Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who You Gonna Believe?

There were two posters in the Oak Street Bible Shop that showed two different ways of going to be with Jesus. I was browsing, when I saw these posters, on a stand at eye level. One showed the body of an old woman lying on a bed. Her false teeth were in a glass of water on the night stand. An angel was hovering above the bed, reaching down to her and pulling up a transparent version of her as a beautiful young woman. He was lifting up her "soul" to take it to heaven.

Beside this picture was a scene that represented a very different concept. It was a night scene of an old, overgrown cemetery. The gravestones were fallen down and shrubs and weeds had taken over until the graves could hardly be seen.

But there were a number of glowing figures emerging from these graves, traveling upward to join the figures of Jesus and his angels in the sky... It was a picture of the rapture.

A man behind me had been looking at it too. “So typically American,” he said, as if that was a bad thing. I turned to look at him. He was over six feet tall, in a blue, three piece suit and red necktie. He looked sharp and had the poise of someone used to getting respect.

“Which one of these pictures is correct?, “I asked. He began to talk about the Greek influences and the religious traditions of simple Bible believing people from which ideas derive. I didn't hear him cite any scriptures. Everything was cultural, to him.

After he had finished his talk ,I said, “Thank you for your views.” He drew himself up to tower even further above me, he was steamed. “Views! I'm just a Lutheran pastor, all I have is views, I suppose!” I didn't realize it, but I had just made a pastor angry by not believing something he said! Of course I had done that a lot in my life. Didn't set out to, it just happened.

Imagine, a pastor had said something and I didn't treat it with the seriousness he felt it deserved! Well, welcome to America, and welcome to the Protestant belief, that the Bible is the only authority. Luther called it "Sola Scriptura", and they put him on trial, hunted him down and tried to kill him. This pastor did not follow Luther in this, apparently.

Poor, baby! He should have had a sign around his neck that read "I am a pastor, you must believe everything I say". Now, I have known some good pastors, real servants of Christ and of their congregations. Some of them were my friends. But I am not in awe of them.

I think of Colonial America, and the Congregational churches. Their preachers were often fired if they did not keep to the Word or if they abused their authority. They had come from a country where you went to prison for preaching without a license.
Prison is where John Bunyon wrote A Pilgrim’s Progress. They brought his water in a jug with a rolled up paper stopper. He unrolled it and when it was dry it became the manuscript for one of the most popular and influential books ever written.

As far as pastors or teachers dictating what we are to believe, it is so un-scriptural as to be beyond argument. On this particular day, at the Oak Street Bible Shop, we saw the inflamed ego of a church official at its worst. This fellow picked up his order and left without another word.

“Looks like you really upset him,” said Joy, a little amused at it all.

“That's usually my job,” said Glen from his corner of the room. “Especially pertaining to the doctrine of the rapture,” he continued. “Most of us believe it, but where the differences come in is with the idea of peoples' souls going up, one by one as they die, then Jesus coming for their bodies all at one time, yet future. Two trips to heaven , or one time as in John 14?”

Joy, as an ex Catholic, was very much a believer in immortality of the soul. Gary believed that way too, as did Sue, though she had not spoken out on it like Joy and Gary. Glen and I had ceased to believe in man's natural immortality. We were dust, animated by the spirit of life from God, and we knew it.

Joy spoke, dreading what she knew would follow, “I know about our physical nature,”, she said, “But that is just the body! The soul goes to be with Christ when we die. ‘Absent from the body, present with the Lord,’ is what Paul said.

“I wish people would quote the whole passage”, said Glen. “There are a number of errors in doctrine that people try to defend by quoting part of a verse or part of a chapter, the part they feel supports their view.”

“There's that word again, ‘view’", quoted Sue. That's what got that Lutheran guy started.

“Lutheran pastor,” corrected Joy.

Gary interjected, “I think we all agree that when Christians promote a belief without Biblical support, it is just a view. I agree with Luther on that.”

“Even Jesus quoted scripture,” said Sue, “and he was the Word himself. He announced his ministry in Luke chapter four by reading from the book of Isaiah”.

Glen returned to his theme of using partial scriptures; “Paul said, concerning his being with Christ after death, "Not that I would be unclothed, but clothed upon." 2 Cor. 5:2 4. Paul says that mortality will become immortality at the resurrection.

If you read these entire chapters you get the whole picture.”

“Keep on reading,” said Sue, “don't quit until you have read the whole passage.”
It was a motto of hers. Glen smiled at her in appreciation.

Gary broke in, “Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life, not, I am the immortal soul and the life.

“Whose side are you on?, snapped Joy.

“The Bible's side, I hope,” he answered.

“I'm sorry you are a "soul sleeper" said Joy, “You sound like a Jehovah's Witness” she added.

“Well," Glen came back, “you've managed two attempted putdowns in one sentence. First of all "soul sleeper" is about the most meaningless term I have ever heard. You just reach out for a name to call someone as if that proves anything. It's like saying "nigger" or "honky" as if you are describing a fellow human being. Would it prove anything if I called you a "body sleeper"? The terms are meaningless. Let's use scripture, not call names. As far as what I may sound like, think of who believes in immortal souls. Hindus, Shamans, and every witch.”

“Now who's calling names?,” said Joy.

“I'm not calling names, that is how those people describe themselves”, said Glen. “But even beyond this doctrine, which I feel is so important, there is the practice of just following what we have heard everyone say, instead of searching the scriptures for ourselves. That's what really bothers me. What is our basis for believing what we believe?”

Gary, who was a fan of old movies, tried to lighten things up a bit. “As
Chico Marx, of the Marx Brothers used to say, "Who you gonna believe, me
or your own eyes?" he quoted.

“My own eyes, said Sue solemnly, if they're looking at the Bible”.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Attack of the Crab

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister to questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith, so do.
1 Timothy 1:4

Glen never picked a fight, he said, physically, or in Bible discussions. “I don’t need to” he once told us, “they just seem to find me.”

This was definitely the case when a woman known to us as “the Crab” visited the Oak Street Bible Shop one day. Glen was at the counter trying to pay for his order when she approached him and said she had taken his course in Revelation.

“May I be perfectly honest with you?” she asked.”Well Ma’am,” he replied, “only you know that for sure.”

“I’ve taken another class in Revelation since I saw you last. And this teacher teaches it completely different than you did. What do you say to that.”

“Well” Glen replied, “There’s an old business maxim that says, ‘Whenever two men agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary.”

The Crab ignored this. “All I’m saying is that he disagrees with you on everything you say!”

Glen was unruffled, “I guess that means I disagree with him on every point too. What do you say to that?" She glared at him, but said nothing.

“I hope you will agree with me on one thing, ma’am, the only thing that matters is, if a teacher, any teacher, agrees with the Bible. Did this teacher base his teaching of Revelation on the Book of Daniel?”

“Oh, I see, if he doesn’t agree with you, then he disagrees with the Bible!”

“No” said Glen, “but if he disagrees with Daniel, then he disagrees with the Bible, I do say that. Daniel and Revelation fit together, they agree. If your teaching takes you in a different direction than Daniel, if it is not congruent with Daniel, then you have drifted into error. You may remember that I asked everyone to take my classes on Daniel before they studied Revelation with me. I know you started, what happened?”

“Oh, I saw all those statues and weird animals you handed out, didn’t make a bit of sense to me.”

“It didn’t make any sense to Daniel either, ma’am, at first. But then God explained what it all meant, all that was needed at that time.”

“I’ve got one for you, why are there two lists of the twelve tribes in different parts of the Bible?”, she challenged him.

“Actually”, Glen said, “it’s more complicated than that. There are different lists in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, 1 Chronicles, and Revelation.”

“So, since you’re so big on Old and New Testaments agreeing, how do you explain that?”

“I don’t even try ma’am, have no desire to even try. I only try to understand what God explains in the Bible, that’s a full-time job, believe me. Since the Bible doesn’t tell me about the different tribes he lists, I don’t even worry about it. A coach of a football team fields twelve players, but they are not always the same twelve. He can bench a player for a time. Kind of like God benched the tribe of Dan, for example. There are even two lists of disciples, if you think about it.”

“You mean with Paul, I suppose?”

“No ma’am. I am thinking about Matthias in Acts 1:26, elsewhere, the Bible speaks of Paul and the twelve.”

“You’re just full of information aren’t you?” said the Crab.

The Crab walked over to Joy, who had been taking it all in from her high stool. She looked up at her, “You know you’ve got some real cranks that come into this store, real cranks!”

“Don’t we though!” replied Joy.

Glen paid for his order and turned back to the Crab, “You know I think I’ve read about your new teacher in the Bible. I believe it’s him in 2 Timothy 3:6,7. Yes, I’m sure of it. Got to go, but it sure has been a learning experience talking with you, ma’am.”

After Glen was out the door, the Crab walked over to Gary. “Where did he say he saw my teacher in the Bible?”

Gary found the quotation and turned the Bible around on the counter for her to read:

For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts.
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:6,7`

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Tall Rooster in a Low Cage

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Galatians 1:1

It can be very revealing to listen to your friends as they recount their widely varied experiences in relation to one central truth, such as, in this case the meaning of freedom. It was late afternoon when we were gathered in the Oak Street Bible Shop. Sue was telling of a trip to a chicken hatchery with her father.

“I was about six years old” she recalled, “My father was buying some young hens for us to raise. He liked chickens, he always told us. He said they had them when he was a boy. But he wanted to see if we could save a little money by raising our own. While he was talking to the man who ran the place, I walked around looking at baby chicks in their brooders, and cages of older birds right on up to adult size. Then I saw the most sad sight I think I have ever seen!”

