It’s a little difficult to describe today’s Bible study. This being a holiday weekend, we weren’t expecting a large number of truck drivers, and we weren’t surprised. On the other hand, some unique circumstances made this an interesting experience. My old friends Rod and Darwin Keesee (yes, they are brothers) dropped in around 9 a.m., and for some time we discussed lots of “inside” stuff such as tithing (are there three, two, one or none), Holy Days and their meaning, place of safety, Holy Day Offerings and abuse of the same, etc. While we were in the middle of this discussion, our Baptist preacher friend (whom I mentioned last week) came in, and we had to back up and explain a few things related to the jargon that we were using.
Think about it. When we say “Place of Safety”, what would that mean to someone without a church of God background? Kind of like the word “rapture”—it doesn’t appear in the scriptures. Feast Days—we have to explain that this refers to the High Days of the Old Testament, and so forth. I am glad that his presence changed the tenor of our discussion only slightly. (We backed off the church politics stuff somewhat.)
When talking with Trinitarians, it always jolts me to hear them referring to the Holy Spirit as a “he”, but today it struck me that our lingo must strike others in a curious way as well. When we refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it”, I wonder if little bells go off in their heads. It’s the same with our terms such as “The Feast”.
[Terms like “the Feast” that can be found in the Bible are not too hard to explain. Terms like “place of safety”, “second tithe”, “man becoming God”, etc. are very difficult for others because they are not in the Bible and sound like additions to the scriptures—much like the common doctrines of “Trinity”, “Christmas”, “slain in the spirit”, etc. What one group sees as their divine revelation or cherished Christian tradition, is often seen as non-biblical error to another. — NSE]
We were able to continue our discussion of the symbolism of the feast days, and Darwin pointed out a theory that needs to be pursued and studied a bit more regarding the parallels between the feast days and the ancient Hebrew wedding customs and how they relate to different covenants. The ideas are somewhat tentative, but could prove interesting.
At about 10 a.m. we were joined by a trucker who, it turns out, is a new driver. Previously he had been a missionary and had traveled extensively. He is originally from Argentina, and I noticed that his Bible is the New American Bible, which is a modern English Catholic version. With a Baptist preacher, a former Catholic missionary, and three Church of God guys, communication can suffer unless one has at least a basic understanding of the important theologies of the different groups represented.
As one small example, the missionary made a comment that when Jesus was resurrected it was to a spirit body. I glanced over to our Baptist guest, who had a very troubled look on his face. Now somewhere down the road I had picked up that the nature of Jesus’ resurrected body is a big deal among evangelical Protestants. In fact, they used to accuse the WCG theology of teaching that Jesus’ resurrected body was spirit rather than flesh and bone (which was never WCG theology) and pointed to that as one of the proofs that WCG was a cult. Knowing and understanding this, I was able to explore the question a little further and help clarify the true Biblical explanation. This was particularly important because I don’t want our teachings to be misunderstood and create a problem where no problem exists.
The missionary had an interesting take on John the Baptist, who he said was somewhat of a failure. Why, the question goes, did he not just fold up his ministry when Jesus began to preach and then start to follow the Messiah? Why did he doubt him and end up asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to look for another?” While there is some sense to thinking that, and maybe he was right, it does reveal the organization/ hierarchical concepts of the Catholic Church (the One True Church Idea) we ourselves once knew and loved. Although the scriptures don’t say it, many of us believed that “God always works through one man.”
[An excellent point! Both Catholics and CoG people have a tendency to think that if the Eternal is really working with two different people who know each other, that they would naturally join forces and understand the same things (and one would probably be “over” the other). Christ said, “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matt 11:11). John was great because he lived righteously and fulfilled his mission, even when it cost him his life. Christ does not hold people responsible for truth he has not revealed to them. Christ did not choose John as one of the twelve apostles. John had to ask Christ if he was the Messiah because nearly all the Jews at that time were looking for someone who would overthrow the Romans and set up a physical kingdom. Even the 12 Apostles were still looking for a physical kingdom after His resurrection (Acts 1:6). Those closest to our Father are sometimes simply told, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). — NSE]
The missionary also related a trip he took to an island in Japan that is one of the few places in that country with a heavy Christian influence. He said that 350,000 Japanese Christians have been martyred (I presume he meant since Christianity was first introduced there) and that they still suffer discrimination and persecution. He had an obvious significant emotional experience, as his voice broke with emotion as he spoke about them.
