Friday, December 9, 2011

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Glen could be seen out of the back window of the Oak Street Bible Shop, carefully pouring bird feed from his hand into the tray of Joy’s bird feeder. In his other hand was a bag marked “Song Bird Mix”.

Joy smiled as she watched him spread it out on the tray, setting the table for his little bird friends.

“He’s like Saint Francis,” said Sue, who watched from Glen’s “prophecy corner”. She was patiently putting the books back in order after Glen had gotten them all scrambled up. “Look at this one!” She smiled. “It’s upside down.”

Gary looked up from his Bible counter to see which book it was. “I remember when he was reading from that one and got so excited. He closed it up and put it away without looking at it.”

It was quiet in the little shop as they thought of their old friend and his ways, always interesting and full of surprises. Then their thoughts were interrupted as the back door opened. It was Glen, rolling up the top of the bag of bird seed and placing it on the coffee table.

He walked to his prophecy corner as Sue finished straightening out the books. “Glad to see you’re looking at the prophecy books again,” she said. “For awhile I thought you weren’t interested in them any more.”

“Oh, never, never,” he replied, “I’ll never stop loving prophecy. It’s just that I thought it would be good to study salvation doctrine, and work it in as I teach the other things.”

Joy looked at him as she inquired, “So how did it go, I mean teaching salvation doctrine?.”

"Well, to tell the truth, I’m disappointed. Wish I could say different. But people resist the great truths about how we get saved, and I’m wondering if it’s not a big mistake to try to tell them anything that they don’t want to believe.”

Gary had been taking this all in with an intent expression. He was still learning about human nature, including his own, and he was fascinated with Glen’s experiences and insights. “What’s the sticking point?” he asked. “I mean why don’t people want to believe what you are trying to teach?”

“Guess you could sum it all up in one word,” Glen told him. “Ego. People’s egos get in the way of them accepting God’s truth.”

“You mean pride?” asked Joy, who felt herself drawn into this discussion. “I’ve had the experience of talking with someone about the faith, getting along real well with them, and suddenly it’s like you run into a brick wall. You both read the same verses from the Bible, but there is a barrier to what they will accept, and if you try to go beyond that barrier it just causes hard feelings.”

“My experience exactly,” Glen agreed. “But by ego I don’t mean pride exactly. You know we all use the term 'ego' or 'egotist' to mean someone who thinks too highly of themselves. But it can mean the opposite sometimes.”

Sue looked puzzled. “I don’t get it. I always thought ego was pride, period.”

Glen continued. “Well what if a person kept thinking they were no good, or ignorant, or useless? Lots of people do you know. You would not say they were filled with pride would you? But they are thinking about themselves, sometimes obsessing over themselves, and that’s not good. In the original meaning of the word, ego, means self, good or bad. And thinking about yourself too much is a sure way to be unhappy.”

Gary spoke again. “I don’t see how this applies to teaching salvation theology, though.”

Glen was happy to be talking about the subject, thankful that his friends cared. “You know there are two types of looking at salvation theology..."

“Soteriology,” said Sue. “That’s what they call it, isn’t it?”

Glen looked over at her, smiling, “That’s right Sue. 'Soter' means 'savior,' and, if we study what the Bible has to say about how we are saved, it’s by our Savior, Jesus, and not by anything we do.”

Now it was Joy’s turn to be puzzled. “You started to say there are two ways people think we are saved. I know we are saved by Jesus and not by anything we do. But what is the other way you were talking about? Is it that people think they can just be so good they have no sin or condemnation?”

Glen was very thoughtful as he replied. “Plenty of religions--I won’t call them Christianity--do teach you can save yourself by good deeds, or staying away from doing bad. This is called auto-soteriology, or self-saving.”

“Lots of luck!” exclaimed Joy. “I think anybody will see that won’t work.”

“Right,” agreed Glen, “but there is a third way, and it’s really insidious! It is so clever, because it appeals to our ego, and yet claims to include God, so people can feel religious at the same time.”

“Bet I know how it goes,” said Sue. “I was in a church like that, and I believed it too, until I came here...”

The others were waiting for her to go on.

“Here’s what it is. God does his part, but we must do our part too. He makes the offer and we have to follow through using our free will.”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself! Glen agreed enthusiastically.

Joy shifted uneasily on her stool. “I still believe we have free will. But I want to know how you would counter this argument, that man must do his part. I’m not saying I agree, but I would like to know what you say to these people.”

Glen looked like he was teaching a class as he began to speak. “So much misery and sadness comes from thinking about ourselves instead of thinking about Him. It takes awhile, but once we start thinking of Jesus instead of always about ourselves, and that includes beating ourselves up, when we concentrate on Jesus we feel a peace we never had before.”

They looked over where Gary was leafing through a New King James Bible.
He began to read, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:13."

Joy spoke up. “But you know what happens when you try to tell someone about Jesus and the Bible? They say, 'That’s just a bunch of kid’s stories, a bunch of stories you tell one another.'”

“Kid’s stories!” said Sue, “Like, Mary had a little lamb. But she did you know, she really did, only this lamb was named Jesus.”

Gary turned to the Gospel of John and read,

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29."

“Fulton Sheen had a saying,” said Glen,

“Mary had a little Lamb
And they hung Him on the cross and crucified Him.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Life's a Tragedy, Man

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

It was cozy warm inside the Oak Street Bible Shop, but outside a cold wind was whipping the bare tree branches and the temperature was dropping. "Another gloomy day", said a customer as she carried her bag of books to the door. Joy gave her a sympathetic smile as she closed the door behind her.

"Actually, this is about perfect for me", said Glen, "except it isn't raining."

They all knew he wasn't kidding. Glen liked what most people
called "nasty" weather. Weather was a nice, safe, topic they could discuss and it was revealing as to their individual personalities too.

"I like it, just a little chilly, but with the sun shining, sweater weather", said Gary, with a smile. He had been known to drive his father's old convertible with the top down and the heater on.

"I like to bake in the sun", said Joy, who was always dreaming of her vacations to Florida. "Not that I get the chance to do it anymore, I'm too busy watching after my boy-crazy daughter. I don't dare shut my eyes and just relax".

"I prefer Spring to any other time", said Sue, very predictably. She was a romantic. She had a locket containing a photograph on a gold chain that hung from her neck. Sometimes, when you came into the room quietly, she would be looking at the picture by the light of the window. Then she would snap it shut and drop it into her blouse. No one had ever seen whose picture it was.

Glen continued, "I guess it depends on where you are from, I mean your ancestors. Mine are Northern European. I guess that's where I get it from".

"The guys who write all that tempestuous music and tragic literature," chided Gary.

"And the guys who don't seem to enjoy life very much," added
Sue. "People from the Mediterranean write beautiful operas and paint pictures of lovely women and happy people", she added.

"Awful to say it, maybe", Glen began earnestly, "but maybe the composers of the Faustian legends and the author of Hamlet are closer to the truth. The greatest works of art are tragedies".

Joy had been taking this all in, and you could see she was in agreement with Glen. She wore a thoughtful expression when she spoke. "It's just like in the Bible, you have the Book of Lamentations, the pessimism of Ecclesiastes. But there is no book of humor, no real humor in the Bible at all."

"Our Lord, was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" , said Sue, quietly.

"Isaiah, chapter 53" added Gary, "The suffering servant".

"Yet aren't we called to be joyful, to reflect our happiness in Christ?, Isn't this a contradiction?" said Sue, genuinely troubled.

"I believe we are mixing two things", said Glen. The Bible is speaking of the nature of this fallen world and how it causes us sorrow, that is a natural response. But though the world is tragic because of how it ends, and that is what tragedy really means, how things end, we have joy because we look forward to another world, one that is a good and happy world"

"And never ends", said Joy.

