October 6, 2002
We had five guests today. I began with the passage in Ezekiel 22, where God says He looked for someone to stand in the gap, but found none. In a way that’s an indictment of us, for we should in fact be willing to step forward and stand in the gap ourselves. I asked the question: have we come to the point where there is no longer anyone to stand in the gap? One of the drivers pointed out that Elijah thought he was all alone, but in fact there were still 7,000 who had not bent the knee to Baal.
It is easy to get on a negative track in these studies when subjects such as this are broached. We all know about the evils of our society, but the fact is people come to these studies to be uplifted rather than to grouse. So I took the approach of asking what specifically can we do as individuals to stand in the gap. Too often we will hear generalities such as “preach the gospel”, “do the work”, “stand in the gap”, but we are not given the tools nor the ideas on how to do these things.
I turned to Nehemiah. In Ezekiel the reference to building the wall and standing in the gap has to do with repairing the walls that protect our society. In Nehemiah it was a literal wall that needed to be repaired. First, Nehemiah prayed. Then he enlisted the help of others. In Nehemiah 3 we read about a virtual army of helpers, each assigned a portion of the wall where they are to each stand in the gap and repair it. To me that shows that we each have our own part to play. Even if we reach just one person, or do one thing, it is doing something to stand in the gap.
Nehemiah reinstituted many of the ancient laws of justice from the days of
Moses, including taking care of the poor. One of the men was familiar with
the land rest of 7 years and the Jubilee year, concepts which were rarely applied
in ancient Israel. I
pointed out that the whole concept of the Sabbath rest, as explained in Deuteronomy 5, is to show that we are free men and women, that we are not slaves, especially in these days slaves to our jobs. That was the same concept with the land rest and the Jubilee. One of the men asked how to reconcile the Bible’s claim about the seventh-day Sabbath with the modern practice of Sunday-keeping. I said I don’t reconcile them. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.
One driver, a older lady, says she spends time in the truck stops talking to younger drivers with families at home. Her first husband was a truck driver, and she knows first-hand the hardship these drivers’ families go through. After he died she took up truck driving and spends time talking to drivers about leaving over-the-road trucking on the premise that their families need them. Another driver pointed out that this was her way of standing in the gap. Precisely, and as it turned out, he was facing that exact dilemma and was looking for a way out. Her solution was to do what’s right and walk in faith about it.
During the past few weeks I have become more and more aware of the employment problems that so many are facing these days. Some are out of work, some have reached a unbearable level of frustration with their jobs. It’s no different in the trucking industry, where the pressures and demands have increased greatly over the years. Yet so many feel trapped by their jobs. So many of us are slaves to the system, and we should look forward to the freedom that is ours in the Kingdom.
[While it may sound “communist” to some, Jesus Christ will “redistribute the wealth” of the world in His kingdom (Ezk 45:1; 47:22; 48:29). Everyone will have only so much land. In the fiftieth year, the land will go back to the family who originally owned it (Lev 25). No group of people will be able to amass huge portions of the world’s wealth. The ownership of land that produces food, wood, paper, oil, gold, iron, and outdoor resorts, will all be divided evenly among families and can never be sold. This will prevent the situation that has occurred throughout much of history: wealthy individuals use their riches to corruptly obtain even more wealth. An individual should be able to work only a modest amount, and still be able to feed his family. Of course, the Bible does teach that a person can lose his wealth if he or she mismanages it. Many have learned that lesson the hard way. But the Jubilee year every fifty years gives each generation a chance to start over—and prevents any group of people from owning large sections of their country—as is the case today. — NSE]
October 20, 2002
Sometimes I wonder if I get more from these Bible studies than the truck drivers do. I was impressed by the understanding that some of these men had today.
One thing that has been a bit of a puzzle to me is something we find in Acts 2. Peter quotes the prophet Joel and says that the day of Pentecost is a fulfillment of the prophecy that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. If that’s the case, then Peter was mistaken about something because the Holy Spirit has not been poured out on all flesh, at least not yet.
