Update 293


The Image of God

On May 12, 2007, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “The Image of 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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Our Choice

by Norbert Link

We will soon be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost and reflect on the tremendous gift that God has bestowed on us–the priceless guarantee and down payment of eternal life–His very own Holy Spirit.

As it is true with everything in life, we are called upon to choose–even as it relates to God’s Spirit of Life. God only gives us His Spirit after we repent of our sins and believe in Christ’s sacrifice; after we choose to be baptized by one of God’s true ministers, and after the ministry lays hands upon us. Before baptism, God expects of us to show Him through the choice of our obedience that we really want to receive His priceless gift (Acts 5:32). After baptism, we must continue to choose to obey, lest we drift away and lose what has been given to us (Hebrews 2:1; 3:12-19).

Life requires of us to make choices–continuously. Every choice that we make either brings us closer to God’s Kingdom–or makes us drift farther away from it. Sometimes, it may seem difficult, if not impossible, to prioritize correctly our many challenges–especially, if a Godly choice would not harmonize with our human desires and values. We can make right and wrong choices: We can choose to seek God and His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33)–or to concentrate more on the physical things of this life (Matthew 6:19). We can choose to serve God–or “mammon” (Matthew 6:24). We can choose to love God the Father and Jesus Christ more than everything and everyone else–including our own lives–or to love our mates, children, families, friends or business associates more than God (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26).

But even though God allows us to choose, He does not want us to choose poorly. In fact, He commands us to choose wisely–for our own good. He tells us in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…” And God promises blessings to everyone who chooses what pleases Him (Isaiah 56:4-5).

We might think, in a given situation, that choosing against God’s instructions is the right thing to do–but God would never command us to do or not to do something, if there was a better way or even an acceptable alternative. To really believe that God knows best, and to follow His directives–no matter what–is the only sure road to lasting success. There are no shortcuts–and there are no better alternatives to God’s commandments. God instructs us to “keep His statutes and His commandments… that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days” (Deuteronomy 4:40). We also read Moses’ words to ancient Israel: “And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, and to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).

The gate and way which leads to Life is narrow and difficult, and only few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). Many actually think that good is evil, and that evil is good (Isaiah 5:20). They do not choose the fear of God (Proverbs 1:29), but that in which God does not delight (Isaiah 65:12). However, those who find the truth must also obey and practice it (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus Christ, in the human flesh, refused the evil and chose the good (Isaiah 7:15-16). So did David (Psalm 119:30)–and so must we.

To choose the right and to reject the wrong may require temporary sacrifices and suffering. Moses chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God” (Hebrews 11:25), in order to obey God, “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (same verse).

With God the Father’s and Jesus Christ’s Spirit within us, we have the guarantee that we CAN choose wisely and obey our Maker in everything (compare Philippians 4:13).

And so, we do have the choice! It has always been our choice–and it always will be. Knowing this–let us choose LIFE, so that we and our children may live–FOREVER!

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Peace in Northern Ireland … But There Is No Peace

The Associated Press reported on May 8:

“Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley and IRA veteran Martin McGuinness formed a long-unthinkable alliance Tuesday as Northern Ireland power-sharing went from dream to reality–and all sides expressed hope that bloodshed over this British territory would never return. “Paisley, who spent decades refusing to cooperate with Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority, conceded he had often refused to budge in years past but was ready now. He lauded the Irish Republican Army’s moves to renounce violence and disarm, and Sinn Fein’s decision to cooperate with the province’s mostly Protestant police as genuine. ‘From the depths of my heart, I believe Northern Ireland has come to a time of peace, a time when hate will no longer rule. How good it will be to be part of a wonderful healing in this province,’ Paisley said.

“Tuesday’s speedy, trouble-free formation of a 12-member administration jointly led by Paisley and McGuinness heralded an astonishing new era for Northern Ireland following decades of violence and political stalemate that left 3,700 dead. Paisley, 81, affirmed an oath pledging to cooperate with Catholics and the government of the neighboring Republic of Ireland–moves that the fire-and-brimstone evangelist had long denounced as surrender.”

Sadly, the Bible clearly predicts that there will be no lasting peace–neither in Northern Ireland, nor anywhere else on this globe.  The only hope for worldwide peace is the return of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 says: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.”