"Yes," said Glen, "But I'm tired of hearing Christians in denial about the nature of this present world, the one we live in. These smiling idiots talking their damned happy talk."

Glen usually was pretty good with words, with concepts and ideas. But now he stood before us like a fighter who had been hit so many times he was stunned. He looked the part too, with his feet apart, as if for balance, he held his arms out and raised and lowered them as if hefting a weight. We all knew he was thinking about his wife, taken by cancer at a young age.

"Damn it, life's a tragedy, man, and only fools deny it. What else can you expect in a Devil's world? I mean, did Jesus smile when he saw where they buried Lazarus? No, Jesus wept, and I guess we can too".

This is the most emotion we had ever seen from Glen and we respected it because we respected him. Glen could be abrasive, but what he said was real, he did not kid, he did not pose.

We were in agreement with what Glen had just expressed. There was not one of us who did not bear the weight of sorrow or disappointment in our lives.

Joy, who could be so harsh at times, summed it up for us all. "You know, I want to confess something to all of you", she spoke slowly, "and I know you will understand me when I say this, but the hardest scripture in the whole Bible for me to understand is where Paul says,

'For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.' Romans 8:18.

"Just think of how wonderful that time will be to make us forget what it's like here and now!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is Abraham Alive?

But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Matt. 22:31-32

Glen was not a popular teacher, anyone who knows his story knows that. You could even say there were people who hated Glen and some called him a heretic.

But Glen was not deterred by these attacks, nor was he moved by praise. He often said to me, and anyone who would listen, “A good teacher does not convey a body of material, not as his main job, a book can do that. But what a teacher can do, that a book cannot do, is to reason with people, one at a time, and force them to think. A good teacher, forces people to think, quite often just to prove that he is wrong.”

The first time I heard him say that a good teacher forces people to think I questioned his use of the word “force”. “Isn’t that a little strong” I asked him. Wouldn’t it be better to say inspires them to think, or stimulates them to think?”

I still remember the look he gave me, he glared at me with his steely blue eyes. “If I had meant those things I would have said those things! There’s a lot of things I need in this life, but I don’t need anyone to tell me what I really meant or should have said. No, “force” is not too strong a word. You can inspire all day and stimulate too, but people don’t like to think! Don’t you get it? People are stumbling around in a hypnotic trance, they do their tasks very well, they give programmed answers to stock questions, but that is not thinking. That is like putting a coin in a gum machine and pulling the little handle. If the machine is stocked and you put in the right coin, you get your gum.”

The setting for this exchange was on a walk from the Oak Street Bible Shop to the house where Glen had his rented room. I had asked if he minded the company and he said I was welcome to walk along. “I do some of my best thinking while I walk” he told me.

People along his route were familiar with the sight of Glen walking rapidly, hands thrust into his pockets. He might wave a hand to return a greeting, but he kept moving forward. The only time he would stop is when one of the local dogs came out to meet him. Then his face would change from its customary far away look to his friendly smile as he focused on the eager upturned face of a dog waiting for a little pat and for the treat from the pocket of his field jacket. Today he had a Milk Bone for a little terrier, who caught it in mid air and whirled to run to its porch to enjoy it in leisure.

“That little fellow is conditioned to run to me as I come to its yard” he said, “and I guess you can say I am conditioned to give him his treat. Or, in this case, her treat. This works for both of us and that is the way it’s supposed to be. But it’s not supposed to be that way with people.”

Glen resumed his pace until we came to an intersection. We waited as a school bus full of children went by. “You see those little kids?” he looked at me. “Do you think anyone is inspiring them to think, or stimulating them to think?”

He was using my own words on me. I had to admit that no one was. They were, for the most part, being trained to answer standardized tests.

“Yes” he said with emphasis, “trained. You had Psychology 101, that’s just good old stimulus-response, right out of B.F. Skinner’s notebook, and the damned schools are little more than Skinner Boxes for the kids to be trained in.”

He slowed his pace and turned to look at me. “I doubt there is a lot that can be done to change that, people are so busy trying to make a living. They hardly know what goes on in the schools. But must our churches be like that too?"

Glen sensed my skepticism at this comment. “Think about it! Aren’t the people who teach and preach in the churches educated in Skinnerian schools?”

“And do people in churches and Sunday Schools give standardized answers like the kids in school do?” I asked.

Glen shook his head at my denseness. “You tell me! Are there many good Bereans in your church? Do people question what they hear? And I hate to say this” he added, “but are they even able to question?”

We had reached his house by now and we walked up the long drive to one of the big flower beds he tended. Looks awful doesn’t it” he said quietly. “I need to cut off those dead tops so things will be nice and neat next spring. My landlady used to like to do this, but it’s a little beyond her now. One of these times it will be beyond me too. I’ll be sleeping underground just like they are”. He pointed to the stems of some dormant oriental lilies. But they don’t know how long they are asleep, and neither will I.”

Conclusion: It was several months later when Glen invited me to one of his classes. He said he would try to demonstrate what he meant by a teacher’s main duty. This was years ago, but I remember that evening well and I still have my notes.

Glen had told his class that he wanted to go over material familiar to almost everyone “No surprises here” he said, “But maybe we could demonstrate how important it is to look at the Bible with fresh eyes.”

He walked to the blackboard and wrote:

Is Abraham alive?

Those familiar with Glen’s teaching sensed that this was more than the simple question it appeared to be. A man turned to his wife and said in a low voice “He’s not going to get me on this one.”

No one volunteered an answer, and Glen was prepared for this. He turned back to the blackboard, “Let me write down our alternatives” he said matter of factly, “for your consideration.”

1. Abraham is dead and his body is in the cave at Macpelah. He awaits his resurrection.

There was a stirring in the class as some demurred, thinking of what they considered the error of “ soul sleep”.

Glen waited for a reaction, then turned back to the board and wrote:
2. Abraham’s body is dead but his soul is in heaven.

Now there was a response, some people shifted in their seats and relaxed. I knew it was not going to be so simple though. Glen was setting his trap.

Glen spoke in a genial and non-confrontational way. “I said there would be no surprises. And for most of you there won’t be any surprises. Everybody knows the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke chapter sixteen. It is so simple that no thinking is needed. We all know that Jesus said that Lazarus was carried to the bosom of Abraham in hell.” Some murmured at the reference of Abraham being in hell. “But let me hasten to add” Glen continued, “That Abraham was, at that time, in paradise, which is in hell, but was a refuge for the righteous.”

There was a relaxation now, as most of the class were in familiar territory. “Everyone also knows that Abraham is no longer in paradise though, right?” There were nods of silent agreement. “In fact paradise is empty, am I right?” Again there was a general assent.

“Paradise is empty because while the body of Jesus was in the tomb his soul descended into hell and he preached to those in hell and then led them up to heaven. Then his soul came back down to earth and re-entered his body in time to come out of the tomb at his resurrection. This was once called ‘the harrowing of hell’ and is still generally believed and taught. Everyone knows this and it is in many Bible notes and Bible commentaries. Everyone knows it.” The class sensed the irony in Glen’s voice. “Then he spoke again, “Everyone knows this, except me.”

This had been too much for a middle aged man of conservative demeanor. “How can you contradict the very words of Jesus?” he asked in exasperation.

Glen had hoped for this question and he responded. “First of all, the harrowing of hell doctrine I just enunciated is not composed of the very words of Jesus. True or false, it is a construct, some of this, some of that, joined together. The very conservative Old Scofield Bible contains this doctrine in its notes. But the very conservative New Scofield (Glen held up his Bible) says that scripture does not support it. And a no less worthy than John MacArthur’s Study Bible says the story of Lazarus and the rich man is a parable.”

This was too much for the old gentleman. He turned in his seat as if to rise and walk away.

