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The Joy of the Lord and Your Understanding of Scriptures

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Prior to my coming to the Philippines I was a lay chaplain for the Arkansas Department of Corrects and would conduct Bible studies at a local work release program and a few small detention centers. It was always exciting for me to walk through those prison doors, hear the sound of those large electronic bolts locking me inside a room full of killers, thieves, rapists, and drug addicts. What excited me was knowing that I was bringing the Word of God to those who truly needed to hear and understand His word. This one time we were teaching through Romans and studying chapter seven when suddenly a fight breaks out while we were trying to understand the struggle between the sin nature and the new spiritual nature. This was the ultimate drama illustrating the spiritual truth being taught. Why did the guys start fighting you may wonder? One guy came to church every week and the other guy went this time only to harm the other guy. Because they were locked up in a different block of cells the second guy had to go to a common area where he would see his target. The second guy was not interested in God’s word and saw the church service as a means towards his ulterior end – inflicting harm on the other. I wonder how often we do the same. I wonder how many people are going to church only to allow Satan to achieve his ulterior end of inflicting harm on people.

Allow me to start by asking “what is your understanding and expectations of God’s word.” That is, what do you think you can gain from the Bible? Do you see the Bible as a Holy relic from which you will receive blessings if revered? Or do you see it as a source of information, the type of information that can affect major change in your life? In like manner, why do we come to church? Is it to check off a task from our religious check list or is it to worship through learning? How many of you believe that we can worship God by learning from the sermon?

Paul tells us in Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God…” But how does this “power” actually manifest itself? I have seen a time where a jeepney was traveling down a city street and from the back gospel tracts were being thrown at the people walking on the sidewalk, yet the tracts were just walked over by the people on the sidewalk. Were the people in the jeepney evangelizing? Or how about this, have you ever thought that if you have a Bible study with a co-worker or friend that they will automatically be a better person and this will help keep you secure? ‘They will be less likely to steal from me or harm me in so other way’ you may have thought. Why do we think this way? What type of Bible study should we have with non-believers? What type with believers? Do we wish to be able to just read one Bible verse and that act will protect us from evil?

There is a Christian doctrine, the Perspicuity (Clarity) of Scripture, which instructs us that the Bible is written in a manner that the text is clear and that the understanding of any text can be discovered by ordinary readers. Do you find this to be true? Have you always picked up your Bible, read a chapter or two, and fully understood the meaning of what you read? No, of course not. The key to understanding what is meant, when theologians tell us that the scriptures should be clear to the average reader, is that it “can” be understood. We will be looking at “how” this “can” be so. We will be looking at the need of studying and striving to understand scriptures, the need for the scriptures to be proclaimed and explained so that we can understand, the need to allow the scriptures to affect its purifying effect upon us, and the outcome of engaging in the studying of scriptures.

At this stage in our study of the Book of Nehemiah we shift our focus from the physical labors of Nehemiah and the Jewish people to the spiritual side of things. Starting now in chapter eight and going on until the end of the book, Nehemiah, and at times the priest Ezra, will focus on the spiritual wellbeing of the people and how to help the people grow in their faith and relationship with God. So let’s take a closer look at chapter eight and see what precipitates this change that takes place throughout the rest of the book.

In Nehemiah 8:1-3 we discover that the Jewish people were gathered together in what was a large open square or plaza near one of the gates of the newly rewalled city. As they were gathered together they called for the scribe/priest Ezra to read to them the scriptures.

We need to note that in verse two is the timeframe for this event; it was the first day of the seventh month. The seventh month in the Jewish calendar should have been a busy time for the Jewish people. Three times each year those Jews who lived in the proximity of Jerusalem should have converged on the city for religious festivals. Similar to how here in the Philippines you can be sure that people will return home to their province on All Saints Day, Christmas/New Year, and Holy Week.