You could see the memory still moved her, partly to sorrow, but also indignation. “I saw a big rooster in a cage meant for a much smaller bird.” She held up her arm with her wrist bent. “This is how he was, all bent over! He would walk around with his neck all bent and he could never hold his head up straight!”

My father was about to finish buying the hens and I ran to him and said “Look, Daddy!” He tried to tell me we didn’t need a rooster, but he could see how sad the poor rooster made me. Finally he gave in. When he asked how much for the rooster, the man kind of shrugged, “Fifty cents, I guess.” They put the hens in some kind of crate and the rooster in a cardboard box that was too small. They had to tuck his head in to close the lid.”

“I got to carry him out to the car, I remember. At home, after my Dad released the hens, he told me to open the box and let the rooster go. It takes them awhile to get used to a place, but before long, the rooster, he was a Leghorn, was standing as tall as he could, actually stretching to stand as high as he could. It made me so happy!”

Glen, touched by Sue’s story, sat in silence for a time, before he spoke. “If only it could work that way with people, Sue. You can show them in the Word of God, how Christ has set us free, and somehow they just can’t see it...”

From across the room, Joy interrupted, “What is it with you men! It seems like you think all you have to do is just read a few verses from the Bible and the problem is solved! Don’t you understand that these so-called hangups that people have are the results of years, sometimes a lifetime of agony. For years, hurts and lies beat people up and their pain isn’t going to go away just like that!”

“Guilty as charged, Joy,” said a chastened Glen. “Some of us have had the experience of reading or hearing the truth and feeling their burden just fall away, right then. But we have to understand it’s not that way for everybody and in every situation. For years after Jeanie died, I would wake up and think she was still next to me in bed. Sometimes I still do. I knew all the comforting places in the Bible, but all I could think was ‘Yes, but she’s still gone.’"

Joy answered him quietly, “I didn’t mean to jump on you, Glen. I guess I just envy people who can see the truth, and the logic of it just heals them right then and there. I know it usually does with you, and I think that’s true of you too Gary, right?”

Gary, a little startled by this change of direction, tried to divert the attention away from himself. "Did you ever hear of a recording called The Prison? It’s by Michael Nesmith, you know, from the Monkees?”

Seeing the uncomprehending looks of the others, he went on. “He invented the music video.. The Prison was the first one. In this case it was a set of songs accompanied by paintings. Look, I wasn’t into The Monkeys, or Mike Nesmith or anything like that. But the girl I was going with was. She lived in a college dorm and played his music all the time, she said she had all his stuff. To impress her I looked for some of his recordings and I found The Prison, a brand new release! I took it to her dorm and they paged her. I held it out to her as she was coming down the steps. She let out this piercing scream! People came running , they must have thought I was attacking her or something. She held up the album by way of explanation and they all went away, guess they were used to scenes like that.”

No one in the room had any idea what The Prison album had to do with the idea of freedom and it showed in their faces, so Gary continued. “The setting of this music was a prison in a remote rural landscape. Inmates walked along narrow halls, going through their daily routines without a change. But one day, one of the prisoners saw a little open place in a wall. When no one is looking, he got down and looked at it more closely. He found there was a hole clear through the wall and he can see a faraway hill. Every day he returns to look at the hole and, all on its own, it keeps getting bigger!

Finally, the hole is large enough that he can step right through it. So he did and then started running for the hill. When he got to the hill and looked back. What did he see? He saw there was no prison, no building at all! Just men, acting like he once did, walking along halls that didn’t even exist, stopping at doors that weren’t there. The prison is all in their minds!”
“I still remember some of he lyrics,

‘Unsuspecting captives
Of a million dreams...’

In this case, bad dreams.” Looking at Joy, he concluded. “I guess this illustrates the idea of finding freedom gradually, over a period of time?”

Joy, usually impassive, was clearly impressed. “You just never know where you’re going to hear the truth, do you?”

Glen came to life hearing this, “You know, the sad thing is, so many times when people are free, they will turn and go right back where they came from.”

“Maybe people do,” said Sue with emphasis, “but I absolutely know there isn’t any way my rooster would ever go back into that awful little cage! You know, I really mean this, but I think animals are a lot wiser than people are a lot of the time!”

Monday, May 3, 2010

They Were in a Hurry!

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing; I pray thee, go in unto my maid; It may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. Gen. 16:2

Jim's wife asked me to come over. She sounded low. “It's Jim,” she said, “I wish you'd talk to him”.

He was in the living room, smoking a cigarette. I knew he was in trouble because he was trying to quit, and only smoked when he was tense. He was looking at the TV set but it wasn't on.

“What's up?” I asked him. “Didn't Shirley tell you? “he asked. “No, she just said I should come over.”

Oh, it’s the damned cops,” he said. “We went to the grocery store and on the way home they started following me. I wasn't doing anything wrong. I never want to give them an excuse to pull me over. But all at once the blue lights came on, so I pulled over and stopped. This cop came up to the window and said "What have you been up to?”

“Just picking up a few groceries," I told him.

“Let's see," he said. The other cop, some young guy, joined him. “Open her up”, he said, he had his hand on the trunk.

When I opened the trunk lid, they both started taking out our bags and putting stuff on the street. They took every last thing out and put it right on the pavement. Shirley had bought a bunch of celery and he just threw it down so it could get dirty. When he had everything out of the bags, he picked up a can of pepper and held it right up to my face.

“What's this?”, he wanted to know. “What in the hell do you think it is, I told him, it's a can of pepper!” I was really mad I could have killed him. I still could. Then he started threatening me.

“You just watch your mouth”, he said. “I can make it hard on you.” I told him, “I thought that's what you are doing.”

Shirley was in the kitchen, fixing supper. She was crying.

“I never knew how this all started, Jim. Why are they harassing you?"

“Oh, it all began with that shoe store thing, they're mad because they think I got off too easy,” he said. He told me story.

“We really needed a car but I didn't have the money. Shirley was trying to save up for one, she's really good at that. “Just put a little away each month”, she said. “We'll have enough before you know it.” But to me it was like forever.

I knew a guy who would buy anything and knew how to resell it. Usually they don't give you much, they tell you how risky it is and everything. But I knew him pretty well and I figured he would give me a good deal. There was a men's shoe store I knew of. I even was going to buy some shoes there once until I found out how expensive they were.

It had alarms all over the place, but I figured, they don't think to put them on the roof. I parked my car by the side door in the alley. I made sure I had clearance, because it was a fire door and opened out.”

“Wouldn't that set off the alarm?,” I asked.

“Yeah, but I figured I could load the stuff into the car and get out of there before they would get there. I took the rear seat out, to make more room and I had an old tent to cover the stuff with. I went up a fire escape and made a hole in the roof. I used a pry bar and I had some rope to let myself down."

“You mean a crowbar?,” I asked.

“Yeah, only it was flat, and you could pry stuff and pull nails with one end. The roof was easy to get through, it was old. I used the bar to attach the rope, crosswise over the hole, and let myself down. The only thing is I didn't have a long enough rope. I had to hold onto the end of the rope and let myself drop.

When I did it made a loud sound, I hit pretty hard. Then I heard a dog bark. I could hear his toenails as he came running into the back room. He was a big dog, maybe part Shepherd, part Lab. The hair on his neck stood up and he was growling real low. Well, I thought, I've had it. He's going to keep me here 'til the owner arrives in the morning. But I was always good with dogs, they like me. I just sat down flat on the floor, less threatening, you know. I patted my leg and he put his ears down and came right over. I figure he was no trained dog or anything, just there to bark and scare you off. Besides, he was probably lonely from being there all by himself at night.

He let me get up and I walked into the shop. I started stacking boxes of shoes right by the side door so I could load them real fast when I was ready to open the door. That old dog was right with me, every trip I made.

But just as I was ready to open the fire door, the cops were coming in the front door. The owner was there too, with the keys. It turns out that he had the place rigged for sound. He had some kind of thing that picked up every sound, like a baby monitor. He heard the dog barking and called the cops. He lived practically next door.

But I hadn't actually taken anything out yet. Intent, you know. The hole in the roof was no big deal, just tar paper. The only trouble I had been in up 'til then was just traffic violations.

I never told you this before, but I got off easy, that's what made the cops so mad. Now they'll never leave me alone.”

“Jim, you know why you're in this fix,” I said. “I'm not saying the cops should treat you this way, just you have to avoid trouble in the first place. You know Shirley was right. You need to be patient. You could have saved enough at least for a down payment..."

“Oh I know all that now!" Jim interrupted me. “But you don't know what it's like when you've never had anything in your whole life and you see a chance to get something. You just take the first chance you have.”

"The same thing happened to Abraham and Sarah, Jim. Only they didn't have those names yet. God promised them a great inheritance, but they didn't have a child and they were getting old. When Sarah said, take my maid, Abraham fathered a son by her Egyptian maid. His name was Ishmael, he was half Abrahamic and half Egyptian. God said Ishmael would have twelve sons and they would become a great nation. The story starts in Genesis chapter 17, but it's still going strong. It seems like Ishmael's descendants live on top of a lot of oil..."

Jim couldn't restrain himself, “You mean that's where all them Moslems come from?,” he asked.

“Well, that was the beginning of the Arabs,” I told him. “Muslims, as they are called now, are not all Arabs, and all Arabs are not of the Islamic religion. Some are Christians just like you and me.