“But wait” said Glen, “as unlikely as it may seem to you, you and I agree on a wonderful point you made. You asked me how can we refute the very words of Jesus. I wish to hold you to this as well.”

Glen walked to the podium and began to leaf through his Bible. “Please turn with me to Matthew chapter twelve and let us begin at verse thirty one.” Glen then began to lay the framework of his argument: Jesus in proving that there is to be a resurrection, used the example of Abraham, saying God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Matt.2 2:32 .

He looked across the class, hoping to reach them with this truth. “Did Jesus say that God is the God of the living because Abraham’s soul was alive, or because Abraham would some day be resurrected?

Jesus equates Abraham’s being alive with his future resurrection. Jesus was arguing there will be a resurrection some day. That is the source of Abraham’s life, a future resurrection, not a present immortal soul.”

He waited for questions. There were none and he thanked the class for their attention and began to gather up his papers.

Later I said to Glen, reluctantly, “I’m not sure you reached many of them, maybe no one at all.”

We walked towards his van. “I am not accountable to anyone but Jesus” he told me. Some day I will stand before His bema throne. I hope I will have done what I should do, not just what people wanted me to do.

Glen, I don’t know where you are now, but you were wrong and you were right. You did teach me a body of knowledge, though you said that was not your job. But more than anything you taught me to think.

Law or Grace?

It was years ago when I was having breakfast and reading Law or Grace? by M.R. DeHaan. The place was crowded and the only vacant chair was at my little table.

A waitress asked me,” Do you mind if this lady joins you?”

“Not at all”, I replied.

The lady was probably in her late sixties, with neat white hair. She was dressed in a powder blue skirt and jacket and a ruffled white blouse. Her little round hat had a veil, and she was wearing white gloves. This outfit was typical conservative dress for that time in Cincinnati, a town where formality was still the norm and casual familiarity was not.

I had only a few pages left to read and my book was soon finished. As I said, you didn't just start talking to people at that time and place. I can remember knowing such a lady for two years before we addressed one another by our first names. But a strong impulse came over me—Give her the book.

“Excuse me, ma’am”, I said, “but I've just finished reading this book by Dr. DeHaan, and I wonder if you would like it?”

She brightened up when I spoke to her and said, “Why thank you, my husband has had a heart attack and maybe he would like to read it. He's not allowed any activity for awhile and he's getting restless from being confined to bed.”

I finished my coffee and wished the lady a nice day. I kept thinking about her husband. Was he one of the "work 'til you drop", type‑A personalities so common in that part of the country? Or maybe he had an even worse problem. Was he trying to win his salvation by an abundance of good works? That type of person was common also.

De Haan addressed this idea in his wonderful book. It is out of print by now, but you can still find used copies.

Just how do we get saved, and how do we stay saved? You would think these questions were answered long ago, and they were. But religion keeps messing with our minds, complicating things, so many people don't hear the simple message of the Bible. Then there is our fallen nature that says, with pride, I don't take anything for free, I work for everything I get.

When I was teaching I gave away books to people studying with me. Sometimes it was really hard to convince a person to accept one. It went against their grain. A man told me, “I've been out of work for six months and I can't give you anything.” I opened the cover and showed him the message stamped inside, ‘ Paid for by the great general fund in the sky.’ “It's already paid for, please take it, I would plead with them.”

But people want to pay their way. With books this is a minor problem, of course, and a little persistence will generally win a person over.

But when eternal salvation is the issue you sometimes just can't convey the message. Sometimes a person, even well‑ versed in the Bible, just can't see it. So many of us have been trained by the school of hard knocks that if something is offered as free, there has to be a catch somewhere.

Young Martin Luther tried to win favor with God by burdening himself, fasting, and creating needless suffering. He tortured himself with all types of burdens. He was, at that time, still a Catholic monk. An older man of the order saw how miss‑directed Martin's efforts were and, taking a chair in one hand, led him to a life‑sized crucifix. He had him sit in the chair facing this image of the suffering Christ. "Look at these wounds" he told him. Wasn't that a great lesson?

When people talk about "easy believerism", and say, “That's cheap salvation!” They are thinking of themselves and not about Jesus. It wasn't easy for him. He suffered not just to make it easy for us to be saved, but to make it possible for us to be saved. He suffered and was humiliated, and died for us.

Imagine that, if after a lengthy and agonizing birth, a baby could say, "That was so easy, Mother". She would say to him, "It was easy for you, son, but it was not easy for me".

A book of the New Testament was written to rebuke a group of people who had been taught that their salvation was a gift, and not won by any works on their part. But they turned away from the message of grace.

This book is the Epistle to the Galations. In it, Paul, writing to people who thought they must win salvation through the law of Moses, says; ...for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal. 2:16.

In another book, Paul tells us: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9.

Let us not boast, but let us "Look at these wounds".

Santa Died for Our Sins, and The Easter Bunny Was Raised for Our Justification

Early one afternoon I received a call from Glen’s landlady. I
was alarmed as she had never called before and there was the thought that something had happened to my old friend.

“Could you drop in on him and talk to him”, she asked, I’m really concerned about his health and his attitude. Something is bothering him and he won’t say what it is.”

Shortly after I was at the door and she opened it with a look of anxiety that alarmed me. “Before you go up, I just want to say that he needs to stay in bed. I think he is resting and then I hear him get up at any time of the day or night, moving around in his room.”

“Another thing, you know how he loves those grilled cheese sandwiches. Well, I made one for him yesterday and when I went up to get his dishes he hadn’t even finished it! Half of it was on his plate. He asked me if I would put it out for the birds to eat..”

“I told him I didn’t think birds would eat cheese but he asked me to put it out for them anyway.”

I turned to go up the steps and she added, “Oh, and please tell him that two starlings did eat that half of his sandwich.”

I walked up the stairs and down the hall to his room. The door was partly open and I could see Glen lying on his cot reading.
I knocked on the door and he spoke without looking up, “Come in, come in!” When he saw that it was me, he started to rise. I waved him down.

“I thought it was my landlady coming to check on me. She worries about me, bless her.”

I explained that she was concerned over his health and restlessness and so was I. He put his book aside and sat up in bed. He looked gaunt and strained. He had a stubble of gray whiskers on his usually clean shaven face.

“Guess it’s accurate to say I have been a little restless of late, but for good reason. I have reached the point where I feel compelled to say something about this holiday business.”

I remembered how he always said we are not to fret about the world and its follies, and told him so.

“You’re right, you’re right” he spoke with his old vigor, “Don’t think I’m turning into some kind of reformer. It’s just that I really hate to see the church mixing this holiday garbage in with our faith. That’s where I draw the line.”

“Let me show you something”, he threw off his blanket and sat up. He wore his khaki pants and a blue shirt with the tail hanging out. He reached out to put on some felt slippers. “She bought these for me. Afraid I would catch cold.” ‘If your going to be up and walking around all the time, put these on’ she told me, so I do.”

He tried to rise unsteadily and sank back down. I was alarmed to see how weak he was. He tried a second time then rose and walked to a table covered with papers. He turned on two pole lights and motioned me to a chair. “What do you think of this!” He placed a card with a cover of a Christianity Today magazine taped to it. The cover illustration showed Santa Claus, arms outstretched, tied to a cross with strings of Christmas tree lights. Santa’s head was bowed apparently in death. Glen pointed to the lights. “Look, they’re lit! Kind of a nice touch don’t you think.”

The bitter tone of his voice upset me, it was not his usual gentle manner of speech. Then, with a flourish, he placed an art poster atop the image of Santa. “This one really amazes me,” he said with enthusiasm. “You know those little shops that sell paraphanalia, pipes and stuff. I don’t know what you call them, but you know.” I nodded and he went on.

