Friday, February 19, 2010

How Can a Woman Send You to Hell?

Her house is the way to hell,... Proverbs 7:27

Two men were leaving the Oak Street Bible Shop as I was about to enter, they were a little over dressed and had some kind of literature in their hands. I stepped aside to let them pass and went into the shop. Gary was in the back room pouring himself a coffee into an old china cup. Sue was so busy hanging up little cloth streamers she hardly noticed when I came into the room. Joy’s stool was empty and she was nowhere to be seen.

“Oh, Hi”, Sue said, she held out one of the streamers. “Look”, she exclaimed, “real silk!”

I was about to ask about Joy when I heard her clumping up the basement steps. She opened the basement door and strode into the room. She barely nodded in my direction as she stepped to the glass-topped counter and slapped down a double handfull of pamphlets. I looked down and read the title of the top one “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Antichrists and Liars”.

She went to her high stool and sat down.

“Is that who just left? I asked.

“You bet!” was all she said.

Gary could not resist a comment, “They were like cats at a dog show! Couldn’t have picked a worse place to try to peddle their stuff.” Joy was not smiling, she could not abide the Watchtower crowd, as she called them. I sympathized with her . For all their pretense of being Biblical, they were just what the pamphlet said, they denied the deity of Jesus and wrested the scriptures in almost every way. I felt they did not have a religion of their own, but existed to destroy the faith of real Christians.

Sue continued to hang her beloved streamers in the sunlit window. It was quiet in the Bible Shop for a few minutes. I browsed through Bible commentaries looking for McGee’s wonderful volume on Hebrews. I could have asked about it, but I found so many good books while looking I liked to take my time. I saw Sue’s face brighten as she watched an approaching figure coming up the sidewalk. It was Glen, he had decided to walk today. Soon the bell above the door jangled as he entered. His black Navy shoes were polished, he had gotten a haircut and was fresh shaven. He took off his watch cap and stuffed it into the back pocket of his khaki pants. “What’s up?” he said, noticing the quiet atmosphere of the room.

“We’ve had visitors” was all Gary said, not wanting to stir up Joy at this time.

“You mean the Watchtower kind?” said Glen. “They’re all over the neighborhood. My landlady let two of them in and they saw all her statues of Mary and lit out! Guess they thought lightning would strike them. She laughed when I told her who they were. She said “Mary protected me again”. “Guess those statues are good for something. I saw their team leader’s van. He takes them to a neighborhood in the Mother Ship and they fan out like vacuum cleaner salesmen.” Joy was in no mood to talk about Witnesses or statues of Mary. She just wondered why people couldn’t just believe the Bible like she did. It was all so simple and she said so.

“Well, I figure they actually do some good”, said Glen. Joy sat upright on her stool, like an angry school teacher being sassed.

“Glen, I know you like to take a contrarian view to everything I say, but how can you defend the Watchtower Society and their hellish doctrines, how can you?”

Glen was in one of his clear eyed analytical moods today. He was not at all riled or on the defensive. He had told me once, “In an argument, you need to outsmile your opponent, like Davy Crockett grinning at the bear. ‘Lose your temper, lose your head’, a boxer told me.’ Glen could be so patient he infuriated people. He told me that women, in particular, like to enjoy getting mad, and they resent anyone who spoils it.

“Now hold on Joy”, he said quietly,”I’m with you on this thing all the way”. He gestured towards the pamphlets on the counter. “I agree with what those little booklets say. In fact I’m here to get some Chick tracts to help nail these birds, maybe save some of them if we can. I’m not saying these people are good, I’m just saying that it is good for us to be tested in our doctrines, and these guys do it. If I had my way we would test ourselves, but Christians can be so sure of themselves, so set in their ways we get soft and lazy. We need someone to get us to thinking. This phony religion challenges our faith, shakes us up. They make us jump through their hoops or go over their hurdles.”

“Kind of like those fish ladders that salmon go up to spawn” said Sue brightly. She had finished hanging up her banners in the window and was taking in the discussion with happiness in her eyes. I figured she wanted to hear Glen straighten out Joy. It was obvious whose side she was on. “Only the strongest salmon make it upstream over those barriers, isn’t that how it is with people who test our faith?” Everyone turned to look at Sue. She could come up with the most unexpected statements. You wondered where they came from. As if reading our thoughts, she piped up “I saw it in a Disney nature film.”

Glen tried to get back on track. “Well, they do test us. If they are wrong and we are right, why can’t we just show ‘em.? I don’t mean on the deity of Christ. The Gospel of John lays that out so perfectly even their best arguers can’t get away from it. But they find our weaknesses and exploit them.”

Gary jumped in “The Witnesses and others, have this technique, where they try to prove they are right because we are wrong if certain of our beliefs and practices are unscriptural. It’s very effective because we do hold some beliefs we can’t defend. That is what they look for.”

