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.”

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