The last time I went to the truck stop (two weeks ago), I wrote about a missed opportunity when the trucker mentioned how he and his wife were firm believers in the law of God. Well, this week was a time to reclaim that opportunity, as the same truck driver returned, and this time brought his wife.
I told her that I appreciated meeting her, as her husband spoke very highly of her and that she was someone I sincerely wanted to meet. Indeed, she is a bright, articulate lady who knows her Bible and is firm in her convictions.
I began by saying that our discussion of two weeks previous got me thinking about God’s law, and that the materials I had planned for today related to that. It was indeed good that they were there. We began by reading a large section of James 2, which calls it a “royal law”. In addition we read how faith and law work together, and I asked how this could be. We also discussed how Abraham’s faith “wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect”. We see in this chapter that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (v 24).
So how does one explain this in the context of salvation by grace?
We discussed how in the new covenant the law is internalized (Hebrews 8) by being “written on our hearts”. Instead of it being an external thing imposed from without, it is something by which the love of God manifests itself. If we have love in our hearts, we won’t even have to think about telling the truth, or refraining from stealing, or killing. Instead we will be willing to give (instead of steal), save lives (instead of take them), speak the truth in love (instead of obfuscating and lying), etc. So if you show me your faith apart from your works, I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).
Faith is doing what God says and trusting that everything will turn out okay, even though it might not appear so at the time. James uses the illustration of Abraham, who obeyed God even though what God told him to do made no sense to Abraham at the time. Abraham had the faith to know that God knew what he was talking about. Often it is that way with us when we look at God’s laws.
As we discussed these issues, I decided to go out on the limb and ask them why most of Christianity these days, while outwardly professing a belief in the Ten Commandments, refuses to keep the fourth one. The lady replied, “Well, you tell us.” I indicated that I wanted their opinion on it. The answer told me that they view Sunday as the New Testament substitute for the seventh day Sabbath. In any case, it is obvious that they see the benefit in a day of rest in order to reorient someone to the true values in life. Their belief—and it is probably a correct one—is that “blue laws” were done away because of a desire to make more money. Their stand is that “blue laws” were a good thing because it forced employers to give people a day of rest.
I told them that I keep the seventh day because I see it in the Ten Commandments and I see it as an ordinance from creation. Their stand is that one day in seven is fine, and to keep the seventh day is legalistic and that the principal is the important thing. They also had some contradictory comments about how Jesus worked on the Sabbath when He picked grain (so a day of rest isn’t necessary after all?), but I opted not to get into a theological food fight and instead just plant the seeds. They did take some literature regarding the Sabbath with them, so we’ll see what happens.
I pointed out that Isaiah says the Sabbath is supposed to be a delight and not a bondage, and that it was a tremendous gift that God gave to mankind. The Israelites were slaves, and God actually had to teach them that it was okay to take a day off in order to spend time with family, friends, and God. That is a lesson that many in our society would do well to learn.
We spent additional time talking about problem resolution in the church. They apply Matthew 18 for problems within their congregation. The people are told to settle it among themselves before getting the pastor involved. If they can’t settle it among themselves, then they bring in an arbiter from outside their congregation in order to mediate. If they have a problem with someone from the outside bringing in heresy or a personal non-biblical agenda, then the pastor handles that one directly.
They also have few socials, per se. They do have study groups, but their pastor wants them to be involved in the community. I presume the idea is to keep the church from becoming a closed social club, but also to provide light and salt to the community around them.
This was a good day at the truck stop.
Arlo was in Tulsa this weekend for a conference, so I flew solo today. There was one trucker, a fellow from California. He retired from the Marine Corps a few years ago, and he’s trying to determine what God’s will is for his life. He feels a call to the ministry, not so much to pastor but to be involved on the ground in solving social problems with a God-based approach. He mentioned his work with “Toys for Tots” during his days in the Marine Corps, realizing how many people there are who need help.
It was gratifying to talk with this man because he is a man with a good heart but a humble spirit. He was very up front about his lack of Bible knowledge (until today he owned only a New Testament), but asked good question after good question about God and the Bible and claimed that he wanted to learn more and more.
He kept coming back to controversies in some churches regarding homosexuality. On the one hand he sees the Bible condemning such behavior, but on the other he sees scriptures that talk about not judging and having compassion. How does one resolve this tension? We discussed this at some length (hate the sin, love the sinner type of stuff). Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but also told her “you can go now, but don’t do it again.”
There is a difference between a sinner who comes into your midst and wants to change and one who is arrogant about one’s lifestyle. If someone wants help in overcoming, that is what the church is there for. If in your ministry you are working with someone who has led a sinful life but is looking to change, should we not reach out to him? We were able to discuss that repentance is not only saying you are sorry for your sins, but also turning around and changing your way of life, a concept that was rather new to him.
He understood that sin is transgressing the Ten Commandments, but we took it a step further and looked at how Jesus magnified the law in the Sermon on the Mount.
He wanted to know if God created a devil, and we studied Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.
As you can see, his interest and curiosity has been working overtime. One topic in particular shows how he has attempted to take the Bible for what it says. He has come to see that death means death, and that we don’t have immortal souls. He could not reconcile the concept of a resurrection with going to heaven. He asked my opinion, and we reviewed the classic scriptures about “the soul that sins, it shall die” and the resurrection chapter (1 Corinthians 15). He was also curious about the nature of the resurrected body, which is answered in that passage.
