Aside from the interpretation that light symbolizes righteousness, the sermon brought out the incontestable truth that God made an immediate separation between light and darkness.
On one hand, the message served as a firm reminder and demand that Christians are "the light of the world" and we should serve as examples of unwavering and consistent uprightness, and as such we furthermore should turn neither to the right nor to the left but only straight in accordance to God's law: straight towards His Kingdom.
On the other hand, the message was an encouragement, an enlivening assurance that for those who "walk in the light of the Lord" there shall be no groping in the darkness.
This is precisely why it is said in Psalm 89:15 that blessed are those who walk in the light of the Lord's presence because it is indeed a joyful, worry-free life for him who knows which way he should go.
If we are directed towards the Kingdom, in every decision we know which option to take.
Finally, the brethren were delightfully motivated and earnestly hopeful when on the Eighth Day (Shemini Atzeret) the message tackled a different aspect of the meaning of that particular day.
It has been almost expected to speak of Shemini Atzeret as a new beginning, a chance to renew ourselves before the Lord.
However, the message discussed the meaning of the number eight in the Hebrew mind; that is, "plumpness," "surplus."
Considering that going up to the Feast involves an array of pressures--be it the threat of losing a job or the strain of missing an exam or conflicts with a boss or a spouse--the message served as a reminder that God made a real and resolute promise that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:23).
The message was an encouragement not to worry about the probable predicaments we might encounter upon going down from the Feast because God, in a real sense, has us covered.
Since the Feast of Tabernacles is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, there was a certain anxiety as it drew to an end because going down implied going back to a world that mindlessly pushes God to the background and relegates His will as merely secondary.
Perhaps the only reason we want to go back from the Feast is the people we left behind, the people who did not or could not celebrate the Feast with us.
It is in this light that the brethren were also encouraged to spread the Word of God, the manual on how to live, the only direction towards salvation.
In line with this, the church has already drafted new missionary plans for the next year and has delegated tasks to each of the brethren in the hopes of a more fruitful church.
Indeed, this year's Feast was about changes in perspectives, about adjustments in attitudes--and sometimes all we need is just that.
For one, if we only see this world as a challenge to our relationship with God instead of vice versa--that is, seeing our faith as a hindrance to our life--then we can make better, God-centered choices.
So, taking all these messages and experiences to heart, the Church of the Living God in Christ Jesus--including those who have kept it for more than 20 years--will celebrate the Feast year after year and for years on end. Chrys Chua.
Feast in Thailand
CHIANG MAI, Thailand--The Feast of Tabernacles came and went so quickly! God gave us the annual festival days to teach us His plan of salvation for all mankind. I have discovered that the Church of God congregations that do observe the annual holy days grow in understanding of the step-by-step plan God has in place to save all mankind.
Those who do not keep these days do not enjoy the same level of understanding.
Legacy Institute fully sponsors two Feast sites in Thailand and helps sponsor three sites in Burma and two in India. We have not yet received reports from Burma or India, but here is our report on the Thailand sites.
In Thailand we had two separate festival sites. The first was in Chiang Mai at the Empress Hotel. We have met at this hotel since 1999. It has all the modern guest-room and banquet facilities one would expect at any four-star hotel anywhere in the world.
We are not the only people who hold religious meetings at this hotel. Many groups from all over the world come and conduct their conventions at the Empress. Earlier this year the Empress was the venue for the Seventh-day Adventist regional conference.
The general manager of the Empress, Mr. Kanog, is a good friend we have known for more than 25 years who takes good care of our group. Western Feastgoers from the United States, Canada and England joined our Legacy Institute students and faculty to keep the Feast at the Empress.
The second site was on the border of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).
Most of the Karen tribal members of the Church of God in Thailand are refugees living in border camps. They are not permitted to travel to Chiang Mai. So we needed a second site near the camps so they could attend the Feast.
This year we held the Feast at a new border site, the Wasan Guest House, a group of rustic bungalows situated near the Moei River, which separates Thailand from Burma. Church of God members and their families from Mae La and Mae Ramoh Luang refugee camps came together at Wasan Guest House to worship God and keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
During the middle of the Feast, Western Feastgoers traveled from Chiang Mai to the border to join the Karen members for a few days of combined worship and fellowship.
While at the border, we had the honor of baptizing a Karen refugee, Saw Po Htoo, and his wife, Naw Tze Chee.
