One of the guests today joined us for the fourth time, and we had another repeat customer as well. We were later joined by a couple, making a total of four guests. It is a greater challenge when people return for the third or fourth time, since it means we have to have fresh material handy. It is easy to present the same things week after week when there are different people every time, but this development is both a compliment (they like the studies so much that they make a point to come back), but also a challenge (having several potential study topics in one’s notebook in order to keep the studies fresh).
This week I took my notes from personal study regarding the Pharisees and Sadducees. The main idea was to show that they were masters of propaganda, and to discuss some of the techniques they used. Jesus warns us to “let no man deceive you”, so it’s incumbent upon us to understand Satan’s devices. We spent close to an hour on this subject and did not exhaust it.
One of the men requested prayer for an illness, which I am passing on to everyone. He understands that God is the healer.
The gentleman who joined us today for the fourth time is also in need of prayer and support. Let me state up front that he has not asked for any financial help and in fact one week refused help that I offered. He is not a truck driver, but works as a mover, which means he travels with moving vans and helps load and unload. The fact that he has been in our truck stop four out of the last six weeks leads me to believe that he is having some difficulty in finding work.
Early in the study he mentioned that he faced a week of trials and wonders if God is punishing him for some reason, which I suppose is a somewhat natural reaction. In reality, I doubt that he believes it, since at one point in the study he mentioned how sometimes when he prays while going through trials, a thought will pop into his head along the lines of “I love you and I died for you. I will take care of you,” and then he feels at peace.
At any rate, I ask that everyone hold up this very sincere and knowledgeable Bible student before God, first, to give him the strength to bear the burden he carries, and secondly to open his mind to come to know God better. He is about as sincere and open in seeking God as anyone I have seen, and at the same time has a deep inner strength and integrity.
We had one trucker today from Wyoming, who is somewhat new to his study of Scripture, but was very open-minded, very eager to learn, and most importantly very much in submission to God’s will in his life.
He said that he had been reading the minor prophets, most notably Micah, and we directed him to Micah 4, which talks about the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. He mentioned that it has only been within the past year that he has come to see that Jesus will come back and reign on the earth, and that many Christians don’t seem to grasp this. We also discussed that the Gospel does entail the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection which gives us salvation, but that the Gospel also includes the return of Jesus to the earth and His kingdom. We studied Isaiah 61, which seems to cover all aspects of the Gospel, and is also the section of Scripture that Jesus read in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth.
He made some interesting comments that I believe are pertinent and wise to consider. When troubles and trials arise, he tries to come at them from the approach that this isn’t home. The important thing is that God will solve all the problems, and that our home is “in heaven”. Obviously I don’t I agree with the “going to heaven” concept, but the idea that our travails are temporary and in the end God will fix them all (“wiping away all tears”) is scriptural.
Once again we had the opportunity to share the fact that this is not the only day of salvation. We got there by acknowledging that some people, who are decent human beings, just have no interest in things of God.
We discussed Matthew 11 in conjunction with Romans 11 and Revelation 20. He seemed to be very pleased with the clear biblical indications of the first and second resurrections, and that decent human beings who have not had a chance to understand will one day have that chance.
What a merciful God we know who has such a plan! How sad that so few can understand that! But how distressing it is when some get angry when this truth is discussed (which has happened on occasion). It is a strange view of God that some have.
Today’s discussion was enjoyable. Talking with someone who is truly thirsting for Biblical understanding and seeing him figure out from his own Bible things that you and I take for granted—can anything be more rewarding than that?
We had two drivers today, including a repeat guest who joined us for the third time.
We began by looking at 1 Peter 2, which mentions that we are a royal priesthood. The wording is very similar to what we read in Exodus 19, where Israel was told essentially the same thing. A priesthood acts as an intermediary between God and man, and if that is the case, then it should imply that we should be acting in that capacity in our dealings with others.
Now, I find this concept to be interesting and exciting, but the serious Bible students I talked with today, whilst polite, acted like this is old news to them. I suppose my background has kept me from seeing this, where conventional wisdom has the ministry replacing the Levitical priesthood, relegating the rest of us to “pay and pray” activities. Some people really are ahead of us in some things!
One trucker talked about the growth in his church, which he attributes to leadership that is led by the Holy Spirit with a commitment to service rather than church building. This was refreshing in that too many church building programs today seem to be based on motives that are less than service-oriented.
