or, of course, religion.

Especially when focusing on the true worship of God, everybody seems to have an opinion — and many times, it is “THE one and only correct position.” Far too often, it is something comparatively negligible which has become THE issue of salvation in the person’s mind. But God is not interested at all in your or my OPINION — He does not care what WE may think — and neither should we.

When God calls us to His way of life, He expects us to give up OUR opinions and replace them with the way GOD thinks.

Notice what God tells those who believe that they are wise and full of understanding: “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20). Paul even remarks: “And if anyone thinks that he knows anything [especially something “new” which only he or she is able to “see”], he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2).

But this is not what the human mind wants to hear. Rather, we are, so often, far too anxious to justify our thoughts to God — or His true ministers — rather than taking a deep breath, stepping back, and considering whether our thoughts are futile or vain in the eyes of God.

Notice Paul’s question in Romans 9:20: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” The scribes and Pharisees at the time of Christ have become known to us as those who seemed to be always ready to argue with God. We find this telling report in Luke 5:22: “But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, ‘Why are you reasoning in your hearts?'” Christ had just forgiven the sins of a sick person (verse 20), but “the scribes and Pharisees began to reason, saying, ‘…Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” (verse 21). They were suffering from the typical “but I think”- syndrome. They did not agree with what Christ was doing or saying. But rather than submitting to God, replacing their thoughts and opinions with the mind of God, they began to reason and justify their own positions. They should have done, however, what Paul tells us to do in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty IN GOD for… casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every THOUGHT into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

Even members in God’s Church have to be careful not to embrace the “but I think”-approach, which clouds Godly understanding. Maybe, we don’t openly argue with God, but what about arguing with God’s true ministry, when they teach and expound to us the Word of God or Godly principles? Let’s notice Hosea’s warning to all of us today: “Now let no man contend, or rebuke another; For your people are like those who contend with the priest. Therefore you shall stumble in the day…” (Hosea 4:4-5).

Next time, when we are tempted to say, “but I think…”, let’s reconsider and ask the right question instead: “What does GOD think?”

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Haider in the News

As The Associated Press reported on April 4, 2005, “[Austria’s] Joerg Haider and his supporters broke Monday with the once-powerful populist Freedom Party to form a new movement meant to reflect the former rightist firebrand’s turn toward relative moderation… The party’s fall in popularity has been accompanied by growing infighting among party pragmatists and the rightist fringe that extends to those with links to neo-Nazi publications.”

Prince Rainier of Monaco Dies

As the Associated Press reported on April 6, 2005, “Prince Rainier III [Europe’s longest-reigning monarch of Europe’s longest-ruling royal family, the Grimaldis], whose fairy-tale marriage to Hollywood star Grace Kelly brought elegance and glamour to one of Europe’s oldest dynasties, died Wednesday, nearly a month after he was hospitalized with a lung infection. He was 81… Rainier, who assumed the throne on May 9, 1949, had to endure the tragedy of his wife’s death and relentless scandals — including international criticism of the principality’s tax laws — that plagued the final two decades of his rule… Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II sent a message of condolence to the family. Rainier’s death means the queen [Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II], who acceded to the throne in 1952, becomes the longest-serving monarch in Europe.”

European Visas Required?

As AFP reported on April 6, 2005, “New US passport rules ‘threaten business relations'” between the USA and European countries. The article stated: “Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said US demands for visitors to hold passports containing biometric information would cause ‘enormous problems’ for UK business… The UK is one of several countries expected to miss an October 26 deadline to start issuing the high-tech passports, which include a digital photo embedded with a chip. Only six European countries — Belgium, Germany, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg — are expected to meet the deadline. People with passports issued after the deadline without biometric features will need a visa to enter the US.”

However, the Austrian-based “Networld” reported on April 5, 2005, that Austria might not be ready to issue the required new passports by the deadline, and that the USA would be unwilling to extend the deadline.

It should be noted, though, that in the rising heat of the discussion, an important aspect is overlooked. As AFP pointed out: “The new rules apply only to new passports issued after October 26, meaning that people with documents issued before the deadline will still be able to enter the US without a visa or biometric information.”

EU “Retaliates” Against USA

The EUobserver reported on March 31, 2005, that “The European Commission… intend[s] to impose an extra 15 percent duty on some types of paper, textiles and machinery from 1 May after ‘the continuing failure of the US to bring its legislation into conformity with its international obligations’…’The level of retaliation… is slightly below US $28 million,’ says a statement by the Commission…. The EU’s move is likely to raise transatlantic trade tensions… The European Commission’s decision has to be approved by member states before it can come into effect on 1 May — but no opposition is expected.”