For the Jews, these pilgrimage festivals should have been centered on agricultural times of harvest so as to simplify the tithing process. We should recall that for Israel the tithes and sacrifices were for the most part a fragment of a larger celebration that involved a lot of food and fun. There definitely was an air of reverence surrounding the feasts, but they were to be feasts nonetheless. So during times of major harvests the Lord designated these to be the times to celebrate the feasts and thus allow the Jews to bring in their freshly harvested tithe which would mostly be consumed during the festival. The bringing of the tithe would vary in amount from year-to-year as the Jews followed a lunar calendar which does not always sync with the solar defined farming seasons. Also, or should I say contrasting with this, not to waste an opportunity, the Lord tethered each primary harvest to a historical event or spiritual reality that He wanted the people to always remember. Such as how our Christmas should remind us of the birth of Christ and Easter of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The three primary pilgrimage festivals were: 1) The Passover which was coupled with the barley harvest and was intended to remind the Jews of their deliverance from bondage; 2) Coupled with the wheat harvest was the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) which took place seven weeks after Passover and was the end of the cereal or grain harvest. Pentecost was intended to remind the Jews that God was their provider and resulted in Israel renewing their covenant relationship with God spurred on by gratitude for His provision; 3) The Feast of Tabernacles was the final pilgrimage festival and occurred during the seventh month. The feast was in celebration of the end of the farming season and would be similar to an Autumn Festival celebrated, usually in October in the northern sections of the northern hemisphere, in appreciation for the general harvest. The American autumn harvest feast is called Thanksgiving Day and will occur in a few weeks (and I am looking forward to the feast). The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles ought to have involved the Jews making tents that they would live in during the time of the weeklong celebration and would have been a reminder of when the nation of old lived in tents during their wandering experience after their spies motivated the people to reject their promise land.

The seventh month of the Jewish calendar should have had three holidays celebrated within a short order of time. This would be similar to our Christmas Day, Rizal Day, and New Year’s Day. The first holiday in the Jewish calendar’s seventh month is the Feast of Trumpets and involved a day of the blowing of trumpets and calling the people to come to the feast of that day as well as the two feasts that were to soon follow. This feast happened on the first day of the month and it is this feast that we see in Nehemiah chapter eight. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month should have been the Day of Atonement which was a day of repentance and sorrow. This day should have instilled into the minds of the Jews their need of atonement for their sins. It was the day in which their sins were dealt with. Then five days after the Day of Atonement should have been the Feast of Tabernacles which lasted a week and was potentially a time of great celebration. Thus when God outlined the Jewish calendar when He gave them the Law of Moses the seventh month began with a call to the people to join together with God, but before they could move on to the primary celebration they had to deal with the guilt of their sins. Once their sins were dealt with it was then to be a time of great festivities.

The nation of Israel had not always followed this sequence regarding the feasts of the seventh month nor understood the significance of the order of these events. We see this alluded to in Nehemiah 8:17. After the Day of Atonement was prescribed by Moses it was practiced a few times but then there is no Old Testament record of Israel actually practicing this feast after the time of Moses. There are several instances of the Feasts of Tabernacles being practiced, but there is no indication that the Jewish people understood that the feast was to be a time of celebrating the autumn harvest in conjunction with the symbolic cleansing of their sins that would have taken place during the Day of Atonement, and finally joining all of this together to be a time of remembrance of their occasion of living in tents contrasting the difficult times with God’s current provision of an abundant harvest. This indicates that the people of Israel likely missed the overall meaning of the combined celebrations of the seventh month thus no traditions were formed that would have enhanced life and their enjoyment of the goodness of God. God wants us to enjoy Him! The fact that the Jews missed the timing of the calendar events as was given in the law will be seen in our study today as well as next week when we study chapter nine. This is where we find Nehemiah and the people of Israel when they asked Ezra to teach them the Word of God in Nehemiah 8:1.

Another bit of background I would like us to understand before we start digging out the truths of chapter eight is that in Nehemiah 8:1 we see for the first time in the Book of Nehemiah Ezra the priest and scribe. Ezra was a contemporary of Nehemiah and of the generation following the prophets Haggai and Zechariah whom were instrumental in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple more than sixty years prior to the time of Nehemiah chapter eight. Preceding his reintroduction seen here in Nehemiah eight we can find Ezra being commissioned by the king of Persia to train leaders in knowing, applying, and helping others apply God’s law. Ezra 7:25 reads: “You, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God which is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges that they may judge all the people who are in the province beyond the River, even all those who know the laws of your God; and you may teach anyone who is ignorant of them.” King Artaxerxes would have done this likely in order to allow the Jews to have the freedom to adhere to their religion with the hopes that this would satisfy the people thus enhancing the peace and order of the Persian Kingdom. Yet in reality this set the stage for what we will discover in Nehemiah chapter eight. Fourteen or fifteen years may have passed since the time Ezra was charged to train leaders in how to handle accurately the Word of God. Ezra was committed to the task but to accomplish the task took years of hard work and preparations; a price that had to be paid. With this all in mind let us now turn to our text to discover what transpires.

