Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Helping the Lady Out

“I’ll be glad to help you out, just show me how you got in”
sign on pushcart in Cincinnati .

The lady was perplexed. She had come to the Oak Street Bible Shop to find out,if possible, what is the true sabbath. She was in her early thirties, slim, wearing a dark blue dress with a white collar and had on medium heels, very conservative. She had such an earnest expression she made you want to help her.

“My husband has been reading a book someone at work gave him. It says most churches teach you to observe the wrong sabbath, and that they are breaking God’s commandment to keep the sabbath holy. I’m not convinced yet, but it looks like he may want us to leave our church to follow God’s law. I don’t want to go against my husband and, for all I know, we really are breaking one of God’s commandments. Do you have a book that tells what is the true sabbath?”

Behind his counter, Gary assumed a wide-eyed innocent expression, completely fake, and started to hold up one of his precious Bibles. Joy, on her stool, got a pained expression on her faced and flipped her hand at him. Her mouth was framed in a silent “No!”.

The woman looked from one to the other. She couldn’t understand what was going on. Joy, slid off her high stool, and reached over to a shelf of books about cults.
“Are you still in your original church?” she asked, You haven’t joined this new one yet?” The woman told her she had not, but depending on how her husband understood the book, they might join any day.

“Is this an Adventist Church?” Joy asked, cautiously.

“Yes, that’s right, Seventh Day Adventist.”

“Uh huh” Joy said, thoughtfully. “Well we do have books on Adventists, from a cult point of view. Would you be offended by that approach?”

“It’s not me, it’s my husband” she said, “And all I want to know is what is the true sabbath”?

During all this, Sue had said nothing. Doctrine made her nervous. She was afraid she would say something wrong, and she didn’t want to offend a customer. In the back room, Glen was taking all this in as he hurried to eat the rest of his grilled cheese sandwich. Joy had finally given in and let him eat there.

“Where do you get all these sandwiches? She asked. “Cheryl makes them for me.”

“Who’s Cheryl,” Joy asked with womanly curiosity.

“Oh, she’s a waitress at the Blue Bird”.

Sue had listened to this with evident alarm, as if who made sandwiches for Glen was an important issue for her. Glen dropped his sandwich paper into the waste basket and carefully wiped his hands. Ordinarily he liked to take his time eating his favorite sandwich, but he had hurried through this one to join the group in the front room.

“Glen”, Joy said brightly, “Would you like to help the lady with a book about the true sabbath?” Joy figured she might as well ask him, he couldn’t stay out of such a discussion anyway.

Glen smiled politely at the young woman. “Couldn’t help overhearing your discussion” he said. “I have been in the same dilemma as your husband, if that is the right term to use.”

“It is. He’s still not decided, but he says the book answers all his objections. He said it is very convincing.”

“I picked up a couple of Adventist books in a Good Will store” said Glen, good illustrations. There was one called Beacon Lights of Prophecy. I cut some of the illustrations out with a razor blade and had them enlarged. I almost bought their theology too, but I finally found out their faulty logic.”

The woman was looking intently at Glen. Could she trust this man? She said nothing, so Glen continued.

“But first let me say I do agree that the Adventist are right about what is the true sabbath..”

Gary was really caught off guard. Joy had a look of horror. Has Glen gone crazy?, she wondered.. I thought he was a Fundamentalist and now he is agreeing with a cult religion. How I wish I hadn’t asked him to talk to this woman!

“As I was saying” Glen continued. “If you want to keep the sabbath, the seventh day, or Saturday, is the only one to keep. That is Saturday in Judea, specifically in Jerusalem.”

There was tension in the room, the woman was listening to Glen, but not at all pleased. He seemed to be agreeing with her husband and his new book. Gary, in an ill-advised attempt to lighten things up came up with one of his little jokes.

“I saw a cartoon once that showed how geography affects what day it is.” Joy dreaded these side trips by Gary and braced herself.

“There was an Eskimo on the witness stand, and an attorney asks him “Where were you on the night of November, December, January, and February?” We all enjoyed this in spite of ourselves. Glen resumed his presentation.