In the USA, the decision of the European Commission has been sharply criticized by the media — including CNN. In a special report, CNN questioned what the EU is expecting of the USA — given the high amount of trade with the USA, which is already enormously benefiting the EU.

The Death of Pope John Paul II

With the death of Pope John Paul II, speculation is running high as to who his successor is going to be. Will it be the last pope in the history of the Catholic Church — a black pope perhaps (such as Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria), and will he adopt the name of Peter, as Nostradamus and other “seers” have prophesied? In the annals of the Catholic Church, there has only been one black pope before.

Will it be a European — a German, perhaps? Could it be Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (77)? Time magazine felt, at the beginning of this year, that he was the top candidate — something like a transitional pope. He has been presiding over the Office responsible for religious questions — formerly known as the Inquisition. He is described as “highly intelligent” (Bild Online, April 3, 2005). Whether or not it will be Ratzinger, he has already become known as the “creator of popes,” as Bild Online stated on April 6, 2005.

One thing is certain — this new election will be of tremendous prophetic importance. It is interesting that the new election process of 117 cardinals (under 80 years) — or 116 cardinals, as the Cardinal from the Philippines, Jaime Sin, fell sick and might be unable to attend — will begin on April 18, 2005 — exactly 16 days after the pope’s death, and less than a week before Passover. And, that during the burial of the pope, there will be a partial solar eclipse (as The Associated Press reported on April 6, 2005). The late pope’s testament “did not name the mystery cardinal he created in 2003… ending speculation that a last-minute cardinal might join in the April 18 start of the conclave [the papal election process],” according to The Associated Press of April 6, 2005.

To be able to elect a new pope, the cardinals, in sequestered meetings at the Sistine Chapel, have to agree on one candidate with a two-thirds majority (plus one). If there have been 33 unsuccessful attempts (ballots are cast each day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, as AFP reported on April 4, 2005), the cardinals are allowed to elect a pope with a simple majority, or to agree on the most likely candidate, choosing from the two who had received the most votes. The longest election process occurred in 1268, when it took three years to elect a new pope (Bild Online, April 1, 2005). The shortest election took place in 1978, when Pope John Paul I was elected. He only ruled for 33 days, before he died (Bild Online, April 3, 2005). Some believe that he did not die of natural causes.

When the cardinals decide on a candidate, the traditional white smoke that for centuries has announced the selection of a new pope to the world will be joined by the tolling of bells (The Associated Press, April 6, 2005).

On April 6, 2005, Bild Online published an article, stating, “Not Every Pope Died in His Bed.” The article pointed out that Pope John XII (937-964) was killed by a jealous husband, after he had transformed the Vatican into a house of prostitution. Pope Benedict IX (1020-1055) died in battle, when he fought against a German “counter-pope.” Pope Paul II (1417-1471) died while he had sexual relationships with another man. Pope Innocence VIII (1432-1492) died, after having violated his eight daughters, when a blood transfusion from a boy failed. Pope Leo X (1475-1521) died of syphilis, after he had had sexual relationships with boys, men and women.

Der Spiegel Online pointed out on April 4, 2005, that historically, “many conclaves were dictated by intrigue and corruption.”

The Scotsman added on April 4, 2005:

“The world is on the brink of witnessing an ancient rite, one redolent with history, power and intrigue… Yet the late John Paul II could be responsible for initiating a long conclave. He ordered the construction of Casa Santa Marta, a £12 million, 134-room hotel, which will permit the cardinals to deliberate in comfort, 108 of them in three-room suites.”

Bild Online even went so far as to state, on April 6, 2005: “There is already a power and election struggle going on in the Vatican… Intrigues, conspiracies, cheating… Is every method acceptable? Mysterious organizations, which could be decisive as to who might be the next pope, are: Opus Dei, the army of the pope, also known as the Italian Mafia; Communione e Liberazione, a powerful Italian lay member movement; Sant’Egidio, a community similar to an order; and the Fokolaries, a ultra-conservative youth group, which very strongly worships Mary. About one-third of the 117 cardinals sympathize with one or the other of those groups. Whether it’s Opus Dei or the Fokolaries, they all are extremely rich… and run universities and seminaries for priests — in which cardinals are forged.”

Unknown to most is the fact that every baptized Catholic male can be elected pope — he does not even have to be a priest. But since 1378, only cardinals were elected popes (Bild Online, April 3, 2005; AFP, April 4, 2005).