The Jews today, know this story well. The Arabs are half from Father Abraham and half Egyptian. They trace their origin to the twelve tribes of Ishmael in Genesis. There has been endless trouble between them and their half brothers with a lot more ahead, I'm afraid. And it all began because Abraham and Sarai couldn't wait.”

“Don't get on me," said Jim, "you have no idea how hard I've tried. I'm still trying. I honestly don't know what to do, hell, I can't even quit smoking.”

“The only answer I know of, Jim, is for you to ask God to give you patience. You could just say this:

“Heavenly Father, I don't know what to do, I can't control myself. There must be something wrong with me. If there is, only you can fix it. I need to learn to wait for the good things you have promised me. Will you do this for me, Father. You are my only hope. I ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

“When you have said this prayer you will need to wait for God to grant it. He may give you little victories day by day until His will is complete in your life.”

“I get it,” Jim said, “I have to be patient about being patient”.

Friday, April 30, 2010

What We Will Be

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. I John 3:3

Little Sue was steadying the stepladder for Joy as she hung Bible mottoes on the wall at the Oak Street Bible Shop. All her mottoes were scripture verses. She did not care for vague, man made "inspirational" mottoes.

Sue handed up a plaque that read;

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: I John 3:1

"I hope nobody buys this one for awhile", said Joy as she alit from the ladder. She stepped back to look at the display of Bible verses as Sue gathered up the wrappings and put them back into the shipping box. "I love to think of the meaning of this verse".

Glen stepped into the front area from the little back room. For once he was not in his "prophecy corner". He had been looking at cards on the rack next to the Chick publications stand. He had a card in his hand of a subdued but romantic nature. Rumor had it that rugged old Glen was in love.

“Which one is that?”, he asked, in response to Joy's comment. She pointed to the last one she had hung, with the quotation from I John.

Gary, in his usual station behind the cash register, had been taking it all in. "Yes, it is a wonderful thought", he agreed. "But you know what really intrigues me? It is the following verse, that says "it doth not yet appear what we shall be".

Some people swore that Gary had the Bible memorized, at least the New Testament. But he had open Bibles before him on the counter and would use the index tabs to quickly find his place.

"Intrigues you how"? said Glen, at his side, still holding the card.

"Well, the first verse tells us what we are, the "should" means we are now called the sons of God. That's now. But John says it does not appear what we shall be."

"I think of it all the time" said Sue, still holding the empty box, "it's wonderful to be a Christian and look forward to our life to come, but can you even imagine what it's really going to be like some day?"

"What WE'RE going to be like" added Joy.

Glen placed his "love card", on the counter and began to speak. He admitted he didn't have a lot of the scripture memorized. "I started late" he once said. But his gift was analysis. Glen was like a patient mechanic figuring out how things worked, and how they could work even better. "There is a clue in the word "for" he said. We today would use the word "because" where the Bible uses "for".

The others were silent, it was a treat to hear this patient man teach. That is what he did almost every time he spoke. "I believe it is saying we are not like we will be, because we will see him as he is, glorified. Now you know how John reacted when he saw Jesus glorified..."

Gary read from his New Scofield, "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead" Rev. 1:17

"And this from the one disciple Jesus loved, the one closest to him", he continued.

"Good point" said Glen. "It is obvious things will be so different, so intense, I guess you could say, we couldn't handle it if we were just like we are now."

"To see him as he is now, we'll have to be like he is now", Joy summed it up.

"Absolutely true", agreed Glen.

"I wonder, will we have jobs"? asked Sue in a childlike voice. "I mean, if we have such wonderful new bodies and abilities, what will we do with them? Do you ever wonder about what we will do in eternity ?"

They were silent for a time as each person took in Sue's question.

"Did you ever see Stairway to Heaven?" asked Gary, the movie expert. "All the scenes on earth are in vivid color, but the ones in heaven are gray and dull. Unbelievers always picture heaven and its occupants as bland and colorless. But old C.S. Lewis says it has to be the other way around, heaven will be sharper and clearer, and we will be more alive and real than we have ever been."

"But what will we do"? insisted Sue.

"That is what we need to look into" replied Glen. "Our future jobs in the world to come would be a wonderful study".

Glen pushed his card across the counter. "I'll take this" he said. Gary looked at the scene on the cover as he rang it up. It pictured a man and a woman holding hands and walking on a path towards a light in the clouds.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In the Land of Melk and Honey

Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.
Romans 12:15

Meg had been serving as a Christian counselor for three months and was just settling in, just beginning to feel she might make it. There was a walnut and brass name plate on her desk presented at a little tea and cookies party by friends and officers of the church. She would look at it and think, Is this really me?

She was equipped with a degree in counseling and had a good solid Bible background. But, she felt, each person who came to her was a new challenge, a unique individual, and she was certain she could never be complacent, never really relax. Christian service was like that, you had to be open to new experiences all the time.

Besides her formal training, she had been given three simple guidelines by an older woman in the church, who had experience as a professional in medical counseling.

Mrs. Wyatt's guidelines were; never have physical contact with a client, use the client's last name at all times, and use "we" when referring to yourself. As in "We are here to help you", she said. “After all, it is more than a euphemism. You are part of a group, the officers of the church, our prayer support partners and the good intentions of the whole congregation.”

“These guidelines are to assist you in maintaining a proper perspective concerning your relationship to the client. You will be tempted to empathize with people to the extent that you seek to join them, emotionally, in their situations. We, women are particularly prone to this behavior. That is how God made us, after all.”

Mrs. Wyatt cited C.S. Lewis as her closing argument. “I don't remember his exact words,” she said, “But his example was of someone trying to rescue a person drowning in a stream. Unless they keep their feet on firm ground they can't pull someone out of the water. To jump in with them means you both will perish.”

The older woman's words made sense to Meg and she found it was not too difficult to work within their framework. In fact, quite often it was difficult to achieve empathy with many of her clients. Their problems were often due to their self centeredness and egos. Many were petty complaints, family bickering and feuds she felt they should work out among themselves.

Her last client this day could be different, however. His wife had died about a year ago and his family had referred him to her. They felt he had not adjusted well at all, they were quite concerned about his attitude and what they called his "unrealistic behavior".

“Alan Hughes, is here”, said the secretary at her door. A small, thin man, stepped in briskly. He had short, gray hair and wore a blue work shirt that brought out the color of his eyes.

“How am I doing timewise”, he asked?

“Fine, fine”, she said. “A little early, actually.”

“Well,” he said apologetically, “I really hate to take up your time. I only came because my family kept getting on me.I'm really ok, you know”.

“Well, Mr. Hughes”, Meg began. “I hope that is true. But your sister told me that you don't answer the door when they come to visit you. She said they found newspapers lying in your driveway from weeks ago, that you never picked up.”

“Oh, sure, sure,” he said. “I guess I was a little forgetful for a while, but I'm past all that now. I've gathered them all up. I've been going through them, saving the food ads, things like that. My wife likes to look at the food section. And the comics, too. She'll have a good time catching up on For Better or Worse when she comes home.”

Trained as she was, Meg was not prepared for this comment and those that followed.

She saw him looking at the soft drink cup on her desk. She rose and turned towards a little refrigerator on the counter behind her desk. “Can I get you something?” she asked, opening the door.

He saw the little red and white half pint cartons in the door shelf.

“I'll take a carton of melk,” he said brightly. She hesitated at the word "melk", had she heard him correctly? “Milk”, she asked? “Yeah, that's right”, he said, “just a little carton of melk. I just need a taste, really”.

She handed the carton to him and sat down across the desk. Where to start? she thought. Initial contact was always a little awkward for her. She was still learning.

“I thought I detected a little accent when you said milk,”, she began. “Are you from around here?”

“Oh, yes, born here, lived here all my life except for some time in the service. Melk is how my wife pronounces it. I figure it's the right way to pronounce it. She and her family say melk. They are from Germany, originally. Very accurate type people, you know.”

He saw her looking at the watch on his wrist. “It's my wife's”, he explained. “Figure I'll wear it until she gets out of the hospital.They say it's better to wear them than just put them in a drawer some place. It keeps real good time”.

Meg really did not like what she was hearing. Brave little man, she thought, You're trying to carry on without your wife, but this is not the way to do it, not at all.

“Mr. Hughes”, she said, with as much detachment as she could muster. “How long has you wife been dead, about a year, isn't it?”

He shifted nervously. “One year and twenty one days”, he spoke, returning to the reality of it all. “I know what you're probably thinking. You think I can't face it and all that, like my family thinks.”

Meg began to protest, but he continued. “Well, that was really the case at one time, I admit that. The day she died I went to the food store. I had to, there was absolutely nothing to eat at home. One of the last things she made me promise was that I would eat right. She said, ‘Now don't starve yourself. I'm afraid you don't know how to make proper meals.’

“I hated it when she talked like that, like what would I do when she died. But she made me promise, so there I was at the food store and she had died just that morning. I was having trouble driving, still in shock you know. I was afraid to park near anybody, afraid I would bang their car. So I parked way off from everybody and walked into the store. I honestly didn't know what to do. I got hold of a grocery cart and couldn't separate it from the stack, you know. I kept pulling and pulling.

Finally a clerk came over, a young girl. She pulled my cart free, for me. I didn't know how to shop. I was on automatic pilot you could say. I felt like you do in a dream when something is chasing you and you can't move your legs. Everybody was going around me with their carts, I was so slow. I didn't have any idea what to buy, my mind was so messed up.”

Meg wanted to say something, pull him away from this agonizing recollection. But she knew it was important for him to continue and for her to listen.

