A few weeks ago I mentioned how a regular attendee of our studies left in the middle of a session and did not return, and I was concerned that he might have been offended. Good news—he was back this week. We had a very cordial and friendly discussion as he caught me up on what has been going with his life.
We were joined by a husband and wife driving team from Texas, Carl (the Baptist preacher from the community), and Rex Jamerson, a fellow Church of God member.
This week’s study was a little below par. We did cover several topics related to not being overcome by the world (as in Lot and his family becoming like the people of Sodom).
The Presidential election and the state of the nation’s culture is heavy on people’s minds these days, and there seems to be a general cynicism regarding politics. As one man said today, in any election the people are the losers. I find concern about the so-called New World Order to be quite pervasive and the feeling among many that something just isn’t right.
The lady from Texas mentioned a couple of things that I think are worth relating. She mentioned how on the CB this week someone got on and said that people needed to get out and vote because if the wrong people win then our children will be forced to carry Bibles around with them. To her surprise, the other truckers vocally and loudly gave that person an earful. More than one trucker has told me that talking religion on that channel almost always elicits comments to get off and go elsewhere, but not this time. This time the truckers said that they would rather have their children carrying Bibles than being burdened with a lot of the other garbage that they are being forced to bear today.
Secondly, she mentioned how the churches in her community all cooperate regardless of denominational affiliation, and that once per year all of them come together, Catholics and Protestants alike, and essentially the whole town gets together for a special worship service.
All in all, though, I was disappointed by today, not at all with our guests but by the fact that it ended in a decidedly negative tone due to the prophetic overtones without the focus on the return of Christ. These people need to see our Bible study as a time to be encouraged rather than discouraged, and in hindsight there is nothing wrong with talking about the truth of prophecy if it includes and emphasizes the return of Christ and the Kingdom that he will bring. We didn’t do that today, and hence I fear that we were not the sanctuary that we are supposed to be. Live and learn!
[When the world seems depressing and difficult, one can look at the scriptures to see the positive promises of Christ’s return—and one can see the positive promises of eternal judgement. Christ said: “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matt 10:42). Each helpful act has an ultimate reward—even if it goes unrewarded in this life. These “little acts” may be helping someone in need, say an encouraging word, defending the Bible on the CB, voting for a candidate that appears to be a little more righteous than another, or any number of things.
God does not hold each of us responsible for understanding all prophecies, exposing all conspiracies or knowing the solution to all world problems. (You might be suspicious of a religious teacher who claims to.) But of those things that we can do, by His grace and through His power, no matter how small or how large, we should do! — NSE.]
Today, we had three truckers, one of whom had to leave early and get back on the road. I spent most of today listening. I told the men that I had a study planned, but I would rather talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, which we did.
After the opening prayer we began to talk and it was obvious that two of our truckers were relatively new to the Bible and in their Christian walk. Both grew up in Christian homes (one a Roman Catholic and the other in a black southern Protestant denomination—grandfather was a preacher), but neither felt a compelling need for God until recently. Both were convinced that they could feel God calling them and working with them, including reports of miracles that I have no reason to doubt.
The gentleman whose grandfather was a preacher told the story of his being healed at his grandfather’s hands, and he told of a horrible wreck last winter when he hit a patch of ice, twisted his rig in a dozen directions and set it afire, yet he escaped without a scratch. He said God got his attention through this last miracle.
I was encouraged to hear him say that a person should look only to the Bible and not to men. People can lead you astray, but the Bible will not.
The other trucker talked about how things are now going better for him since going back to church. For example, God found him a job.
I was impressed once again by their statements that life on the road can be lonely, especially if there is no one to fellowship with.
We touched on a few scriptures about “true religion” as defined by James and the problem of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18. The Pharisee thought he was a pretty good guy, but he failed in the most important aspects of his life—he was not humble.
The two men who are relatively new enthusiastically took Bibles with them. What better literature could there possibly be?
Six truckers today (five men and one woman), and we had a good time talking.
I began by asking them if there were any topics that they wanted to discuss. One of the truckers has been reading Tim LaHaye’s fictional series on the tribulation. He said he never before heard that people would come to God after the rapture—he had always thought that the rapture was the cut-off point, and he didn’t know that people would get a second chance later.
This opened many potential lines of discussion. First, we explored the scripture that talks about the innumerable multitude appearing before God with palms in their hands, and the Bible shows that they had gone through the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 7). To me, this clearly shows that some people will repent during that period of time.
I then opened up the larger question of the rapture. I first told them that it is clear from scripture that the world will need to go through some terrible tribulation before the return of Christ and the setting up of his kingdom. However, I am not to the point that I can accept the rapture, since I have not been able to find it in scripture. I am open to it, and I would like to see what scriptures they know of that explain it. They were unable to show me any. I have asked the question before in other studies, and have had similar responses. The thing is, I really do want to know where that doctrine comes from, but have been unable to nail down the scriptural reasoning behind it.
