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”.