“I thought, what should I buy? I saw the bread display and I thought, get some bread. Bread is good for people, you need bread. I got whole wheat. She always says white bread is no good for you. I kept doing that, thinking what would she get, and that's what I bought. I remember I got pickles. She likes pickles, she eats them right out of the jar.”

Meg listened intently, straining to be objective, follow her training. He's having trouble with his tenses, she thought. He speaks of his wife as if she was still alive.

“I bought dumb stuff”, he smiled, “cookies, stuff like that. I even got some Hershey's chocolate syrup. I had a craving for something that was...”

“Comfort food? “Meg interjected.

“Yeah, yeah”, he agreed. “One thing for sure, I needed comfort. Something
to get me through it. Well, I don't know why I'm telling you all this, really. Except I wanted to show you how bad off I was then.”

“But that stuff is all over now. I wish you would tell my family that. You will, won't you? No sense them worrying about me so much. I'm ok now. You can see that, can't you?”

He looked at Meg, waiting for her answer. When she didn't answer he looked away, staring intently at a glass hummingbird suspended on a thread from the ceiling.

He's distancing himself, Meg thought. He's pretending this is all no big deal. How can I tell him it is?

“Mr. Hughes”, she began, “We really want to help you in this situation, but you must help us. To do that you must face some things about your present emotional state.” Too formal, she thought as she heard her words, as if they were coming from a text book.

“Mr. Hughes, I must tell you how concerned I have become as I listened to your story. I want to thank you for being so forthright with me, for telling it like it is. But now I have to be perfectly honest with you if we're going to help you.”

“People do certain things when they experience great sorrow at the loss of a loved one. They may wear items of clothing of the person who has died.” She saw him look down at his wife's watch on his wrist.

“They may continue to speak of their lost loved ones as if they were still alive and try to maintain this fiction by adopting their pattern of speech and so forth. This behavior is to be expected in the early days of the grieving process. But if this continues unabated it can be the sign of a very serious problem. I am a trained Christian counselor, but I am not a psychiatrist. But I will tell you this, there is a term for what I believe we have here.”

She looked at him as she spoke. He was no longer looking at the hummingbird.

“The term I am referring to is bereavement psychosis syndrome.”

“Psychosis”, he said, his eyes fixed on hers. “That means crazy, doesn't it?”

He tried to drink the rest of the carton's contents. His throat was so constricted that he swallowed with difficulty. “This is good melk”, he said. He reached to place the carton on her desk, it struck the edge and spilled. He tried to wipe it up with his sleeve.

“That's ok,” Meg said, “I'll get it up later, it's ok.”

His eyes were filling with tears. “That's what you mean don't you”, he said, bereavement psychosis. I'm crazy with grief aren't I?”

“Oh no Mr. Hughes....” Meg began...

His gaze was intense now, as he beamed at her. “Thank you, oh thank you, so much. You really do understand! You really do! I am crazy and I don't know what I'm going to do about it!”

His head was bowed down, his hands in his lap clenching and unclenching.

He began to wail, like a child crying for its mother in the night. “Aaah huh huh, aaah huh huh,” three notes on a descending scale. Meg pictured a limp body rolling down steps into a dark basement, an image of helpless sorrow.

In a flash, a question came to her, Will anyone ever love me this much? Will anyone cry like this when I die?

She rose from her seat behind the desk and came to him, kneeling by his chair. She placed her hands over his little frail hands and squeezed them as hard as she could.

“Oh, Alan”, she said,

“I'm so sorry, I am so sorry.”

Then she began to cry too, then she began to cry with him.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to Really, Really Study the Bible!

A Day of Foolishness at the Oak Street Bible Shop

As far as I know, there has only been one such day at the shop, so I thought I should tell you about. There have been times of piety, learning, sorrow, and laughter, the usual give and take which were later remembered with great fondness by these four friends, but never before or since any like what happened on this Wednesday.

I remember that it was a Wednesday, because before Glen showed up the talk was about days of the week. Sue led off, “I see them as different colors, Sunday is yellow, like daffodils, Monday is a steel gray, Tuesday is blue, Wednesday kind of rust-colored, Thursday is a neutral gray, and Friday is reddish, like autumn leaves.”

Joy rolled her eyes, as she often did upon hearing Sue’s arty takeoffs, as she called them. “Okay, I’ll go along, you left out Saturday, what color is Saturday?”

“Sue returned to her visionary state, “Oh, I like Saturday’s color, it is kind of a grayish pink.”

Gary was in the mood to join in, but before he could speak, the door swung upon wide and Glen swept into the room, with a dramatic flourish. He lifted one hand in a dismissive hello and strode to the table with the coffee urn. He slammed down a yellow pad and plopped into the folding chair. His face bore a troubled frown as he pulled a pen from his jacket pocket and poised it above the blank page.

This behavior was highly unusual for Glen and the pleasant mood of imaginative exchange was replaced by one of anxious curiosity over what had brought about this strange mood in their usually genial friend. Sue, always the diplomat, inquired, “Would you care for some coffee, I just made a fresh pot.”

Glen dismissed her gruffly, “No, I don’t want any coffee, thanks.” She tried again, “We were just discussing how we see the different days of the week and how we..” Glen cut her off, “I don’t have time for coffee and I don’t have time for foolish talk about days of the week!” He spoke in a melodramatic tone, “I have something on my mind which is very, very, important, vital, in fact...” His friends studied his face, seeking a clue to what this uncharacteristic bluster was all about. He continued, “What I am working on could change the whole direction of organized religion, it could save the world!”

This last was too much for them. They gaped at this man they thought they knew. Glen began again, but as he spoke it was obvious he could no longer continue his charade. He broke into a smile as he turned towards them. “I just couldn’t go on any longer.”

“What a relief!” Joy said, “I thought we were going to hear a replay of Nixon’s Checkers speech.” This went over the heads of Sue and Gary. Glen became serious. “Poor man, I wonder if anyone ever understood him?” There was a lull, then Glen resumed. “But I do have something I want you to help me with.”

No one spoke, so he continued. “I am trying to write a little piece on how to study the Bible, but..I wonder if people don’t get weary of being scolded and told how they must improve themselves?”

The question hung in the air as they all thought of the harangues they had endured over their sins and shortcomings. Joy spoke “Our preacher used to do it all the time. We had to call him on it. ‘If you had a fight with your wife, settle it with her’ one of the deacons told him.”

Gary added, “R.C. Sproul had some good advice, ‘Never use the pulpit to air your personal anger’ he said. ‘The pulpit is the realm of God’s words, not yours.’ Glen smiled in appreciation. “I do want to talk about how to study the Bible, not that there is just one way, but to avoid some problems. But I don’t want to do it directly. I sense that since you were discussing days of the week..” “What colors are they?” Sue interjected. “Well, since you are in a creative mood you can help me with my project, but with a different slant.”

“How to preach without preaching?” Joy reflected.
Gary squared his shoulders, “Say it in reverse! That will take them by surprize.” Sue brightened, “Through the looking glass, left is right and right is left!”
Glen wrote on his tablet before he spoke. “Rule number one, and this is so important, before you even open your Bible make up your mind what it says and what it means!”

Gary, with enthusiasm “First make up your mind, then read the Bible. Hey, this is going to be easy!” Sue frowned, “But what if you can’t make up your mind? What do you do then, huh?”

“No problem! said Joy with an air of authority, “Ask your friends what the Bible means.”

Sue added “Ask your parents. They can tell you what their parents told them.”

Glen began to write, “Keep it up, this is all good stuff!”

Sue clasped her hands beneath her chin and sighed, “Look deep into your heart, that is where you will find the truth of what the Bible means.”

Gary, not to be outdone, “Ask a priest, they wear special robes, they must be very wise. And how about a rabbi, get the old stuff, direct from the source.”

“These are all good” Glen said with enthusiasm, “But, what about seeing what the Bible says?”

Joy, with a severe look, “Glen are you quite certain you want to go there?”

“Yes, Glen”, Gary said, “Looking into the Bible would be like asking God what the Bible means.”

“You can prove anything from the Bible, it all depends on where you look”, spoke Sue with her Granny voice.

Gary was enjoying this departure from his usual sincerity, “I don’t know about you, but I would much rather argue about who the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 is, than look it up in Acts of the Apostles.”

“That’s right!” Joy spoke in a strong voice, “What did Phillip the evangelist know, it was just his opinion anyway.”

Glen stopped writing. “As good as all this is, and I think it represents some of the finest thinking of human nature, religion, and, of course tradition, But I still would like to include the idea of comparing scripture with scripture, and as Gary said, asking God what His books means.” And, Sue added, “Just to be fair, you could even allow people to pray about things they don’t understand. “

Joy concluded, “But praying and comparing scriptures flies in the face of a lot of religion. It could leave you open to charges of narrow mindedness and intolerance. You should consider that. Do you want to be a trouble maker, someone who upsets the church, or even someone who follows his own conscience?”

“Never thought of that”, said Glen. “I was starting to think for myself there for a minute. But I’d still like to leave it in. Let the weirdos have their Bibles.”

“And their prayers” said Sue. “There aren’t many of these people anyway, what harm can they do?

Glen drew a line beneath his notes with an air of satisfaction. Thank you, my friends, you gave me a lot of help. Now, Sue, what color did you say Wednesday was?”

"Brown” she answered, “kind of a nut brown.”

Joy’s face assumed a far away expression as she looked out at the street. “I wonder what the sane people are doing today?”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Found No Love

I found no love, so I lived on hatred, and hatred became my love.
Entry in Glen’s diary, when he was seventeen.