Again looking at Nehemiah 8:1-3 we discover that Ezra was reading the Bible and that the people were listening intently at what was being read. Yet we discover that the goal of this exercise was to understand God’s word and not merely just hear the word. In verse two we see that anyone who could understand was brought in and then in verse three that they listened attentively. It was more than just a religious exercise done so as to provoke a blessing from God. How often do we go to church just to invoke God’s blessing but during the sermon we are thinking about anything else rather than the sermon. I know for me I must shut down all other thoughts and focus on what is being taught from the pulpit, especially if the message is given wholly in Tagalog. This morning many of you should be putting forth greater effort to understand my message that is being delivered in English. This is the price we will need to pay to learn God’s Word. It would be a lot easier for us if we simply received blessings for just coming, but that is not how God has designed it. God communicates to us and then we must strive to understand what it is that He has communicated and then allow those thoughts to impact our behavior and refashion our character. The people who returned to Israel understood this. We see in our passage today that six times the emphasis is on understanding or gaining insight. In Nehemiah 8:5 when Ezra was reading the Scriptures the people stood up; they stood up due to their reverence to the Holy Bible. They knew they needed to understand and they respected that need.

It is likely here in verse five where our tradition began of us standing at the reading of the passage that our Sunday morning’s sermons will be based on. I would like to ask, before reading this passage this morning how many of you knew that there is a biblical precedence for our tradition, that this is likely the passage where that precedence is found, and that our tradition is founded on the notion that God’s people gave reverence to God’s word for they believed that a greater understanding of God’s word will affect greater change in their lives. Or, have we never given much thought as to why we stand when we read our passage of study? To stand because it is a tradition is simply a religious work that has no merit! To stand in respect of God’s word acknowledging that we need to hear, study, and understand His word is the beginning of the process that will greatly impact our lives.

Another interesting truth that we glean from this passage is that just hearing the word of God read was insufficient for gaining understanding. In Nehemiah 8:7-8 leaders had to assist the people in understanding the scriptures. Several reasons as to why this was the case. One, most of the people would have known Hebrew as a second language as they were held captive outside of Israel, and hearing Hebrew read out required more effort to be made in understanding what was being read. Second, the Hebrew text that was being read was an ancient text. Allow me to illustrate this point; read the following:

And thei redden in the book of Goddis lawe distinctli, ether atreet, and opynli to vndurstonde; and thei vndurstoden, whanne it was red. (Wycliffe 1382)

And they read in the booke of the Lawe of God distinctly, and gaue the sense, and caused them to vnderstand the reading. (Geneva 1587)

I’m sure for many of you when you first glanced at the text it seemed foreign and you may not have recognized that it is one verse from our text, Nehemiah 8:8. That is 600 year old English! By the time you read the second verse you likely were able to read and follow along; that is 400 year old English. Ezra was reading 1,000 year old Hebrew to the people gathered. There were natural language barriers inhibiting the people. But our difficulty in understanding scriptures is more than just language. The scriptures build upon themselves and if we do not have our foundation correct it is difficult to understand what the writer was trying to communicate. We have to think within the context of Israel of old; and this takes learning.

Thus Ezra took maybe fifteen years to train teachers, teachers who were willing to take the time to be trained. This is no small commitment, yet it is a necessary commitment if we are going to be faithful as a church to pass the gospel on to the next generation. As an elder of the church I speak for the church and I assure you that if you are willing to allow yourself to be trained in properly handling God’s word we will see to it that you get the training required. How much training, and how much teaching, depends on how deep you want to go. For many of you it may be just gathering together and hearing and discussing God’s word on a basic level such as we see in our text on the first day that the people gathered.

Now notice in Nehemiah 8:7 that thirteen different leaders met with the people in the place where they were gathered and gave instruction. Thirteen leaders trained by Ezra met the people in smaller groups. The picture would be as such; here in our worship service we meet together as a large group and hear the sermon. But just after the sermon we could gather into small groups to discuss the sermon to make sure everyone understood the message. Picture a group or two up in the mezzanine and then maybe five or six smaller groups huddled together here in the main hall, all helping each other understand the text of scriptures that we studied. This is a solid and sure format that has been used by the Church for centuries; the format of small groups. We have small groups here in our church that meet at various times and places throughout the week. In days of old small groups met together on Sunday mornings and these meetings were called Sunday School. We have attempted on several occasions to start some type of Sunday School program for the purpose of helping you the church body gain further understanding of scriptures. Hearing the scriptures taught from the pulpit is one level, but gathering together in small groups demonstrates a greater reverence for God’s word and our commitment to grow in the knowledge of His word.