The worldwide reaction to Pope John Paul II’s death was stunning. President Bush said that he had been “a hero for all times — a fighter for peace and freedom” — even though he had been strongly opposed to the Iraq war. Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said that Pope John Paul II was instrumental in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the division in Germany and Europe. More than 100 governmental officials, as well as many more prominent figures, are planning to attend the funeral, from virtually every country around the world. Pilgrims are flocking into Rome by the millions. Even the wedding of Prince Charles was postponend (reportedly much to the anger of Prince Charles), as it would have coincided with the pope’s funeral.

Bild Online reported on April 6 about miracles that the late Pope John Paul II had allegedly performed during his life — including the healing of blind people; of individuals sick with cancer; and of lame and paralyzed persons. The paper stated that the Vatican is already considering sanctifying or canonizing the pope — a process which normally could last decades, if not centuries, except for popular demand of the masses. For instance, Franz of Assisi was sanctified as early as two years after his death (in 1226).

Der Spiegel Online discussed in its article of April 2, 2005, titled, “The Testament of the Lion,” why the late pope enjoyed such popularity–given the fact that he was extremely conservative. The paper pointed out that he did not compromise, and that he demanded unquestioned obedience. “His stance regarding abortion was terribly against the Zeitgeist [the commonly accepted view of the time]… He looked for reconciliation between Catholics and Jews — while declaring that the Catholic way was the only true one… The media loved this pope so much that they did not understand his radical stance on social issues… He could not prevent the Iraq war, but his resistance against it brought him admiration and love.”

The Bible prophesies that the final pope of the end-time will be able to perform miracles and propagate the Catholic way as the only true way — and he will do so in such a convincing manner, that most people will follow his lead. At the same time, important commandments of God will be ignored and neglected. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.” Have we now reached this final phase of human history, which will end with the return of Jesus Christ to this earth?

One has to be struck by the unending news coverage and the — overall — unquestioning admiration by the nations and people of the world for the late Pope John Paul II, and his religion. Only the tiniest mention is ever made about the deeply held beliefs embodied in Catholicism, and beyond that, only scant coverage of the recent problems of child molestation uncovered among so many priests of the Catholic Church.

In reading Revelation 13 and what is stated about the final
global impact of Catholicism, one has to be impressed how the world, more than ever before in recent times, is galvanized around Rome and the religious figure-head of this time!

Right now, the true Church of God — the spiritual body of Christ — seems indeed very small, very scattered and, overall, little prepared for what is coming…

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Is it a sin to eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath?

The Church of the Eternal God in the USA and its corporate affiliates in Canada and Great Britain have consistently taught that it is not wrong to eat out on the weekly Sabbath or annual Holy Days (which are also called “Sabbaths” in the Bible), depending on the circumstances. At the same time, we must always keep firmly in mind that whatever we do or say or think on the Sabbath should be in realization of the fact that we are spending time that God has set aside for a holy purpose (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Quoting from our booklet, titled, “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” pages 21 and 22, we have said:

“It was Jesus Christ-the LORD of the Sabbath-who created the Sabbath, following the directive and command of God the Father. It is God-both the Father and the Son-who expects man to keep the Sabbath holy. Only God has the right to tell us how to keep the Sabbath holy. In Matthew 12:1-8, Christ tells us that mercy allows for a hungry person to get and eat food on the Sabbath. We see here a very important distinction to the time when God did not provide ancient Israel with manna from heaven on the Sabbath. In Christ’s day, food was available. The disciples could pluck heads of grain from the field. Under the law, the landowners were not allowed to harvest completely all grain, but they had to leave some of it in the field, so that those who were hungry could pluck and eat it.

“While this is true, it must be emphasized that the disciples did not ‘harvest’ the field on the Sabbath. They just plucked a few heads of grain to satisfy their hunger. We should also take note of what the Scripture does not address here. Notice that it does not reveal whether the disciples were traveling or whether they were close to home. We are not told why the disciples were hungry to begin with, and why they had not prepared food on the previous day for the Sabbath. The reason we are not told is that it is irrelevant for the point that Christ is making here. The message rings loud and clear: Don’t condemn the innocent as to how they keep the Sabbath. They will have to give account to their own Lord and Master-Jesus Christ (Romans 14: 4, 9-13). Instead, WE are to show mercy and compassion. Mercy teaches us that it is wrong to prohibit a hungry person from getting food for himself and to eat it on the Sabbath.

“This is not to say, however, that a Christian should engage in shopping on the Sabbath, except in a real emergency (compare Nehemiah 13:15-22). Nor should this episode be used as justification or an excuse for a refusal to prepare for the Sabbath on the previous day.