Well I saw one at the mall and was looking at a decal in its window. It turned out to be the rose window of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I asked the young man behind the counter what it was for. He told me you meditate by looking at it. Its symmetry is supposed to sooth people with jangled up minds. I told him that must be a lot of people.

He and his customers looked kind of nervous. Guess they wondered what an old guy like me was doing in there. Then I started looking through a bunch of art prints they had in a rack. That’s where I found this.” He touched the drawing. It showed a traditional image of a tomb such as Christ had been buried in. The great stone door had been rolled away, and out of the opening hopped the Easter Bunny with a basket of eggs on his arm! It really hit me, these alternative culture people saw right through what we Christians tolerate without a thought! I was so happy to find this I bought it without delay.”

He placed the two illustrations side by side. “I was thinking, you’re a teacher, don’t you think I could use these two to illustrate just how off the mark we are when we mix paganism with the pure truth of the Bible?”

What could I say to my old friend? I was so sad to see his bitter spirit even though I knew from where it sprang.

Glen sensed my disapproval. After a long silence he spoke. “I’m over the edge aren’t I? I’m the one who always said, Don’t rage against error, just teach the truth so people can see it for themselves. Now I have turned from being a teacher to being a scold.”

There was an awkward silence, he had made the point I had wanted to say, and I was glad for that. I spoke after a time. “Your friend asked me to tell you that two starlings ate the sandwich half she set out for them.”

His eyes lit up. “Good for them.” I’m so glad they didn’t let it go to waste. Starlings will eat anything, bless them. He paused and then added, Roger Tory Petersen’s Field Guide says, they are the only black bird with a yellow beak, that’s how to tell them.”

He was silent for a time. “Do you think my mind is going?” he spoke with uncharacteristic anxiety.

“No, I don’t Glen,” I told him, “But I do think you are eaten up by your concern that the church prefers error to simple Bible truth. But I worry that you are trying to correct a condition that you know will occur no matter what we do. Your field is prophecy, you know what I mean.”

He reflected a moment before he spoke.

In the latter days some will depart from the faith.

How can I forget what that great man of the Word said? Guess you know I just wanted to do something to try to fight it.”

You told me many times, Glen. God does not call us to be successful, he calls us to be faithful.

He sat down on his little bed, took off his slippers and lay down. He covered himself with his blanket and looked up at me. “I am really glad you dropped by and heard me out. You’re right of course, we shouldn’t worry about stuff like I was, we should just do our job.”

I turned to leave. “Glen spoke once more, “Tell her next time she makes me a sandwich I’ll eat all of it.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Seven Years, or a Few Days?

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43

Anyone who knew Glen, knew he did not believe in what is sometimes called an “intermediate state”, between our present life and the resurrection.

More precisely, Glen did not believe we have immortal souls. “It is a recipe for being lonely, despised, and laughed at” he often said, referring to stating this “heretical” belief.

“I don’t see it in the scriptures, though there are a number of passages that can be interpreted that way”.

Of those at the Oak Street Bible Shop, Sue had come to believe like Glen. Gary sometimes agreed with Glen, but kept finding passages that seemed to prove all people are immortal in their “soulish” state.

Joy hated for the subject to come up. She knew in her heart we cannot die. She had believed it as a devout Catholic and when she became a Baptist retained this belief. From childhood she knew we are immortal and never wavered in this belief.

Except for the Watchtower people, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, as she called them, no one of a regular church denomination had ever challenged the doctrine of intrinsic immortality.

Then, years ago, along came Glen Brock. “I know the passages people refer to”, he said, and they can seem quite convincing. But, please note one fact. No passage says we are presently immortal, or have immortal souls. It is always by interpretation and never by a direct statement.”

Sue, upon hearing this quoted a proverb, “We easily believe, what we earnestly hope for.” She had a way of bringing such things up from who knows where.

“No one wants to believe we die, or that our loved ones are dead instead of in heaven” she would say.

It had been a while since the subject of death had come up. Joy was content that it be so. The whole subject disturbed her. Deep inside she feared Glen was right, but would never admit this, even to herself.

A few months ago, I was present when the subject was reopened. Gary, always testing everyone and everything, “Like a good Berean”, he would say, decided to challenge Glen the next time he came to the store.

Glen rang the little bell above the door and entered with a smile, saying nothing. Sue felt sorry that he was walking into what she thought of as a trap.

Glen sensed something, “So what’s on everyone’s mind?”, he inquired pleasantly.

Joy wished she was not there, she wished each person could hold their own beliefs and just leave it at that.

Gary spoke, “Glen you know I am pretty well convinced as you are that when we die, we die. I have heard you refute a number of attempts to interpret scriptures that seem to say we have immortal souls. I was very impressed when you talked about Lazarus and the rich man, though I don’t remember your quote at the time...”

Glen rose to the subject,”How about looking at the other Lazarus? is what I said. Compare the story Jesus told to unbelievers, with the narrative of Mary, Martha, and Jesus in John, chapter eleven.”

“I remember now” , Gary smiled as he recalled it. “You said two opposite points of view emerge when we compare the two passages.”

Joy had no idea where this was headed and decided to remain silent. Sue was intrigued with how Glen argued, so patiently, waiting for his listeners to see for themselves.

Glen waited, sensing that more was in view than a reminiscence of a long past discussion.

Gary spoke respectfully, “What I see no way out of, and I have tried, is the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him.”

Glen answered in the same spirit, “You have brought up the hardest scripture I know of to reconcile with the idea that when we die, we die, and are asleep in Christ until He wakes us.”

I have heard a number of people struggle with this passage, only to be laughed at by traditional teachers. Donald Barnhouse mocked a man who said it means Jesus told the thief that day.”

I heard a cassette where in a sneering voice he said “ I’m not telling you Monday, I’m not telling you Tuesday, I’m telling you today!”

Joy broke her silence. “It must mean that Jesus and the thief went to Paradise in their immortal souls. You don’t believe in that descent, but it explains everything doesn’t it?”

Glen anticipated this argument, he had heard it for decades. “There is another interpretation that no one mentions” he relied. It is much simpler than the harrowing of hell idea, and is presented early in the Bible and very literally too.”

Joy, Gary, and Sue remained silent. They had no idea what Glen was referring to. He had never spoken of it that they could remember.

“Let me ask you all a question. There are two lengths of time concerning the same incident in Genesis. Glen began to recite from memory:

"And Jacob served seven years for Rachael; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” Genesis 29:20

Glen saw frowns and looks of non-comprehension. He continued, “Concerning the length of time Jacob served for Rachael, how long did he serve?

“Seven years” said Joy, adamantly.

Gary, cautiously, “But to him it was as a few days.”

Sue spoke with a dreamy expression, “For the love he had to her”.

Glen waited as they all considered this idea. “Which was it” he asked “Seven years, or a few days? Our human experience does not always conform to the calender. Almost two thousand years have passed since the believing thief died, but asleep, the time means nothing to him.

If there is no intermediate state while we sleep, how much time passes for us?” From death to our awakening, how much time has passed?”

“Ever wonder why the story of Jacob and Rachel contains this seeming contradiction?”

Glen looked puzzled, “Do I have an order to pick up? I forgot what I came for.”

“I think I know” said Sue.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Perfect Fertilizer

All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full;
Ecclesiastes 1:7

“Been reading about world famine and the depletion of the soil” said Glen. None of us had heard Glen speak on this subject and he took us by surprise to say the least.

Joy was the first to express the feelings of us all, “That’s kind of off your usual field of inquiry, isn’t it, Glen?”

“I hope not” he replied, “you know the Word of God touches on every aspect of human life in one way or another. If a person takes too narrow a view they are going to miss a lot, in the Bible, and in life too. I hope that doesn’t apply to me. I try to think about a lot of things. A teacher, any Christian, who gets too narrow, starts trying to interpret everything from his limited field of knowledge.”