Glen turned to Gary with a look of admiration. “You’re right on, Gary. They hit Christians on the pagan holidays they keep, and their doctrine of hell.” You could see Joy start to recoil from what she knew was coming. She expected it from Glen, but now Gary? “Are you guys going to start in on that again”“ she said. “Are you going to tell me the Bible doesn’t teach there is a hell”?

Glen was still the patient old mechanic. “Let’s get out the micrometers and gauges, see what fits and what does not,” was his motto . “Let me give you an example of how a desire to make the Bible prove what it does not say, can get you into a wrong interpretation.” He withdrew his pocket Bible and put on his dime store reading glasses so he could read the tiny print.

“In the book of Proverbs, chapter seven, the author describes the encounter of a foolish young man with a loose woman, a married woman cheating on her husband. I won’t read the whole passage, it actually starts in verse one and goes through verse twenty seven. I don’t want to get into the gory details, just the part about hell, what it is and how this boy could go there.” Gary had opened up his New Scofield “demo” Bible and was following along. Joy looked like she wished she was somewhere else, maybe on a sunny beach listening to the waves, anywhere but here.

Glen set the scene. “Now this passage says this woman can ensnare this young man and if he follows her he will end in hell.” Gary turned a page, “There is a parallel passage in chapter five verse five. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.”

“Very good, Gary”, Glen said with satisfaction, "this verse makes the case even stronger.” Joy was rallying, “What case? You read two quotes about hell to prove there is no hell. What gives? It seems perfectly obvious to me. If this young man goes with the woman God will send him to hell. What could be simpler than that? Why complicate it?”

Glen was ready for this approach, he had grown up hearing it. “Do evil, go to hell, do good, go to heaven.” Joy” he said, almost like she was his daughter, “Are you saying that if he did not go with the woman he would not go to hell? He was on his way to heaven until he went with her, now she sends him to hell? Remember those little leaflets, scratch pads, you had on your counter, that asked “What Do You Have to Do to Go to Hell?”. They were one of the first things I saw when I first came here to Oak Street. I’m sure you believe as I do, that the answer to this question was on those blank pages that were under the cover-nothing! We’re all under condemnation from conception until death, unless we are saved by Jesus. We don’t need to do anything to get lost, we’re born lost. Agreed?”

Joy was about to answer when Gary quipped, “This reminds me of the story about two guys who were facing a firing squad. Just before the officer gives the command “Fire!” one of them says “Wait a minute. I have the right to a chaplain, and I’d like to smoke a cigar...”. The other guy says, “Shut up man, don’t make trouble for us”. We all had to laugh at that one, Gary had a talent for interjecting humor at odd moments.

When things settled down Joy spoke up. “You know I believe in Original Sin, Glen. But isn’t the author of this chapter saying that we will go to hell because of following our sin nature?”

“What, follow?”, said Glen. "When guys in cattle country go out to clear the rattlesnakes from the range, do you think they spare the snakes that don’t bite them? A snake is a snake and a sinner is a sinner. We aren’t sinners because we do evil, we do evil because we are sinners already. If this kid was already on his way to hell, sinning with this woman isn’t the reason why. If he is one of God’s elect, sinning with her won’t send him to your hell. Did the sin with Bathsheba send David to hell?”

“Then why bring up the woman at all, if she doesn’t cause you to go to hell”, was Joy’s challenge. She wasn’t backing down. Glen continued, “Look Joy, do you think that there is a hatch in the floor of her room. If he goes with her this hatch opens up and two demons grab this guy and drag him down the steps into hell?” Sue had been an excited spectator for some time, but now she felt compelled to speak. “I know this passage,” she said, “and you’re leaving something out. What about the husband?”

Glen turned to her and pointed a finger at her. “That’s it, that is it! The Bible doesn’t put the husband in here without a reason, in fact he is key to the whole situation. Gary read the following: But whoso commiteth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get ; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. Proverbs 6:32-34

“Thank you, Gary, that’s it in a nutshell. You see this passage is not about theology. It is about a father giving advice to his son. Good, plain advice that could save his life. The woman says, in effect, ‘My husband is on a trip, he won’t be back for quite some time, come with me.’, verse 19.”

“But it says ‘hell’ “ Joy persisted. Glen was about to lose his legendary patience.

“Joy”, he asked, “What is it with you Baptists? I swear you are so hell-happy, I think you must have hell wall paper in your bedrooms. Look at your root word, either in the margin of your Bible or in Strong’s. In this passage hell is used for “sheol” and that is defined as “the old testament designation for the abode of the dead, also, the grave”. Everything in the Bible is not theological or mysterious. I’ll say it as plain as I can. The father says to his son,”Don’t have sex with this guy’s wife or he will come home and kill you. He will put you in your grave”.