“Note also that the disciples were in the presence of Christ while they were eating. They were with God-in the person of Jesus Christ-and were focusing on God. They did not profane the Sabbath by forgetting the sanctity of the day when they plucked grain to eat it. If Church members today eat occasionally in a nice, quiet restaurant on the Sabbath or a Holy Day after Church services, for instance, while, at the same time fellowshipping with other brethren and speaking about the things that pertain to God, then we must not condemn them for that. For instance, Church members might be traveling for quite a distance to attend Church services, looking forward to spending additional time with their brethren after services. If, on the other hand, your conscience does not allow you to go to a restaurant on a Sabbath or a Holy Day, then you must not do so, since ‘whatever is not from faith [or conviction] is sin’ (Romans 14:23). It would be advisable, though, to review the Scriptures to see whether your conscience is based on the Bible or merely on man-made traditions. God never accepts our conviction as justification for the violation of His law, and man-made regulations can, as we saw, cloud the intent of God’s commandments in the minds of men.”

We might want to add here that anyone who sincerely believes that he or she would compromise God’s Sabbath by eating away from home in a commercial establishment must also consider their own example within the body of believers and the effect on other believers — especially those who might be weak in the faith.

This teaching, that it is not wrong to eat out on the Sabbath, is in accordance with the long-held understanding of the Church of God. In a letter from the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God, dated October 1988, this understanding was correctly explained, as follows:

“The Church has long taught that it is not wrong to eat out on the weekly Sabbath occasionally or on the annual Holy Days, depending upon one’s circumstances and preferences. Those waiters, waitresses, chefs, and the like, who may serve in a restaurant, are not our ‘servants’ in the way described in the Fourth Commandment. They are the employees of the owner of the restaurant. They would be working regardless of whether or not we ate there. God does not hold us responsible for their working on the Sabbath just because we use their services — unless we are the only ones who ever ate in that restaurant on the Sabbath. Obviously, we make up a very small portion of the customers served in restaurants on the Sabbath or Holy Days. Further, eating out occasionally on the Sabbath can enhance spiritual fellowship with brethren and allow family members more time to be with one another.”

Mr. Armstrong, the late human leader of the Church of God, who died in 1986, explained once during a Bible study that he did not feel that it was inappropriate to go to a restaurant on a Sabbath. His long-time assistant, Aaron Dean, subsequently confirmed Mr. Armstrong’s understanding on the issue, to the effect that eating or not eating did not stop the cooks and servers at a restaurant from working on the Sabbath. Mr. Armstrong did not make it a practice of going out on the Sabbath (except on trips), and he didn’t comment a whole lot about it. He would not have formal dinners on the Sabbath (Friday nights or on Saturdays, during the day) at his house or Ambassador College — a college which was run by the Church — because that would have required employees or College students to work on the Sabbath. He would go out on a Friday night if he had guests, and if he had served his guests in his house, it would have meant a lot of work for Mr. Armstrong’s housekeeper and cook.

The Church of God in Germany published a booklet in the early 70’s, titled “Gottes Sabbat–ein Tag der Freude” (“God’s Sabbath — A Day of Joy”). It reflected the Church’s understanding on the issue, and stated: “In Matthew 12:1-5, Christ shows clearly that it is not prohibited to acquire food on the Sabbath, when one is hungry and has nothing to eat. If one is not at home, it is not wrong to go to a restaurant on the Sabbath. There are people who do not have the means of cooking at home. In such cases it is permissible to buy food on the Sabbath.”

Some have felt that we must never eat out on the Sabbath, as this would be engaging in the business of buying and selling. Sometimes, Exodus 16:22 and Nehemiah 10:31; 13:16-22 are quoted for that proposition. However, none of these Scriptures apply to eating occasionally in a restaurant.

Exodus 16 refers to a limited situation at the time. If we wanted to apply the entire passage literally today, we would not be allowed to leave our houses on the Sabbath (compare Exodus 16:29). But, we generally must leave our houses today to attend Sabbath services (Leviticus 23:3; Hebrews 10:24-25). In regard to the extreme and unusual circumstances at the time of Exodus 16, please also note that today, our food lasts longer than just for one day (compare Exodus 16:18-20). In addition, Exodus 16 does not even address the question of buying and selling.

Nehemiah 10 and 13 seem to apply more to the situation of a farmer’s market. If we were to apply it to occasionally eating out on the Sabbath, we would have to answer the following questions:

If Nehemiah were to prohibit eating out on the Sabbath, as it would violate, in principle, the prohibition to engage in commerce, then we could not stay at a hotel during the Sabbath (which Mr. Armstrong did on numerous occasions), as we would pay for the hotel’s services during that time (including eating complimentary breakfasts, room cleaning, using electricity), and we could never ride a bus to get to services (which Mr. Armstrong did habitually for a while). However, Christ made it very clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan that it is not wrong to stay in a hotel or an inn on the Sabbath and to pay for the services of the inn keeper (compare Luke 10:30, 33-35). Please note that in the parable, the man was severely beaten, and left almost half dead (verse 30). The Samaritan bandaged his wounds, brought him to the inn, took care of him (verse 34), departed the next day, giving the inn keeper money, and told him to take care of him, until he returned, when he would repay him (verse 35). Since the man was severely wounded and half-dead, he could not have been restored in just a week — which means, there would at least have been one Sabbath in between.