“There is only one weekly sabbath, and that is the seventh, or last, day of the week. But the whole sabbath argument, which sabbath should the church keep, is based on totally faulty logic. Imagine a guy goes to a used car lot to buy a Ford truck. A car salesman comes over and says ”Which Toyota do you want to buy?” The guy says, “I don’t want to buy any Toyota, I want a Ford truck”. Right away your choices of how to live a Godly life are limited by which sabbath you keep. It is a false premise.”

The woman was puzzled, she wanted to believe that her church was not breaking God’s commandment to observe the sabbath, but was far from being convinced by what Glen had said, so far.

“But you treat keeping the sabbath as if it was a matter of choice, just pick which day and that is fine!”

“Well, it sure was not a matter of choice for Israel!” said Joy, fiercely. The ten commandments are very plain about that. Gary, where is that passage about the man gathering firewood on the sabbath?” Gary began turning until he came to Numbers 15:32. He began to read :

And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done unto him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded.

“I’ll bet that’s not in your husband’s book” said Glen. There is the sabbath law in action. Who wants to be a part of that?”

“But you’re saying “who wants” like it is a matter of choice,!” the woman exclaimed. Glen was holding back, letting the question hang in the air, before bringing it to a conclusion.

“My church teaches that Christ paid the penalty for sin so lawbreakers are not under the penalty of the law” said Sue. This brought even another joke response from Gary.

“Remember Brother Juniper?” he asked. “I saw one where he is pounding a sign into the lawn of the monastery. It read “TRESPASSERS WILL BE FORGIVEN”.

“Good one, Gary” said Glen and very fitting for those who break the law. But I submit to you that the sabbath law, as far as the church is concerned, is not an issue. The law was given to Israel and to no one else. The law and its penalties are for Israel and not the church. So which sabbath we are under is pointless. Are you Jewish, ma’am? Is your husband Jewish?”

“No, we are not.” she replied.

“Then why would you let anyone put you under a law that applies to the nation of Israel and to no one else?”

“It makes sense to me, what you just said, but my husband’s book quotes the New Testament and in one of the letters of John, I forget which one, it says we are to keep the commandments. What do you say about that?”

Glen turned to Gary, “Help us out, Gary. I John, chapter 2.” Gary found the tab for I John and turned to chapter 2, verse 3, and read : And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that sayeth, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

“See? There we are, as Christians, still in the Ten Commandments!” The lady was very troubled. “My husband’s book is right. We do still need to keep the Ten Commandments, and I’ll have to leave my church. But I like my church and I don’t want to leave it.”

“Then stay in it” said Glen.

“But what about John saying “If we keep his commandments? Just forget about it?’

“I certainly hope not, ma’am!” Glen liked to keep people in suspense, to make a point. “We need to read carefully. John did not say the ten commandments. Never said any such thing.”

“Are you saying there are commandments we should keep and commandments we don’t need to keep?”

“Oh, no!” said Glen with a happy expression. John says we should keep both commandments. He is very definite about that!”

The woman was truly lost by now, she almost thought that Glen was mocking her. She remained silent.

“Gary” said Glen, if you still have I John, please read to us from chapter 3 verse 23 forward.

And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

“We need to keep on reading” said Sue..

The woman looked so relieved. “I can’t believe how much better I feel. I wish I could remember all those scriptures, though. I want to tell my husband.”

“I marked them” said Gary. He looked over at Joy, who nodded “Yes”. Gary handed the Bible he had been reading from to the woman. “Compliments of Oak Street Bible shop, ma’am”.

She looked like she was about to cry.

Gary, as if to lighten the mood said “I just thought of another cartoon. These two hippopotamuses are floating in the river.”

Gary imitated their slow breathing. “One of them turns to the other one and says “You know, today just doesn’t seem like Sunday, does it to you”.

Sue had a puzzled expression. “But what difference would it make to a hip....? Oh, I get it!”

Glen started to walk to the little table by the coffee urn. “I’m going to finish my grilled cheese sandwich” he said. “Oh, that’s right, I already ate it. I get so carried away sometimes.”

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Colossians 2:16,17

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Romans 14:5

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