“Please don’t be upset with me, Joy. I feel sorry for the people hooked up with the Witnesses. But I despise their horrible religion. Yet even they can be right when they criticize us. They find an error we believe in and they jump on it. It’s our fault for believing wrong stuff in the first place. But just because a Witness drives a Ford don’t mean it’s not a good car. Sometimes they catch us, to our shame, and I think hell doctrine is one of those cases. Anyway, I need to pick up some Chick tracts on the Witnesses."

Joy pointed to the rack, “The Crisis” is a good one, Glen. I’ll be praying they have a good effect.”

Glen put on his watch cap and walked to the rack. “I’ll need more than you have here”, he said.

“There are whole packs on that shelf by the coffee urn.”

“How many in a pack”?

”Twenty five”

“I’ll get two of them, that should cover my street. I’ll put them out on my way home, that’s why I walked.”

He paid for his Chick tracts and walked to the door. He paused with his hand on the doorknob. “Look, I’m sorry what I said, about the wall paper and stuff.”

Joy had a peaceful expression as she answered him. “That’s ok, Glen, I guess I had it coming”.

He closed the door behind him and paused on the porch. Sue saw him take out his pocket knife and carefully cut the cellophane packs open. He put one in his jacket pocket and held one in his hand as he headed on down the street. She watched him with fascination. “I wonder what he was like before he was saved?” she asked.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Split Second Could Cost You Your Life, He Said, But Now...

But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:4

You know by now how much I admire the teaching ability of Glen. It is more than content, though he has wonderful knowledge, especially for a man who started late. But the man’s character show in everything he does and says. I was to learn more about the obstacles he had to overcome to develop this character , one evening when I again accompanied him to his Daniel class.

As in evenings before he nodded towards the people beginning to fill the seats in the auditorium.

“We’ve got another tonight.”

“You mean a spy?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re coming out of the woodwork. These young guys try to trip you up, and discredit you in the eyes of the people who are studying. Man, they hate Daniel being taught, and Revelation too. I don’t mean these kids in person, but the people who put ‘em up to it.”

Glen was not far into tonight’s class, which stressed the actual times in history pictured in the great image of Daniel 2, when the young man held up his hand. Glen pointed to him and he began.

“You teach that the prophecies in Daniel are all future...”

“”Not so”, interrupted Glen. “I never ever said that Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon was future. I never said the fall of the Davidic kingdom was future. The destruction of the temple was in 586 B.C.. Look at the handout for tonight’s class. What I am saying, what the Bible is saying, is that events over six hundred years before the advent of Jesus are represented in the Great Image prophecy and other prophecies, but they also extend into the present and into the future, our future.

There is a foolish consistency, to quote Emerson, in the amillennial boys you probably study with, that prophecy is in the past, a mere recording of history. Or, if they admit any of it is future, they say it will be fulfilled spiritually! However, let me hasten to add, that when the collection plate is passed, they want you to put in literal money and not a note that says you already gave in the past."

A few people laughed in spite of themselves, at this remark. Glen continued “I mean some of these people are time-blind! The Bible deals in ideas, sure, but most of the Bible is about real people, real cities and real history. Including ones in the future. The prophecy we are studying tonight is a continuum, from 586 B.C. to the return of Jesus to the earth. You can look at the chart and figure about where we are on it. But if you ignore the time element, when things happen, then the prophecy is worse that useless.”

The young man had been listening to Glen earnestly, as though he wanted to believe him, but was still haunted by what he had been taught and was unwilling to believe his professors could be wrong.

“Can I give you an example, I mean of what we have been taught?” Glen nodded his assent. “Well you know about how Jesus talked to the disciples about the abomination of desolation, and the Book of Daniel? (Matt. 24:15) You probably teach that that refers to some future event...“ Glen nodded yes, emphatically, “My professor says that was a reference to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus, and the tribulation was during the Maccabean revolt. He says it is all past, not future.”

The people in the room had stopped taking notes. They may have started taking sides, some had contributed to this young man’s seminary education. They knew him and his family, and they knew Glen was entirely self-taught, how could he know more than this seminary student?

Glen began his answer,”To begin with, Jesus did not say he was quoting from a book called Daniel, but that he was quoting “Daniel, the prophet”. Your professor refers to an historical even. Did he happen to mention when this event occurred?” The young man shook his head “no”. “Well”, continued Glen. The desecration of the temple and the revolt of the Maccabees he was referring to, took place in 167 B.C. If you figure Jesus warned the disciples around 30 A.D., the claim is that Jesus was warning them of an event that had taken place almost exactly two hundred years previously! It would be like someone, today, in Concord shouting “The British are coming”. Son, listen to me, do you believe your professor knows the date of the Maccabean revolt?” The young man was very quiet now,”Yes” he said. “Then, son, your professor is a liar. He knows Jesus was not issuing a warning concerning an event two centuries in the past.” Glen returned to his class, the chart and his blackboard. There were no more questions from anyone until it was time to close this class. As people filed out, Glen walked to the chastened young man. He put his hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. “I hope you don’t think I was attacking you, do you?”