I pointed out to them that there are many theories about the events leading up to the return of Christ, and we probably won’t know how it will pan out in reality until it does happen, but there is one thing we do know: In the days of John the Baptist, people thought that the Messiah was soon to appear and that the day of wrath was coming. They asked John, “What then shall we do?” John’s answer to them was to bring forth fruits fit for repentance, to help the poor, be honest in your dealings with others, and be a good, loyal employee, among other things (Luke 3:7-14). They asked the correct question: what should we do in preparation for the coming of the Messiah as opposed to trying to piece together the jigsaw puzzle of prophecy in an attempt to get all the dates right. Matthew 25 and the separation of the sheep from the goats tells a similar story—those who went to the right hand and entered the kingdom were those who were engaged in a lifetime of service to God and man. Having perfect knowledge and understanding was not a part of the mix.
This led to a lively discussion of predestination: does God have everything worked out in advance? I posited that God doesn’t know everything (he had to go down to Sodom to check it out for himself; he tested Abraham in the matter of the sacrifice of Isaac, saying, “Now I know…”, as if he didn’t know before). Not everyone agreed, but it was thought-provoking for both sides of the issue. Again we came back to the things that are important to God.
The lady mentioned a private Christian school in Nebraska, operating for poor families at no tuition. It operates totally on faith, trusting God that the funds will be there. They have operated for years on this basis. This was an object lesson in faith and an example of “What then shall we do?”
The truckers were all fascinating people today, but one of the men in particular caught my attention. He said that he has been “saved” for about 7 months, and he has been so very happy and fulfilled since making his commitment. It was his brother who got him back to God. I will attempt to relate the story. Although the entire story was not totally clear, the man’s passion and conviction were obvious.
He grew up going to Catholic schools and knew there was a God, but had backslid for fifty years. While he always knew that there is a God, it just didn’t sink in. He married a charismatic woman, and to get on her good side, he hired a drunk for cash and whiskey to go to one of their meetings and fake a conversion, which he did. The idea was to convince his wife that he had brought somebody to the Lord, and gain some points. His wife was not amused.
He and his bother (I gather that they are from Costa Rica) had been involved for years with the Contras, with the Mafia, and with drug running. His brother had no problem at all with executing people with a bullet at close range. This was a rough crowd.
Through various trials and circumstances, his brother has become a preacher, and has convinced the driver of the truth of the Bible. The driver says that he feels like the prodigal son who has come home, and what a loving God we have who can accept him back. In spite of all that he once had, none of it satisfied. None of it was worthwhile. The change in his life and his outlook has been monumental, and he regrets now how his prior lifestyle held back his wife’s spiritual growth.
I came away from today highly encouraged. The people were upbeat and excited, a far cry from some of the gloom that can come when a discussion of prophecy is the focus. Near the end of the meeting, I checked my watch and was surprised that two hours had passed.
[There is an important lesson to be learned here. People who study the “behind the scenes” reasons for government and business actions often become frustrated and pessimistic. Politicians and business leaders often seem to make key decisions based on secret deals, threats and payoffs—not in the best interests of those they govern. Some of the military, spy agencies, police forces and judges often seem to be advancing their own agendas and actually hold hostage those who pay their salaries. It is often difficult to figure who is actually in control of what and whom!
The dividing line between government, business and organized crime is often a complete blur. It seems impossible to gain an understanding of the mess, and even more difficult to explain it to somebody else or to improve it from the outside.
Maybe we should be praying that the Eternal will call someone from inside the mess who will expose it for what it is and to teach the truth. This is how He worked with the apostle Paul. —NSE]
We had one trucker whom I think had some valuable lessons for us regarding healing the breach.
It has been said with some justification that the most segregated time in American society is Sunday morning. Blacks and whites work together, play together, and even live in the same neighborhoods together. But when it comes time to worship, we go to different buildings. We are faced with the spectacle of two groups of people who use the same Book and worship the same God, but who do so in different places.
Far be it from me to condemn the constitutional right to freedom of association. We all have the right to associate with whomever we choose, but I do think our choices illustrate that our problem is a problem of the heart. Often at the truck stop we have an interracial group. You might not be able to tell that from the summaries, and that is intentional, for I do agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. that people should be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. It should be no surprise that Bible-believing white Christians and Bible-believing black Christians have more commonalities than distinctives. Yet rarely do we meet anyone who belongs to a truly racially diverse congregation.
This week’s Bible study was different because this white guy from Alabama is a member of an integrated church — and in the “Deep South”, no less. You know about the “Deep South”, land of Jim Crow and the KKK? Say what you will about southerners, but from what I have seen they have learned to live together regardless of skin color in ways that should put to shame many a northern white liberal.