“What do they know of England, that only England know?” said Sue. She could come up with the most amazing quotations.

“Sir Walter Scott, I believe” said Gary.

“Rudyard Kipling” said Sue, with finality.

“Well, Kipling was right on” said Glen, “He wasn’t Poet Laureate for nothing. It is a good thought. Who hasn’t taken a trip to some place really different from where they are used to living, their hometown, and come to realize just what their home was really like?”

Joy had a puzzled expression, “I thought you were talking about soil depletion and world famine” she said.

“Right you are, Joy” said Glen, “but here’s how I got to thinking about the subject. I have been reading interpretations of scripture, specifically prophecy, dealing with end times, and of course famine comes up a lot of times. Some people believe that this famine will be the result of soil depletion and lack of fertilization to correct it. The Bible never says this is the reason, but that doesn’t stop these people from interpreting scripture from this point of view. Some of them even project the disappearing stores of fertilizer compared to the rapidly increasing world population and say that Biblical famines can’t be that far away.”

“Without giving my age away,” said Joy, “ I can remember when the population of the United States was under 200 million, and now, it is over 300 million. But I don’t see a Biblical connection.”

“Neither do I” said Glen, “but some people think they do. They try to make the Bible fit the news, instead of the other way around.”

Gary couldn’t wait to jump into the conversation. “I think I know of a connection, at least one that people try to make,” he said. “Some people say that Israel has one of the world’s great supplies of potash. They say, when fertilizer runs out potash will be more valuable than oil.”

“How ironic” said Sue. “Israel will have something valuable, like the Arabs do now.”

Joy remembered a quotation from Golda Meir, once the head of Israel’s government. “She said she always wondered why God never gave Israel any oil.”

“Again” said Glen, “these people believe that Israel’s Dead Sea potash deposits will be an attraction for their enemies and be one of the reasons that they will attack them”.

“As in Ezekiel chapter 38?" said Gary.

“Exactly” said Glen, “You must be reading the same books I am.”

“Watching them on TV” said Gary.

“Oh, sure" said Glen,”but in books or on TV these guys try to apply Ezekiel 38 to everything in that part of the world. Someone said that if they dropped their Bibles, they would fall open at Ezekiel 38.”

“It sure can’t happen now, said Gary. “Ezekiel says the attack will come when Israel is dwelling in peace and safety.”

“And in unwalled villages” said Joy, "and they have a huge wall under construction in Jerusalem right now.”

Glen was visibly pleased with both Gary and Joy. Not only were they familiar with this part of Ezekiel, they were applying their knowledge in a logical manner.

“There is a whole crowd of these people” said Glen, "that try to hurry up the coming invasion of Gog in this part of the Bible. Guess they feel that if they say the invasion of Israel is coming any day now, that there will be more orders for their videos."

“Remember when they said that Gog was the Soviet Union?” asked Joy.

“I remember” said Glen. “Now there is no Soviet Union, but they still predict that it will be Russia.” Even Russia is a complex place. I wish people wouldn’t try to force prophecy to happen. It isn’t given so we can prophecy, but so events can be identified when they occur.”

“So when do you think Gog will invade Israel?” said Joy.

“I suggest people get ahold of Things to Come by Dwight Pentecost” said Glen. “He has the best treatment of the invasion of Gog I have ever read.

“We don’t carry it any more” said Joy sadly, “It’s out of print.”

“I bought a lot of them from you, when they were in print” said Glen.

“It’s best to look at a good overview, even if only so you can discuss it with people who have differing views” said Glen. “Some people believe we are looking at Armageddon, when Jesus returns to the earth to rescue Israel. Other people believe it is the Final Rebellion of Revelation chapter 20. These two events are a thousand years apart, one befoe the millennium and one at the end. These people have good arguments too and we shouldn’t just dismiss them without hearing them out. And the wonderful thing is, that as we search out the evidence that each view claims, we learn so much about the Bible. You can’t learn anything sitting on a couch and watching a guy on TV. You have to search for yourself.”

“What about the fertilizer?” said Joy. “Will it be the reason for the invasion?”

“It may be perceived to be the reason” said Glen, “but there is a perfect fertilizer available all over three fourths of the surface of the earth. A professor from the University of Cincinnati found that all you need to grow plants, every element and in the right proportions, is in sea water. He had tank car loads of seawater brought to him from all over the globe. He diluted it and grew perfect plants. Then he moved to Florida and grew tomatoes commercially. Later he learned that solid sea salt works just as well and started a whole industry selling this evaporated salt. He wrote a book about it called Sea Energy Agriculture by Murray Maynard. All people may not follow his example, but some wise ones are doing it already."

“You know” said Sue. “When you first mentioned a perfect fertilizer, I thought you meant televangelists.”

“Well, Sue” said Glen. “That may not be perfect fertilizer, but it is very abundant.”

Twelve Men on the Field

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1 NIV

Glen had just settled down in his chair by the coffee urn when the front door bell jangled. He had put his grilled cheese sandwich on the table but didn’t have time to unwrap it yet when he heard a man ask Joy, “Do you know Glen Brock?”

“Right over there.” said Joy, gesturing to the weary figure of Glen. Glen gave up all hope of eating his sandwich while it was still hot as he rose to his feet to greet the strange visitor. “Howdy” said Glen as he extended his hand. The visitor pretended not to notice. “Listen” he said “my mother was in here two days ago and she told me you got into a big argument with her and made insulting remarks about her.”

“Don’t remember making any insulting remarks to a lady” said Glen. “I’m afraid I don’t know who you mean.”

“Her name might not mean anything to you, but she is sort of short, has brown eyes and wears glasses with jeweled rims...”

“That’s the Crab!” exclaimed Sue and then put her hand over her mouth.

Joy looked pained, but Gary was trying not to laugh at Sue’s outburst.

“Well I can see this is all a big joke to you people, but when someone calls my mother a ‘silly woman' and says 'she never comes to know the truth', I think an apology is in order” he smoldered.

“Never said it, never!” said Glen with great solemnity. “I believe your mother was referring to 2 Tim. 3:7, and that reference was to her teacher, not to your mother.”

“Another thing” the visitor said, “My mother said she asked you a simple question about the twelve tribes of Israel and you couldn’t give her a straight answer.”

“Now that is true!” said Glen. “I didn’t giver any answer, straight or otherwise, because I can’t find one in the Bible. God lists them different ways at different times, but he doesn’t explain why. But there are always twelve from Genesis to Revelation, always twelve.”

“And speaking of twelve!”, he paused as he said “twelve”, glaring at Glen, “my mother also said that when you couldn’t explain why the tribes are different in different places in the Bible, you came up with some cock-a-mamy story about a football coach fielding twelve players! You idiot!, you don’t even know that twelve men on the field is a 10 yard penalty!”

(At this point I would like to interject that I have it on eye-witness authority that one time a guy called Glen an idiot and it took the Jaws of Life to remove the guy from a garbage can).

Glen stepped close to the fuming son of the Crab as if to study him. More closely. “You know, I’ve read the term 'cock-a-mamy,' but you’re the first person I have ever heard actually say it.”

Glen lifted his hands, as if in surrender, “But you are right about one thing, I do owe you an apology”. For the first time, the visitor wore a smile. He sensed that he had gotten an admission of guilt from this rumpled tramp of a man. Glen continued, “I messed up something terrible on that football example. I owe you and that imaginary coach both a big apology!”

“That’s it!” exclaimed the Crab’s son. “Your only apology is about the stupid football thing?”