There is something about cloudy days, maybe with a chill in the air, that seems to drive certain people “inward” and bring out feelings buried in the past. Such it was at the Oak Street Bible Shop on this particular day.

Sue was recounting her miserable years in high school, with a bitterness so uncharacteristic of her usual demeanor. “I had almost no friends” she began. “I don’t know what it was I needed from people, but I do remember no one at school ever really touched me in any deep way. People were not unkind, they were just indifferent. It was like I did not matter to anyone, like I was not really there.”

There was an awkward silence, then Gary spoke. “One of my aunts said that when she was riding on the bus she felt like everybody else had something more important to do, some place to go to that mattered more than what she was doing.
She was such a broken person, all her life.”

Glen shared some of his emotions from when he was a young man. “For me, I felt people either did not care about me, or hated me. I felt hatred in the air wherever I went. I realize now, I was estranged, near the edge, really. One of my teachers, more perceptive than even my parents, told my mother, “Some day a pretty little girl will smile at him and his life will turn around.”

Joy looked inquiringly at Glen, fascinated by this insight into his early years. “Well, was your teacher right? Did a girl change your life, because you sure are not that way now, though you can be as stubborn as an ox.” She smiled as she said this.

Glen paused as he reflected over this long ago time in his life.
“In a way, my teacher was right, but the little girl was an infant, and though my life did not turn around right away, my path and my whole outlook changed.”

“I was out walking, far from home, miles to go. I was cold and starting to get a little wet. At that time I was hurting so bad I honestly did not give a damn about cold or wet, because what was inside was so much worse. I didn’t even feel those physical sensations.”

“I saw a car slow down, and a voice called out, ‘Hey, Glen, you want a ride?’ It was a classmate of mine, a rather aloof fellow, who never paid much attention to me. Maybe I looked as pathetic as I felt, I don’t know, but I took him up on his offer. His father was driving, his mother next to him, holding his baby sister. I was grateful for the lift and said so, and we rode along in silence. I felt I was a “charity case”, not a friend and slid back into my solitude. Then a little face peered over the mother’s shoulder, a baby girl, wearing a little bonnet. She peered at me with her beautiful gray eyes.

So many times, in those days, I felt as if people were giving me hard looks, I was really projecting my own warped feelings onto them. But this little angel face had no such look, just innocence and curiosity. I thought, “Here is someone who does not hate me, here is a sweet little being who is just reading my face to see who I am. I felt something melt inside me. I felt only love towards this little child. It must have been reflected in my eyes, because as soon as I had that thought, she smiled at me. She beamed! Honestly, I could feel myself change at that moment. We had connected. I had sent her love and she responded.”

Glen concluded, “The car stopped at my place and I turned to my friend and his father, ‘Thank you so much for the lift.’ But I was really thanking her!”

This revelation was followed by a strained silence. How do you follow such a story? Sue spoke tentatively “You reminded me of the Longfellow poem “Jenny Kissed Me”, you know, how a man weighted down by the world is lifted up by a sweet little act of love. I’ll bet you anything it really happened in his life!”

Gary told of a radio interview he had heard. “A young guy had been arrested for taking part in the robbery of a home. He and two older companions had invaded a home at gunpoint and tied up a man and his wife. The young man described tying the woman to a chair. During the struggle her dress had come up over her knees. He pulled it back down again. The wife said to him “I can tell you’re really a good boy, you’re not like them.” When she said this he felt a pang of remorse, he was touched by what she said. “I had never held a woman in my arms” he said, “I had never felt or given any love, then she said this to me!”

Joy, moved out of her usual stern demeanor had a story of her own. “I was shopping one day and noticed a woman pushing a cart, but not really looking at anything. She had a stricken expression on her face. I couldn’t even imagine what was going on in her mind, but I could see something was really wrong in her life.”

“Another woman was watching her too, someone who knew her, because she pushed her cart to where she was and started speaking very brightly, she was exaggerating her cheerfulness, flooding this poor lady with questions and little compliments, ‘How are you, I’ve really missed you’, not letting the lady answer, just gushing over her. I wouldn’t have used that approach, but the lady must have known what she was doing. You could see the light come into her friend’s eyes. ‘Somebody noticed me, somebody cares, I’m really not all alone after all!”

“It’s a gift some people have” Glen reflected, “women have it all over men in this I’m convinced. They will gather around a wounded comrade, and cheer them up. A man will just slink away, ‘He’ll get over it” he thinks.

“Who was it who said,” asked Gary “ that when women are in trouble they seek company and consensus, but men seek solitude?”

Sue concluded, “I didn’t have a little angel turn my life around, or a bevy of kind ladies come to my rescue. Maybe that’s why I am like I am today?’

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Too Close to God, or Not Close Enough?

A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts. Song of Solomon 1:13

A rare silence had descended upon the Oak Street Bible Shop. Joy, seated upon her stool, looked over her little domain with quiet satisfaction.

Gary had turned off the embossing machine, having just imprinted the green leather cover of a King James Bible with gold leaf letters spelling out “Jean Kimball Taylor”. Such an elegant name he thought to himself. He gently burnished the words with a little piece of suede, loving the touch of it.

Sue was restocking the shelves from a cardboard box, carefully lifting it each time she moved along. Don’t drag the carton over the polished floor, she thought, don’t want to scuff the boss’s shining floor.

In the back room Glen was working with his multi-tool, fashioning an s-hook from a section of coat hanger wire. “This oughta hold it,” he said, referring to a cage of peanut flavored suet. The racoons had broken the little chain that held it to the post by the bird feeder.

Joy glanced at his work with approval. “I was walking around the iris bed the other day, and when I looked up I wasn’t three feet from a little woodpecker pecking away at the suet. He didn’t notice me until I got real close. Then he took off in a big hurry.”

“Must have been a downy,” said Glen with a smile. They get so preoccupied sometimes, they forget to look around, until you are right by ‘em.”

Sue looked up from her box of books. “Saint Francis said the birds and other animals were not afraid of him. They knew he would not harm them.”

“You feed’em every day, but the birds still act like you are going to hurt them. Makes me feel ashamed that that’s the way I am with God sometimes. He loves me, takes care of me, and still when I think He is too close, I get scared and back away.”

Gary put the green Bible into its box and slid the top over it. “Maybe we all feel a little scared of God sometimes. I mean there is a natural reverence, isn’t there, that we should feel? My preacher told about a young girl who thought nothing of hitch hiking all by herself. When her mother found out she did it, she freaked.

"'I’m not in any danger,' she told her mother. 'I have Dad to look out for me.' Her mother questioned her. 'Dad?' The daughter pointed up to the sky. 'You know, that Dad.'

“My preacher felt that was close to blasphemy,” Gary concluded.

Joy, thinking of her own daughter, said, “Well, I sure don’t like the idea of her hitch hiking. But what’s the difference between 'Dad' and 'Abba'? That’s in the Bible. It’s the same as 'Daddy'."

Glen had returned from hanging up the suet cage, and listened with interest.

Sue, holding her empty book box, started for the basement steps, then paused. “I have a friend who is troubled over how close we should be to God,”, she said. “I mean, how intimate."

The others were familiar with Sue’s “friend”, and suspected she was referring to herself in this way.

Sue continued. “She told me that sometimes when she can’t sleep, she talks to God, just like he is right there with her. There’s nothing wrong with that is there?”

"There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24," quoted Gary. “Isn’t God our friend?”

“Sure,” Sue replied, “But sometimes I want more than that.”

Joy smiled at her. “You mean your friend does?”

Sue blushed. “Yeah, my friend, but me too.”

Glen joined in. “Sometimes people try to make a distinction between what they call the Old Testament God and the God of the New, like there are two of Him. The Bible lets us know that God is not to be trifled with, taken lightly as so many do today.

"But when Our Lord Jesus paid for every sin that once separated us from the Father, the Bible says He opened up the way for us. We can draw close to God now. I heard McGee say that many of us think of God with his arm drawn back, ready to strike us with righteous anger every time we sin.”

“Many of us see our own fathers in God," said Joy. “I know I did, and still do. If we had a harsh father, that is how we see our heavenly father.”

“Or a distant father,” added Sue.

“Sin must be paid for before we can approach God. Oh how we hate to hear that! But it has been paid for. That’s the thing. The One who demands the penalty is the One who paid for it, through his Son.”

Glen grimaced, “I hate the sound of myself saying that. That’s not how I talk. It’s 'preacher talk'. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I slip into it is all.”

Joy looked at Glen sympathetically. “I guess we all do, she said. “But how should we say it, then?”

“I’d rather see it,” he answered. “Much as I like words, I think we overlook the scenes in the Bible, how things looked."

He opened his New Testament and leafed through the Gospel of John until he found the place he had in mind.

"Now there was leaning on Jesus bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. John 13:23."

“Like a silent movie,” said Gary. “What impression would you get if you saw a picture of God as a man with one of his friends reclining his head on his chest?”

“It’s okay,” said Sue, “I’m not mad at you, I love you. Come close to me. Lean on me. Everything is okay.”

“Your friend has the right idea, Sue,” said Glen. “We don’t get too close to God. Jesus showed us that. The trouble is, we don’t get close enough.”

Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Jeremiah 23:23

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Don't worry about the government", Glen said, "it's religion that will get you every time!"

...knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that deliverest me unto thee hath the greater sin. John 19:11

A group of men from high school age to late middle age, asked if they could meet with Glen. They did not announce for what purpose, but said they had heard that he knew the Bible and was not in the hire of any church. They felt that if anyone would tell them the straight truth he would. I agreed with the latter statement and said I would ask. I could promise nothing. If Glen was willing, they asked that he meet with them at the home of one of the elder men, located outside of town at the edge of farm country.