He was appreciative of the fact that I answered his questions by reading from the Bible. He had posed this question on the soul to a chaplain at a truckers ministry in Georgia, and the man there simply reasoned with him rather than turning to the scriptures. The trucker is savvy enough to know that the immortality of the soul idea is of Greek rather than Christian background.
Space and time won’t allow me to list all the topics we covered, but two hours passed quickly today. He took a stack of literature and four Bibles with him, one for each member of his family.
Rod Keesee and I were joined by one trucker today.
The trucker was reading the scriptures this week and was struck by a passage in Luke’s Gospel: “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:14-15).
When talking to loved ones, how does one follow the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than trying to figure it all out ahead of time? How do we let the Holy Spirit lead us?
We discussed how sometimes one’s job is to just put the truth of God out there. One sows, another waters, but it is God who must give the increase.
We reviewed James’s Epistle which discusses the need to live the life, setting the proper example that will be attractive to others so that they will want to follow that example. Having said that, they must be willing to take the initiative. They must take it upon themselves to study the Bible and try to live godly lives.
Sometimes people are not open to God’s call. At Pentecost some heard the apostles speaking by miracle in their own languages. Others thought they were drunk. When the Father affirmed Jesus in John 12:28, some heard an audible voice, while others just heard thunder. Some people just seem to be more attuned to things of God than are others. Some people hear God’s still small voice, whilst others have to be hit over the head with a “two-by-four” (Saul of Tarsus being an example).
The trucker took a fist full of tapes with him and seemed to be pleased and encouraged with our discussion.
In today’s Bible study a gentleman from a local Baptist church joined us. He had met with Arlo at a truckers study previously and asked about him (Arlo was unable to make it this morning because of a prior commitment). He feels a calling to a truckers ministry and wants to find some ways that he can help out at the truck stop without competing with us. He seems very sincere and does not seem put off by our acceptance of the seventh day Sabbath. He hopes to be able to serve at the truck stop during the week, which frankly is a real need. The more we do these Bible studies, the more we realize that the truckers are a lonely lot and often need a chaplain of sorts to talk to on more than just one day per week.
Our truck driver today came in a few minutes later. This was a mountain of a man. He literally had to bend over to get in the door. He said he was 6'11", and I don’t doubt his word. He had spent some time on the football field trying out for various NFL teams.
This was a troubled soul. Due to mistakes in his past, he was faced with a bitter ex-wife and her husband who spend a good deal of time verbally abusing and threatening him and his mother. He says one reason he is out on the road is to avoid being near them so that he doesn’t do anything violent. He is constantly fighting the attitude of hatred toward them and therefore feels less than adequate as a Christian and wonders if he is no better than a hypocrite. We spent a long time discussing various scriptures about praying for one’s enemies, even praying that God would turn his tormentors around and cause some to know Him. They are pushing his buttons and getting the payoff by seeing him come unglued. Ultimately, he is the one being hurt by this.
The fellow I mentioned earlier who asked to help us pointed out Romans 7, indicating that Paul had struggles in life—that we all do. He even went so far as to write “O wretched man that I am! Who shall save me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24). Of course the answer is in the next verse: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ”. We cannot lean to our own power to change, but must ask God to get us there.
As to whether he is a hypocrite, the parable in Luke 18 about the publican and the Pharisee praying should set his mind at ease. The real hypocrite hasn’t a clue that he is a hypocrite. The one who cries out to God for compassion is the one who is justified.
I pointed out the example of Peter, who changed from a man with no backbone to one who was literally willing to go to jail and even die for his Savior. The difference was his receiving power from on high on the day of Pentecost.
It appeared to me that the man had a lot of fear—fear that he was coming up short, that he is not good enough for God. I ask him why he seemed to be afraid, and I think my supposition was correct. We talked about how we all fall short, but it is through God’s grace that we are made right. Our own attempts at righteousness are simply not enough. It is God’s will that none should perish, but that all should come to eternal life. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father goes after his son even while the son is a long way off. God will not abandon us unless we totally and willfully turn our backs on Him. But if we decide to turn back, God is there for us.
I hope we helped the man today.
I want to make a request for prayer specifically for the Truckers Bible Study.
The trucker today mentioned to me that Saturday would be an excellent day to have someone down at the truck stop. Many truckers hang out at the truck stop on Saturday and leave on Sunday for their Monday deliveries, therefore the place is usually busier on the seventh day of the week. He says he thinks we’ll have more people come in than what we might think.
There is also an opportunity to do a booth at the truck stop in September on the 25–27 (during the week) for a truckers jamboree.
Here’s our problem. While we would love to take advantage of some of these opportunities, we simply do not have the manpower to pull it off. Money is not the issue. The cost for what we do is so very minor. The issue is getting enough people involved to take advantage of the opportunities that we have. Arlo and I both work for a living and have other responsibilities in life. We simply can’t do it all.
Jesus once said to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the field. That’s partly what we are asking for, but also that we know what God’s will is regarding our little efforts. Would everyone please join us in prayer on this one?
705 NE Bryant Drive, Lees Summit, Missouri 64068