Early on in the study, when there were only two of us, the trucker impressed me once again that the lives these truckers lead can be both lonely and filled with temptation. He gets home only about once every three weeks, and he says he has to keep himself “filled with the Lord” in order to fight the temptations of the road. He drives because it provides him and his family with a decent income, although he is fairly new to driving. His intent is to get the family finances in order, then do something closer to home.
Bottom line that I want to relay is his request for prayer, that he can get out of this type of work and also to stay strong. He misses his home church and his family, as I am sure any of us would. There is no doubt in my mind about his dedication to the truth he knows.
[Church of God groups have, in the past, belittled the conservative Christian groups that have legally fought against pornography, prostitution, etc. The view was that true Christians had the power to resist such temptations, the morals of the English-speaking nations were so bad that they were soon to suffer the Great Tribulation, and that there was therefore no reason to try to change anything. That thinking was reasonable if most people were either faith-filled believers or evil-seeking perverts.
But it overlooks what I believe is the majority of people (believers and unbelievers) who would like to live good lives, but either lack the knowledge of what to do or lack the spiritual strength to resist temptation. — NSE]
We were joined by three additional drivers today, including a woman who has been driving for 17 years and who cannot imagine doing anything else. Life has improved greatly for women truckers during that period. These days, truck stops have women’s restrooms. Imagine the hardship she faced in trying to find some of the simple creature comforts for female drivers in years gone by.
An interesting thing about today relates to a trucker from South Dakota, who was somewhat of a quiet sort at first. When he was given a chance to talk he mentioned that he isn’t very religious, but that he believes 100% in God, has seen God’s healing hand, has a desire to find a church, and tries to help out those in need as much as he has the opportunity. He prays with others, and at least today he actively sought out the Bible Study group.
He is hesitant to go to a church because he feels that people look too much at nice clothes and then judge others who don’t come up to snuff. And they too often don’t help the needy enough. I wondered why he referred to himself as “not religious”, so I asked him if he knew what the Bible definition of religion is. He was a bit surprised to see that James 1:26–2:6 described both true religion and the false type of worship that he was lamenting.
[It is great to see someone reading the Bible and “setting the captive free”. Many in Jesus’ day felt inferior because they could not achieve the righteousness of the Pharisees—which He showed to be false. — NSE]
We turned to Micah 6:6–8, where we read what God requires of us: not great sacrifices, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Sometimes we make religion too complicated. And sometimes christians are a very poor reflection of the Father, for the best witness we often can give is the way we live our lives.
Several of the people there commented that he should change the way he describes himself, that in fact he is wrong to say he is “not religious”. He does not believe himself “religious” because he doesn’t evangelize, but they pointed out to him, correctly, that we each have our own unique ways of serving God.
The Bible study went about 2½ hours today, longer than most, but they wanted to talk, and they needed encouragement, so we let it run. My regret today is that we didn’t get into the final topic of discussion sooner. One of the truckers had a brother who lived a drug, alcohol and illicit sex-filled life, and then ended it by suicide. A preacher told him that his brother is forever lost.
Since we had discussed the unpardonable sin earlier in the study, I reminded him that God is the one who judges such matters, and then proceeded to discuss Revelation 20 and the second resurrection. He was encouraged by this and wants to know more (I’m going to send him some literature), but it is amazing to me how so many Bible believers limit God’s mercy. Some even get angry at the thought that God could actually give sinners a chance to repent after their first death.
Why is it so hard to accept God’s infinite mercy and the plain statement of scripture that God is willing that none should perish? If nothing else today, we gave a rough-hewn but God-fearing truck driver with a big heart some hope for his brother’s eternal destiny, and for that alone the day was worth it.
We are among the few who have this precious knowledge of God’s plan to save the vast majority of mankind. People are crying out for this knowledge, and it is something we should share every chance we get.
[I believe this truth is indeed important. So many Christians will quote John 3:16 and forget about verse 17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This is why I spent so much time writing on Eternal Judgment and then the tract, “All Who Die Shall Live Again”.
Even though I disagree with the universal salvation teaching, it is far superior to the more common “the unsaved burn in Hell forever” teaching. I’ve been amazed to see the variety of groups that teach universal salvation. The only difference between universal salvation and what I believe is that I believe the Scriptures say there will be a small group of people that will never agree to follow God and will have to be destroyed.
Church of God leaders used to threaten members with being placed in that group for disobeying their hierarchy. In reality, we do not have the judgment of Christ and cannot be sure who will be in this group. It is not worth much argument. — NSE]
Two of our truckers today were repeat customers, and there was a gentleman whom Arlo met in the restaurant beforehand and invited upstairs. All three are serious Bible students.
One of the men called himself a “legalist”, and I recollected to him the previous time we had met and had engaged in a spirited argument relative to his extreme chauvinistic view of women (which includes in his mind the right of a husband to spank his wife). It was evident that neither one of us wanted to go down that road again and waste both our time and the time of the others there, so discussion went in a more profitable direction.