The young man shook his head as Glen continued, “I have no doubt you have good intentions, which is more than I can say about your teacher. You may want to follow what you are told and become ordained. Then, as the years go by, you will climb the denominational ladder. Your parents and this church will be proud of you and tell you how wonderful you are. But the day will come, when you and I and everyone else will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and have to give an account for the deeds we have done. Your professor and these church members will have to do the same. The Board of Sessions can’t help you then, they will have to stand there too. Your career won’t matter then. You, and all of us will be facing eternity and loss or gain of our rewards. Do you want to have the lies they tell you in the seminary as part of your record? Would it be worth it to make some fame and money by lying and going along with that racket, and then have to hang your head before Jesus?

Here is a book you can take with you, it is a reminder of when these things took place. He handed him a copy of Israel and the Nations by F.F. Bruce."

"Maybe he’ll listen to him," he said, "Bruce is an amillennialst too.”

We walked towards the parking lot. I had Glen’s book box, empty now. He was carrying his chart of the Great Image. “Want to eat with me? going to try a place called the Blue Bird”. “Sure” “Just follow me then. “

He drove down side streets until he was in front of the little sandwich shop. We walked in and sat in a booth. The seats were light blue. A young waitress came over and we ordered. Glen put his menu down and said, “I don’t see grilled cheese, don’t you have them?” “Well actually, no," she replied, "but I’m sure we can make one for you.” “And a hot chocolate too.” he added. As we waited for our orders I felt I had to say something to Glen. “You handled the questions of that young guy very well, Glen. I thought you were very patient with him, and the seminarian from the other week also. I’ve known you to be a little rough at times, but not with these guys.”

He began to explain the change that was coming over him as he worked to become more thoughtful. Our waitress brought our orders. “Onion rings” he said, looking at my plate. “Maybe I’ll try those some time." He bit into his grilled cheese. “They made it with Swiss”, he said. "Just like my Mom used to make them. When I was a little boy I would play out in the rain. We had a gutter that ran along our sidewalk. I would float sticks in it and run along with them as the water carried them. I’d stay out ‘til I was soaking wet, I didn’t care. Then I’d come in and have to put dry clothes on. Mom would make us toast or grilled cheeses. She liked cinnamon toast. We’d drink cocoa and we would look out the kitchen window at all the rain."

“Well, anyway, you were saying, I am becoming patient, and I sure hope so. I wish people had been more patient with me when I was growing up. Anyway, I wasn’t always like this. I hate to tell you how many times in my life, if you hesitated one second, heck, half a second, that was it, buddy. You didn’t have time to think. I was like my landlady’s tom cat. After he has been out in the woods, prowling around, he’s real nervous, tense. Every sound scares him. You touch him and he’ll reach back and bite you. After he calms down he is as nice as anything. Well, I was like him, before he calms down. But now, as a teacher, it is exactly the opposite. I mean exactly the opposite. Now if I lose my cool it is a disaster. In learning, as in teaching, you have to subdue your old instincts. How can you slap somebody around and then think they will listen to what you tell ‘em? With these kids, I am not trying to whip them, embarrass them in front of a lot of people. It’s just that this is so important, what we are studying. We have got to get it right. We’ve got to get it right, not just repeat what somebody tells us.”

The young lady returned to our booth. She touched Glen’s cup and placed her other hand on his shoulder. She looked into his eyes as she spoke.

“Can I get you another hot chocolate?”
”Yes, please, keep ‘em coming.”
“She likes you, Glen” .
“Oh yeah? “ he replied, "I must remind her of her grandfather”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chosen Ones

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you... John 15:16

Rain had driven most of the customers from the Oak Street Bible Shop as I entered, except Glen, who was putting books into a cardboard box. This was his daily quota. Almost no one bought more books than Glen.

“I give them away”, he said. “Johnny Appleseed is my example, sow and increase.”

Joy was seated on a stool, which made her appear even taller. She smiled at his words. Glen could be so disruptive with his contrary thoughts, but he was a good customer, she realized.

“We had one returned, today”, said Joy, her eyes flashing.

“That lady was so mad at me! She came in yesterday asking if I had any books on tongues. I have a whole shelf of them, I told her. I've studied tongues for seven years. It's a subject I care a lot about.” The woman had selected one, trusting in Joy's testimony.

“Well, she called and said in an exasperated voice, ‘That book you sold me is against

Joy explained, “I never told her the book was in favor of them, just about them.”

I noticed a small woven basket on the glass topped counter. It contained about a dozen smooth stones. They were carefully painted with images of flowers and animals.

