March 18th, 2021
Greetings from Charlotte,
We held an online worldwide Ministerial Conference this past Wednesday. After a delayed start due to a server going down, Mr. Ames, Dr. Douglas Winnail, and I updated the men and their wives on the progress of the Work, emphasized the need to focus on basic doctrine, and reminded them of certain protocols regarding the Night to Be Much Observed.
Mr. Htoowah Laybeh writes from Thailand: “Our Burma brethren have requested urgent prayer for God’s protection as the army is now in the process of drafting soldiers by force, meaning that they will just take whoever they think could be a shield to use against the demonstrations.”
As I reminded our ministry this past week, meditating on the turbulent past year offers us a great opportunity to reflect on how we personally dealt with the challenges presented to us. How did we react? Were we positive and thankful for what we did have, or were we angry over what we didn’t have? Were we strong and courageous, or did we shrink back in fear? Did we get caught up in the politics of this world, or did we focus on the basics of our calling? These are a few things to think about as we go into the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.—Gerald Weston
Livestream of First Day of Unleavened Bread Services
Services on the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread, Sunday, March 28, will be livestreamed from Headquarters. The sermon will be given by Mr. Weston. There will also be an offertory sermonette and the offering will be taken up (please see the “Upcoming Holy Day Offerings” announcement in this issue of The World Ahead for more information on the Holy Day Offerings).
All congregations are invited to tune in to this Holy Day service on March 28. Services will begin at 1:00 p.m., EDT, USA. For congregations 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.
Log into your MyLCG account for information about how to access the stream.
The Passover is a commanded assembly for all baptized members of God’s Church. This solemn assembly commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, involving the footwashing service and taking the symbols of unleavened bread and of wine, following the example of Christ and His disciples at His final Passover. The Passover service this year will be observed on the evening of Friday, March 26, soon after sunset.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where we are able to have in-person Passover services, we will be taking additional precautions to protect the health of all who attend this service. Contact your pastor if you have any questions about the protocols that will be followed this year for Passover. All requests for the pre-recorded Passover service DVD, and in-home instructions for scattered members who are unable to keep the Passover with a congregation should already have been sent to the Church Administration Department. (Pastors, for Passover protocol instructions, please see the Church Administration email of January 26, 2021.)
Night to Be Much Observed—Repeat Announcement
The Night to Be Much Observed is a long-standing Scriptural practice of the Church (see Exodus 12:42). As many did last year, it is fine for brethren to keep the Night to Be Much Observed at home with members of their own household or, if mutually agreed upon, with a small group of other brethren. Some may want to connect households virtually over meeting apps to share in fellowship. If state, local, and venue regulations do not prohibit group meetings, your pastor may approve a larger group meeting for the Night to Be Much Observed dinner. Contact your pastor if you have any questions about protocols to be followed for any larger NTBO group meetings this year. Please note that extra care must be taken in such circumstances. Anyone who is not well should not participate, but rather self-quarantine. (Pastors, for NTBO protocol instructions, please see the Church Administration email of January 26, 2021.)
Timing of the Night to Be Much Observed Meal: There is no biblical command about exactly when to start dinner that evening. However, it is the “Night” to be observed, so unless there are unusual circumstances, the meal should begin and take place after sundown.
Night to Be Much Observed Video Message: A recorded message is available that explains the meaning of the Night to Be Much Observed. This video should be viewed by those observing the Night to Be Much Observed. This recording will be posted on MyLCG ahead of the date and will also be posted publicly on lcg.org on March 27. The recording may be played before sundown that evening, March 27.
Church Survey—Repeat Announcement
Earlier this year, all Church pastors were sent membership listings of their congregations for conducting the periodic Church Survey. This Church Survey is needed from time to time to keep our files up to date. For example, the survey is vital to make sure all members receive their Church literature in the mail. We also need this information for Festival registration, to begin this year on May 2. Thank you to all members for helping your pastor collect your updated contact information!
