Sunday, May 17, 2015

Last Lord's Day in Cebu

We originally had a schedule to study with a denominational group on Saturday. However, I found out on Friday that they were canceling. Evidently, someone put pressure on those interested and we had to change plans. After teaching all day for five days straight, I was very tired and starting to lose my voice. So, we decided that I would rest on Saturday because I would have a full schedule on Sunday. (It turned out to be even busier than we thought.) The day of rest was great and I felt much better this morning.

Jhun Apatan and one of his co-workers picked me up at 8am and we traveled about 45 minutes to Mambaling. I had worked with this group of brethren before in Sunday preaching as well as one or two gospel meetings in previous years. Jhun asked me to preach in the first hour (normally classes) as well as the assembly in the second hour. 
I preached on “Repentance” first and then on “Defeating the Devil.” It was a full house with every seat was taken and more chairs had to be brought out to seat everyone. All were attentive and a summary in their dialect of Cebuano was given after each lesson.

The brethren brought me back to the hotel because I only had a short time before Jonathan Carino was to meet me and give me the final total of expenses for the Hebrews class. We could settle up within as quickly as possible because I was due at another appointment a little later in the afternoon. The expenses were slightly higher than I projected, but not a great deal more. I had enough to pay all costs and I believe I have the funds needed for payment of debts that were charged. I grateful for all who helped and appreciate the offer of more funds if needed, but I think the amount received is sufficient.

We met with a few brethren from the congregation where Jonathan preaches that are trying to help those seeking to start a new work in another part of the Cebu City area. Mario Rubio, not the politician in the U.S., but a preacher who formerly worked in Dumaguete, is trying to start the new work. Jonathan and Mario met with several people yesterday who wanted just a private study. They asked me to come to the study today and I spoke on “Salvation and Saul,” showing Saul was saved at the point of water baptism rather than the common ideas of denominationalism (faith only, repentance and prayer, a personal appearance of Jesus or receiving a miracle). One of those attending the study was Mario’s landlady who is from a Baptist-type group. She was very attentive, taking notes throughout, and asked several follow-up questions. By all appearances, she is getting near to the kingdom!

After that study concluded, we had a gathering to talk with Jonathan and his family as well as a few other brethren. It was enjoyable. During that time, we talked about the fact that Jonathan and I both are getting many texts asking for another class to study another book in detail. Not only are those who attended the study very excited about this possibility, but several other preachers from various parts of the Philippines have heard or read about the studies and want to come. So, we discussed the possibility of another class of the same type and duration covering the book of Romans. We will discuss this further and pray about it, then decide what to do in a few months. I told the brethren that at this point I must give my full attention to our Preacher Training Program that in Oklahoma City scheduled for July 19-26, 2015. If you know any men who would like to come, we have openings left, so please have them get in touch with me or sign up on our website ( John Isaac Edwards, Brett Hogland, Donnie V. Rader and I will be teaching in the effort.

It is now early Monday morning as I finish this report. It has been a very long day, but I am packed and ready to fly to Manila in a few hours, the Lord willing. I will rest there one day and fly home on Wednesday arriving OKC about 9:15pm. Since Wednesday (May 20) is our 38th anniversary, I will arrive barely in time to celebrate a little of it with the love of my life, Leslie! Thank you again for your help, prayers and concern for this work. Though there were no known responses as a result of this trip, I believe it has been one of my more profitable trips due to our opportunity to help the 20 preachers learn how to study the Scriptures more thoroughly and instill a zeal for the wealth of knowledge it contains that can build us up and urge us to greater faithfulness. God bless!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Last Day of Classes on Hebrews

We ended the classes as they began with a full number staying to the end, attentive in every way and actively participating. It was a true joy to be with all of the students and see their excitement at studying in depth as they had not had an opportunity to do. They were continually telling me to relate their thanks to the brethren in the U.S. who had provided the funds necessary to carry on this class. They were asking that we might have another class like this one very soon on another book.

The routine for the week has remained unchanged. Brother Jerry Moral has led the men in singing for some period each morning before Jonathan and I arrived at the meeting place. Once we arrived, I ask for any situation the students might know about that may need our prayers. I also shared with them those that I knew of in the U.S. that needed our prayers and asked for their prayers. We then spent about 20 minutes in solitary prayer. After that, we got started with the study promptly at 9:00am.

Today’s study began with Hebrew 11:32 and went through Hebrews 13:3 before we took our lunch break. We discussed the closing characters of faith found in the 11th chapter and how their faith was seen in action that endured despite great affliction and even death. We saw the need for all to receive the Lord’s discipline and grow spiritually thereby. As a side observation, we noted the principles of proper discipline to be exercised by parents with their children. The exhortations regarding our continued obedience and the self-control needed in such was covered at some length. We saw the contrast between the things that came with the beginning of the Old Covenant and what came with the New Covenant, as well as the closing admonitions about the better way of faith. We then introduced the first few verses of chapter 13 urging proper love and concern for our brethren.

The afternoon session began with a long discussion about the danger and disastrous effects of fornication and adultery, as well as that of covetousness. The exhortations to remember the life and faith of those formerly having the rule over the readers and the to submit to those who presently had the rule over them was also examined and applied. The altar that we have in contrast to that of old and the suffering of Christ outside the gate in comparison to regulations under the Old Covenant were also covered. We closed by summarizing the final admonitions.

I first suggested this type of study to several Filipino brethren about 2 years ago. My reason for doing so was that I had spent much time with them repeatedly covering fundamental matters as we tried to reach denominational preachers and members of those denominations in lectures and Gospel meetings. There has been a great deal of success in those efforts. We have also spent a good portion of time in teaching fundamentals of the faith as well as things needed by men as they began to preach the gospel in preacher training programs. However, we have not spent much time and effort on helping men to grow in their depth of study, so that they can provide the “solid food” needed for spiritual growth and maturity.