One of the drivers today pointed out that Peter didn’t quote Joel exactly. The wording is different enough that it subtly changes the meaning and application of the verse. Peter quotes it as follows: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh. And on my servant and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit.” Joel 2:28 actually says, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. And also upon the servants and handmaids in those days I will pour out my spirit.” In other words, the word “of” is missing in Joel and added in Acts. That change is significant because it would imply that the Spirit is being given by measure today, whereas in its future fulfillment it will be a full pouring out. Can you say early versus latter harvest?
I give this example by way of illustration. If one goes into these studies with the attitude that “I am the teacher and you are not,” you can really miss out on some insights that would normally not come out of our theological framework. Having fresh ideas come your way can encourage thought and further insight. We do not have a lock on all truth. I also think the men get satisfaction in knowing that they are making a positive contribution.
I found the following news item from the Presidential Prayer Team about the truck driver whose call resulted in the arrest of the DC area sniper. This man is typical of many of the men we run into. I understand that any reward money he might receive will be donated to the families of the victims. I hope to meet this man and shake his hand. Let’s not underestimate the power of prayer in fighting the evils facing our nation and the world.
Sniper’s Arrest Is the Answer to Truck Driver’s Prayers.
A truck driver who is just five runs away from retirement had a prayer meeting last week with 50 other drivers, just 20 miles from the spot where the arrest took place. The drivers met to pray that the sniper would be caught. “We knew the prayer was going to be answered. One time or another. That’s the way we believe.”
Driver Ron Lantz left Wilmington, Delaware, last night and pulled into the rest area at Myersville and spotted the suspect’s car immediately. When he mentioned it to another driver on his radio the man asked, “What are we going to do?” “I said I’m going to call 9-1-1. So I called.”
The 15 minute wait was a long one, Lantz admitted, and during the wait, the drivers worked together to block the exit to the rest stop. Does Lantz want to be called a hero? The Presidential Prayer Team would call him a man of character, because in his words, “I just want people to think what I did is what I should have done. I am no hero at this, no hero whatsoever. I don’t even want to be [thought] of as a hero.”
[This kind of news is frequently reported among Bible fundamentalist groups, both Sunday- and Sabbath-observing. People get together and continue to pray about a community or national problem until the action is solved by prayer or until they find some action to take to help solve it. I remember one time that I prayed for the sniper(s) to be found—but did not do it in an ongoing organized way as these people did. I have heard first-hand stories about people praying for their local government to be cleaned up, and for the prostitutes in their town to find new, moral jobs. They were effective. These sorts of stories are rarely reported in the news media (which in general, does not seem to like the idea that God ultimately runs the universe). Unfortunately, these stories are often not reported among Church of God groups and other religions that have a firm belief that the world as we know it is going to collapse in the near future and will not get better until Christ returns.
Make no mistake, this writer would be very happy to see Christ return. But I am more thankful for Christian men and women who have “stood in the gap” to make our lives better than those who have done little good in the world because they were too busy predicting the immediate return of Christ—and then turned out to be wrong. This is an excellent example of “standing in the gap”, as mentioned in the first part of this article (October 6, study). — NSE]
October 27, 2002
Last week I had a discussion after the study with a driver who is suffering from extreme depression problems, which is a common problem among people in the trucking business, given the lonely nature of their work. As we progressed in our talk it was apparent that a big part of the problem was negative self-talk. He kept telling himself how bad he is, and it was all I could do to tell him that God doesn’t make junk. We’re His children and He loves us. We might do bad things, but not one of us is worthless.
As I thought about this, it occurred to me that it might be a good topic for a Bible study. In a sense, the serpent deceived Eve by telling her that she wasn’t good enough and that she needed that something extra that God was purposely withholding from her. When they partook of the fruit, they felt even more inadequate, hid themselves, and tried to cover themselves because they were ashamed.
Job’s friend Eliphaz (in Job 4) saw a vision. The description of the vision reads much like a horror show (hair standing on end, spirits wafting through walls, etc.) and this spirit accuses God of unjustly judging angels and calls people little more than worms. And that is exactly how Satan wants us to view ourselves and God—as totally worthless worms (KJV) attempting to serve a harsh, judgmental God whom we can never please anyway.