To my surprise, Glen readily agreed to meet with this group, not even knowing who they were. “I have an idea” he said. “I know the place and have heard of such a group of ‘concerned citizens’ as they call themselves. They may be misguided, and are almost certainly ignorant, but I believe they are good-hearted men”.
I did not understand how Glen could know about their intentions, much less how “good-hearted” they were, and told him so.

“Oh, it could be because this is not the first such group I have met with” he told me. “They come from a certain point of view that is not too surprising, considering how they have been lied to all their lives. They just need some information but mainly they need to learn how to think for themselves. That is an art that has almost disappeared from the land. I can’t miss this opportunity to at least talk to them. My conscience would never let me rest if I didn’t at least try.”.

So it was that a week later we arrived in my car at a country home, situated on about 25 acres, a brick home built into a hill. Its basement was nicely finished and had sliding glass doors that gave a view of a river valley and the sun setting behind a row of distant trees. Men were already seated on couches and folding chairs. They were conversing when we entered and apparently knew one another. After brief introductions all around, the man who had first requested to meet with Glen, made a brief introduction:

“We are proud to have this gentlemen come to talk with us tonight. My wife has taken Bible classes from him and says he knows the Word and is a straight talker. I know as a fact that he does not front for any particular religious organization, or as far as I know any political party. Please give an ear to our friend.”

Glen moved to the front of the room from where he had been standing by the fireplace. He had been looking at a large painting by Frederick Remington. I knew he liked art with a western theme. He began to speak. “I am complimented by this introduction, gentlemen, and will try to live up to it, especially the Bible part. Our country was founded by Bible people and we need to stay in that framework. It will save us a lot of grief if we do...”

As he was speaking, a young blond man in the front row held up his hand. Glen turned to him and he began to speak. “People always say that our founders were Christians, but what do you say to those who claim that Jefferson made a New Testament with the miracles all taken out because he did not believe in miracles. They say Jefferson was a deist and only believed in God as a disinterested force in the universe. They also say Ben Franklin was no Christian either, that he and other founders were Masons and members of the Hellfire Club. What do you say about that?"

Glen spoke very quietly and calmly,”I don’t want to disillusion any of you tonight, but frankly I don’t care what the Founding Fathers believed about religion. If they were off the track, gentlemen, that is their problem, not mine. When I say "founders" I do not mean guys in powdered wigs who owned estates. Don’t get me wrong, I do admire them and they are important. I don’t believe the world has seen the like of the founders since they died or ever will again. They were geniuses in government and in other fields as well.

John Kennedy invited a roomful of Nobel Prize laureates to dinner at the White House. He told them “There is more intellectual brain power sitting here tonight, than at any time since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” I thank God for these men and the government they helped to create. But I do not look to them for my religion. They never tried to start one anyway. To them religion was a private matter and with that I hope we all agree.

When I speak of our founders’ religion I mean the common people who settled this country long before the framers of the Declaration of Independence or Constitution were even thought of.

How many here tonight are familiar with The Mayflower Compact?”

Two hands went up.”Good” said Glen.”It’s a start. Well look it up and read how these early colonists dedicated their enterprise “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith”. This was written and signed before they left their ship. The year was 1620! Quite a bit earlier than 1776 wouldn’t you agree?

I am not speaking for one group and against another. It’s just that the men who started this early colony were Christians and said so. If you were to read their creeds or confessions of faith I don’t think you would disagree with them in any serious way. They did their job and the Founding Fathers did theirs. They each had their part. But Christianity was well established in this land of ours before the Framers of the government were even born.”

I had a feeling this is not what the group was expecting to hear or wanted to hear. They most likely wanted to hear a defense of the religion of the Framers, and here was Glen saying that this was not important. Glen was aware of the impact of his words as he continued; “Men, I have a feeling you asked me to come here tonight to talk about something else than religion, or the religion of our government’s founders. I imagine your concern is a little more up to date. Am I right?”

A man of about 35 years of age, rather thin and with an earnest face spoke up. “You are right. A number of us are concerned about the direction of our government. We feel it has become a tyrannical monster that threatens not only our religious freedoms, but our lives as well. We think religious rights are fading away and being usurped by government. We are afraid the government is our enemy just as it always has been since the Romans killed Jesus and persecuted the early Christians. For a time our country was religious, but now the government is starting to gain the upper hand.”

Their were nods of agreement around the room. This man had apparently expressed the fears of many who were in attendance. Another man, older than the first two speakers, began, “After all, the Revolutionary War was fought against government oppression. Maybe it’s about time we do it again.”

Glen seemed to be in a jam. The last thing he wanted was a political discussion.

He began to frame his argument, “I won’t take sides on a political issue, either way. The only thing I know about is the Bible perspective on government, Old and New Testament. If I can be of any use to you it is from that direction. So let me begin by saying that government is not the enemy of religion.”

There was an instant reaction from the gathered men. Some asked who invited this guy anyway? Was he a government plant? If he was it would not be the first time. Almost every patriotic group had been infiltrated as had many churches. It was obvious to me that Glen had a hard row to hoe to reach these men.

“Well, as you can tell, I am not here to please you by telling you I agree with you on this issue. All I ask is that you consider the scriptures I am about to read with you. Just listen to the Word and I will rest upon what it says.” Many of the men slid down in their seats with looks of defiance, their legs outstretched and arms folded over their chests.

I learned later that Glen had faced such reactions of disbelief and even defiance, inside and outside the church. He told me that he relied on the Word of God to convince people, and not clever arguments. “Gentlemen, I present my case. My primary text will be from the Book of Romans, chapter 13. This chapter is, for many, a hard pill to swallow, but I believe it cannot be refuted. Whatever arguments we have concerning our attitude towards government must be in accordance with this chapter. It has been the experience of every student of the Bible, that for every major doctrine in the Word, there is at least one chapter devoted to it, sometimes much more. For “faith” it is Romans 8. For “government” it is chapter 13. Now government and our duty towards it runs throughout the Bible. But this chapter is the best single authority in the Word. Now there is no way I can present a comprehensive statement on this subject in one night so that is not my intention. My presence here tonight is not about content, but about perspective, how we look at this subject. Here is my first premise from Romans 13:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Rom.13.1

At this point some of the men muttered in defiance. Many, I am sure had heard it before. But they were not in agreement. You can prove anything from a single quotation was what they were thinking.

“Since our time is limited, I will site two familiar cases from the New Testament. It is hard for me to just pick two. There are many such cases where the Bible says that government is instituted by God for the good of man and is not the enemy of God’s people, many, many cases.”

“Are you saying Christians have no enemies, we’re just paranoid!” the speaker was a nervous looking young man. He wore glasses and had an agitated expression as he glared at Glen.

“Quite the opposite, sir” said Glen with a friendly smile. I remembered Gary once saying “Look out for Glen when he agrees with you!”. The questioner looked at Glen with a puzzled expression.

“I think we Christians are not fearful enough! I think we are asleep at our posts. But I am saying our fear and distrust is misdirected! I will say it again, Government is not the enemy of Christians!”. Glen had set them up, as he often did. He told me once how he loved such questions.

"Government is not the enemy of Christians, religion is!"

“Now to my examples, and remember, there are many, many more in the pages of the Sacred Scriptures. I will begin with the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. We all know that Jesus was crucified by the Roman authorities, no question about that. But let me ask you, Why?

Did Jesus ever speak against the Romans? Did he not pay his taxes and instruct others to do so? And what was the attitude of Jesus towards individual Roman soldiers?

Someone had brought a table for Glen to rest his Bible on. He opened it to Matt.8:5. “Remember when the Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant? Jesus said he would come to his house, but the soldier said he was not worthy for Jesus to come into his house, “but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed”.

When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed,
"Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel." Matt 8:10

Jesus praised the Roman’s soldier’s faith above that of any in Israel. Who brought a charge against Jesus that caused him to be crucified?

No Roman did. It was those of his own people, the Jews. When I say this, it is not to pit Romans against Jews. It is to contrast the Roman government against the religious leaders of the Jews. It is government versus religion I have in mind here. Let us look, very briefly, at the contrasting treatment of Jesus by Pilate and the chief priests of the Jews. There is no time for a thorough discussion tonight. But let us look at John chapter 19,

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. v.4

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. V.6

“ See who wants Jesus crucified? See who says, twice, “I find no fault in him?”
Government sees no fault, they want to free Jesus. The religious leaders say “Crucify him!” Glen was adamant, he was driving his point home. “Do you think this is some kind of exception? You will find this pattern again and again in the Bible and right down to our time. When the righteous are persecuted, don’t blame government, look for false religion. It never fails! What is that old saying of crime dramas, Cher che la femme? Find the woman. I say, when people of the faith are persecuted cher che la religion!”

I can’t remember in all the times I have seen Glen teach, that he made more points or made them more forcefully, than he did this evening.

“Let’s see how Peter treats the crucifixion of Jesus. I want to be sure you don’t think what I am saying is not just my bias. And please remember, this is not an anti-Jewish rant. It is, if it is a rant, against false religion Jewish or Gentile. We have plenty of both in our midst. Let’s look at what Peter says in one of his great sermons, in the Book of Acts. In chapter 13 Peter addresses his fellow Jews:
In verse 12 he calls them Ye men of Israel...