We discussed Joseph and his time in prison, and how he remained faithful to God and how God remained with him, and the trucker said that he had spent three years in prison, but in some ways they were the best years of his life, for it was in prison that he began to study the Bible and came to know God. Even though he was in prison, he said he experienced a freedom that is hard to understand. God had given him grace. When the Scriptures say that the Lord was with Moses and showed him mercy, he could certainly identify with that.
We had a pleasant discussion today and were able to provide a place to discuss the Scriptures. We didn’t change any lives or attitudes, but we were able to provide a service for two men who wanted to spend a little time talking about the Bible and their relationship with God.
[Who knows? Maybe your report of this study will change some lives and attitudes. Maybe some long-time WCG member will realize that people in non-Sabbatarian groups have studied their Bible, asked God for understanding, and have learned truths that were never not taught in the WCG. That does not mean that Sunday-keeping or other errors are right. But, it should teach us that we did not come from “the church with the truth”, but from a group with some truth and a lot more learning to do. God is patient! With many people! — NSE]
It is always best to let the Holy Spirit move the Bible Study. I had a wonderful topic put together to talk about today, and all it produced was the proverbial “deer in the headlights” look. This has happened more than once the past few months. A subject that could work in a Church of God congregation often is totally irrelevant (or worse, totally elementary) to people of other church backgrounds.
The challenging thing about these studies is the impossibility of knowing in advance the level of understanding of the guests for the day. That means one must always be perceptive, flexible, and willing to jump around in the Scriptures until you hit a hot button.
In today’s study we began with four truckers who came more to listen than to interact. After my initial brush with irrelevancy, I went to various favorite Scripture topics, all of which fell flat until we got into the concepts in James’ epistle about “faith without works is dead”. It was about this time that we were joined by a fifth trucker (an immigrant from Belize), who frankly added lots of energy to the discussion.
Showing one’s faith by one’s works is very self-evident, if you think about it, but James points to the fact that we must live a life worthy of our calling. Of particular interest to me is the few last verses of James 2 which says that Abraham was called the friend of God. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you are God’s friend, that He walks beside you in all that you do? That He is with you daily?
In Matthew 7 we read about those who cast out demons in Jesus Christ’s name, did many wonderful works in His name, but then they are told, “I never knew you.” The fruits weren’t in their lives. The real works of righteousness—doing what God says even when it doesn’t make any sense, but having the faith that God knows what he is talking about—that’s how we come to know God.
The driver who joined us late made some interesting contributions relative to Jesus Christ’s comment to the Pharisees that “you are gods” and the destiny of man, which led naturally to a discussion of Hebrews 2. It was good to get people looking to eternity and the purpose God has for each and every one of us.
This driver stayed afterwards, and I told him that I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of everyone, but that the Bible study was totally flat until he came in, and it was only after he joined us that things began to come together. We had prayed before the study that if anyone else would be interested in studying the Bible, they would find their way up to our meeting, and God certainly answered that prayer today.
One trucker joined us today, who will be retiring in just a few months. He was quite knowledgeable about the Bible, and he wanted to tell the story of how God selected Saul to be the first king of Israel. He pointed out that God chose a poor man from the smallest clan of the smallest tribe, showing that God often chooses the humblest of people to serve Him. God brought Saul to Samuel, showing that God will put us in the right place at the right time. And Saul tried to hide, showing that God knows where we are and will make sure we can’t hide.
The trucker was telling this story in light of his pending retirement, illustrating that God will use him somehow as he enters retirement by putting him where God wants him to be. This struck me as a beautiful illustration of faith.
He belongs to an independent Pentecostal church, but he used to be a Baptist. He has never spoken in tongues himself, and he has studied the issue at length and has come to realize that tongues is not the greatest of the gifts. I was surprised that he understood that Acts 2 shows that the miracle was in the hearing and not the speaking.
He says he has experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in his life as illustrated by changes in his life since he was “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, which came many years after he was baptized in 1960 at repentance. He related this to change that occurred in Peter between the time that he denied Christ and the events of Acts 2, where Peter preached a powerful, bold sermon.