“You see” said Glen, “In recent years I’ve drifted away from sports, much as I once was an enthusiast. Now days I’m working on the Bible. It takes almost all my time. To be perfectly honest with you I probably don’t know much about the games since I followed the career of the great Slingin’ Sammy Baugh.” This was too much for the Son of Crab. “Now I know you’re an idiot” he yelled. "Why Sammy Baugh couldn’t make second string on the Cincinnati Bengals!”

“Sir” said Glen, “please be careful what you say about the Bengals. Anyway, comparisons are meaningless. Did you know, those old quarterbacks used to kick the field goals? They were iron men, they did it all.”

The visitor was plainly out of patience with Glen. He could see he was not going to get any satisfaction from him. He strode to the door and turned to look at Joy. “You can be sure of one thing, neither my mother or I will ever come into your store again!”

Joy slid off her stool and stood up straight. She raised her right hand, palm outward, fingers together. “Promise?” she said.

After the door slammed, Glen sagged with fatigue. “I’ve really messed things up” he said with dejection. "I never should have used that sports analogy. People should stick to what they know. I wanted so bad to make an illustration about the twelve tribes of Israel, is all, and look how it all got side tracked.”

Everyone felt sorry for Glen, he was so intense and when he failed to make his point he was miserable.

He walked back to the chair by the coffee urn and put his head down on his arm.

Gary tried to cheer him up. “Maybe you were thinking of la crosse” he said, "there can be twelve men on the field in lacrosse.”

Glen raised his head, “I sure as heck wasn’t thinking about lacrosse, but thanks all the same” he said, and laid his back head down.

“Anyway’ said Gary, "twelve men on the field is only a five yard penalty, not ten.”

Soon Glen’s breathing changed as he drifted off to sleep. Sue walked to where he sat with his head on his arm. “He didn’t even have time to eat his sandwich,” she said. She went to the coat rack and took down her little blue coat and draped it around Glen’s shoulders.

“Our poor old warrior” she said “he must really be tired.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Night on the Hill with Abner

First time I met Abner I didn't know what to expect. He and I would be partners doing night security in a big motel. I reported a little early and the night desk clerk paged him. In came an old man in a rumpled pair of pants and a mismatched jacket. He had on a pale green shirt buttoned at the collar but no tie. His hair needed combing and he was wearing white socks. He had a long nose and the set of his mouth and general appearance said "Hick".

We worked together for three years and I learned otherwise. He held a commercial pilot's license and occasionally would rent a plane and fly to the Bahamas, no one knew why. He once rode shotgun for a bootlegger delivering the stuff in barrels. He rode behind the truck in a car to ward off any trouble. I got to know him as a good friend over the years we worked together.

One night in particular stands out in my mind. It was a humid summer evening and the two nightclubs and a meeting hall were packed. Two bands and a Mexican trio were playing and the place was throbbing. We talked a little on the bridge that separated the lower area from the hill. There were 13 1/2 acres and 329 rooms. Thirteen acres of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abner called it.

Just as we were about to part company to work our areas, my belt radio went off. A woman on the top story had tried to kill herself. An ambulance was on the way. In fact the medics got to the room before we did. Someone had called for them before the desk was notified. She had been taken away just before we arrived. We decided to check her room. She had stayed behind while her family was using the pool. There were four empty aspirin bottles on the bathroom counter. In the sink was a mound of aspirin powder mixed with blood.

"Couldn't keep it down," said Abner. "Anyway, it wasn't a suicide attempt," he continued, "just one of those calls for help."

We saw her two children as we left the room. The girl was about fourteen and the boy about ten. They were standing by the rail, waiting to come in to get their things so they could leave. "Well, she's done it again," said the girl. She and the boy didn't seem upset, they wore sullen expressions, as if they were resigned to their mother's behavior. "She always does this," said the boy.

"Must be a full moon tonight" said Abner, "we're off to a bad start." Once again I started for the bridge to go to the lower area.

But before we parted Abner got an urgent call. Someone had gone ballistic and among other things had spit in the face of the young cashier. We both hated to hear that, Julie was young and innocent, with a fresh appearance, she had the kind of face that didn't need makeup. As we entered the club, she was coming out of the ladies' room. She had been scrubbing her face and her eyes were red from crying.

"Who did this?" Abner demanded? The lady manager said, "A young guy, one of the executives. He's up on the stage now, 'singing'". We went through the doorway and there he was, wearing a suit, young and lean. Everything about him looked fine except his wild eyes. He was waving his arms while he tried to sing in an operatic style. No words came out of his mouth, just weird sounds.

We walked up the steps and showed our badges, he pushed us away and continued his wild sounds. Abner and I each grabbed an arm and dragged him backwards off the stage and into a hallway. Members of the audience started booing. "Let him alone," someone yelled. The police had been called, we were told, but we knew from experience there could be a long wait until they arrived. Meanwhile our subject was screaming incoherently and thrashing about on the marble floor.

"Speed freak?" I asked Abner. "I don't know," he said, "but he's on something, just look at his eyes."

The young man's voice was hoarse from screaming. "Kill me," he yelled, "why don't you kill me!" These were the first words he had spoken. He grabbed hold of Abner's ankle and tried to bite him. "Kill me," he screamed again, "please!"

I saw Abner reach for his big hogleg .38 and start to pull it out of his holster. I put both my hands on his arm. "Don't do it Ab," I said, "he's not worth it." Just then two cops arrived and one started spraying the young man with mace. His actions only became more violent and he was yelling again as they cuffed him, pulled him to his feet, and led him away.

Later, when things finally got quiet, we started walking to the lower area, towards the pool. "Tonight's the end of the work period," I said. "I need to make out a time sheet."

"I've got one in my damned car," he said. He always called it his damned car. It was an old, dirty, white Plymouth. He popped the trunk and handed me two sheets. "I'm giving you two of them.You always mess up one before you get it right."

"It's that 24 hour time system," I explained, "it's confusing."

"I better get my raincoat while I'm here," he said. His yellow raincoat was wadded up under a half-full bag of Sac-Crete mix. He pulled it out and shook off the dust.

"Were you really going to shoot that guy?" I asked him.

"No way," he replied. "He wanted me to, that's why I wouldn't do it."

We sat on some lounge chairs by the pool. The underwater lights cast a moving blue glow on the concrete trunks of the fake palm trees. A gentle summer breeze made the vinyl leaves rattle. We were quiet for awhile, then Ab spoke again. "People are awful, you know it? I wonder why God even messes with us."

I lay back in the chair, watching the pattern of lights on the surface of the pool. When I looked over at Ab, he had tears in his eyes. I had never seen him cry. "What is it Ab?" I asked.

"I was just thinking about what they did to Jesus, he said. Did you ever really read it? They whipped and beat him before he died 'til he didn't even look like a human any more. He did all that for us."

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his heard, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him with their hands.
John 19:1-3

The Baptist Boys

Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.
I Chron. 16:9

Five days out of high school I walked to the nearby Drackett Company for my first day of real work. I was told to report to the extraction building and received a friendly warning, "When you're just starting, they kind of test you out, but once you're in the union it won't be so bad. " I was told to go to the tool room and check out a scoop shovel and a foreman led me up the metal stairs to the roof of the extraction building. A ventilating blower was shooting soybean meal and dust onto the roof.
In a corner of the roof this meal had accumulated and been rained on and in the heat had begun to spoil. You could smell it before you got there.

Another young man was working with me, he had a bunch of sacks. We were to shovel this spoiled meal into the sacks. As I looked down at this mass I saw that it was filled with wriggling maggots. We each held a sack until the other man had filled it with this paste. The foreman told us to follow him down the steps. We swung the sacks over our shoulders and onto our backs. Our tee shirts became soaked with this maggot filled mass. We worked all morning filling sacks and carrying them down the

At lunch time we were told where we could ring out our cards inside the building. When I went through the door a sign warned that anyone carrying matches into the building would be fired. The atmosphere was laced with hexane, a flame or even a spark could blow the whole place up.The sound of the blowers and machinery filled the air as I stood by the timeclock, waiting to punch out. I had a little time. From high above you could hear the sound of men singing. They straddled the beams near the roof. They wore yellow hard hats and had their tools in canvas tool bags. I found out later they were putting in a new sprinkler system.