Elections in France — and More Talk of Peace

The Herald Tribune wrote on May 7:

“Leaders across Europe welcomed the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as France’s next president but enthusiasm Monday was tempered with caution, particularly in Germany. While leaders hoped that Sarkozy would reform the French economy, they questioned his protectionist policies and voiced concern that his strong opposition to Turkey joining the European Union could divide the 27-member bloc.

“Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was quick to congratulate Sarkozy on Sunday night. ‘The German-French friendship will continue to be the basis to secure lasting peace, democracy and prosperity in Europe,’ said Merkel, who like Sarkozy, belongs to the new generation of leaders born after World War II. The European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, said he was confident that Sarkozy would play the role of ‘motor’ in helping to overhaul EU institutions…

“Russia’s reaction was muted. Sergey Karaganov, dean of international studies at the Higher School of Economics, said in a telephone interview: ‘The only change I see will be the loss of a personal relationship with Chirac. With changes in Germany, France, Italy and the United States, there is an element of unpredictability’ for Russia, he added.

“Analysts said Sarkozy’s foreign policy agenda could ultimately depend on two things: whether the Franco-German alliance can again become the driving force inside the EU; and whether Gordon Brown, who is expected to succeed Tony Blair as Britain’s prime minister, will re-engage with Europe.”

France’s Next President for EU Constitution

Der Spiegel Online reported on May 7:

“Germany, as current EU president, will [breathe] a collective sigh of relief that Sarkozy has prevailed. Unlike his rival Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy does not want to let the French vote again on the constitutional treaty. Instead he wants a slimmed-down version, with only institutional reforms for the 27-member bloc, to be ratified as soon as possible — and not by the people, but by parliament. The discussions about a more comprehensive EU constitution would then be postponed to a later date.

“This pragmatism reflects that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who, as EU president, has already been working on a roadmap that would save the ‘substance of the constitutional treaty’ by 2009. A further indication of Sarkozy’s new pro-European stance is the fact that in March he was the only candidate in the French election to publicly support the Berlin Declaration, which marked the EU’s 50th anniversary, and which called for the revival of the constitution. It is also in Sarkozy’s own interest to clear the hurdles as soon as possible since France is due to take over the EU presidency in the second half of 2008. If everything goes according to Merkel’s roadmap, Sarkozy could end up being celebrated as the savior of the constitutional treaty…

“Other issues, however, could well lead to clashes. Sarkozy is a genuine opponent of further EU expansion. Even before the entry of Bulgaria and Romania he had called for an end to the accession of any more countries. And unlike his predecessor Jacques Chirac, he categorically rejects EU membership for Turkey. The Turkish newspaper Vatan has called him the ‘greatest opponent of Turkey in Europe.’ Sarkozy has repeatedly explained that as far as he is concerned geographically, Turkey doesn’t belong in Europe, but rather in Asia.”

France Over All

On May 7, Der Spiegel Online quoted the business daily Handelsblatt, as follows: “The new president has a dream: he wants to help France, which has lost its economic and political significance, to achieve new greatness… Sarkozy looks at Europe through a purely French lens…”

US-French Friendship?

The French News Agency AFP reported on May 7:

“World leaders were quick to congratulate Sarkozy on his victory, with US President George W. Bush telephoning him within an hour of polls closing. Sarkozy’s presidency carries hopes of a new era in US-France relations after the frostiness caused by Chirac’s opposition to the Iraq war. In his victory speech, Sarkozy said Washington can count on France’s friendship but urged it to show leadership in the struggle against global warming.”

Tony Blair Announces His Resignation

The Associated Press reported on May 10, 2007:

“Tony Blair said Thursday he would step down as prime minister on June 27, closing a decade of power in which he fostered peace in Northern Ireland and followed the United States to a war in Iraq that cost him much of his popularity. In a somber farewell, Blair made way for Treasury chief Gordon Brown to take the top post.

“Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, it was right, Blair said, to ‘stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally, and I did so out of belief… I may have been wrong, but that’s your call. But believe one thing if nothing else. I did what I thought was right for our country.’