Are you involved in a small group? We as a church have tried to start small groups here on Sunday mornings from 11:00 am ‘til noon so as to make it more convenient for some to attend; should we continue that? But truly the larger question that I want you to think about is ‘how concerned are you in growing in your knowledge of God’s word?’ We will see here shortly one benefit gained in growing in the knowledge of God’s word; at the same time we will see that one of the blessing we hope for is found within the context of growing in our knowledge of God’s word. But before we get there let’s look at one additional level of the people’s commitment in growing in this knowledge.

In Nehemiah 8:13 we discover that some of the people were willing to go even deeper in their understanding. Notice that this gathering was of leaders of the households and the priests and scribes; the spiritual leaders! They gathered so as to receive further instruction in scriptures. The principle that we uncover is that even the leaders need to continue their growth.

Currently we are in our election season and the weeks leading up to the elections the elders of the church wanted to stress the importance of an elder knowing sound doctrine and being able to teach that doctrine. We realize as the leaders of the church that to ask the church body to select men who can teach will limit those who are qualified, but we feel that this limiting factor is determined by our Lord Jesus Christ. The ability to teach sound doctrine is also a qualification for deacons though teaching may not be in their job description. To know and communicate sound doctrine is foundational for church leadership. And we desire that this be true of GCF Batangas. It is easy to elect those who are popular or those who are successful in their professional lives; but this is not what the scriptures deem as important. I want to speak to the men of the church, are you willing to be a Nehemiah 8:13 man and allow yourself to go deeper into the study of God’s word? The men’s ministry of the church desires to take men deeper. If you look at your bulletin you will notice that the men’s ministry meets here at the church every Thursday night beginning at 7:00 pm. I challenge you men to join that ministry!

In Nehemiah 8:9-12 we encounter the effects of engaging God’s word, but also the ultimate objective that God’s has intended for humanity when it comes to Him giving us His word. We discover in verse nine that once the people heard and understood the message that they broke down into tears. That is, they were convicted of their sins and this conviction caused them to weep. We do not know the exact passage that the people were studying but we do know from verses ten and twelve that the intent of the passage was to get the people to engage in a feast. It is likely that Ezra was teaching the people the truths surrounding the intended feasts of the seventh month as seen in Leviticus 23:24-44. The remedy to the problem was to engage in these feasts. Verses one through twelve of Nehemiah eight did take place on the first day of the seventh moth which was the day of the Feasts of Trumpets; the day calling Israel together for the upcoming Day of Atonement and the week long Feast of Tabernacles, if they were to practice the scriptures correctly. As the people were ignorant to the teachings of scriptures, and as they had just come out of an extended time of banishment from their land, the tradition was not likely practiced. The solution was simple; obey. Obey what they just rediscovered in God’s word.

In Nehemiah 8:10 we read a very popular verse that has been put into song and often quoted by Christians; well, at least the latter part of the verse. We are told that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” But what is the source of this joy? The sequence leading to this statement was that the people engaged in the study of God’s word, that they were convicted of not practicing the feasts that God prescribed, but that they simply needed to obey God’s word to overcome their sorrow. This would have alleviated them of their immediate sorrow. This is also true for us as Christians! We want to experience the joy of the Lord but to do so we cannot by-pass the study of scriptures, the understanding of what we are to do, and the application of that understanding. If we come to church to satisfy a religious notion that simply believes coming will invoke God’s favor then we are missing the mark. We come to learn what we are to apply and then apply what we learn; and herein lies the source of our joy. We should not come to church so as to earn our salvation but rather to enhance our salvation.

