Our six or seven men today were very well versed in the Scriptures and their love for God and his Word was evident. They were eager to talk, eager to discuss, and eager to learn about ways to apply the word to their lives. When I first went into the room today (about a half hour early) two men were there watching television. I told them about the study and both stayed.
I went into the study with a short prepared presentation on a specific subject, but one of the men said he had been studying Job and was having a hard time with it. King James English is next to impossible in that book and I suggested a study guide I found on the book (J. Vernon McGee’s commentary) that has been most helpful for me. I also suggested reading the book from a modern translation, which has also helped. We spent most of the morning discussing Job and the various lessons from it.
One thing that troubles many of these men is the difficulty in being totally accurate and legal in their log books. A slew of conflicting state, federal, and company rules make compliance almost impossible, and the desire to do things legally and trying to get the job done are not always compatible.
This led me to ask the question: “What is the purpose of man’s law versus what is the purpose of God’s law?” This leads inevitably to a discussion on the wisdom of the Ten Commandments, which then leads in the direction of why God commands a Sabbath rest. Bottom line is the law is a blessing. If we keep God’s law, things will go well with us. We named several commandments that can be found in the first few chapters of Genesis, including the Sabbath command.
One of the men mentioned how his health suffers because he does not obey that command. All the men seemed to understand that there is divine wisdom in having a day of rest, and at least one man mentioned that man changed the day from the seventh day to the first.
I find that the Sabbath can be used as a club. We can beat people over the head with arguments about which day is which, but I also find that it is more effective to present the day as a wonderful gift from God, a blessing conferred upon free people from his love and concern. People can see this. Once that is on the table, God can work with them in determining which is His day. They will ask if God so moves them.
[See article at end of this page — NSE]
June 23, 2002
Opportunity lost today, but not a major deal. This was, how should we say it, one of the livelier Bible Studies. We had some men today who are deeply committed to their faith, and not only that, knew the Scriptures as well as anybody. We also had a woman there who was without question heavily distressed, whether she realized it or not. She was loud, interrupted continually, and took offense if her interruptions were not acknowledged. At one point early on, as I was having an interesting exchange with one of the men, she got up and left complaining that we were ignoring her because she’s white. “What do you do with someone like that?” I voiced. A few minutes later she returned and people accepted her back.
One of the men in the course of the conversation gently alluded to demons that were bothering her, something that had crossed my mind as well.
We covered a lot of different topics, but of interest to me were some of the interactions. One of the men was intent on arguing with the lady, while most of the others were more intent on answering her questions and helping her. One man, though intense and direct, was forceful yet understanding when describing how he became a Christian (previously an atheist) and how it turned his life around. I for one have a hard time denying that his experience was a real one.
Afterwards, I was speaking with one of the men, and he told me that he at one time looked into the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) and almost became a part of them. Of the people there today, he was probably the most Biblically literate, and I feel it was a missed opportunity not to take an hour and ask him questions I have about Islam and why he walked away from it. He did ask an interesting “trick” question: Was Jesus a Christian? The answer, of course, is no—He was Jewish. And his point is the same one that you and I would make—that we must understand the cultural context of the Scriptures.
Today was a great encouragement.
[One of the major criticisms of interactive studies is that “anybody can say anything and it frequently turns into an argument; whereas with one speaker, there are no arguments.” But it is through these sometimes difficult circumstances that we all learn—we learn to do what is necessary to really help a person, not just to sound like we are right or to make the other person sound wrong. Jesus and the Apostles certainly answered many questions and confronted many people, both happy and hostile, throughout their ministry. It is this that produces growth (Heb 5:7–9, 1Pet 2:1–3) — NSE].
July 14, 2002
Just a few comments and impressions about today. We had three drivers who had fire in their bellies.
One of the men in particular had an interesting story. He is married to a woman in Russia for whom he is trying to get an entrance visa. Her family is Baptist of Russian heritage but living in Tashkent, a Muslim area. When the Soviet Union broke up, they were forced out of Tashkent and into Moscow. However, because they had not lived in Russia for five years they could not get work visas and had to essentially apply for citizenship.
Even now in Russia those who are Bible-believing Christians are looked down upon. The Russian Orthodox Church dominates religious life and is closely tied with the government. There is also some concern about the Russians moving back to a Communist system and becoming more xenophobic.
His efforts to get his wife into this country have been slowed considerably due to bureaucratic snafus and more careful work by the INS since 9/11. He requests prayers to get her into this country.
We talked about the young rich man and the dilemma he faced in Christ’s challenge to him and the statement by Jesus that “if you are to enter into life, keep the commandments”. So what does this mean if salvation is by grace alone?