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. Acts 3:13

Glen spoke so forcefully,”Let me emphasize that Jesus had to die for my sins and yours, for the sins of the Gentiles as well as the sins of the Jews. This is not laying blame on a race, but showing the instrumentality through which the betrayal of Jesus took place. Pilate defended Jesus, the chief priests demanded that he die. Now do you think if false religion betrayed Jesus, they are going to be any easier on you?

Let us look at a parallel situation with the Apostle Paul. Again, in the Book of Acts, religious people plot the death of one of God’s elect. We really need to read the entire passage of Acts 23:12 through 35. In this story a group of Jewish zealots plot to kill Paul. They vow neither to eat or drink until they killed Paul, v. 12.
They revealed their plan to the chief priest and elders ,v.14, who agreed to help them carry out their plot. Paul’s nephew hears of the plot and is brought in to tell the Roman soldiers guarding Paul. Look at the response of the Romans:

And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night.
And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. Acts 23:23

“Men, who threatened the life of Paul? And who protected him?"

It was fascinating to watch the reaction to these words of Glen. Listeners changed their posture, squirmed, you could say. Some looked appreciatively at Gen, some seemed unconvinced.

Glen summed up the purpose of his words, “As much as I appreciate this chance to talk with you, I want to say again, my words tonight are not about content, a bunch of scriptures, important as they are. It is about how we look at the scriptures. If your minds are made up that government is out to get you, I beg you, take off your blindfolds. Your blindfolds are made of strips of cloth from religious robes! Paul tells you that God has instituted government for our protection. But False religion tells you government is evil.”

I saw a heavy set older man smirking at Glen, obviously contemptuous of his whole concept and presentation. He held an open New Testament in his hand. He was prepared to bring Glen down with a master stroke.

“I am sure that you, being a Bible teacher and all, are familiar with the twelfth chapter of Revelations?”

Glen and I have noticed that people who said “Revelations” often did not know much about the book. Glen said nothing, letting the smirking man have his say.

“This chapter shows who persecutes true believers and I think you will have to agree it is the final form of the Roman government you seem to think so much of. It says,

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as he was born. Rev. 12:3,4

The smirker waited in vain for Glen to yield to what he considered his fatal blow.
Instead, Glen went into his Columbo mode. With one hand on his forehead he answered. “You know, I am so glad you read that passage from the book of Revelation”, he emphasized the proper form. "I had completely forgotten about it! But now that you have reminded me, you being a student of the Bible and all, I am sure you are familiar with the 17th chapter of Revelation. I’ll begin in verse 3;

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. Rev.17:3-5

Let me make this point one last time. Is the final Satanic government evil? Yes, it is. But upon its back sits the woman of false religion! Until this passage is fulfilled, look out for her. “Cher che False Religion! Put the blame where it belongs.

If some evil, religious S.O.B. sends you an exploding package, don’t blame the United States Post Office for delivering it.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One Sick Puppy!

Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. Psalm 56:5

A new assistant had been hired by the Presbyterian church of which Glen was a member. A lady who had started to take his course on Isaiah, told Glen she was very upset over what she had been hearing in the first three nights she attended.

“I can’t figure out where he’s coming from” she said. “Sometimes I’m not even sure he is a Christian at all.”

At her request, Glen decided to sit in one of the classes and see for himself. He arrived early and took a seat in the back. “I’m just here as an observer” he said. Glen told me he never highjacked another teacher’s class, although at times he was tempted to question some of the things he heard.

He could find no one who knew the man. All anyone knew was that he was not from the church, and he had been hired fresh out of college.

So Glen was surprized to see a man in his late forties walk to the podium and arrange his books and notes. Mr. Winton had a masters degree, he had told people, and was a late comer to church work, his background was a mystery.

Glen’s first impression of Winton was the lack of life in the man. His body movements and his face gave the impression that he was being controlled from a distance by some unseen operator.
“There was no life in the man!” Glen recalled “A little lady from Texas told me about the advice her mother had given her and her sister.” “Darlins” she had said, “Never go out with a man who has dead eyes. Never even think about it!”

“Her words came to mind as I watched this man prepare to speak. His whole appearance was lifeless. He looked like you do when you just get to sleep after a restless night and then you have to get up and go to work.”

“This guy never made eye contact with his class. He went from his notes to a the blackboard, back and forth like he was carrying buckets of water."

“A good teacher has to hold himself back” Glen told me. “He can be too enthusiastic and distract people from the Word. But this guy sure didn’t have that problem”.

Without much of an introduction Winton began lecturing on Isaiah, chapter seven. Right away he set out to prove that what he called the “common assumption” that verse14 was a prophecy of the birth of Jesus was without basis.

“The passage addresses a local event only and the interpretation of the word translated “virgin” can mean any young unmarried girl. She could even be a prostitute as long as she was young and unmarried. That’s all the word means.”

At this, a man in the audience turned to his wife and whispered to her. They both took up their Bibles and notebooks and walked away.

Glen told me that Winton was passing on what was commonly taught in theological “cemeteries” as he called them. “They tell these idiots what to say and go out and say it. They never think about checking it out for themselves. I guess they figure it’s a way to get a degree and a nice job with no heavy lifting. Help them to make house payments and stuff.”

This night, Glen told me he was going to break his rule “Never contradict a fool.”
“There’s a time to be a gentleman and a time to do what’s right,” he told me. “And sometimes those are two different times.”

Glen stood up to ask a question. Winton looked at him in his distant way. “Yes?” he said.

“Sir, I’d just like to know how you can interpret the word “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 to mean anything but what it says?”

Winton was obviously not impressed by Glen’s presence or manner. Most people were not, upon first meeting him. His clothing and appearance were those of a man who you might hire to do some work on your house.

A man told me one time that he had suggested to Glen that he wear more appropriate clothing to make a better impression.

“Like I give a damn” Glen told him. “If people want a suit they can get one at Good Will, that’s where I got mine!”

“Lucky you caught Glen on a good day” I had told the man.

Winton said his interpretation of the word virgin was based upon historical context. “Isaiah, after all, was written over seven hundred years before the New Testament period and could hardly apply to an event as far in the future as the supposed birth of Jesus.”

This was too much for Glen!

“Far in the future! I thought we were talking about prophecy! The future is what prophecy is all about. God told Eve that her offspring would bruise the serpent’s head. That was a prophecy of Jesus. How far in the future was that?”

Winton continued with an air of strained patience, “All I’m saying, ah mister....”

“Just call me Glen”

“All I am saying, Glen, is that there is no way that anyone of that time could have applied such a proclamation to some future messiah that wasn’t supposed to be born for over 700 years.”

Then Glen set out his mouse trap, or should we say, in this case, his rat trap?
“On this we agree, sir. There is no way people of that time could have understood this prophecy. On this we do agree.”

Winton relaxed, feeling he had scored his point. He turned to continue his lecture, but Glen remained standing.

He told me once, how in a fight sometimes he would pretend to stumble. Then, when his opponent moved in for the kill, Glen would instantly recover and take the guy out. "Let’em think they have you” he said, "then deck ‘em.”

“But,” Glen said, “when Jesus made the prediction “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John 2:19, even his disciples didn’t understand it. It wasn’t until he resurrected that they knew what it meant. Jesus did not tell them, or anyone else, what it really meant, he showed them. Same thing with this prophecy, same thing. God didn’t explain at that time, clear as the statement was, when it would be fulfilled. But when it was time for it to be fulfilled He showed it was true. Anyone can predict a virgin will conceive, but only God can make it happen.”

Winton was growing impatient, “I would love to continue this discussion at some other time, but we need to...”

“Let him finish!” said an earnest faced older woman, “This is important.”

Winton’s shoulders sagged as he granted Glen time to proceed.

“As for your historical interpretation, I just told you how that is flawed. It is based on man’s view of time. God takes a long view, thousands of years pass as he waits to bring his will to bear.”Glen smacked his fist into the palm of his other hand,”Then, bam! He fulfills it!

Winton wearily started to turn away, but Glen continued.”I also wish to vehemently disagree with your contention that the word virgin can mean any young, unmarried girl. The Hebrew word “alma” translated “virgin" in chapter seven, verse fourteen, corresponds to the English word “maiden” or the German “madchen”, same thing, pure and simple! Pure and simple. Just like Mary herself. Even for those who will not accept that the word in this passage refers to a woman who has never had sex, the context demands it. You have not faced the implication of these words: Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive...

“Could anyone tell me how, in your words, ‘any young, unmarried girl conceiving would be a sign? Must have been young, unmarried girls that conceived in those days. But did that constitute a sign? There is only one definition of “alma” that could be a sign, and that is a young unmarried virgin, conceiving.

Even if we concede that Isaiah 7:14 does not refer to the virgin birth of Jesus, and I do not in any way concede this, why don’t we ask Mary? She is the one that had the baby! Guess she knew if she was a virgin! Let’s listen to her own words in the Gospel of Luke;

Gabriel told Mary that she was to have a child and she said,
How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Luke 1:34
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

There, Mr. Winton, is the virgin birth, and there is Isaiah 7:14 fulfilled! So it took over seven hundred years? What is seven hundred years to God? It’s the results that count, not how much time passed before He did it.”

Glen had been so disgusted with Winton that night.

He said to me, “What a sorry excuse for a Bible teacher that man is! If he had been born a dog, his owner would have told the vet to put him down!”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Value of Pi, No. 1 in the Series: Approaches to Science

As your moderator, let me say I am really looking forward to hearing what you have to offer concerning what the value of pi means to you. I am sure you know this concept is a very old one and was once thought of as an absolute value incapable of alteration. But thankfully with the changes taking place in our modern world we are becoming free from such rigid concepts imposed upon us by an elite who were not open to new ideas. And ideas are what this forum is all about.