The Wasan Guest House has several ponds on its property that we thought we could use for the baptism ceremony. But after one of our members, Hser Nay, checked them out, he recommended we find another place to perform the baptism because the ponds were full of leeches!
We searched and found an irrigation canal nearby. It had rushing water, so we didn't have to worry about the leeches. The water was cold--but no leeches.
Most of our Karen members have difficulty traveling to the Feast. They must pass many military checkpoints as they travel south on the river that forms the border between Myanmar and Thailand. Some checkpoints are manned by the Karen National Liberation Army, some by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, some by Burmese soldiers and some by the Thai Border Patrol or Thai Army.
Each collects a "travel tax." At any time the Karen brethren could be turned back at the discretion of whichever armed group they encounter.
It is by the grace of Almighty God that they even make it to the Feast. But every year they put the matter into God's hands, and every year they arrive safe and sound.
Herbert Vierra, secretary of Legacy Institute, and his wife, Ann, joined us for their seventh Feast in Thailand.
Herb is an elder in the United Church of God congregation in Los Angeles, Calif.
Legacy Institute is not a part of the UCG organization, nor ever has been. But the UCG council of elders has approved Herb's coming to Thailand over the past seven years to help at the Feast.
This is an example of the kind of cooperation Church of God organizations can and should have with one another.
Here are some excerpts from a festival report Herb sent to me after he returned to the U.S.A.:
"This year marked my seventh Feast in Thailand. As has been my custom since my first Feast in 2000, I'm writing a report on what took place.
"A few of those who knew we were headed to Thailand expressed concerns due to reports of a military coup just days before we left the United States. Yet there was never really a threat or problems for Western visitors--and not even the Thai people, for that matter.
"Crowds praised troops and handed out flowers in celebration. We even saw photos in the English version of The Bangkok Post of families having their pictures taken with soldiers and tanks stationed in the streets.
"Clearly, all democracies are not equal. It was intriguing to see photos of generals in the newspaper asking the king to approve an interim prime minister. By the time we got there, Bangkok was its normal bustling self, without a hint of trouble.
"Ann and I had planned to spend two days in Bangkok and were surprised to meet up with Leon Sexton shortly after checking into our hotel. Leon was returning from a brief trip to Burma and was on his way back to Chiang Mai in the north.
"So we hung out together and then flew out of Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi Airport on Friday.
"I was put to work right away and spoke on the Sabbath and then prepared an unscheduled offering message on Atonement. Leon gave the Atonement sermon.
"Leon and Gloria Sexton left for the Feast site near the refugee camps along the border early the following Friday morning. They and another Western couple spent the first few days of the Feast in Ban Mai with our Karen brethren while Ann and I stayed in Chiang Mai with other Western guests and students from Legacy School.
"On Tuesday we and six Western guests took the long journey to the Ban Mai festival site to meet up with everyone there. We finally arrived at about 5 o'clock in the evening.
"Our intentions were to get there a bit earlier, but the main highway had far more potholes than I remembered, and we decided to stop at the Mae Sot Hills Hotel (on the border) for a late lunch.
"Soon after our arrival in Ban Mai, we all walked or drove to a nearby stream where Leon and I baptized a married couple just before sunset.
"The water was about four feet deep and moving at a moderate clip. Fortunately, the roughly 12-foot-wide creek had a sandy bottom.
"The entire setting was quite pastoral, with a colorful sunset, trees and a slight breeze and brethren rejoicing and singing hymns. It was a moving experience. Afterwards we all had dinner together.
"Brian and Stephanie Smith (volunteer teachers at Legacy School this year) and their children got to Ban Mai late in the evening.
"Early the next morning Leon and Gloria returned to Chiang Mai and had late-afternoon services with Legacy students.
"The shuffle of who was going to be where was a bit of a grind, but necessary.
"There were a little over 30 adults and children in Ban Mai. The guest house where we stayed was picturesque and comfortable. It was a little sparse by Western standards but unusually clean and new for such a remote part of Thailand. A few of us even had air conditioning!
"Every Feast has its own set of problems, and this year's was no exception. Upon my arrival I learned that Anita (a Karen refugee), who was to be our translator, had to return to the refugee camp the next morning.
"A number of families were required to 'register,' and she needed to be there because she wants to immigrate to another country.