Another of the guests is a man who drops in whenever he is in the area (sometimes
traveling with his wife). We are developing a friendship born of mutual respect
in spite of doctrinal differences. It is great being able to disagree about
the scriptures but at the same time trying to understand
why the other person holds to the doctrines that they do.
The third trucker, who was joining us for the first time, was quiet most of time, but certainly had a knowledge of the scriptures and practical application of them. It turns out his wife is a Methodist minister.
The major topic of the day revolved around the inauguration, and specifically the invocation, where Franklin Graham prayed for forgiveness of the nation’s sins and for a spirit of repentance. He also made a point of mentioning the name of Jesus Christ. The benediction had a similar theme. We all commented that this was totally appropriate, and wondered if the prayers would have been similar had the other candidate won.
Most of the time today we discussed what we might call the Christian roots of the American experiment and how much of that has been lost. The truckers all seemed to agree that the United States is the “New Israel”, and with that must come supreme responsibility to keep the covenant that our forefathers made with God. Absent our keeping that covenant, the nation must suffer God’s judgment. We had two divergent schools of thought in our discussion. One school said to “bring it on”. The nation deserves to suffer (read “Ezekiel’s Message”?) and the nation simply will not repent.
The other school says that the nation might not repent, but then again it just might. Not only must we preach the gospel, we should be actively involved to save our nation. Who knows whether God might hear our prayers and be merciful to us? It may be that the nation could turn to God and be spared! Personally, I would rather try to get the nation to repent than not try at all. If we don’t try at all, then we will never know.
[In the judgment, it seems that we would fare much better if we have tried to help the nation repent now, than if we do nothing at all. Even if they do not repent, we will be training for our job to reign with Christ—which will be helping nations and individuals repent. — NSE]
Part of the study was spent reviewing Judges 9 and the parable of the trees as told by Jotham, son of Gideon. Rather than my recounting the discussion here, I refer to my article published in the Nov/Dec 2000 Shelter in the Word, page 7.
I learned several things today. A few weeks ago we had one of these truckers and his wife as guests. The trucker reminded me of something. “Remember that fellow who came in late and sat in the corner over there?” I remembered. I gave him a Bible, and he asked if he could have two. “Remember my wife and I inviting him down for coffee and a bite?” I remembered.
“Well, we found out he was in a bad way. He was on his way home to Montana from Florida where he had buried his mother, and that took all his money. His van was about out of gas, and he hadn’t eaten in a while. A policeman had referred him to a local church for help, and they refused because his wife wasn’t with him. He tried to find temporary work for a day or two in order to get some food and gas, but was unable to find anyone. We bought him lunch, and he was careful to order only what we ordered. We filled his tank with gas, and he was thankful because it was enough to get him to a city where he had some friends who would help. He never asked us for money, but we gave him some anyway. Do you remember what we were studying?”
I sure did! We were studying “pure religion” and the passage in James that talks about a brother being naked and destitute of daily food and giving them what is needful for the body.
“Well, there we were talking about this, and in our very midst was someone who was in that very position, and we didn’t notice and he didn’t volunteer it.”
I was ashamed of myself for being so thick as not to notice. I was there when this couple just happened to ask this man if he wanted to join them for lunch, and only then did they learn what his needs were. And all he asked me for were a couple of Bibles! I am ashamed because of how insensitive I can be to an obvious need that I can only see now by looking back on it.
After the study today the trucker asked me if I could join him for a cup of coffee down in the restaurant. I sensed he had something on his mind. The questions had to do with the Sabbath and his belief that one day in seven is fine and not necessarily one specific day of the week. (Remember that he has met with us several times and items such as these do come out over time).
My explanation to him went something like this: “We Sabbath-keepers sometimes
have a problem. Too often we place the Sabbath at the center of theology, almost
putting it ahead of God himself. Now, I am absolutely convinced that the seventh
day is the Sabbath. It was instituted in Genesis
2, well before Exodus 20. It was reaffirmed to Israel in Exodus 16, before the Old Covenant was put in effect. It is one of the Ten Commandments. It tells us that we should not work on that day. I have no doubt that the Sabbath is the day, and I keep it. But it is not the center of my theology. Jesus Christ is the center of my theology.”
He listened and didn’t comment. Frankly, I don’t know whether he will see the truth of the Sabbath or not. But I do known that he will drop in again whenever he can. He and I (along with his wife when she can accompany him) are becoming friends and brethren. We enjoy sharing Bible study together.
I don’t apologize for what I believe and teach it when the opportunities arise. But I go to the truck stop because it is important for these men and women to have a place where they can get together with people of like minds and talk about the scriptures together. I do not go to grind a doctrinal ax. I am there to walk along side them in their search for God and his Son.
As I was mentioning to the gentleman today, the last half dozen times or so I have gone to the truck stop with a specific topic planned, but I always ask the truckers if they have anything they want to talk about. As it has turned out, we have not covered my topics but theirs, and that’s fine with me.
