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”.

The Fifth Kingdom

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces in and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Daniel 2:44

All eyes were upon the poster of the great image that Glen had placed upon the easel. All eyes except those of the young lady in the first row. She sat upright with a rapt expression on her face, her fingers tracing the raised outlines of the giant statue in Daniel chapter two in her large binder. Glen had pasted a drawing of the image onto a sheet of cardboard and carefully cut it out and mounted it onto the page she was now tracing with her fingers. He had used a braille slate and stylus to make labels for the four metals and four kingdoms that the statue represented. Off to one side and above the figure was the rough outline of a huge stone.

Glen began to read the poem he had composed for tonight’s class;

The king of Babylon had a fearful dream,

In which he saw a giant image gleam.

From his day forward, ‘til the statue’s fall,

Its varied metals and its form told all.

In all, four earthly kingdoms were decreed.

Then fell the smiting stone with awesome speed.

The kingdoms gone, God’s kingdom in their place,

Where every saint shall stand and sing with shining face.

I was impressed with the sparse wording and vivid imagery of his poem, so suitable to the text of Daniel chapter two. Glen had read it with a feeling of awe and drama. His husky voice was both gentle and strong. Glen read from his outline of this great chapter that co-ordinated so many Bible prophecies. He spoke with great conviction; “Folks, this image not only reveals, as no other text in or out of the Bible does, the course of world history from the time of Nebuchadnezzar until the return to earth of our Lord Jesus Christ. But it reveals that all of man’s efforts are played out within an historical framework that is as fixed as the stars or the cycles of the seasons. When man thinks he is running things and steering the ship of history, he is ignorant of God’s revelation, which is history told before it takes place. This is one of the worst forms of ignorance and totally without justification.”

“Now I trust you have all had time to go over the king’s dream in Daniel two and Daniel’s interpretation of it as revealed to him by God. To see if the basic truths contained in this chapter have really hit home,” he paused at the word “hit” and then continued, "I am going to ask you a very simple question. How many kingdoms are in this dream?"

Hands went up as soon as his question was spoken. “Yes sir, “Glen pointed to a man in the back row. “Four” was his confidant reply. Glen said nothing and the man grew impatient. “Head of gold, Babylon. Arms and chest of silver, Media Persia. Belly and thighs of bronze, Greece, and legs and feet of iron, the fourth kingdom Rome and its final form of ten toes or ten kings." He leaned back, awaiting Glen’s reply. He was confident that his answer was correct. Still, Glen said nothing as his eyes swept the room.

Then the left hand of the lady using the braille chart was up and waving. Glen walked to her chair and spoke directly to her. “Yes, Miss?” “Five!” she replied . There was a chorus of murmurs, “Five?”

Glen turned to the man in the back row. “Sir, you gave a flawless explanation of the kingdoms represented in the image, but the question was, how many kingdoms are in the dream? You neglected to include the smiting stone.” He looked over at the lady who had answered “Five”. The fingers of her right hand still rested on the raised outline of the smiting stone. Its label read, “The Kingdom of God”.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The End of the Oak Street Bible Shop

There are places, and people too, that you think will always be there. Then, when they are gone you are reminded that you won’t be here forever either. That’s the way it was The Oak Street Bible Shop.

I got the news from Glen, and if anyone else had told me I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I had dropped by his place to give him some cassettes on Isaiah, his latest study. He had said if the Lord let him live long enough he would try to teach this wonderful book. I asked him, “How long is that?” and he replied, “A couple of years of study and then some time to teach.”

His landlady said he was out back working on one of her flower beds. As I approached I saw him carefully cutting the dead stalks from some cannas whose season had been ended by an early frost. He saw me as I approached and gave a little hand wave but said nothing.

“I just came back from our trip to Michigan”, I told him, “How are things going with you?” He continued to work before he replied, and then stood erect and gave me a long, sad look. “I guess you haven’t heard.” I waited, knowing from his expression, that he had some bad news to tell me. “Well”, Glen said “you won’t believe this but they’re tearing down The Oak Street Bible Shop!”