“I haven't seen these before, Joy,” I said, “What are they?”

“Oh, those are an idea of Dave's,” she said. Dave was her husband. “He calls them "casting stones". They are for people who are without sin, to cast at people they don't like. He said if he was sin free he would throw them at fat people, he hates fat people.”

Dave was very slim. “Here's something else Dave picked up, you might be interested in.” She slid off the stool and handed me a little pad of paper. The cover said "What You Have to Do to Go to Hell". The others were smiling. I knew I was being set up. I opened the little book and all the pages were blank!

By now Glen’s box was filled with books and he carried it to the counter. “We keep reading of people that God has chosen, and that is fine with everybody. But when I start talking about people he has not chosen, I can feel the anger and resentment. People get so upset you can't even talk to them.”

“After all,” Glen continued, “God chose eight people to live through the flood, but think of how many died.”

Gary, behind the counter, came to life. “Our church once did a study on the flood. I looked up "pre flood population" on the web. You can't be exact, but there is a population formula you can use with the data from the Bible. The lowest figure, as I remember it, was five billion. The highest was seventeen, and the average was ten billion.”

“That's a lot of people he did not choose,” said Joy, in a rather sarcastic manner. We all knew from experience that Joy preferred to think of people doing the choosing, not God.

Gary had a conflicted look on his face. Should he say this, he was wondering? “I saw a cartoon once,” he began. “There was Noah's ark with the loading ramp set up. A rooster was looking over a flock of about one hundred hens. He had one wing under his chin, like he was trying to make a decision, hmmm, which one?”

The mood of humor was soon altered by Sue.

“We choose”, she said, almost defiantly. “We don't love everybody, we don't even like everybody!”

Joy interjected, “That's because our love is not perfected, but God is love!” She emphasized "is".

“Can't God also hate?” asked Gary, in a rare show of disagreement with his boss lady. Sue, usually so prim and quiet, was not through. The subjects of choosing and loving had aroused something in her. She asked, “Haven't you ever read Emily Dickensen's poem, The Soul Selects Her Own Society? Holding onto a shelf with both hands, as if for support, she turned to recite:

The soul selects her own society
Then shuts the door
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more
Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
At her low gate.
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I've known her from an ample nation
Choose one:
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.

We were quiet, impressed with Sue's solemn declaration. She had let us into her deepest feelings. Her voice ended with a huskiness so unlike her usual prim tones.

It was Glen's turn. “Jesus told the Jews that Elijah and Elisha had turned from them to two gentiles, and they tried to kill him . People don't want to hear about God's sovereign choice.” He opened a Bible on the counter and began to read:

“But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of
Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and
there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them
was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman
who was a widow.

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet,
and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things,
were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and
they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that
they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way. Luke 4:25 29"

Glen added, “Because they couldn't refute what Jesus said, they turned on him. Just notice who gets mad when there is a Bible discussion.”

Gary made one more attempt to lighten things up: “Do you want to hear the definition of a liberal?” he asked smilingly.

Joy tensed, was he calling her a liberal?

“A liberal”, said Gary, “is someone who loves more people than God does.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who Owns Israel?

The Oak Street Bible Shop is an old house converted into a store. It has a lawn, front steps and a porch. You can go there and just look around. You can talk to the owners and staff, or, do like I do, just listen in. The talk at Oak street is a real education. Joy was there today, tall with dark hair and eyes and a rather severe expression. You could imagine that if she was turned into a bird she would be a red tailed hawk. Her main clerk, Gary was behind the counter, he was tall and thin and had a bristly moustache. He always looked like he was standing at attention when Joy was around. He and the others said when she appeared in the doorway, they "jumped for Joy".

Little Sue was arranging books, looking busy. She was short and plump, like a little partridge, and quiet, usually lost in her thoughts. Joy and Gary were former Catholics, Joy now was a Baptist and Gary was an Evangelical, Sue was Missionary Alliance. They were really a diverse bunch, but they had two things in common, they all loved Jesus, and they all believed the Bible was the absolute Word of God.

Glen, a regular customer, was there, looking at prophecy books. He was kind of short and slumped over, with sandy hair and looked like he needed a shave. He had come from a Methodist church, attended Baptist and Presbyterian churches and had what the hard line Baptists said was a soft spot for Roman Catholics, at least by their standards. Somebody once said, “What are you, a little bit of everything?” “I like to call it eclectic”, he said. He had a soft voice and a disarming manner.

Joy said he was like the TV detective, Columbo, smiling and mysterious waiting to spring his trap.

“What are you looking at, Glen?” asked Gary from behind the counter.

“Oh, a little book called Israel and the Nations, by F.F. Bruce. Can't believe you would even have this in your shop, He's a millennial you know”.