— Lenny Cacchio
705 NE Bryant Drive
Lee’s Summit, Missouri 64086
[Even after the resurrection of Christ, John wrote “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1Jn 2:3–5). One can know that he or she belongs to Christ because they will be keeping the commandments. But how?
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Gal 2:20–21). If we were independently able to keep the commandments perfectly, we would not need Christ. But I cannot do that, nor have I met anyone who has done that. We are not perfect of our selves, but can live a life of perfection as we let Christ do it in us:
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom 7:24–8:1). “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Rom 7:12); it is our inability to do it that it is the problem.
When we sin, we are not letting Christ live his life in us. That is why we need to “put to death” our own deeds (Rom 8:13). When we let Christ live in us, then He does His deeds. Only by rejecting Christ and his sacrifice can we become unrighteous in God’s sight (Heb 10:26–27). “…He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb 13:5). God always wants us; all we have to do is always want him! — NSE]
We Need Good Laws
(Commentary on the Truckers Bible Study)
Most truckers are required to log the location, date and time of every place they stop. Government rules prevent them from driving too many hours in a day or without a break (plus a lot of other things). Yet, a trucking company may decrease the driver’s pay if the truck is “late”. Following government rules and meeting the company schedule may be possible in perfect conditions, but a simple traffic jam, road repair or storm could delay a driver so much that he would have to choose between driving longer than allowed, arriving late or making up for lost time by speeding. Indeed, a driver may be penalized for speeding if his logs show that he covered a long distance in too short of a time. Also, a well-rested alert driver may be punished for driving 9 hours in a day, but a driver who stayed up all night gambling can drive 8 hours, dead-tired, and not be in violation of any rules.
One reason that these rules came to be was because some truck drivers tried to drive too many hours at once and their tiredness caused accidents. Also, the trucking companies set tight driving schedules knowing that if they give their drivers extra time, that some will use it for entertainment or other unneeded things. The rules do not particularly help the majority of drivers trying to do a good job.
Adding rules rarely changes the attitude of those that want to cheat. Even with rules and lots of checking, a few truck drivers still sometimes drive over 24 hours without a rest—often by using drugs. Unrighteous people remain unrighteous, their dishonesty just becomes more sophisticated. Dishonest drivers can still take time for entertainment, get a phony receipt showing that they had “repairs”, then drive too long or too fast to make up for the lost time.
With contradictory demands placed upon the truckers by government and industry, otherwise righteous people are often forced into becoming “law-breakers”—they must decide which of the numerous rules they will break. I can recall my high school driving instructor saying, “Nobody can drive perfectly legally, because there are so many traffic laws that almost nobody knows them all and nobody could keep them all in mind and do them all at once.” I remember thinking at the time, “If the laws are unlearnable, why pass them at all?” “Why not pass a small body of primary laws that everyone is responsible for knowing, and then create a separate body of secondary laws for guidance in resolving court cases, but for which neither citizen nor policeman would be responsible directly?”
It took me many years to realize that we were dealing with a corrupt system of laws that has been used to repress honest people for thousands of years. That may sound like a rash statement, but it is true. Even in the time of the Pharisees, they had a complex system of laws that the average person who was really working for a living could not understand. “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him [Jesus]? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed” (John 7:48–49). The Pharisees were not talking about the words of the Bible, because Jesus never disagreed with those—the Pharisees rejected Jesus because He often disagreed with their complex body of man-made laws. Those were the laws that the “crowd” did not know and for which they looked down upon them.
The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with their law—Jesus healed a man and told him to carry his bed on the Sabbath, but they said, “no” (John 5:9–11). Jesus let His disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, they said, “no” (Luke 6:2–4). The Pharisees said one could dedicate one’s property to the temple and not have to use it to help one’s parents; but Jesus said “no” (Mark 7:10–13). Jesus did not pay the temple tax with His own money, but miraculously supplied money simply in order not to offend the people (Matt 17:24–27).
The few people who understood those complex laws of the Pharisees were mainly the people who spent their lives studying them. The working people did not have such time to study. The Roman and European systems of law were also complex—so complex that the average person had to be represented by a “lawyer” in court—a man who may or may not have had his “client’s” best interest in mind. It was not until the founding of the USA that most men and women had a right to defend themselves, and had laws simple enough that most working people could understand them. By today, those rights have been greatly eroded.
There are now vast code sections (like trucking regulations) that are nearly impossible for an average person to know, but for which they could still be accused and punished. Indeed, if a person in government gets angry at a citizen, it is often fairly easy to find some law that the citizen is unknowingly breaking and to have him punished for it. This is not the kind of justice the Bible proclaims, but more like the monarchies or fascist governments of history—which we thought we had escaped.