Today’s guests were men of few words, so it was a bit of a challenge to try to get a discussion going. It’s not that they weren’t interested. They were more the listening types than the talking types.
We went through a few parables, beginning with Luke, discussing the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple and discussed some of the lessons of prayer. We also discussed the parable just before it (the parable of the unjust judge) and the importance of being persistent. We can change God’s mind about things, even as Moses changed God’s mind about destroying Israel. Also we discussed what God requires of us in the way of how we treat others and the way we live our lives, drawing lessons from James’ Epistle. Just good, basic Bible teachings.
The question arose once again about the state of affairs in our nation and what we can do. There were four points that were discussed to address what Christians should be doing:
1. Pray in a repentant attitude: 2 Chronicles 7:14
2. Live an exemplary, godly life. Set the right example and do the morally and ethically right things: Luke 3:7–14.
3. Call sin for what it is and warn the nation: Isaiah 58:1, Ezekiel 33:1-10. You can’t do this unless you are living #2, for one lacks the moral authority to preach against the nation’s sins if one is participating in those sins, as evidenced by recent news events of an internationally known preacher.
4. Give them hope by preaching the Gospel to them: Matthew 28:18–20.
[All of these points are good, but if this were all that the Eternal’s people ever did, most of us would still be in a state church listening to the scriptures read in Latin. There are times when men and women took action to form independent congregations contrary to state church decrees, to translate the Bible into English, to declare independence from other nations in order to have religions freedom, and many other things.
Today, we benefit immensely because of the action that previous Bible believers took. God does not call everyone to every job, but we ought to value the work that the Eternal is doing through others—especially if we hope the others will value the work He does through us. — NSE]
On the third and fourth points, one of the men said he must surely have blood on his head, for he failed to preach the Gospel to his father as his father lay dying (specifically referring to Ezekiel 33). I told him I had some good news for him, and began a short study of Revelation 20. I was struck by his reaction: he walked out! Arlo and I get flabbergasted when we run into people who think it is blasphemous to teach that God is a God of mercy and will give everyone a very real chance at salvation. We just don’t get it. It is almost as if some want to see people writhing in pain for eternity. Arlo theorizes that maybe this fellow has resentment against his father and really wants to believe the guy is suffering, but in any case we planted some seeds in his mind.
I stayed a little late and chatted with one of the men who had some questions on what things are appropriate and inappropriate to do on Sunday. I told him the fourth commandment says to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. In this command, we need to understand what it means to “keep something holy”, and also need to define what the “Sabbath” is. “Holy” means to set apart, in this case set apart for God’s glory, and for our rest and enjoyment. It’s a blessing that God commands to take a day off—it’s a symbol of freedom that was given to the Israelites, who were used to working seven days a week as slaves. It shows that we are free men!
And the Sabbath itself, well—he was savvy enough to interject at this point that the Bible defines the seventh day as the Sabbath. That’s right, I said. It goes all the way back to creation in Genesis 2.
As the man said, planting a few seeds.
[It may be hard for some people to accept, but I believe that Christ was teaching spiritual principles, not physical laws in the later parts of Matthew 5. He is telling the people to be different—to be examples (v 15-16). He tells them he is not changing the law or the prophets (v 17-19). But if one were to take the next verses literally, one would have to conclude that he is greatly changing the law.
Christ was not suggesting that the Israelites put people to death for being angry without a cause (v 22) or lusting after a woman (v 28), but he was showing the spiritual sin takes place in the mind. Even though the New Testament records many sins of believers, there is no record of anyone gouging out their eyes and cutting off their hands to prevent future sin (v 29-30). He did not change the Old Testament laws on divorce (v 31-32 and Deut 24:1-3), but He made it clear that the spirit of their divorcing was wrong.
Christ was not changing the laws that required a person to take an oath (v 33-37 & Ex 22:11; Num 5:19), but clearly stated that their excessive oath-taking was wrong. The “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” in verse 38 is about compensation when one has been wronged. In verses 39 to 45 (where He says “turn the other cheek”), he is not changing the law, but showing the people that being like their Father in Heaven is more than demanding their due compensation for every offense.
Other New Testament scriptures (John 2:14–17; Acts 5:28–29; 9:22–25; Heb 11:33-34) show that there are times to resist those who would do evil. — NSE]
The Church of God Kansas City would like to offer you the following free sermons on cassette.
Tape 1: The Mountain Lion, by Rick Frazee. Why does God describe Satan like a roaring lion? Hear this sermon and a lesson learned in the Colorado Rockies. Side 2 of this tape has the message given at the Year 2000 Teen Retreat in Kansas City.
Tape 2: Nelson Caswell tells us about “The Person Down Inside”. On side 2 is a message entitled “Heroes”. John Curry tells us what a real hero is, and that we can all be a hero in God’s sight.
If you would like either or both of these tapes, please e-mail me your snail-mail address.
Lenny Cacchio; 705 NE Bryant Drive,
Lees Summit, Missouri 64068