“Well, a lot of prophecy teachers use it. It does have a lot of good hard facts about Israel in it. He really is a great scholar in spite of his sloppy views on scripture”, said Joy, still standing in the doorway.

“I want it”, Glen said, pushing it onto the counter. “And I'll take these John Walvoord's too.”

“Didn't I just sell you those the other day?”, said Sue, coming to life from across the room.

“Yeah,” said Glen, “these are to give away.”

“Still trying to awaken some Presbyterians to the prophetic facts of life?” said Gary, putting them into a bag.

“Something like that,” said Glen, smiling. “I'm trying to convince them that God is not through with the nation Israel, not by a long shot. They think the church is Israel. I like to ask them what tribe they are” he smiled...

“And do they eat bacon?,” said Joy, in a rare attempt at humor.

Sue the sincere little evangelist spoke up. “Can you believe the trouble they're having over there! Why can't people just let them alone. It is their land, the Bible is very plain about that, and it doesn't amount to much, just a little country after all.” You could tell she was upset at the cruelty of it all.

Joy spoke with cool authority. “You know it 's not really that small. The original land promised to Abraham was pretty extensive. It goes from the great river of Egypt to the Euphrates river, from Egypt to Iraq. Then you have the Mediterranean Sea to the great desert, whatever that is.”

“My preacher just came back from Israel,” answered Gary. “He said the great desert is when you are driving and you come to it you want to go back.”

“I guess the great river of Egypt is the Nile?” asked Sue.

Glen joined in, Fact Man, they called him, always with some information. “Well some people say it is the Wadi al Arish, a dry stream bed most of the time, and not as far as the Nile. But I'll bet if you asked Abraham he would have said ‘Great River! It's not even a great creek.’ It's only about fifty miles difference, anyway. In that part of the world the difference is not worth fighting over. At least not more than five hundred years or so.But what if the question is not who owns it, but who has the right to occupy it right now?

When I was a kid” he continued,”I finally got a bike. All the other kids had bikes, but I still didn’t have one. I finally got one, it was used. I was so little that when I tried to ride I would go from side to side as I pedaled. When I had to turn around I just kind of leaned and hoped for the best. It must have taken me fifty feet to make a turn”.

“My dad was skeptical about my ability to ride safely. He said “You are never to ride in the street, stay on the sidewalk!” He and my mother were really scared I would get hurt or killed. A neighbor boy had been hit by a car, and they always thought of that every time I went out of the yard. So, after promising , I was off riding on the sidewalk. It was bumpy because of joints in the walk and some of the slabs were tilted. I looked at the smooth pavement thought, why not? Dad won’t be home from work for hours. So I ventured out onto the street.. It was wonderful, smooth and wide, so I could make turns without getting off my bike like I had been doing. I was getting better, too. I felt like a big boy already.

Well, as I was heading for home, a car started driving behind me, going slow as I was, following me. I was afraid to look back, but as I pulled into our yard I looked and it was Dad. He had gotten off work early and caught me riding on the street. You can imagine how upset he was with me. I had promised and then, right away headed for the pavement.”

“Did he take your bike away from you?” asked Sue with a concerned voice.

“No”, Glen replied “He didn’t think that way. He told me he had given me the bike and it was mine always. I was so relieved. But then he said ‘But for your own good I forbid you to ride it for one month, even on the sidewalk.”

“But Dad” I whined, “Summer will be over in a month, and that’s the best time to ride.”

“All your summers will be over if a car hits you and you die” he said solemnly. He picked my bike up from the lawn and wheeled it away. When I looked later, it was in the garage and the garage doors were padlocked.”

“So you mean Israel owns the land, but God has locked it up so they can’t use for a long time? Said Sue.

She thought for awhile and then said, “But what about all those people, like the Palestinians, who have lived there so long? Don’t they claim, like squatters’ rights?”

“Well they don’t even have that claim” said Glen thoughtfully. You see, there have always been Jews living in the land. Even when Nebuchadnezzar took them took them to Babylon, nine hundred miles away, he left some Jews behind to tend the trees and vines.”

“ Because only the Jews can make the land bloom” said Gary quietly.

“Nebuchandnezzar thought he was just making sure his crops would be taken care, but he was really insuring the Jews held onto their claim by continuing to live there, which was God’s will all the time.”

“So who did Abraham’s land belong to when Israel was in slavery in Egypt?To Israel? They couldn’t live there for hundreds of years, but it was still their land?”

“Every time they went into captivity they could not live in the land that was heirs, but a remnant remained,” Glen went on.

“This reminds me of Captain Carlson” said Sue. She could come up with the most far out ideas sometimes.

”I give” said Joy with an indulgent sigh, “Who was Captain Carlson?”