You can imagine my shock when I heard these words from my old friend. “Who?” I asked, “And when are they going to do it?”

Glen stooped to gather up the dead flower stalks into a little bundle before he spoke. It was as if he was delaying so he wouldn’t have to talk about it. “Oh, the developers who bought the place, the whole block, actually. They hired a crew to tear down everything on that block so they can build apartments. They’re even cutting down the trees, if you can believe that. Later, they’ll probably plant new ones that won’t be as big as the ones there now until we’re all dead.”

“I don’t get it” I protested, “We were only gone two weeks! When are they going to do all this?” Glen stood again and let his arms fall to his side. “They’re doing it right now” he said, with a sorrowful voice. “Gary had been mulling over their offer for his place for some time. Said it was too good to turn down, and his wife wants to go back to California anyway, said she can’t stand our winters here.”

“I have something for you, Glen”. I handed him a package of cassettes on Isaiah. "Gary said cassettes are going out of style pretty soon, but he ordered these for you.”

“Going out of style, huh?” said Glen, and then, with a rueful laugh, “Just like me.”

“Sad, isn’t it?” I asked him, “These tapes are the last thing either one of us will ever get from the Oak Street Bible Shop.”

I regretted saying this when I saw the expression on his face. Glen looked at me with earnestly as he spoke. “Not the last thing, I hope. Would you come with me, there is one more thing I want to do.”

“Sure”, I told him, not quite certain what he had in mind. “What do I owe you for these tapes?" Glen inquired. “They are a gift from me and my wife” I told him. “We both have learned so much from you, not just content, but the way you look at things, your determination to follow your own course and not bow down to any man.”

“Like a mule?” Glen said, smiling a little.

“Something like that” I replied, hoping he would understand.

He looked inside the bag briefly and smiled. “Really appreciate this” he said, “These will be great. Let me just put them inside the door and I’ll be right back.”

Glen soon joined me and we walked to his old blue van. As we moved down the long drive he remained silent. When we turned down Oak Street I felt I understood his intent. He parked a half of a block from the shop and we both looked at the old familiar site. It was awful to see how bare it looked without trees. The glaring light revealed the newly scraped earth and the sound of the equipment was like the roaring of lions.

Glen approached one of the workers and began to talk to him. He once said, sometimes the indirect approach is the quickest way to make your point. “Look” he said to the man, “I have a little favor to ask of you. I’ve been coming to this place for I don’t know how many years. All I ask is let me have one little thing to remember it by.”

“I can’t let you on a construction site” the man protested. “I could get in a lot of trouble, there are liability laws. What if you got hurt or something? Besides, there’s not much left.” He gestured at the shell of the old frame building. The windows had been removed and the front door was gone. Our old shop had been gutted and would soon be battered to the ground.

“Just one little item” Glen pleaded. He held out his left hand, palm up and cupped his right hand over it, to show how small it would be.

The two men looked at one another for a moment. You could see the worker sizing up Glen’s rugged, earnest face. Then he took a step back and looked at the ground. “See that white pickup over there? You two get a couple of hard hats out of the back and go on in. But don’t hang around. Just get this item, whatever it is, and leave, okay?”

Glen touched the man’s arm and thanked him and strode off for the truck. He pulled out two yellow hats and handed one to me. I saw him try his on as we walked up the sidewalk. He stopped to adjust the band to fit his big head. We crunched up on the porch, now littered with splinters and rubble. I looked back to see the worker watching us.

Glen stepped through the empty door frame and looked up. There was the prize he sought, the little bell, still in place, held by two screws. Glen looked around and found a large metal tool chest and dragged it to the doorway. He reached into his jacket pocket and brought out his old multi-tool. I noticed his hand shaking as he swung out the screwdriver bit. He put his left hand on my shoulder to steady himself as he reached over to loosen the screws. His eyes were moist as he tried to put the blade into the slot. In a little while he had the screws out and carefully placed them in his pocket. I dragged the tool box back out of the doorway and we stepped outside. Neither of us wanted to look around at the empty room that once was a happy world for us. Sue’s curtains, Gary’s counter, Joy’s high stool and Glen’s beloved “prophecy corner” were now forever in the past. We walked to the truck to replace the hard hats. Glen remembered to readjust the band on his hat. Then he walked back to the curious worker and held out his hand to show him the little bell.