Upcoming Holy Day Offerings: U.S. Churches Only—Repeat Announcement
As we prepare for the upcoming Holy Days, we want to let the brethren know how we will be handling Holy Day offerings. For those who will not be able to attend services in person, we are encouraging online donations, if possible, just as we did for the fall Holy Days. This cuts down on the time and work involved in processing checks sent by mail. With that said, congregations that hold in-person services on the Holy Days will have an offertory message and will collect an offering, as we have normally done. If you attend in person and choose to donate online, simply write “online” on your offering envelope collected at services.—Finance Department
Eliminating Spiritual Leaven: The Scriptures clearly indicate that leaven is to be removed from our homes and not to be eaten during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15). However, we need to remember, this is a physical exercise to help us understand the importance of identifying and eliminating spiritual leaven that tends to creep into our lives from this world. Spiritual leaven includes breaking the commandments of God by lusting, coveting, and hating as well as compromising or rebelling against God’s laws and instructions and His government. Spiritual leaven also includes the works of the flesh that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:19–21—adultery, fornication, outbursts of wrath, sowing seeds of contention and division, promoting personal doctrinal heresies, pursuing selfish ambitions, etc. As we take the Passover and go through the Days of Unleavened Bread, let’s ask God to show us any spiritual leaven that we need to eliminate from our lives. Let’s also be forgiving of others and be thankful for the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us so we can be forgiven.
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
News and Prophecy—March 18, 2021
Where Is Cancel Culture Headed? Our society is increasingly obsessed with “canceling” public figures or organizations whose actions, writings, or opinions are considered objectionable and out-of-step with popular, progressive sentiments. Whether the tactic is product boycotts, banning books from Amazon, or forced closings of social media accounts, the goal of this “cancel culture” is to prevent the voicing of unpopular thoughts or ideas. Today, students “cancel” faculty and university presidents they do not agree with. Nations, cities, and textbooks cancel historical figures or historical events that are considered not politically correct. Social media cancels people whose ideas or comments can be even remotely interpreted as offensive. When offenders attempt to clarify the meaning of their comments, the cancel culture often refuses to acknowledge these attempts. All human beings make mistakes and say wrong and unacceptable things, but where is this novel and extreme movement headed?
Cancel-culture attitude normally targets those expressing support for a traditional, Judeo-Christian value. Of course, the motivation to put down, silence, or eliminate enemies and competitors (ideological or otherwise) through war or other means is not new. Yet, as society moves further away from traditional values, we see a culture that is increasingly hateful of anything resembling the morals, standards, and worldview of the Bible. Why is this happening?
Scripture reveals that Satan the devil is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the one who “works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Jesus taught that those who love evil will automatically hate the good (John 3:20–21)! As Satan’s time as the ruler of this world runs out, his anger will become more obvious (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:12). Ultimately, if Satan could have his way, he would convince the peoples of this world to “cancel” God Himself. We must avoid being swept up in the hate-filled ideas and feelings of modern cancel culture. For more on this timely topic, be sure to read our short commentary “Are You a Hater?”
Animals on the Prowl: The Guardian reports that many developed nations around the world are experiencing a population decline—a time when birth rates are lower than the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman (January 24, 2021). Demographers see the “empowerment” of women and popular and effective methods of contraception and birth control as major causes of population decline. Populations are declining in central and eastern Europe, and Western nations are not far behind. Even developing countries like Thailand and Brazil are joining the club of nations with declining populations. China is facing the possibility of seeing its population cut by nearly half by the year 2100, due in large part to its long-standing “one child” policy, which ended only recently.
Declining populations affect numerous areas of the world—and in predictable ways. “Rewilding” describes the return of urban areas to a natural, “wild” state. Japan, where population has declined for decades, provides important insights into this growing phenomenon. “Already there are too few people to fill all its houses,” reports the Guardian, noting that “one in every eight homes now lies empty.” These empty and unattended houses, often in rural areas, quickly fall into disrepair and are “reclaimed” by local wildlife. And in Spain, the reduction in demand for land has caused forests to triple in size since 1900. “Rural abandonment on a large scale is one factor that has contributed to the recent resurgence of large carnivores in Europe: lynx, wolverines, brown bears and wolves.” As populations decline globally, the appearance of large predators moving into once populated areas will pose problems for people.
Bible prophecy foretells a situation at the end of the age when many on the earth will be killed “with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:7–8). As world events speed up, these ancient prophecies begin to take on more meaning. To learn more about what is coming in the days ahead, read “Understanding the Coming Plagues of Prophecy.”—Scott Winnail and Francine Prater