Here is what they were singing as they worked. They smiled as they
emphasized key words:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is MINE!
O what a foretaste of glory DIVINE!
Heir of SALVATION, purchase of GOD,
Born of HIS Spirit, washed in HIS blood.

I must have been staring, because one of the workers came over to me to explain "Those are the Baptist Boys", he said. "They do this all the time. The bosses don't like it much, but there's no rule against it. I asked if they were all Baptists and he said "No, but they are the ones who started it." I rang out for lunch and went to the lunch room. It had heaters along the walls, but no air conditioning. The vending machine was warm to the touch. I pulled the knob for a ham sandwich and when I unwrapped it, the meat had turned green. An old timer saw it and said "Try the cheese, it holds up pretty well".

I thanked him and he was right. The milk machine had a refrigeration unit, so I did ok. After lunch, a foreman told me to check out a dust mask and a wire brush and report to the boiler room. Two flights of steps up the side of the water tube boiler a mechanic had unbolted an access plate. The foreman showed me how to pinch the aluminum tabs around my nose to help keep out the soot. That is why we were there, the water tubes were clogged with soot and they had to be brushed off.

The foreman told me to climb in and hold on with one hand. The tubes were slanted like a roof. "I'll hold your brush until you get in" he said. He had a kind manner, he knew I was having a rough first day."One hand for the ship and one hand for yourself" he recited. Maybe he was an old navy man? I held onto the pipes and brushed away the soot with the wire brush. The mask helped a little, but pretty soon I could feel soot in my mouth. I was a mess with soot on top of the meal dust. But before too long this chore came to an end and it was time to turn in the brush and return to the extraction building to ring out.

The Baptist boys were still at work, but no longer singing. One of them called to his companion. "Let me have your wrench a minute, will you?" His friend answered "You have one in your tool kit, don't you?"

"Yeah, he said, but I don't feel like going down all those ladders to get it. I've been putting in hangers all day so I didn't need one until now." Each leaned out, very carefully, while one man slid his wrench on the I-beam towards the other man. They were aware that if the wrench fell it could
kill anyone it struck, and if it hit the concrete floor it would make a spark that could cause an explosion. Then they began to sing again;

What a FRIEND we have in JESUS,
ALL our sins and griefs to bear!
What a PRIVILEGE to carry
EVERYTHING to Him in prayer!

I checked out and walked out the gate to head for home. I had about two miles to go. I was a total mess. My hair was caked with rotten soy flour and on top of that, soot. A wind started up and dark clouds moved in. Trees along the street began to sway as I walked towards home. Then a big car slowed down and stopped. The driver opened the passenger door. I stepped to the car. It was one of the Baptist Boys. He had the front seat of his Chrysler all the way back but his shirt still touched
the steering wheel. He reached down and picked up his gloves and put them onto the seat before I sat down. I realized how bad I looked and was grateful that he let me ride with him. The rain that had been coming finally hit. He turned on the wipers. Little branches with green leaves attached blew across the road and onto the hood of his car.

"Looks like its going to be a rough one", the big man said. "This will be a good night to stay home and study theology."

Charles, Cleaning Man and Saint

I came out of the stairwell door into the La Cantina night club. I was in uniform with a badge. Charles, the night cleaner was at work, sweeping up napkins and plastic drink cups. The club was closed and he was working alone.

I was new on the job and we had yet to meet. He looked up when I came through the door, he had a startled expression when he saw my badge. Then our eyes met and I could feel him relax..

We started to talk, about general things, just friendly talk. I checked the doors and the patio. I looked to see if anyone was in the pool or the health club. I came back and saw that he had stopped sweeping and had taken a folded paper from his back pocket and was studying it. He saw me looking at him and explained, “I'm just looking at my Bible lesson for Sunday. I like to be prepared.” After looking it over he began to sweep again. “I study too”, I told him, “I teach.” I showed him the book I carried in my uniform pocket.

‘You gave me a start “, he told me, “when you came through that door. But you know, you can always tell another Christian, can't you?”

I agreed. I wondered what his study was about and he told me. “It's from the Book of Romans,” he said, “and I'm not sure I understand”. He showed me the text; "And so all Israel shall be saved". Romans 11:26. “I am wondering”, he said, “how can all Israel be saved if they rejected Jesus?"

We wondered what "All Israel" meant. It sure couldn't be each and every Israelite. Was there another Israel? Maybe a group within the nation that were the true Israel? We were both still learning.

“I could call my preacher. He would talk to me for hours,” he said smiling, “he loves to get into the Word. But I just don't have the time, much as I would like to. I have another job and I am treasurer of my church. My wife is paralyzed so I have to carry her to the bathroom and bring her all her meals. I clean the house and do all the work.”

I wondered how he had time to do it all and said so. "I tithe my time", he told me. "I give the Lord one tenth of my waking hours and I always have enough time for everything."

Weeks went by and I visited with Charles every chance I had. There was a bond between us that night workers often have. Our shared faith sealed it. I learned so many lessons from this humble man. He was a true peace maker.

He told me this story; "You know there are a bunch of boys that hang out on the street where I walk to go to church. They used to block the street and not let anybody get by. A lot of guys got really mad. One of them said, "I'm going home and get my gun". But I had my little granddaughter with me and I just walked out in the street with her, walked around them. "How are you, boys" I said. I waved my hand to them and smiled. Next Sunday, there they were, still blocking the walk. But when my grand daughter and I came up to them they made way for us and let us through. No need to get hostile", he said, "Better to show them a little respect, they don't get much."

I got another job on a different shift. But I kept thinking about Charles. He had told me he always wanted a study Bible, one with references and notes. I went to Oak Street and asked to see a New Scofield.. Gary loved to show Bibles. I told him I wanted the best he had. “Here is one with linen paper pages,” he demonstrated. He crumpled up a page, then shut the cover on it and pushed down. Then he opened the cover and smoothed the page out good as new. He held onto a single page and shook the whole book, but it didn't tear. “This one has a goatskin leather cover," he said. "It's better than sheep skin. It's the only time, concerning the Bible, where goats are better than sheep”, he laughed.

"I'll take it,” I told him. It came in a nice box. The next morning, as the sun was coming up, I went to the motel where Charles worked. I asked the desk man if he had seen him. “He's still here," he pointed to the lounge across the way. As I went in, he was coming out of the ladies room with a mop and bucket. “Charles”, I said, “Here's your study Bible you wanted.” He lifted it out of the box and turned the pages and looked at the notes. "It's really nice", he said, "What do I owe you?"

"Nothing,” I told him, "not a thing.” It was true, I owed him.

Back in the Land to Stay?

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the Islands of the sea.
Isaiah 11:11

If you have the impression that Glen likes to stick to his subject you are right. He keeps to his outline and to his time schedule. People count on it. Although he always maintains his time schedule, there have been rare occasions when he will depart from his subject matter. Tonight was one of those occasions.

He had been introducing lesson on the seven churches of Revelation chapters 1-3, when a young woman held up her hand. She was aglow with happiness as she asked her question. “Don’t you feel that the time of the rapture must be close since Israel is back in the land?”

Listening to Glen answer this type of quest was fascinating to me. He once described it as untangling two sets of fish lines tangled up with one another, it was a multiple question.