As it turned out, this topic took up the entire hour and a half today. Many of the people in that room (and there were twelve besides me) have suffered from depression and they shared how they have dealt with it. Many Biblical characters had feelings of depression, people such as Jeremiah, David, Saul, even Jesus who groaned within Himself and became troubled when Lazarus died.
I don’t know that we helped those with the greatest problems today. On the other hand, this is a complex subject and each case is unique. Part of the solution is to accept those things we can’t change and spend our energies only in those things that we can change. In any case one way to deal with depression is to get one’s mind off oneself and on others or the task at hand.
Once again I was impressed with the people who joined us today. Two were repeat customers, including a man who was with us just last week. This fellow I look upon as being a bit of a kindred spirit. Occasionally you run into people whom you recognize as instant friends because you know you are operating form the same perspective. I would put both our repeat customers in that category.
November 17, 2002
I would like everyone to pray for Johnny. Rarely do I use a person’s name in these summaries, but Johnny and his buddies wouldn’t mind me asking you for prayer on their behalf.
Johnny is a young man, I would guess about thirty, who has been driving truck since getting out of the Marines a couple of years ago. His company has just been activated and he is to report in a few weeks. Impressive was his perspective and dedication, not to mention his willingness to serve. He sees himself as helping to defend Americans and the American way of life, while at the same time hoping to bring a whiff of freedom to another part of the world.
Previously he had a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia, and essentially said that they don’t like Americans, but from his perspective much of that is based on the fear of those in control that they will lose that control if freedom is allowed to come in. From this we discussed how the chief priests and the Pharisees had that very type of discussion when planning the death of Jesus. They were afraid that he would cost them their “place”, or position of authority. In short, they did not want to lose power or control. In fact, the need for power and control is typical of cults, and not only cults, but governments in the grips of Satan. And not just governments. The same attitude is in such petty places as office politics. Human nature is the same all over and in all times.
Johnny talked about how Christians have a glow about them, and that is something he did not see among the Saudi people. Even Americans in general have a glow and openness that was lacking over there. “We can go into any truck stop in the country and strike up a conversation with anybody.” In Saudi, there is no such natural friendliness. He believes that the big threat perceived by the religious leaders in Islam is the people perhaps getting a taste of freedom and thus turning their backs on the controlling form of Islam that permeates that part of the world. At the same time, it is the doctrine of the US military—and he agrees with it—that American presence is not to reform their way of life or overpower their culture. In fact, their role is as much to protect their innocent civilians as to protect ours.
The man was an inspiration to me because of his quiet confidence and content smile. He is ready to go and do what he needs to do. He is committed to his responsibilities and accepts them willingly, whatever they may bring. “I’m not afraid to die,” he said. “I am willing to do whatever God requires of me.” As I think about it, those are the same words we should all utter in our walk with Christ.
The question of whether Muslims will “go to heaven” opened up a couple of interesting discussions on the resurrections and the state of the dead. The explanation of Revelation 20 is one that is appealing to people who have thought through the implications of traditional theology and what that traditional theology would imply about the mercy and fairness of God. Revelation 20 has a truer ring to it for those who view God as a loving Father. Those who view God as a hanging judge might prefer the traditional view. But the hope of the resurrection for all and a chance for all is the kind of God most people prefer to worship.
I tried to get them to think through how it is hard to reconcile “going to heaven” with the resurrection at Christ’s return. Hopefully, they will give it more than a shrug.
I try to take prayer requests every week, and usually with a group of nine truck drivers, there will be several requests. Today the soon to be re-inducted Marine asked us all to pray for him. I assured him that not only would we pray today, but every day. His request was the only one today. It seems that sometimes a request comes along that puts our personal daily concerns into perspective. Everyone just sat there feeling humble. “Your request is a hard one to beat,” I said. Afterwards Johnny shook my hand. “Thank you for what you’re doing here for us”, to which I replied, “No, thank you for what you are doing for us.”
— Lenny Cacchio, L_cacchio@yahoo.com
705 NE Bryant Drive, Lee’s Summit, Missouri 64086