Yet Israel faced a larger problem which in reality was robbing them of greater degrees of joy. It is God’s desire that we as people know Him and enjoy Him. Yet as He is a holy God, we as sinful men can’t irreverently approach Him. Thus He introduced to Israel the feasts and sacrifices stipulated in the Old Testament. The festive season of the seventh month was to call the people together, deal with the guilt of their sins, and then allow the people to engage in an extended celebration of God being their provider. This was to be a yearly tradition giving joyous structure to the Jewish calendar. This was never the case. If you notice by skipping down to Nehemiah 8:17 that Israel has not since the time they entered their promised land engaged in such a celebration, at least not to its fullest extent. We know from Ezra 3:4 that those who returned first (prior to the times that both Ezra and Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem) reinstated the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) but possibly more out of a sense of religious obligation. God desires that we enjoy Him, and this enjoyment is experienced by coming to Him, dealing with the issue of our sins, and then engage in the times of enjoyment.

For us this would be living the Christian life. Once we come to Christ and confess that we are sinners and are willing to repent from our sins can we then engage in a life of serving Him. Here is where we find our joy, here is where we store up treasures in Heaven, here is where we look forward to His coming again, and through all of this is where we find our strength for tomorrow. For the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is this process that we discover Israel engaged in here in Nehemiah eight; and it is this same process that can strengthen us the Church.

When the people recognized their failures they set out to correct their wrong. Notice in Nehemiah 8:14-15 they realized that during the feasts of the seventh month they were to live in booths. This ritual was designed to aid them in recalling where they had come from so as to highlight how far God has brought them. Once they acknowledged their failures they set out to rectify their wrong and the leaders proclaimed that the people were to practice correctly the Feast of Tabernacles. The people went out into the bush and gathered the materials needed to build their own tabernacles. Building their tabernacles produced in them great joy as seen in Nehemiah 8:17. Then they engaged in their week long feast and this was a time of great celebration as discovered in Nehemiah 8:18.

So how can we as the Church experience such joy? That is, if we engage ourselves in the learning process of understanding the scriptures can this produce in us greater joy which in turn gives us spiritual strength? Let’s test this notion with the same body of truth Israel interacted with when they rediscovered some of the teachings of scriptures.

What Israel rediscovered was the teachings regarding the Feast of Tabernacles. The question that I want to present to you, GCF Batangas, is what does this Feast of Tabernacles mean for us? Or, does it mean anything for us at all? I believe that it does! The feast was by design an occurrence that should have led to establishing a tradition. There are both pros and cons when it comes to traditions. Traditions are useful when they help reinforce in our minds some type of truth. Earlier I mentioned Christmas and Easter and these two holidays should help us remember two foundational truths of the gospel. First, Jesus Christ was born. That should be rather obvious as many people around the world will acknowledge this fact; including many non-Christians. But the significance is that God became man, and this what we need to keep reminding ourselves. Christmas is a time to remember the free gift of God whom is the person of Jesus Christ the God-man. In like manner Easter should always remind us of Jesus’ resurrection, and this will include His death for our sins. Every year we should celebrate these two events. Another example is our monthly communion service which reminds us of the same. We need to always be reminded of these important truths. Yet the downside of tradition is that we actually forget that which we should remember as we involve ourselves in the practice of the tradition. Is Christmas about the birth of Christ or is it about Christmas parties, vacation time, and the giving and receiving of gifts? Is it about Santa Clause, Saint Nicholas, or Jesus Christ? We need to strive to allow our reminders to be just that; reminders! For Israel the Feast of Tabernacles was to be a time of remembrance, but not just a time of remembrance. It was a time to celebrate the provisions of God, a time to come together as a nation and enjoy the fellowship of one another, and with the inclusion of the Day of Atonement, it was a time of spiritual cleansing. This all combined together created an atmosphere of joy and celebration.

Yet Israel of old may have saw these feasts as just another item to check off of their religious check list, and for the bulk of their time as a nation elements of these events were forgotten from the list. The time to enjoy the goodness of God was in part replaced by a religious act and as the sin nature never knew surrender often the time of enjoying God was given to the flesh. We see the reality of this here in our culture with the fiestas. The basic premise of fiestas could be honorable if the people would actually reflect on Jesus Christ, and maybe even a Christian who lived a life that we could follow as long as we understand that the credit for their life belongs to Jesus Christ. But nowadays they are seen as nothing more than an excuse for a drinking session that has the added burden of needing to borrow money to prepare food. The religious practice of fiestas has now become a burden for many. The same is true for Israel and the Law of Moses.