“Brown, Blair’s dour partner in reforming the Labour Party and a sometimes impatient rival in government, was expected to easily win election as the party’s new leader and become the next prime minister. Brown has never criticized Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq and has given no indication on how he will steer Britain’s role in the conflict…

“Under the stewardship of Blair and Brown, the British economy has thrived. London rivals New York as the world’s pre-eminent financial center, GDP is up, unemployment is down and interest rates are low, though rising. However, Blair’s promised health and education reforms remain incomplete, and soaring house prices and increasing personal debt threaten to widen the divide between haves and have-nots…

“His decision to stand [shoulder]-to-shoulder with President Bush by committing troops for the invasion divided his party and the country. Blair said he was content for history to judge him, but four years on and with almost 150 British troops dead in Iraq, the war is more unpopular than ever. In Iraq, those critical of the 2003 invasion welcomed Blair’s impending departure… But in southern Basra, where British soldiers have been based since 2003, some worried the city will fall into chaos when Britain reduces its troop presence…

“Blair’s last months in office also have been overshadowed by a police investigation into claims that his party and the opposition traded political honors for cash…”

King Herod’s Tomb Found

CNN.com reported on May 7:

“An Israeli archaeologist has found the tomb of King Herod, the legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Hebrew University said late Monday. The tomb is at a site called Herodium, a flattened hilltop in the Judean Desert, clearly visible from southern Jerusalem. Herod built a palace on the hill, and researchers discovered his burial site there, the university said…

“Herod became the ruler of the Holy Land under the Romans around 37 B.C. The wall he built around the Old City of Jerusalem still stands, and he also ordered big construction projects in Caesaria, Jericho, the hilltop fortress of Massada and other sites… Herod died in 4 B.C. in Jericho. Herodium was one of the last strong points held by Jewish rebels fighting against the Romans, and it was conquered and destroyed by Roman troops in A.D. 71, a year after they destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem.”

Herod was one of the most brutal and cruel leaders this world has ever known. Among other terrible crimes, his bad reputation results from his evil murder of innocent children in an attempt to kill Jesus (compare Matthew 2:16-18).

Turkey in Big Trouble

Der Spiegel Online wrote on May 7:

“Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül withdrew from the country’s presidential race on Sunday in disgust after secularists in parliament handed his Islamic-rooted party another humiliating defeat. Gül said the rift in Turkey between secularist and Islamic politicians has ‘damaged the parliament’s honor’ and may force a popular presidential vote… A defeat for Gül — who belongs to Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, the AKP — is, perhaps ironically, bad news for the West…

“European politicians are now more concerned about the Turkish military, which looks unwilling to keep its fingers out of politics, than any Islamic agenda. Is it possible that Turkey still hasn’t transcended its violent past, typified in previous decades by coups and rolling tanks?… An open conflict between AKP supporters and the military would be fatal for the country…

“The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk… made Sunday the country’s official day of rest (instead of Friday, the Muslim day of prayer). He introduced Latin writing instead of Arabic and replaced Sharia with a code composed of Swiss and Italian law. ‘Progress means taking part in this civilization,’ Atatürk preached to his people, ‘the Turks have constantly moved in one direction — we have always gone from East to West.’…”

Russian Nuclear Weapons Missing?

The Washington Times reported on May 2:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Bush he could not account for all of Moscow’s nuclear weapons at the same time al Qaeda was seeking to purchase three Russian nuclear devices on the black market, former CIA Director George J. Tenet said… The comments contradict Russian government claims for the past 16 years that no nuclear arms were missing. Alexander Lebed, a former Russian national security adviser, stated in 1997 that Russia could not account for about 80 portable nuclear weapons, a claim later denied by Moscow.”

The Pope Warns Catholic Politicians

Reuters reported on May 9:

“Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the [Catholic] Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.

“It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy… Under [Catholic] Church law, someone who knowingly does or backs something which the [Catholic] Church considers a grave sin, such as abortion, inflicts what is known as ‘automatic excommunication’ on themselves…

“The Pope’s comments appear to raise the stakes in the debate over whether Catholic politicians can support abortion or gay marriage and still consider themselves proper Catholics. In recent months, the Vatican has been accused of interference in Italy for telling Catholic lawmakers to oppose a draft law that would grant some rights to unwed and gay couples…

“Some Catholics say they personally would not have an abortion but feel obliged to support a woman’s right to choose. But the [Catholic] Church, which teaches that life begins at the moment of conception and that abortion is murder, says Catholics cannot have it both ways.”

Terrible Weather Conditions in the USA

The Associated Press wrote on May 9:

“Nature’s fury made life miserable Wednesday from one end of the nation to the other… And although the calendar still said spring, the first named storm of the year was whipping up surf on the beaches of the Southeast.