This trucker has different decals on his truck indicating his Christian faith, and whenever anyone acknowledges it, he says, “Glad to meet ya, ’cause I always like seein’ my kinfolk.” He’ll say that to the black drivers as well, which sometimes startles them, but they always appreciate it when he says, “My Bible says we all have the same daddy, so you’re my kinfolk.”
He mentioned how at a Promise Keepers conference there was one black preacher in the place — just one. So the organizers sat him in a place of prominence in the front and proceeded to wash his feet as an ordinance of humility and as an apology for past wrongs perpetrated on his race.
I have a friend here in Kansas City who is fairly well to do. He came to this country from Wales and is a big fan of rugby. He and his wife are also dedicated Christians (okay, so they meet on the wrong day of the week, but they sure know how James defines true religion). Charles has started a charity that has partnered his wealthy suburban church with the poor inner city churches in Kansas City. The pastors of these churches are actively involved. They take boys who are disadvantaged in ways beyond financial disadvantage and work with them. Rugby is the tool, but they teach these boys important character and spiritual lessons, mentor them, give them role models. And if they perform, college scholarships are there for the asking.
They are rescuing kids one kid at a time and repairing the breach that divides us. Politics divides. The Bible and the God of the Bible unite. If we are to heal our nation, it must be through our common Father, not through the great white father in Washington. The Republicans are not the healing force. Nor are the Democrats. Surely Jesse Jackson is not. Nor is Pat Robertson.
To heal this nation, we must all do what my friend Charles is doing. We must do what my trucker friend is doing. White, black, whatever color we are—we need to forget politics as the key to national salvation. The breach will be healed one on one. One person at a time. One community at a time. And who better to heal the breach than those who are in the same Book?
[If we understand Bible truth, we ought to do it—not use it to judge others. If another person who claims to be a believer wants to work with us, we ought to be willing to work with them as long as we do not have to compromise our beliefs. If our light is shining, they might see it. If they reject us because of our truth, the judgment will be upon them. But if we reject them because of their error, the judgement may be upon us. Might Christ someday say this to us? “I wanted to teach them through you, but you were either too fearful or too self-righteous to work with them.” — NSE]
The study went for almost three hours this morning. We had four truckers, including a couple whom I had not seen in quite some time from Ohio. I was flattered that they came looking specifically for our study. They have visited us at least four times previously, and they come back because we hit it off well. Another trucker is fairly new to being serious about finding God (although raised as a Christian) and his enthusiasm shows.
In a three-hour study, you can guess that we covered a lot of ground, and it would be hard to relate everything that was discussed. I will point out that the couple is extremely conservative politically, and in our discussion on the need for healing in this nation, they are inclined to give no quarter to political opponents.
My position is that politics are not the solution to the national problems, and they would tend to disagree to a point. I would state that unity comes through God and the Bible, whereas they believe that the religious on the left do not teach law and obedience, but a cheap tolerance of sinful behavior. They believe in speaking the truth as prophets, and I agree, but I also pointed out that the Bible talks about “speaking the truth in love.”
This was an active, lively discussion, but may I add that it was a discussion among friends. We do not totally agree on how to heal the land, but it was evident that we have much in common. They are deeply committed to the need for obedience to God and his law, and are quite knowledgeable of the Old Testament.
It is uncommon to meet strict Bible believers these days who reject the rapture theory. Not only does this couple reject that theory, they also reject the pre-millennial return of Christ. They believe that Jesus will come only after the world is at peace. The wife pointed to Psalm 72 as an example, saying that this psalm sure makes it look like the world will be at peace when it welcomes Christ as its king.
I pointed out that one can just as easily read this psalm from a pre-millennialist viewpoint—the world will be this way only after Jesus returns. Again, this was an engaging rather than confrontational discussion.
The operative issue at hand became this: how one views prophecy and the circumstances surrounding the return of Christ can often influence what we do. The important question was raised in Luke 3 of John the Baptist: “What then shall we do?” If one believes that Christ will return only after the world is at peace, then one will have a strong motivation to get the gospel to all and get them all to be Christians. It also explains this couple’s strong interest in political involvement.
If on the other hand one holds to a pre-millennial return of Christ, it can lead to a “save your own skin” religion. Such a one is more likely to have a siege mentality. Preaching the gospel could easily take second place to building a bomb shelter in Idaho or waiting to be raptured off. The old saying about ideas having consequences is indeed true! It should at least stand as a warning to us regarding the negative tendencies that can arise when we obsess about end time things. Indeed, Paul battled such consequences among the Thessalonians!
I gave away a stack of Bibles today, both to the couple and the other truckers. They like to find people who don’t own a Bible and give them one, which is exactly why we use Bibles as give-aways. People appreciate that more than tracts and other literature that we might have available. Audio tapes are also a popular item, but giving someone his first Bible is most rewarding.