“That’s all you wanted?” the man asked incredulously.

“That’s all that‘s left” said Glen.

When Glen returned, I said, in what I thought was a light mood, “You sure rang that little bell a lot of times over the years, didn’t you, my friend?”

Glen touched the pocket where it was and said, “Yes, but not enough times, not nearly enough.”

He walked to one of the fallen oak trees and leaned on it with both arms. Then this good, strong man began to cry.

Sue Says Goodbye

Glen’s landlady called up the steps, “Mr. Brock, someone on the phone wants you.” Glen arose from the folding chair by his study table and went down the darkened steps to take the phone from her outstretched hand. People never called him any more and he was puzzled as to who it would be. He was even more surprised to hear the voice of Sue.

“Hi, Glen! I’m leaving tonight and I wondered if I could see you just one more time?" Glen was stunned. No one had told him Sue was moving away, and he felt a stab of sorrow at her announcement.

“Sure” he said, “where are you”?

“Well, I’ve already moved my stuff out, what little there is. My car is all packed and I’m leaving tonight. Can you meet me at the Blue Bird in about half an hour?" Still reeling from surprise, Glen answered automatically, “Sure, sure, that will be fine.” His landlady studied his face with sympathy as she tried to read his emotions.

He went upstairs to pick up his jacket and turned off his reading light. He looked at his watch on the table and figured he had enough time to walk to the Blue Bird.

His mind raced as he strode along. He had somehow counted on Sue always being here. She had dreams of opening a fabric shop and seemed contented with her circumstances.. He was mystified by the new direction her life was taking and the vibrancy of her voice. It was as if she was a new person almost overnight.

As he crossed the street to the Blue Bird he saw her sitting at a booth by the window. He entered and sat down across from her. She reached over to touch his hand. “Sorry about the short notice” she said, “but everything is happening so quickly I hardly have time to think.”

Before she could continue, Cheryl appeared to take their orders. Sue went first. “I’d like a barbecue sandwich,” she said, “with home fries and a root beer.”

“And I suppose you would like your regular, grilled cheese” Cheryl said to Glen, already writing it down. “Not tonight” he said, “I’ll have what the lady is having, it sounds real good.”

After Cheryl walked away, Glen looked at Sue with such a questioning look that she felt pity for her old friend. “It happened like this” she began. “A couple of days ago I got a letter from a guy I went to school with. I really liked him and I thought he liked me. We were both kind of shy and nothing came of it, but I always felt there was some kind of bond between us. I was thrilled when I saw his name on the envelope. You know, that he had remembered me after all those years." Glen smiled at her phrase “all those years” but figured it must have seemed like a long time to her.

She went on, “Anyway, when I read his letter I was knocked for a loop. He told me he had married a local girl up there, in New York, I mean, and they had a little girl. I was so disappointed that he had married. Unrealistic of me, I know, like I was hoping he was still single as I was, like he was waiting for me or something. But then he said his wife was dead, killed in a car wreck. It was really dumb too, she wasn’t even driving. She was a passenger in a car driven by a neighbor, some ditzy woman who talked non stop and everybody said didn’t pay attention when she was driving. His wife had agreed to help her shop for something and as they backed out of the driveway she didn’t see a truck was coming, because of a row of evergreens. The truck hit on the passenger side and his wife died almost instantly. Their little girl was with her grandmother at the time.”

Cheryl brought their orders and Sue bowed her head as Glen said grace. She put the fingers of her left hand lightly on the bun and cut little pieces off with her fork. Glen, holding his sandwich with both hands, lowered it to his plate and followed her example. They ate in silence for a time before Sue continued, “He wanted to know if I had ever married, and, if I was still single, would I consider moving up there to be his wife and be a mother to his little girl? Just like that! Not very romantic, but he said he would give me lots of time to consider it and meanwhile we could explore his beloved Adirondacks. We could go in his Adirondack boat, whatever that is?”

