Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-8

"They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." (Nehemiah 8:8)

After many years in exile, living in a pagan land, God allows Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to build up the ruined city walls and bring God's people back to their land. The Israelites had been exiled in Babylon for many generations. Over the years, their faith and culture must have diminished. Babylon's pagan religions and tongues would have heavily afflicted their language and philosophy. These returning Israelites were confused children who no longer knew God's law or their own identity as Israelites. 

Yet, upon return, these confused Israelites opened the Word of God. Ezra, the scribe, opened the book before all the people and read aloud. The Levites helped all the people to understand what was being read. From early morning until midday, all the people stood up, listening attentively to the Book of the Law. With seriousness and solemnity, God's people understood who they were and who God is once again. Bowing their heads to the ground, they worshipped the God Jehovah. 

Today marks the 365th devotion and Regeneration-Z's first birthday. For one year, we have prayerfully sought to see God work through us as He did through Ezra. In a secular culture where God's children are confused about their identity, we have proclaimed the Word of God, praying that God will give understanding to His truth, as He did towards the returned exiles. In particular to these devotions, I pray that as I have invited all of you into my personal study of Scripture, God may use my flawed words to give understanding and clear sense to God's truth in Scripture. Through proper understanding of God's Word, we are brought to worship — to be changed from inside out. I pray that this is the end to which God uses Regeneration-Z and all its ministry. 

To this day, I have been feeding you the fish. I have hauled my sails early in the morning, sailed out to sea, dropped my fishing rods and captured the fish for you. But now, I hope to hand you the fishing rod, for there is so much more blessing in the process of Bible study than mere consumption of packaged devotions. I can't express how monumental my personal Bible study has been to my faith. Throughout this year, increasing hours spent in the Word each day has been everlasting springs of nourishment to my soul. These are God's grace and gift in my life to whom I ascribe all praise. 

Yet, in the year ahead, I hope that all of you may learn the art of fishing yourselves. The fishing rod is Bible study. This means getting knee-deep into the Scriptures yourself. When was the last time you set time apart to sit down at your desk in the morning and study your Bible? Have you ever actively paid attention to the words and phrases of a passage and sought to understand what God was saying to you? 

I hope that in this next chapter of Regeneration-Z, we can all grow in this process of Bible study. There are many resources out there to help, and I will point out a few. The first is Transformed by Truth by teen author Katherine Forster. This is a go-to manual on how to study the Bible as a teen. From here, getting a study Bible like the ESV Study Bible as well as using resources like Matthew Henry's commentary, the online Greek-Hebrew interlinear Bible and the Scripture cross-referencer, the Treasury of Scripture knowledge, will significantly aid in our process of Bible study. 

These devotions will be recycled, and if these devotions have been a blessing to you, I encourage you to keep reading them. Don't just follow something for its novelty. There is much blessing in reading something again. Personally, I receive many blessings in reading my writing again because as time lapses, old words apply to new contexts. 

Yet, I also encourage you to start digging the Scriptures for yourself. God wants you to grow in knowing Him. He is waiting for us to join Him in growing fellowship. This relationship deepens when we spend more time listening to Him through His Word and speaking our hearts back to Him through prayer. Such 'I-and-Thou' relationship is personal. And it begins with a personal engagement with God's Word. So, are you ready to get your hands dirty?

Lord, we thank You for Your faithfulness and blessings through these devotions over this past year. Looking ahead to the next year, we pray that You plant in Regeneration-Z a hunger for Your Word and a revival of teens who are serious about studying Your Word. Your words are life, and they sustain our soul. Have mercy on us and draw us into a closer and more intimate relationship with You. May You continue to work amongst us. In Jesus' name, amen.