“Well” said Sue, standing with her feet together as if she was giving a show and tell speech. My mother told me about him. He was a Swedish ship captain whose vessel was heavily damaged in a big wreck. I think the other ship sank. All the crew on Carlson’s ship were taken off by a rescue vessel, but the captain stayed behind. A storm was coming and his ship was filling with water, but he refused to leave. The rescuers pulled away, and left his ship listing in heavy seas. He tied himself to his desk which was bolted to the floor. His feet were on the wall because the ship was leaning so bad.”

“It took days and days, but they finally got him out alive. His company, the owners of the ship were so happy, because as long as he was aboard no one else could claim the ship for salvage. Those Jews who have always lived there are like Captain Carlson” she said, her speech ended.

We all admired how she had put it together.

“I can’t top that,” said Glen, smiling at her.

Gary, standing up straight again, spoke with grave authority, “The book of Genesis is like a legal contract, at least where Abraham’s land is concerned. It was signed by God and no one but God can cancel it, and he promised he never will.. When Jacob was dying in Egypt, he made his sons promise to take his body back to the family burial place, in Abraham’s portion. I saw a picture of that cave in Biblical Archeology magazine. There is a huge building around it, with a big arch at the mouth of the cave. The doorway has iron bars over it and a guard with a turban stands by it with a rifle. Abraham and Sarah are in there. Think how long that has been.”

Joy spoke, “I think Genesis is the saddest book in the Bible” she said, “It starts with ‘In the beginning, God’ and ends with ‘a coffin in Egypt'.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dash for the Timber

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said,
We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29

Glen called and asked if I would like to accompany him to another meeting at the country place where he had addressed the group of “concerned citizens”.

“I’ve got some clarifying to do”, he told me. I was happy to accept and drove to his home and parked in the turnaround of his long gravel driveway.

I was about to look at my watch to see if I was on time when his second story door opened and he came down the outside stairs. He was carrying his battered old zippered case which I knew contained his New Scofield Bible and probably his spiral book of notes.

“Howdy” was all he said. He seemed preoccupied, no doubt framing, in his mind, what he would talk about tonight.

“Let’s take my van.” was all he said.

He began to talk as he backed down the drive. “I got a call from the man who invited me to speak the first time”, he said. “Some of the men who were there are concerned that maybe I am some kind of government infiltrator or something. They are a very suspicious bunch. Can’t blame them, really. My presentation might have seemed a little one-sided.”

I was beginning to understand how Glen presented his arguments. He did it in stages. He might seem to agree with his opponents in an argument on a minor point, then hit them with the big one. Paul on Mars hill, he said, was his model.

I asked him if that had been his intent at the first meeting. Was he setting them up?

“Oh, no” was his reply. “You can only present so much at any one time. One idea a night, is my idea. Let’em think about it for awhile. When people hear an idea ,maybe it’s new, maybe they don’t like it. Give’em a chance to mull it over for awhile.

Those guys who teach from an outline drive me nuts. Point one, point two, point three... Hey wait a minute! I’m still thinking about point one.”

We had come to the country home by the time Glen had laid out his approach to teaching. There were cars and trucks parked along the drive and off to the side of the house by a large outbuilding.

“Good turnout tonight” I said to Glen.

“Yeah, word gets around I guess” was his only comment.

Our host met us and led us to the back of the house and slid open a sliding glass door that led to the finished basement area. Folding chairs had been arranged in semi circles around a plywood lectern.

The men were standing in little groups, talking, as Glen walked to the fireplace to admire the painting hanging there. The host walked to the lectern and introduced Glen.

“For those who were not here last week, let me say that our guest, Glen Brock, addressed the idea of obedience to government from the Bible point of view. I know, from what you have told me, that some of you were rather upset by what you heard. I figure you deserve to have your questions answered and Glen has agreed to come tonight for that purpose. So please listen to our speaker and give him an opportunity to make his case.”

Glen walked to the podium and opened his zippered case. He set his Bible on the stand and took out a single sheet of paper with some scriptures written on it in longhand.

“Thank you for having me back. Our host expressed the concerns of many of you. I am glad you have them, I’d be worried if you didn’t have them. The last time I was here I expressed just one idea. And that is, that the Bible tells us that God has ordained government and, Paul, in the Book of Romans, specifically chapter 13, says we are to obey the government.”

You could see a physical reaction to Glen’s opening statement. Men shifted in their chairs. It was as if their worst fears were true. You could not blame them for wondering if Glen was not a government agent trying to subdue them by mis-applying scripture.

Glen looked over the assembly before he spoke. “If I have raised your hackles, then all I can say is, that’s good! I hope you never lower your guard, never lose your alertness. It has been said that a lot of Americans are in a hypnotic state, an awful lot. I don’t mean hypnotic in an allegoric way, I mean in a clinical, literal way. Skepticism, suspicion, can be a gift from God, gentlemen. It shows that your early warning systems are on and operating.