His church, though Pentecostal, does not seem to be judgmental regarding those who have not spoken in tongues. We turned to several scriptures in 1 Corinthians regarding the issue, and he was very familiar with them, having studied them at great length. In his church, tongues-speaking is disregarded unless someone can “interpret”, since without an “interpreter” such tongue-speaking cannot edify. So without an interpreter, he just disregards the speaker.
I told him that I view “tongues” as being “foreign languages”, and it was evident that he was familiar with this approach. Arlo told a story about someone walking into a Pentecostal church, and then purposely saying something in Latin. Immediately someone came up to “interpret”, whereupon the storyteller says, “No, that’s not what I said.” The way the story goes, they became angry with him and escorted him out.
We covered the concepts of how the Holy Spirit is a gift, and people seem to refuse the gifts that God wants to give. Apparently they think strings are attached, which they are. The truck driver knew that the Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey Him.
It is a pleasure as always to speak with people who sincerely seek God’s will in their lives.
[I am happy to hear about another Pentecostal church that accepts members who do not “speak in tongues”. This man obviously has the opportunity to do it, but has not because he does not believe that God has ever given him something to speak.
Unfortunately, “speaking in tongues” is such an “in thing” at most Pentecostal churches that many members do it whether God inspires it or not. I personally have heard “tongue speaking” sessions where the “message” length was many times longer or many times shorter than the “interpretation”.
Arlo’s story of false interpretation of Latin is very believable and might be a good evangelism tool to wake up some Pentecostal churches that are open to see their error.
But these things do not prove that all “tongue speaking” is false. They just prove that there are tares among the wheat (Matt 13:25). Our job is to make sure we are a grain of wheat, to be be strong and continue on when we meet a tare, to avoid judging a bushel basket (a church group) as 100% tares just because there are a lot of tares on top and to avoid labeling our bushel basket (our group) as 100% wheat. — NSE]
Three truckers joined us today, including Matt, who has been with us a half dozen times or so already, and we haven’t scared him off yet.
One of the truckers used to be a 747 pilot and now drives trucks. I asked why he got into trucking and he says it is no different to flying a plane: both have 18 wheels, and with both you pick up loads and drop them off where you are told to.
The pilot was one of the more interesting fellows to come our way. He was very refined even when disagreeing, articulate to the core, a penchant for story telling, offered unique observations borne from his experience, and he was very interested in what he himself had to say and much less interested in others’ comments.
He has been involved in a number of different ministries of various types, and his own emphasis seems to be on the christian way of life, and whilst he claims to understand that Jesus Christ will return, he doesn’t place much interest in it. Whilst we might view these things differently, listen to his reasons: He says when dealing with hurting people, you must reach them by showing them the love of God in both in your words and deeds. You must get to the underlying source of their problems and comfort their hurts, bind up their broken hearts. All the teaching about the destiny of man is fine, but teaching that without taking care of the immediate needs is like saying “be warmed and filled” and not giving them what they really need.
He belongs to a strongly Calvinist church which harps on about sin all the time, and feels that one can take that too far and overlook the grace of God.
I wish everyone could have an opportunity to talk to people of different religious backgrounds and viewpoints. It’s an education and a challenge.
[For hundreds of years, religious teachers have been prophesying the soon-coming return of Christ. Many people believed it. Some used this preaching to change their lives and begin to serve others. Others used this knowledge to say: “Why should I try to change the world, when Christ will do it in His Kingdom?”
Some died still trying to understand the last little bit of truth about Christ and His Kingdom—having done little to help anyone. When all of these people are raised from the dead, Christ will be ruling. Those who studied the Kingdom will probably recognize what is happening, but what will they say when they are judged? Has their “talent” gained any other “talents”? (Matt 25:14-30).
Believers who have not studied the Kingdom, but concentrated on serving others, may not recognize the Kingdom right away, but it will take only minutes to figure it out. When their judgment time comes, they will be able to show what they did in their life—the “talents” they have gained. Obviously, the best thing is both to learn much truth and to serve many others.
The “Church of God” tradition has been for brethren to give a large amount of money to a central headquarters which would then “preach the Gospel” and do some limited good works. Whilst not perfect, this was better than nothing.
Now that many believers are no longer supporting a big headquarters, they need to consider how they will do good works in the name of Christ. — NSE]
Lenny Cacchio; 705 NE Bryant Drive, Lees Summit, Missouri