If Nehemiah were to prohibit eating out on the Sabbath, as it would violate, in principle, the prohibition to have a person labor for us, then we could not use a bus on the Sabbath to drive to services (as the bus driver “labors” for us); and hotel personnel could not do anything for us on the Sabbath (including cleaning our rooms and beds, bring us fresh towels, etc.).

If Nehemiah were to prohibit eating out on the Sabbath as it would violate, in principle, the prohibition to “work,” then one would have to answer the question why a person can “work” by preparing food on the Sabbath. For instance, Christ made it clear that it was not wrong to circumcise a baby on the Sabbath. This year, the Passover evening falls on the Sabbath, and work will have to be done during the ceremony. In addition, the Night to Be Much Observed falls this year on an annual Holy Day, following a weekly Sabbath. Some members of the Church of the Eternal God keep the Night to Be Much Observed in a nice, quiet restaurant, so as to reduce the work load on the women that night. Otherwise, the ladies would have to work during the weekly Sabbath to prepare meals for the evening. To prepare meals on Friday might pose several problems, as Friday, as the preparation day for the Sabbath, should be spent more properly to spiritually prepare for the Passover evening (in addition to finishing removing all leavening from the house, which must be completed this year by Friday evening).

In the early 70’s, it was the practice of the Church of God in Germany to meet together in a restaurant during the Night to Be Much Observed. This was always a most inspiring experience, and rightly observed, did not at all take away from the spirit of that occasion.

Some have said that we can eat out on an annual Holy Day, or on a weekly Sabbath, when we are traveling, but that we cannot eat out on a weekly Sabbath, when we are “within our gates.” However, there is no Scriptural evidence supporting this claim. Apart from the fact that the issues of having someone work for us, or engaging in business, would still be the same, the only Scripture occasionally used to justify the distinction is Deuteronomy 16:13. However, if anything, this passage would say the exact opposite (compare verse 14). Some have said that we can eat out on an annual Holy Day, as we are to “rejoice” on such a Day (compare Deuteronomy 16:14 and 15). However, this permission would equally apply to the weekly Sabbath, as we are to “rejoice” on the weekly Sabbath as well, which is a delight and a feast (compare Leviticus 23:2-3; Isaiah 58:13).

The religious leaders of Christ’s day made religion a burden (compare Matthew 23:4). However, in speaking of God’s commandments, John stated: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

In conclusion, to teach that it is a sin to eat out in a restaurant on the weekly and annual Sabbaths is not Biblical.

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

A new booklet on the future of the USA and Great Britain has been written, and has entered the first review cycle.

The printing of our booklet on Fighting in War has been completed. We trust that we will be able to send out the booklet next week to our readers.

A new member letter has been written by Edwin Pope, and will be sent out next week. The letter addresses the current condition in the world and in the Church and encourages Church members to diligently prepare for the Passover. It has been posted on the website.

A new StandingWatch program will be recorded on Friday.

Following Internet Sabbath services from Colorado on April 2, Alistair Wuckert was baptized. Alistair lives in the Denver, Colorado, area and is married. He and his wife, Andrea, are parents of an infant son named Malakai.

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Youth Forum


by Kalon Mitchell (19)

We all know the story of the good Samaritan; how a man lay bleeding in a ditch but most people who saw him turned away. They had things to do, meetings to attend, school to catch. They didn’t want to get their clothes dirty–in essence, they couldn’t be bothered. What about you and me? What would we have done?

Sometimes it can seem like there’s never a break in our activities. We are just too busy with our thoughts and problems to stop and think about others. Have you, maybe, noticed that someone’s feelings were down; that the lawn needed to be mowed; that the trash needed to be taken out, but you felt like you didn’t have time to help? Are you and I just superficial Christians?

What is the opposite of being superficial? Mr. Armstrong used to say that there are two ways to live–the way of give and the way of get. When we give, we practice God’s law of LOVE. When we live this way of life–of taking time to help others–we will still have the time to get the IMPORTANT things done; and we will have a sense of peace in knowing that we have helped to make someone’s life a little better. That’s the way of give—get it?

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

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