So, let’s get rolling and please feel free to speak out with any ideas that you have relating to this wonderful subject. Who would like to start us off with their contribution?

Mrs. Henderson, I see your hand is up, what do you have for us?

Well, maybe because it’s that time of year, you know the holidays, I just want to say that I don’t think anyone has yet found a better dessert than pies. I know my family never get tired of pies, and there are so many different kinds of pies too, I mean it’s endless.

Miss Ferguson?

Our family has a tradition of deep dish apple pie I think is wonderful. Christmas just wouldn’t seem the same without it.

And Mrs. Hawkins?

I’m from the South and we have a sweet potato pie that is so wonderful. I always make it because it reminds me of the good times we had in Birmingham.

Good, good, let’s keep it going! Mrs. Larson?

I’m ashamed to say this, but as much as I love pie, I just can’t make a good crust, you know those light, fluffy crusts? My mother makes them and she tried to teach me, but no matter how hard I try they just never come out like hers.

Anyone? Can we help this lady out?

(From the back row) I believe the secret is not to mix the ingredients together to much. There needs to be little layers of shortening that don’t mix with the flour, that’s where the flakiness comes from.

Good, good, anyone else?

We always use lard. I think it makes the best crusts of anything I’ve tried.

I see nods of agreement. Another point anyone?

You know those ready made crusts are getting better all the time. They’re really nice if you just don’t have the time to roll out your own.

This is all great stuff ladies, see how far we can go just starting out with the concept of one little word? But let’s hear from some of you guys, what do you have to add? Mr ah, Hendrix, is it? You’ve had your hand up for some time?

Well this may sound kind of silly, but my father told the story about little Johnny in school. The teacher says Pi r square. Little Johnny says No, teacher, everybody knows Pies are round.

That’s a good one, Mr. Hendrix, that little Johnny sure is a card, isn’t he, and from his point of view, he’s right! and Mr. Stevens?

This is kind of off the subject, but our geometry teacher had a way to remember what he called the value of pi. It was "How I wish I could recollect of circle round, the exact relation Archimedes found." You see you count the letters in each word, except you need to drop one of the ells in recollect.

Ooh kay, Mr. Stevens, anyone else? Mr. Lawson?

Archimedes reminds me, does anyone remember that movie, Raiders of the Lost Arch? That was really a good one!

Mr. Epstein?

That was the lost ark, I think. Our rabbi talked about it one time, he said it was once pretty important. I believe it’s somewhere in Turkey?

Turkey, huh? Now we’re back in the holidays. Isn’t it amazing how everything connects up?We haven’t heard anything from you Mrs. Clyde, you look like you have something you want to say.

Oh, it’s just that when we were dating, my husband called me his little sweetie pie. I feel foolish even bringing it up. It’s not that important to anyone else, I suppose.

Oh, but it is important, Mrs. Clyde, because it’s something that involves you! And that’s what these meetings are all about, you, all of us have something unique to offer. Put them all together and we have new truths and that is how we move ahead, that is progress!

Mr. Moderator, what do you say is the value of pi?

To me, it is a launching point for new ideas. Who knows what it will lead to? But the Leader’s Guide says this, and it is only a starting point, remember. The value of pi is 3.141592. Well...we’re out of time. Can’t wait until next week, we’ll be discussing the molecular weight of sodium chloride. Let's see what we can come up with for that one. See ya.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Run for your Life!

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.

”Get up” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.”
Matthew 2:13

“One thing people have got to learn” said the woman, “is you can’t run away from your problems. If you try, they’ll just follow you. You have to stay and face them, that’s what I do.” These were the words of a severe and cheerless woman, searching the row of “self-help” books on a shelf at the Oak Street Bible Shop.

Glen paid no attention, but edged away as she stepped towards his prophecy corner. He was trying to keep out of her way. She was clearly agitated, because, as she had been telling Joy, her son in law was moving and taking her daughter to the state of Wyoming to get a job on the railroad, hauling coal.

“It’s awful,” she said, “I’ll never see my grandchildren any more. Just because his job was given to someone in Indonesia. He says ‘ They can’t outsource coal, or the railroads. I told him he should stay and face his problems, running away won’t do him a bit of good, it never does!”

It was at times like these that Joy showed patience, born of long experience. “Never argue with a customer”, she had learned. "Besides, that's what Glen was for." Gary, said nothing, following Joy’s example.

“I don’t see anything that I can use” said the woman. “I want something I can give my daughter to read. Maybe she can talk some sense into him. He won’t listen to me! Just run, run, run, seems like that’s all anybody does anymore.”

“We don’t carry a many books in that category” explained Joy, patiently. We mostly have Bible-related books.”

“Well, the Bible sure doesn’t tell people to run, does it? Think where we’d all be if Moses had tried run away from his problems.”

Sue was in the back room, filling the coffee urn. She tried to smother a laugh at this last remark, pretending to cough.

The woman turned to look at her, then. And put back a book entitled Handling Emotional Problems. “I see I’m not going to do any good here, guess I’ll go down town and see what they have in one of the regular book stores.” With that, she closed the door behind her.

“Whatcha doin’ Sue?” asked Joy, in a relaxed tone of voice.

“Well, for one thing” she replied “I was trying not to laugh out loud at that goofy woman! Can you believe it! ‘Good thing Moses didn’t try to run away”, hasn’t she ever heard of the exodus?”

“She was a good one, all right, said Joy,” Maybe she’ll have better luck in a downtown store.

“Like the Best of Ladies Home Journal” said Gary, “They‘re good with mottoes and stuff like that”.

Joy looked over at Glen, still silent, and seemingly preoccupied. “You’re awfully quiet this morning, Glen. I can’t believe you didn’t say something to that woman.”

“I was just thinking of all the Bible examples of people running away. Good examples, I mean. Goes from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus ran away. Can’t think of a better example than that.”

“You mean, when Joseph and Mary took him to Egypt?” said Sue. She replaced the cover on the coffee urn.

“Oh, sure” said Glen, “But I was thinking of when they tried to push him off the cliff in the Gospel of Luke.”

Gary leafed through Luke and read:

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And they rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong."

"When they couldn’t stand up to what he was saying, they tried to kill him” Joy said.

"But he passing through the midst of them went his way. Luke 4:28-30."

“You don’t see this listed as one of the miracles of Jesus” said Joy, “But it had to be. Jesus didn’t run away from them, he passed through them.”

“He escaped” said Glen, “the Bible has so many examples of people escaping, it’s hard to think of them all, isn’t it?”

“What’s that interesting aroma, Sue?" asked Joy, turning to look into the back room.

“It’s my treat” Sue said, “It’s French coffee. I hope you like it. It has chicory in it.”

“French?” said Joy. “Since when? Getting kind of fancy aren’t we? You’re not French are you, Sue?”

“On my mother’s side” said Sue. “She was a descendant of the Huguenots who came over here. A lot of them settled in New York. Her family was from Virginia.”

“Well, I’ll be” said Joy, “the things we don’t know about you, Sue.”

“Speaking of running away” said Gary, “from what I know about the Huguenots they did a lot of running didn’t they?”

“Had to” said Sue, “It’s part of my family history.”

Glen had been listening with great interest. “A lot of them were murdered” said Glen. “In the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, thousands were killed by the Catholics. The killing went on until over 100,000 died. So many corpses were in the rivers that people wouldn’t eat fish for a long time. All because the Huguenots rebelled against Catholic teaching. Bells were rung and it was a signal for the slaughter to begin. These people later merged with Presbyterians and some became Reform Baptists. They fled to Holland, South Africa, and, early on, to America. They have never forgotten their heritage. Fleeing to avoid death and persecution is as old as the Bible” said Glen. Think of the examples in the Word of God.”

“Lot and his family running from Sodom”, said Gary.

“Abram was told to leave his father’s house and country” said Joy.

“Elijah ran from Jezebel” said Gary.

“And God fed him in the wilderness” said Sue. “He must have approved because he took care of him out there.”

“Jesus warned there would be a time when His people must run for their lives” said Joy. “In the Olivet prophecy.”

“Matthew 24" said Gary,
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth let him understand:)
Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains:
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
Matthew 24:15-18."

“Did you ever hear such urgency?” said Sue. “Jesus is telling them how quickly things will happen. Don’t even go back to take your clothes! But will people have to run? I mean, what is the abomination of desolation that Jesus is talking about?”

Glen put on his reading glasses and removed his pocket Bible. He turned to 2 Thessalonians 2:4. “Here it is, Sue. Paul explains that this is the beginning of the great tribulation, when Antichrist enters the temple and declares that he is God.

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped: so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thess. 2:4."

“Paul, himself had to flee” said Glen. “This is another example where those who can’t stand up to the truth try to kill the truth teller. I believe it is Acts chapter nine, Gary.”

But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him.
But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down the wall in a basket. Acts 9:22-25.

“One day Paul was chasing Christians, then he was escaping from the Jews” said Gary.

“Will the church have to run, I mean all of us?” asked Sue.

Glen smiled as he said, “We have the wonderful promise that we will be delivered from the time, not just the events, that is coming upon everyone on the earth. In Revelation 3:10, Jesus says:

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”

The French coffee was ready and Sue brought everyone a little cup. “You know”, she said, “Sometimes I have these awful dreams where everyone is running, trying to escape. I wonder if part of me remembers about the Huguenots and what happened to them?”