“… a three-week-old fire in southern Georgia had become that state’s biggest on record after charring 167 square miles of forest and swamp. Smoke and a dusting of ashes filled the air through much of Florida and southeastern Georgia. The haze over most of Florida even closed several highways and sent people with breathing problems indoors.

“… In addition to 11 tornado deaths, two drowning deaths were blamed on the storms, one each in Oklahoma and Kansas. High water had poured over the tops of at least 20 levees along the Missouri River and other streams in the state…

“On the West Coast, in view of many Los Angeles residents, a blaze had covered more than 800 acres in the city’s sprawling Griffith Park behind the iconic Griffith Observatory… In the Southeast, a wildfire in northern Florida’s Bradford County had forced the evacuation of about 250 homes… That fire had blackened 16,000 to 18,000 acres and was 20 percent contained…

“Elsewhere, a wildfire near the Canadian border in northeastern Minnesota had covered more than 34 square miles Wednesday, adding more than 8 square miles in one day, authorities said. It had destroyed 45 buildings, including multimillion-dollar homes, and firefighters said it was just 5 percent contained. More than 100 people had been removed from their homes in the path of the fire.”

State Orders Gas Prices to Be Raised

From the highly objectionable to the totally ridiculous–and because of laws, which make no sense, there is no end in sight of the rise of manipulated unreasonable gas prices.

The Associated Press reported on May 9:

“A service station that offered discounted gas to senior citizens and people supporting youth sports has been ordered by the state to raise its prices. Center City BP owner Raj Bhandari has been offering senior citizens a 2 cent per gallon price break and discount cards that let sports boosters pay 3 cents less per gallon.

“But the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says those deals violate Wisconsin’s Unfair Sales Act, which requires stations to sell gas for about 9.2 percent more than the wholesale price. Bhandari said he received a letter from the state auditor last month saying the state would sue him if he did not raise his prices. The state could penalize him for each discounted gallon he sold, with the fine determined by a judge.

“Bhandari, who bought the station a year ago, said he worries customers will think he stopped the discounts because he wants to make more money. About 10 percent of his customers had used the discount cards.”

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I have heard it said that the Biblical terms "all" or "every" [such as, "every person" or "every thing"] do not necessarily have to mean, "without any exception." Is this correct?

In the vast majority of Biblical passages, the terms “all” or “every” are all-inclusive and don’t allow for exceptions, but this is not always the case. The fact that Bible commentaries and interpreters have IGNORED this vital truth, has misled them to reach doctrinally incorrect conclusions. It is also very critical to read passages in context, and in consideration of other passages which might shed more light on a given subject. Failing to do so might lead to wrong concepts.

For example, we read in Daniel 7:27 that “ALL dominions shall serve and obey” Christ, when He establishes the Kingdom of God here on earth. This might give the impression that there won’t be any who will disobey and who will have to be dealt with, accordingly. However, this conclusion would be incorrect, as we read in Isaiah 60:12: “For the nation and kingdom which shall not serve you shall perish, And those nations shall be utterly ruined.” Compare, too, Zechariah 14:16-19, regarding nations who will at first refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

We see, then, that even though we read that “ALL dominions” will serve and obey Christ, some will NOT do so, at first. In fact, some will stubbornly REFUSE to obey at all.

However, we read that God “is the Savior of ALL men, ESPECIALLY of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). At the same time, we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:12 that “they ALL may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” These passages don’t contradict each other; nor are they all-inclusive. God is the potential Savior of all men who believe now, and who will come to believe later, even though they may not believe now. And those who don’t believe when Christ returns will be “condemned” or “dealt with” at that time, but this is not to say that they will be thrown into the lake of fire because they have committed the unpardonable sin–most of them will be resurrected in the Second Resurrection to be “judged” (Revelation 20:11-12). For more information, please read our free booklets, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?“, and “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”

Also, the concept that Christ is the Savior of ALL men does not rule out the fact that some will NOT be saved. Here, the word “ALL” is NOT used in an all-inclusive sense. Some WILL commit the unpardonable sin and be destroyed and burned up in the lake of fire (Hebrews 6:4-8; Revelation 20:13-15).

Still, we read that “ALL Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). As stated, this might give the impression that every last Israelite will inherit salvation. But this is not true, as there will be some who will reject salvation. For instance, Christ warned the Pharisees that they were walking on very thin ice, heading towards committing the unpardonable sin (compare Mark 3:28-30 and Matthew 9:34).