"In desperation, we drafted a freshman Legacy student to help us out.
"Jay is a Thai citizen and was able to make the trip to Ban Mai with the Smiths. Everyone was shocked by how well he did. Just moments before services I gave him a copy of my notes and thought: There is no way he will be able to do this.
"Then, somehow, when I began to speak he jumped right in and spoke clearly and loudly. I was amazed, as were Leon and the other teachers when they found out what happened.
"The entire crop of freshman students seems brighter and more outgoing than any I've seen at Legacy School to date. The older students are having a major impact on the younger ones.
"On the opening night of the Feast we had a get-acquainted dinner. Freshman students who couldn't even speak English four months ago sat and conversed with us freely. It was wonderful.
"Of course we've already seen a tangible payoff on the training Legacy provides, with two graduates starting a new branch of Legacy School in northern Burma.
"Early Friday eight of us returned to Chiang Mai. Leon gave an offering message in the morning on the Last Great Day. I was asked to give the customary thanks and pray for God's blessing on the offering we received.
"After several special-music numbers I gave the sermon. (All told, I gave seven sermons and one offering.)
After lunch at the hotel, Zallian, a Legacy School senior, gave his second sermonette of the Feast.
"Between messages, Leon and I blessed two small children whose parents are freshman students this year. Leon then gave the closing message of the Feast.
"The last few years we've had a special farewell dinner by the outdoor pool on the third floor of the Empress Hotel. It makes for a nice close to the Feast and gives everyone time to say their good-byes in a lovely setting. What a wonderful time it was!
"Ann and I spent the night, had a late-morning breakfast with the Sextons, then flew back to Bangkok Sunday afternoon.
"After one more night in Bangkok and a few quick shopping stops the next day, we finally caught our 8 o'clock evening flight back to Los Angeles. The return flight was a bit shorter--only 15 hours!
"Curiously, we arrived safely at LAX the same time and same day we had left Bangkok airport! Two hours to clear U.S. immigration and customs and then the long drive home got us in at about midnight.
"It was another wonderful Feast with new and old friends, serving God and His people. What a great privilege to be a part of it all!" Leon Sexton, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Envisioning our future
EMBU, Kenya--Some 305 brethren assembled at our Feast site in Kenya, in East Africa. We went through the festivals with great joy after the people had come to hear the truth taught by our minister, Bill Glover, and me (local overseer Peter G.S. Njeru).
Of great interest among our people is the article by Brother Bill titled "Did God Hate Esau?"
I went through this article during the entire festival since it contains valuable information about how God calls each individual and what that individual must do in response to that calling.
We had great success in that many are now inviting me to meet with them in their own areas to teach the real truth.
We went through the videotape sent to us in which the Feast was explained and also gave detailed information about James 5:14 and healing.
Every time we meet we see more and more new faces of those wanting to hear these truths. So we are requesting that Brother Bill and his son Stephen come to East Africa and work with us as we learn more of these truths.
Now in every district we have people calling for the truth from this ministry. I personally have sought these truths in the following forums:
o Twenty-two years as a Baptist.
o The Way of Truth for 10 years.
o In the desert seeking for another 10 years.
o In the Living Church of God, Inc., for five years.
My soul just was never satisfied by these because I was not fed the complete truth until Mr. Glover came with the truth.
Brother Bill has been showing us how to go on to spiritual maturity as explained in Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1 and other key passages. We trust that Brother Bill will send us additional material to feed our hungry souls.
(Should others in Africa wish to learn more about The Living God Ministry and how it is different, contact Bill Glover at Box 2784, Eugene, Ore. 97402, U.S.A., or billgloverLGM@comcast.net, or visit www.thelivinggodministry.org.)
One thing we have learned through The Living God Ministry is that, once we are called of God, we must not deny or neglect our calling.
We are doing all we can to help our people understand this calling from God and that the Feast of Tabernacles depicts the time just ahead when Christ will return and use us whom He has called and trained to bring peace, happiness, productivity and safety to the entire earth.
The true followers of Christ are the ones the whole earth (all creation) is anxiously waiting on to enter the spiritual family of God so they also can then be given their chance for salvation (see Romans 8:17; 19-23).
Our Feast helped us envision our future in God's Kingdom more clearly. We are already looking forward to and planning for the Feast 2007. Peter Gochovi Njeru.