“Let me address the time of the rapture first” he said. “I believe you are keeping the rapture of the Church separate from God’s dealing with Israel. This is good. The Bible shows us that the Church and Israel are separate, and although sometimes there is an overlap in His dealing with them as in The Acts of the Apostles, by the time we get to Revelation they are separate until after the great tribulation.

As for the rapture, the only indication we have in the Bible as when it will occur is that there will be a falling away of some of the church, a serious departure from the faith. Many believe we are in that time now, which would mean the rapture is imminent and could occur at any time. I know it can’t come too soon for me.”

The young woman still had the glow, she obviously felt she was on to something and wouldn’t let it go. “Do you have any idea of the timing?" she asked, "after all Israel is back in the land.”

“As for timing, I never talk about when” he said. “Prophecy tells us the sequence of events, but doesn’t set dates. Not until you get into a timed event as in the ninth chapter of Daniel. Then you have a starting point, but, by definition, that is years away. I am like a bus driver taking people on a tour across the country from east to west. Someone asks what time we’ll get to San Francisco and all I can say is it will be after we pass the arch in St.Louis and visit Yellowstone Park. The Bible gives us the sequence of events and, except for the 70th week of Daniel, it does not give us dates.”

The young lady was disappointed, you could see it in her face. Glen told me he was always concerned about such expressions. He told me these people often don’t even complete the study. “They’re looking for a thrill” he told me, "and I’m not the one to give it to them. The people who are good students don’t smile all the time, they're careful thinkers, not thrill seekers.”

She tried one more time, “But it must be soon, don’t you think?”

“As I said” Glen replied patiently, “the rapture could be soon, but not because Israel is in the land.”

A young man next to her, maybe her husband, spoke, “In 1948 the nation of Israel was formed by the partitioning of Palestine. President Truman said that signing that paper was the proudest moment of his life. It has been way over a generation since then, don’t you feel it must be time?”

Glen showed great patience, he was happy people were thinking about this. He felt it was very important and treated it as if it was.

“First of all” he said “Israel is not back in the land.”

There was a collective gasp from a number of people as he said these words. But before anyone could protest Glen continued. “What we have is an attempt to create the nation Israel by giving some Jews some of Abraham’s portion, a mighty small fraction of the land God has promised them. From the Euphrates to the Nile, from the Mediterranean to the Great Arabian Desert, that was Abraham’s portion. The Jews don’t even own all of Jerusalem. The United Nations is not going to create Israel, God will do it. Anyway the Jews are going to be scattered again before they return the final time.”

The young man and woman were talking together, quietly and rapidly.

He turned towards Glen “It’s not like we don’t believe you, but do you have scriptures that tell about that, I mean the Jews being scattered again.”

“So glad you asked about the scriptures. That is what we are here for, the scriptures. Let us turn to the great prophet Moses” said Glen, smiling to himself. He knew there would be a reaction to this remark. “We may become so involved with the past life of Moses, the ancient history of Israel, we can forget that Moses foretold details of the nation Israel’s future that are found nowhere else in the Bible.”

Glen loved to see people sit up, even if they were about to take exception to what he was saying. He wanted people to question and from the looks he was getting tonight, that is what was taking place.

“Let’s turn to the book of Deuteronomy” he said. “We’ll be reading from Deuteronomy 28. Moses is telling his people the blessings for them if they keep the law covenant. But then, beginning in verse 15, he tells them the consequences if they violate the covenant. This passage is very long, but you asked for scriptures and this is the main passage dealing with their future dispersion. You need to read all of Deuteronomy 28 to get the picture. But tonight, let’s look at verse 68. It is so horrible to think of what lies ahead for Israel,..."

A lady in the front row had been taking this all in. She looked very troubled as she spoke, “Isn’t there any way they can avoid this?”

Glen spoke with conviction, “For the nation, no. But some individuals will escape. We have some with us tonight”, he smiled at a couple and their young son. "God is still calling some Jews into his church, they will escape.”

“Escape what” asked an older man. He looked very skeptical about the whole idea.

“They are going back to Egypt again.” said Glen.

I saw the disbelief in many faces. It was obvious that they had never heard of such a thing.

Glen once said “Many people want to plunge into Revelation, but have no knowledge of the Old Testament, and even those who do study the Old Testament don’t read the prophecies of Moses.”

I asked him why and he told me, “People don’t think systematically, they wait for cues from preachers and teachers, even movies and videos. Then they study within these guidelines. They believe what they are told to believe, and don’t follow the Word, unfortunately.”

“Let’s look at it” said Glen and he read:

And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.
Deuteronomy 28:68

“Nothing in the history corresponds to this scripture. The Jews have never been taken to Egypt in ships. They have never been offered for slaves, that is what bondmen and bondwomen means. And, the pathetic thing is, no one will buy them. At least under pharaoh, they had food.”

“Then what will become of them?” someone asked.

“For that” said Glen, “we need to turn to the Book of Isaiah, chapter eleven. This is the Second Exodus!

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:11,12

People were recovering from the shock of hearing what was, to them, a new teaching. Hands went up. “What are the islands of the sea?” asked one.

Glen welcomed the question,”The first series of countries are the ancient Bible lands mentioned in the Old Testament” he said” You could travel to them on foot or by riding an animal. But when the Bible mentions the islands of the sea, countries away from the contiguous land mass are in view, other continents and land masses. It could include North America and other distant lands. Isaiah says from the four corners of the earth. This shows you the extent of the dispersion, and the scope of the recovery.”

“How will they return from Egypt” someone wanted to know.”Does the second Exodus mean a second parting of the sea?”

Glen told everyone to continue reading in Isaiah. “Here is your answer in verse fifteen", he said.

And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in seven streams, and make men go over dryshod. And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people which shall be left , from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
Isaiah 11:15,16

You see” said Glen, “this goes completely beyond any UN resolution or anything man has done or can do. Before Israel is settled in the land, a lot of prophecy must be fulfilled, and it is prophecy that is almost never studied.

Every effort of mankind to bring about the kingdom of God will fail, until He brings it about. Today, God is working with the church, not Israel. When the church is complete, then we will be caught up to heaven with Jesus. When we are safe with him, he will turn back to the earth and work with the gentiles and the nation Israel.

For those who want scripture for this, and I hope you all do, we have it all laid out in the Acts of the Apostles chapter fifteen.

This is the first church council. James quotes from the Old Testament book of Amos, and he sets a good example for us all in so doing. The Simeon James speaks of here is Peter."

And after they had held their peace, James answered saying, Men and brethren , hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
Acts 15:13,14

“Here we are” said Glen, “a people for his name” refers to Christians, we bear his name.”

And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
Acts 15:15-17

A hand went up, “What does ‘after this’ refer to?”

“James said that at that time God was calling out a people to be called after his name. So he is saying after God has called out the church. Then he will turn to rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David. David’s tabernacle is his kingdom.”

“No kingdom of David until the church is complete?” someone asked.

“You got it” said Glen, “even if the UN has other plans.”

“Who are the residue of men?” asked someone.

“Well, they are not gentiles” said Glen. “Because the rest of the verse says and all the gentiles upon whom my name is called. Since the church is complete, that leaves the residue of Israel. See how Isaiah 11:15 says ‘remnant’ of his people which shall be left? Residue and remnant mean the same thing. Like a remnant sale, what is left from something greater. The wonderful thing about Acts 15:13-17 is that all three types of people that God is saving are mentioned in one passage and in the order by which He will save them. When you have a passage like that you have a treasure. You can’t go wrong when they are mentioned together like that.”

“So we are now in the church period waiting for it to be complete, then God will start to deal with Israel and the gentiles later on?" said one of the original questioners.

“That’s right" said Glen. “I had us scheduled to talk about the seven churches in Revelation, but we obviously needed to talk about this tonight. I thank you for the questions. You are thinking, and nothing makes me happier than that”.