Last year, I laid out a more detailed plan to Jonathan Carino and he agreed to gather men that he believed would be able to grasp English well enough to benefit from such classes. Having completed the first of that kind of class, showing how to study a Bible book and how to understand it as a whole, I am convinced more of these classes are needed. We had 20 men registered in the classes as well as 10 to 20 “sit-in” participants who were local brethren that have jobs, so that they could not be at every class. All of them were excited by the opportunity and saw the benefit. Even though I always thought such classes were needed, I am even more convinced now that this will bear fruit even more than I had imagined. It has lit a fire of zeal in them to study more diligently! These men were all talking about how they could take the things they learned and teach them to people where they are in their own dialect and help them learn how to study with greater depth and effectiveness. To all who have had a part in this effort, please know that I am deeply grateful to you and know that, without you, this would not have been possible!

This was the guest of honor at our final supper this evening. My Filipino brethren enjoyed the guest immensely. I, on the other hand, did not much care for his eyes being on me nor the fact that his mouth was always open. I decided to eat elsewhere! :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day 4 of Hebrews Class

As the week wears on, we are all getting tired from the busy schedule of study and assignments, but we are also refreshed in our spirits at the opportunity afforded by this week’s classes. It is a true joy to be with many brethren that I have known for many years as well as a few I have only met this week. I must admit that I am tired from the lack of rest, but it is a “good kind of tired” as brother Elmer Moore used to say!

Our class this morning began at Hebrews 9:11 and covered through Hebrews 10:31 before we took the lunch break. We looked at the writer’s transition from the better covenant in Christ to the better sacrifice we have in Christ. We contrasted the epistle’s portrayal of Christ’s sacrifice being “once for all” with the practice of Catholicism’s claim that Christ is crucified again with each mass. The reason why God can justly forgive our sins based on the blood of Christ was also a point of concentration, going back to Leviticus to contrast the offerings of the Old Covenant with that of Christ. We saw that the “new and living way” to the true Most Holy Place, heaven, was made possible through Christ that we all might draw near to God. Since such great blessings have been provided in the New Covenant by Christ’s sacrifice, we also noted that those not availing themselves of the blessings will surely and rightly receive a great punishment than those disobeying the Old Covenant.

The afternoon studies began with Hebrews 10:32 and concluded with Hebrews 11:31. We examined the last paragraph of chapter 10 that describes the kind of faith that is “unto the saving of the soul” in contrast to that which “draws back to perdition.” That passage sets the stage for studying the characters of faith in the next chapter: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Rahab. We considered the lives of each one and saw how faith was shown by works in each case, doing what God said and looking to Him for the reward, rather than focusing on their present situation.

After the studies in Hebrews, we talked more about outlining sermons. I took Psalm 110 and showed them how they could develop it into a textual lesson or an exegetical lesson as well as showing how each one would be outlined. It is clear they are becoming more and more adept at outlining in proper form and developing them better as well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day 3 of Hebrews Class

Jonathan Carino picked me up this morning at 8am and we made it to the building about 20 minutes later. Things were running on time for me, unlike yesterday, so I did not delay him. We again started exactly on time with the class this morning, as all students were ready to go. We begin each day with about 20 minutes for solitary prayer before we start our studies.

We began the morning class with Hebrews 6:13 and got through chapter 7 before the lunch break. We discussed the promise and the oath of God with respect to His immutability and how it gives assurance of the reality of our hope. We then looked at Melchizedek in some detail, noting both the explicit statements and the implications about him. The superiority of the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek to the inferior priesthood of Levi was also noted. The significance of Jesus as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek was examined, as well as the conclusions demanded regarding the Levitical priesthood and the Old Law.

The afternoon session began with Hebrews 8:1 and ended with Hebrews 9:10. We saw that the Hebrew writer declared the vanishing nature of the Old Covenant, not from his own perspective of time, but from that of Jeremiah the prophet from whom he quoted. Starting at the point when Jeremiah revealed a New Covenant was coming, the first was seen as old and drawing nearer and nearer its end. We also recognized the inability of the Old Covenant and its provisions to make people perfected in conscience so that they could draw near to God. This fact was illustrated by the Hebrew writer in appealing to the tabernacle and what the very arrangement necessarily indicated. The symbolic presence of God was in the Most Holy Place, within the veil. Did the Old Covenant make possible the drawing near to that presence by all? No, but only allowed for one man, the high priest, to come to that place each year. Thus, if we seek to draw near to God, it cannot be done by means of the Old Covenant as shown by the example of the tabernacle.

We repeatedly showed points within the passages examined that were in conflict with the “One Covenant Doctrine” brought to the Philippines by American brethren like Jim Puterbaugh and Wallace Little and further spread by their Filipino co-workers like Ernesto Canon. This false doctrine, denying that there are two separate covenants in the Mosiac Law and the Gospel of Christ, teaches that God has always had only “one eternal covenant.” It is a sad fact that such a fundamental truth as the distinction between the Old and New Covenants has been so perverted and disturbed the faith of many, leading them to false practices plainly condemned by God.

My ride home in the taxi had none of the splendor and richness of thought seen in the book of Hebrews throughout the day. To start with, the driver had the disgusting habit of getting about one block to each burp. His choice of music was also somewhat unique. We started with head-banger rock of the “punk rock” variety, went to “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille” by Kenny Rogers, transitioning to gangster rap and ending with some Asian “music” that knew no constraints of harmony. My escape from this torture by musical abuse came none too early as I arrived at the hotel. It is, indeed, a new adventure every day when I am over here!