Now, let me define my terms before I proceed. By government, I meant legitimate authority. In this blessed land it is framed by the constitution and the laws that flow from it. We all know that there are illegitimate governments and ‘illegal” laws. I, in no way, am saying the Bible binds us to these. And even within the boundaries of legitimate authority, that is, the ones our people have voted for and agreed upon, there is an obedience that supercedes them, and that is the rule of God. By God, I mean the God of the Bible and no one else.”

Glen’s listeners were visibly relaxing. Some smiled with satisfaction and spoke to their neighbors with words of agreement.

“If you feel a little more comfortable with my premise that we are bound to obey government under the limitations I just spoke of, then let me say this; Don’t get too comfortable! Make me prove what I say, from the Word itself. Better yet, let me illustrate it, and you decide if what I am saying constitutes proof.”

This latter statement pleased the assembly and illustrated the genius of Glen’s approach to reaching people. “Create a friction point” he told me, then work from that point. You’ve seen two boxers beat each other bloody, then come to the center of the ring and hug each other? That’s the idea.”

“The apostles Peter and Paul, dealt with the very thing we are talking about tonight. How do we live with government? Do we knuckle under, do we just oppose government head on? Let’s go over how Peter and Paul dealt with these issues.

Glen opened his Bible to The Acts of the Apostles. “Let me begin with Acts chapter five. I’ll set the stage. Peter and the other apostles were preaching and healing, performing miracles, in Jerusalem. Every sick person brought to them was healed. Many people, men and women believed in the Lord because of them. But the high priest and a group of liberal Jews ,called the Sadducees, were very angry with them over this. They seized them and put them into prison.

Verse 19-21, says But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.

And when they heard that they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.

When the high priest found they were no longer in the prison they went after them a second time to inquire of them.

Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts.5:28,29

“Now, here is our guide and example. When there is a conflict between what government, in this case the leaders of the Jews, commands, and what God commands, we must obey God.

I doubt if there was a man there that night, that did not understand and agree with what Glen had just said.

“Now” said Glen, “There is another side to this coin. When Peter and the apostles were preaching in the temple, they were, of course, in Jerusalem and opposed by Jewish authorities.

But let’s see how Paul, at a later time, deals with the Romans. Paul is addressing a mob of angry Jews that are after his blood, thinking he is a turncoat and a traitor to the faith. They started a riot. A Roman captain intercedes and take Paul to a Roman prison for questioning.

I will begin in Acts chapter 22, verse 24;

The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

When the centurian heard that, he went and told the chief captain saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.

Then the chief captain came and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.

And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was freeborn.

Then straitway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. Acts.22:24-29

“You see” Glen continued, “Paul was in a unique position under the Roman authorities. He was a strict Jew, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as he said. But he was born a Roman citizen. Paul spoke Greek, the language of culture and education, but also Hebrew, the language of the religious Jews. He was astride two worlds, and he used his Romans citizenship to his advantage in this situation.”

A young blond man, who had questioned Glen at the first meeting, spoke. “But didn’t Paul die at the hands of Romans?”

“Yes, he did. Both Jesus and Paul and Peter were put to death by Romans, under judicial punishment. The government that protects may also kill. And the killing can be as much ordained by God as is the protection.”

“But” implored the young man, “How do we know when to resist and when to submit?”

Remember the guidelines from Acts chapter 5. We must obey God first. We must not deny Jesus if government tells us to. Martyrdom may be the result of civil disobedience if God so wills. People who die for their faith are the most powerful witness for Christ that there is. So many came to believe under Roman persecution, that the Romans quit the practice. Today the weapons against us seem to be deception and compromise.”

The young man seemed troubled. “How do we know what to do?”

“Every man must decide for himself. Our guide is the Bible for the principles. We must pray that God will show us what to do when the time comes, if it does, for each of us.”

Another man, older and also perplexed, made a statement. “The churches are not agreed on this, it seems, some just tell us to submit, others seem to believe in opposition, as if the government is always wrong.”

“I don’t worry about the churches” said Glen. “There is an old proverb that says “God follows the dictates of no church.”

With that, Glen concluded his remarks and walked away from his lectern. His host walked with him to the fireplace.

“I saw you looking at this print” he said. “I’d like to give it to you as a token of appreciation for your thoughtful teaching.”

Glen gratefully accepted and out host grasped the frame and carefully lifted it until it was free of the hook on the wall.

We walked to Glen’s van. I open the back doors and Glen lowered the big framed print onto a bed of newspapers. We looked at the picture of the mounted men riding at a gallop, turning to shoot as they rode. The title plate read “Dash for the Timber.”

“Is this us?” Glen. I asked him. “Are we going to ride for the timber? Or will we be the pursuers?”

He shut the doors and started his van. As we left the driveway and entered the main road he answered my question. “I guess only time will tell” he said. “God is the only one who knows for sure.”