Yet the intent of the Feasts of the seventh month was to be so much more. After the time of Nehemiah the Feast of Tabernacles did get incorporated into the Jewish calendar. Jesus celebrated this feast Himself as witnessed in John chapter seven. One tradition that was attached with this feast was a procession to the pool of Siloam and it is likely here where Jesus taught about “living water.” The question now arises is there any place for the Feast of Tabernacles today in the Christian Church? Zechariah 14:16-21 gives us some wonderful insight for discovering the answer to this question.

The timeframe for Zechariah fourteen is still yet future. The prophesy concerns the time after the rapture of the Church, after the great tribulation, after the judgment of the nations, and during the time of the millennial reign of Christ. Now I do realize that not all embrace dispensational theology and some of you do embrace amillennialism (and if you do not understand what I am saying then it is just proof that more study is required on your part) but a glaring question will arise for you and I will ask it here shortly. Nonetheless within this prophecy we are now in the millennial kingdom and we see in Zechariah 14:16 that those from the nations that entered the kingdom will go to Jerusalem yearly to celebrate the Feasts of Booths, or Tabernacles. The question I now ask you is, who are these nations? Also, what do you think that they will be doing? We know one nation that will be in the millennial kingdom and that is Egypt as they are used as an example in the text starting in Zechariah 14:18. Other nations will possibly be the Philippines, the United States, England, Japan, and any nation who does not align themselves with the anti-Christ during the time of the tribulation. Now who do you think will be the spiritual leaders of these nations? Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;” Also Jesus Himself tells His Apostles in Matthew 19:28 “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” We as the Church will be co-reigning with Christ and it follows that we will be overseeing our own nation from which we came. We also see this theme in Revelation 20:4-6.

You, as representatives of the Filipino church, will be the likely delegates going yearly to represent the nation of the Philippines at the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles). This will be a time of festivity as derived from Zechariah 14:20-21 where even the “cooking pots” are designated as being holy to the Lord. The Jewish nation will gladly be hosting the nations preparing the food for the feasts.

Now some of you may be thinking that the timeline is not the millennial kingdom for we are now in that kingdom. The Reformed Study Bible states of Zechariah fourteen that “the last part of the book pictures the universal blessing that God will bestow in the final state.” Yet if it is final state then why do we see rebellion such as seen in Zechariah 14:18 where Egypt does not go to Jerusalem and more so punishment such as seen in Zechariah 14:19?

The Feast of Booths is by design a time of celebration. The Feast of Booths is something that we as the Church will engage in during the millennial reign of Christ. Let your mind dwell on these things. This will give you strength to live for Christ today. We need to understand that the scriptures are more than just a good luck charm that if carried to church will bring us blessings. The Word of God was given to us to help us experience the goodness of God. It was given to help restore us to God and then teach us how to live lives of faith that are pleasing to God. It was given to us to build hope for our eternal future. Yet this hope, joy, faith, and salvation are all things we need to study about. Study helps ensure us that we do not miss the point of what God is trying to teach. When we were discussing the feasts of the Jewish calendar and what impact they had I often mentioned what Israel should have done. The problem for them is that all too often they did not do what they should have done. We as a church need to be constantly reevaluating ourselves to make sure we are truly being obedient to God’s word.

Recently a group of us went to AWANA’s anniversary that was conducted in Tagaytay. The international director of AWANA was there and shared a testimony on how at one time in their history they went adrift. AWANA’s history is that of being an organization that aids the Church in making disciples while targeting children. Over time they fell into the rut of asking the kids to memorize a verse and in turn they would be rewarded with candy. Memorization and candy! A new director came on board and was visiting with a person who asked him whom does he work for. He replied AWANA and the person mentioned that they knew of the organization. ‘They are the ones who give candy to children for memorizing Bible verses.’ The director was awaken to the fact that AWANA was known for that aspect alone. To help children memorize God’s word is a very good thing. As a matter of fact I was involved in AWANA as a child and it was there where I heard and understood the gospel by memorizing Bible verses. Years later those gospel seeds planted deep within me came to life and changed my life. But the director of AWANA understood that the history of the organization was to make disciples and it was here where he has been striving to bring the group back to. What is important for him is the end goal of disciples and not the means to the end.

For us here at GCF Batangas the end goal is to present a congregation of believers who follow our Lord in service and love. The specifics on how we get there is secondary. The fuel that empowers us to get there is of the utmost importance and that is the study and application of God’s word. Can you engage yourself and be committed to growing in your knowledge of God’s word to help us reach our goal?

To God be the glory.

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