Paul continues in Romans 11:32 that God, in His dealings with Israel, “has committed them ALL to disobedience, that He might have mercy on ALL.” In both cases, the word “all” is not used to teach all-inclusiveness, without any exceptions. Not every last Israelite will repent, and not every Israelite–even at the time of Paul–was disobedient. The early Church of God consisted at first exclusively of Israelites who had become obedient to the faith.

We also read in Romans 14:11 that “EVERY tongue shall confess” to God. But again, this does not include every last person, as some will not confess to God, but instead, they will be destroyed in the lake of fire–they will die the second death–in utter rebellion to God.

There are additional examples where the words “all” or “every” are not to be understood in an all-inclusive sense.

In Luke 8:45, a woman touched Christ, in order to be healed, and when Christ asked who had touched Him, it says that “ALL denied it.” Then Peter and other disciples said to Him, “The multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'” We then read that the woman came forward and confessed (verse 47). Therefore, when “ALL” denied that they touched Him, this apparently excluded the woman and most certainly His disciples, who admitted that they and others had “touched” Jesus, without understanding the relevance of His question.

In Matthew 23:3, Christ told the Jews to “obey ALL” (Authorized Version) what the scribes and Pharisees commanded them to do. In Ephesians 5:24, Paul says that women are to be submissive to their husbands in EVERYTHING. And Peter says in 1 Peter 2:13 that we are to submit ourselves to EVERY ordinance of man. However, these passages are not all-inclusive and allow–yes, DEMAND–an exception. This exception is found in Acts 5:27-32, where Peter makes it clear that we must obey God rather than man, and that we must DISOBEY man if we would otherwise disobey God.

We also read that the gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached in all the world as a witness, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). This does not mean that every last person on earth will hear the gospel just prior to Christ’s return. There will be those alive at the beginning of the Millennium who never heard Christ’s gospel message (compare Isaiah 66:19). This is why Matthew 24:14 must be read together with Scriptures such as Mark 13:10 and Luke 24:47, stating that the gospel will be preached “among” all nations.

We read in Revelation 1:7 that “every eye” will see Christ when He returns–“even they who pierced Him.” But we know from other Scriptures that only those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return will see Him–in addition to those few (part of the firstfruits) who were alive at the time of Christ’s First Coming, originally consenting to His death, but who then came to repentance and died in the faith, and who will therefore be in the First Resurrection. The overwhelming majority of mankind will NOT see Him at the time of His return; yet, it says that “EVERY EYE” will see Him. What is meant in Revelation 1:7 is that all who are ALIVE at the time of His return will see Him–because we all are responsible for Christ’s death through our sins.

In Luke 17:26-29, Christ says that “all” were destroyed at the time of Noah, except for Noah; and that “all” were destroyed in Sodom, except for Lot. But other Scriptures tell us that Noah’s FAMILY was also spared, and so were Lot’s DAUGHTERS.

In Luke 6:30, Christ tells us that we are to give to EVERYONE who asks of us and wants to borrow from us. Again, this is not an all-inclusive command, as Paul says, for example, that we must work to make a living, and if we are unwilling to work, we should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So, Christ was not telling us that we must give to just EVERYONE who wants to eat, even though he is unwilling to work.

In Philippians 2:20-21, Paul says about Timothy that he has no one “like-minded,” who sincerely cares for others, continuing that “ALL seek their own.” But surely, Paul did not mean all the other saints who were with him, because he writes in Philippians 4:21-22: “The brethren who are with me greet you. ALL the saints greet you.”

Finally, we read in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 that “EVERY creature of God” is good for food. Some use this passage to claim that we are therefore no longer obligated to refrain from eating UNCLEAN meat. However, we also read in Genesis 9:3 that “EVERY moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you ALL things, even as the green herbs.” It goes without saying that we must not eat POISONOUS green herbs–even though “all things” were given to us for food–and we therefore must not eat meat which was not created for food (Compare again 1 Timothy 4:4, stating that those who believe and know the truth of God’s Word, as revealed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, understand WHICH animals God has created FOR FOOD). We see, therefore, that these passages are not all-inclusive, but must be understood in context. For more information, please read our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound...”

In conclusion, we ALWAYS need to carefully review the context in light of ALL Scriptures relevant to a certain topic, in order to reach a correct understanding.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

The new member letter was sent out this week. In the letter, Norbert Link discusses the need to cope with problems and to resist Satan the devil–especially in the days prior to Pentecost.

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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:

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