[Even though the Hebrew Scriptures were extensively read and taught in the first century, it seems that neither the Jewish leaders nor Jesus’ disciples nor even John the Baptist had a clear understanding or even a basic time line of the first coming of Christ. Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit, His apostles still asked about a physical kingdom: “‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority’” (Acts 1:6-7). If the very apostles had this little understanding then, why do so many hundreds of Bible prophecy teachers today speak like they know so much. (And why can’t you find two who don’t work for each other who exactly agree?)
Today, we are surrounded by Bibles and Bible helps because many people gave their lives to translate Bibles into common language against the will of tyrannical churches and governments. Today, we live in countries with some freedom of religion, because people gave their lives to rebel against countries with state churches. Yet how many religious people, benefiting from these sacrifices, will scoff at individuals today who work to try to preserve or extend these freedoms?
This is not to say that the mission of every believer is to improve this world through existing political systems. The apostles simply preached the word—at times they were helped, even rescued by civil governments, at other times they were persecuted and killed by them. Even if we believe that the Eternal has shown us individually not to become involved in improving existing governments, we must realize that He may be using others for this purpose. —NSE]
Normally on Christmas weekend there isn’t much business, but today turned out all right. We had two men today, one of which was a trucker and I gather the other was a hitchhiker that the trucker had picked up. I don’t probe personal circumstances but let them volunteer whatever they wish to volunteer, which in this case wasn’t too much, but it was obvious that the trucker was mentoring the hitchhiker on scriptural issues.
The trucker was what we might loosely refer to as an expressive. One of the first things out of his mouth was this question, “Ever look at Jeremiah 10?” I told him I had been there long ago. Then he asked me which day is the Sabbath and at what time of day did it begin. He must have thought that these would be tough questions or something. So I asked him how many wise men there were, and he of course said three. We went to Matthew 2, which of course does not name a specific number, and he said he accepted what the scriptures indicated.
Right then I knew today was going to be an interesting day. He had learned about the Sabbath from the Seventh Day Adventists, but he was also Pentecostal. However, he is non-trinitarian, holding to an understanding of God and Jesus Christ very much like traditional Church of God doctrine. Unlike SDA and COG beliefs, he holds to immortal soul doctrines, going to heaven, and an ever-burning hell. I think he considers himself a Seventh Day Adventist, but he readily admits that he has profound disagreements with much of their doctrine with issues not just related to Ellen G. White. At least he thinks for himself.
You can imagine that we got into a bit of a “sword drill” on a few issues, and neither one of us were too successful in convincing the other. It does go to show, however, that we all have proof texts that in other contexts might be difficult to answer. I pointed out that the “soul that sins, it shall die”, and he pointed out Revelation 22 and that outside the Holy City would be dogs, sorcerers, sexually, immoral, etc. “See?” he said, “these people are still around, but they aren’t in heaven, so they must be in hell.” I pointed out that the Holy City is on the earth.
So if nothing else, I’m learning other people’s perspectives on certain passages of scripture.
My instincts tell me that there might have been more going on today than someone who has an eclectic mixture of doctrinal understanding. He might very well have known where we stand on certain issues and just came to jerk my chain a bit. One never knows for sure. One thing was a bit suspicious. At one point we discussed various Bible translations, and all three of us prefer the King James, although in my case I can readily tolerate a number of modern translations. We buy KJVs and NIVs by the case, and we encourage the truckers to take them. The trucker dislikes the NIV, but asked if he could have some extra Bibles to give away. As I was packing up to leave, I noticed that he took all my NIVs and left the KJVs alone. That was curious for a man who is a KJV only type. Only hope he doesn’t trash them.
[If the man promised to give the Bibles away, he will have to answer in the Judgment if he threw them away. Once people get the idea that it is all right to lie and break other commandments in order to “do God’s work”, they lose the whole concept that the Eternal’s way of life is about (John 16:2). If this man feels it is his job to sabotage ministries he doctrinally disagrees with, then he indeed needs to change.
But I also agree that we just cannot always tell whether somebody is causing trouble or simply trying to get answers to difficult questions. Knowing how other people explain various doctrines helps us to be better teachers. Furthermore, we must realize that many other Bible-believers will view us as people who have “an eclectic mixture of doctrinal understanding”.
I have far more respect for individuals who believe a set of doctrines that they themselves can explain from the Bible than I have for people who simply ascribe to an organization’s doctrines, but cannot explain them. One thing is certain. The small Bible study method of teaching produces far more growth in both the students and the teachers than the more common one-way sermons, tapes, and TV programs. May the Eternal help more of us to get involved in these kinds of studies! —NSE]
Lenny Cacchio; 705 NE Bryant Drive,
Lees Summit, Missouri 64068