“Kind of like a canoe with oars.” Glen said. It’s unique to the region and a handy little craft.”

“All I know about Adirondack things is those deep chairs” Sue said lightly.”You sit in them very long and you can’t get out.”

“Maybe they had servants to help pull you up?” Glen quipped. Sue laughed at the idea, diverted, for the moment, from her rushing thoughts.

“His name is Marc, “ she added, “he has a bait and tackle shop near Plattburgh, way up north. He lives in an apartment but has a down payment on a cabin near the wilderness area. He wants to guide people, says it is so vast you could go forever and not see the same lake twice."

Glen was trying to take it all in. Amazing, he thought, you think you know someone, even yourself, and then things happen and a whole new person emerges. But not new, he reflected, just the one you really have been all along.

Sue ate a fork full of slaw, then patted her mouth daintily with a napkin before she pulled her brooch up from inside her blouse. She opened it to reveal a picture of a young man with dark hair and blue eyes. “His name is Marc Jewell” she said. Then, opening her purse she retrieved his letter and lifted out a picture of the little girl, shyly looking up and holding a doll in her arms. "Looks like her father, doesn’t she?” she said. “But, honestly, Glen, can you see me as a mother!”

Glen swallowed a bite of his barbecue and hastened to say “You’ll be a natural, Sue, you can’t miss. All the children at the shop loved you.”

“Thank you, Glen” she answered, “But you know, I have been a child myself for too long, I’m going to have to grow up fast. All those ideas about a fabric shop and sewing, I mean I’ve been so unrealistic.”

Glen looked at her with affection. “Is this cabin furnished?” he asked. Sue pulled out some pictures Marc had sent her. “Oh, no, it’s never been lived in, it’s not even completely finished." She pointed to a picture of the interior. “This is his idea of decorating!” She had her finger on a window frame with what looked like a tree branch laid across two nails as a curtain rod. “I mean, I like things rustic, but he doesn’t even have a clue!” she giggled.

Glen took a swig of his root beer. “Looks like some curtains are in order and the little girl” , “Janet”, Sue interjected, “Janet, is holding a doll that you could sew clothes for. You know how fast a three year old grows, you could be busy sewing for her for a long, long time.”

“Oh, and I didn’t tell you” Sue added with excitement, "Marc wants to home school Janet! Now that is really a challenge.”

“You’ll have a couple of years to prepare” Glen said, “I know you can do it.”

By now that had finished their food and were sipping the last of their root beers. “What do you think, Glen? Am I crazy to go up there?"

“You’d be crazy not to” Glen said with conviction. They stood up and Glen walked to the register to pay the bill. Cheryl gave Glen a sidelong look. “She’s real cute, Glen” she said coyly.

“That’s what her fiancee’ thinks” he replied.

Outside, Sue took his arm and guided him, “I’m over here” she stopped by her little red car, parked under a street light. It was filled with boxes and shopping bags full of clothing and bedding. He saw a lamp made of pieces of painted wood. It was a bird and a birdhouse. Sue saw him looking at it. “I call that my birdy lamp” she said “I got it for my sixth birthday. It's the last thing I have to remind me of my childhood.”

Glen looked at the boxes and bags piled high. "I hope you can see out ok. Be careful changing lanes. Use your side mirrors.”

“I will, I’ll use my mirrors, don’t worry.” They stood in silence before Sue got out her keys out and opened the door. She turned to him and wrapped her arms around his neck as she kissed him goodbye. She held on as she told him “I’ll never forget you, Glen, never!”

Then she gave him one more quick kiss and slid into the driver’s seat . “That goes double for me” Glen said to himself. Sue started the engine and fastened her seat belt. She rolled the window down and checked her mirrors before she pulled out. Glen saw her little hand wave to him one last time.

He turned to go home. The night air was filled with the smell of wet leaves. He walked slowly. He was in no hurry to get back to his empty room.