By biblical law, crimes had to have a victim—somebody to be compensated for the crime, and two or more witnesses who could attest to the crime. (The main exception to this were crimes against God, which still required witnesses.) Today we have many bureaucratic crimes—nobody is hurt, but when a procedure is not followed, somebody is punished. Honest, righteous people can be made into criminals because someone decides to prosecute them for a violation of a code section that was not known to them and that is violated by many other people every day.
It was nonsense like this that caused the framers of our constitution to include the phrase in the fifth amendment stating: “no person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Everyone could be punished if citizens could be compelled to answer question after question until they admit to breaking laws that they did not know existed.
The fifth amendment should apply to many of the government-regulated areas, such as the trucking industry, that require people to keep records that are frequently used as testimony against themselves. But I do not know how long it would take to bring such a “test case” to trial, or whether any court would ever agree with this concept. A person who needs to drive a truck to put bread on the table would certainly starve to death before their case was resolved.
While I do not openly encourage believers to write and sign false trucking logs, I certainly have talked to those who have done it. A husband and wife team told me that when she was sick, she would drive only 4 hours per day and he would drive 12, but their log book said each drove 8 in order to comply with regulations. Their only other choice was to quit, but they badly needed the money at the time. When others have had to sign documents where there is no “honest way” to do them, they sometimes write “under duress” or “U.D.T.C.” (under duress, threat or coercion) afterward. Employers often accept documents signed like this, but I do not know the effect that such a signature would have if the document were used as evidence in court. (If one of our readers has reliable information on this, I would be interested in publishing it.)
I can tell my own story about working as a computer programmer for the Worldwide Church of God. It was often more efficient to do a large project as quickly as possible. I would sometimes work 60 to 80 hours in one week, then take a few days off for a trip to the mountains, beach, etc. Eventually, the WCG began to try to comply with the myriad of California employee regulations, and began asking programmers to submit signed time-cards containing our daily work hours. The state required them to pay 150% overtime for each hour over 8 worked in one day and 200% overtime if more than 12 hours were worked in a day. These rules would have destroyed our work arrangements which were beneficial to both the WCG and its programmers. So for many years, I and many of the other programmers, dutifully signed timecards that said 8 hours per day, and kept separate records of how many hours we actually worked so we would average out to 40 hours per week. I did not consider, then, that both programmers and management could have been prosecuted for that practice.
Many people will be quick to say that those state regulations were designed to protect workers, and that is partly true. But at times, they hurt both owners and workers. The bottom line is that the rules give the state great control, and leave little freedom for the workers and their managers to schedule work in a way that is best for both of them.
Unfortunately, many Church of God brethren, well-schooled in the benefits of God’s law, get His law and man’s law mixed up. Some seem to think, “the more law, the better—we will be blessed for learning and obeying all of it”. But Jesus made it very clear that many of the laws made by the leaders in His day were bad—even spiritually:
“For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers… But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matt 23:4,13).
Since “We the People” are officially still the highest authority in the USA, we all bear some responsibility for the vast amount of overly complex and unjust regulation in our land. I do not know whether Christians can fix this in our lifetime, but anyone who hopes to rule with Christ in the Kingdom of God should be able to understand why the vast body of rules and regulations we have today is not good. As the Pharisees with their complex laws deceived some and prevented them from going into the Kingdom in the first century, so today, the modern concepts of “law” are deceiving believers from understanding Biblical justice and may well keep some of them from ruling with Christ.
Indeed, some CoG brethren view the Bible as “hidden truth” and believe that God will save those who figure His truth out “just right”. These also tend to believe that most Christians who have tried to live by the Bible have accepted some false doctrine, which will prevent them from being in the first resurrection. This idea that “God punishes people for what they did not know” fits in fine with a governing state that has a massive body of regulations and selectively prosecutes citizens for infractions that they could not avoid or did not know about. Indeed, many believers assume that anyone accused by the civil authorities must be “somehow bad”, even before they have heard the charges or evidence against them. The leaders of Jesus’ day encouraged just such an attitude, they wanted Pilate to assume Jesus was guilty simply because they accused him:
Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you” (John 18:29)
The Bible does not teach extensive regulations designed to “prevent crime” that end up making nearly everyone criminals; it teaches easy access to justice equally fair to rich and poor alike (Ex 23:2–3; Lev 19:15; Deut 1:17; 10:17; 16:18–20). Today, the O. J. Simpson verdicts, the cost of lawyers, and many other cases demonstrate that the wealthy are much better off in the courts than the poor.
Instead of thousands of regulations designed to “protect” truckers from their companies, what truckers need is a court system that would allow them to simply and justly settle individual grievances. Would the courts like this be filled with frivolous suits? Not if the principle in Deuteronomy 19:16–20 were employed. But that is another article. We have a lot of work to do!
— Norman Edwards