We also had a discussion about the destiny of man and the resurrections. One thing we were pleased to hear was our Baptist friend stating that he believed that God will grant salvation to anyone who sincerely seeks him whether they proclaim Christianity or not. He pointed to Romans 1, which says that God is revealed through his creation, and therefore, in his mind, even those with a rudimentary knowledge of God will be saved. Now, we disagree with this and explained Revelation 20 and the resurrections, but we do appreciate that the God he envisions is a God of mercy. That’s a step above where many are.
A final example relates to what seemed to be a totally non-sensical remark made by the Baptist. We were having a bit of a discussion on the book of Revelation (I think it was about going through persecution during the tribulation), whereupon he commented that the Church is nowhere mentioned in Revelation after the fourth chapter. We said, “What about Revelation 12?” He contended that referred to Israel. Still, I was having trouble understanding his point. Later it dawned on me. He was trying to make the point that whatever it was we were arguing about was unimportant because the church was going to be “raptured” away anyway. His theology even had a way of disposing of Revelation 12.
All this points out the need to learn about what other people believe so that we can pick up on their cues. The more we know about them, the more we can understand their perspectives. And who knows? Maybe sometimes their perspectives are better then ours!
[Who gets to decide what is symbolic of “the Church”, “Israel”, a nation or a literal person in Revelation? Is what we believe right because we believe it? Or because we have truth in one area, does that mean our interpretation of prophecy must be right? I don’t believe the “rapture” doctrine is correct either, but I hope I have learned to be as patient toward other’s prophetic understanding as I would hope they are with mine — NSE]
One young man was relatively new to Christianity and even newer to over-the-road trucking. He is one year past his baptism and four months into long hauling. He is from Regina, Saskatchewan and found that he could make more money hauling long distance than locally, but this has placed a strain on family life that he recognizes and regrets. But economic necessity sometimes forces difficult choices.
We were visited by one of our “regulars” (I’ve lost count of how many times he has come), and then more and more truckers trickled in throughout the study until we ended up with a total of eight, which is unusually good, but can get somewhat unwieldy. But, hey! Who’s complaining?
The subject matter today was a bit scatterbrained, but some interesting points were raised. Based upon the comments of one of the men, I turned to 2 Timothy 1, where we are told that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind. I was trying to make the point that God can help us overcome problems of depression through the power of His Spirit, but we ended up getting into such areas as spiritual gifts (taking off on verse 6) and why Christians seem to be fearful of the last days instead of full of hope.
I wanted to make the point that too often Christians are filled with paranoia when in fact we should have a sound mind and not fear the future. The questions we should ask regarding the last days should be the same questions that the people asked John the Baptist (Luke 3) when they thought the “wrath to come” was at their door: “What then shall we do?” I believe that question was answered well by John, and then answered again by Jesus himself in Matthew 24 and 25.
I had a lively discussion going on with one of the truckers relative to evangelism and whether our lifestyles reflect the gospel the way it should. All in all, we weren’t in great disagreement—we just express it a little differently. Still, I have to believe that much of the problems that Christians have faced over the past two millennia result from the dissonance between what Christians parrot and what they do. Jesus did tell us that we should let our lights shine before men so that they can see our good works. Once we establish a good reputation, it is then that we have the moral authority to point them to salvation and to show them their sins.
The young Canadian told me how much he misses church, and once again it was impressed on me how important a service we are providing—a safe haven as it were for lonely truckers to be able to share the word of God together.
Three of the truckers today had joined us before. Two were a husband and wife team with whom we have had some engaging and thought-provoking conversations, and today was no exception.
Since tomorrow is the Day of Atonement, I introduced a concept relative to the breach between God and man, a breach that began in the Garden of Eden and can only be healed through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When they sinned, God covered them with skins. The skins could have only come from the death of innocent animals, which means that blood had to be shed, foreshadowing the need for the true Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But in addition to that—and pertinent to the Day of Atonement—the Scriptures say that God “covered” them with the skins. In fact “Yom Kippur” literally means “Day of Covering”.
This led to a lively discussion about sin. The book of Jonah is read in synagogues on the Day of Atonement, and at the end of the book we’re told that the Ninevites didn’t “know their right hand from their left”. Paul tells us that Eve was “deceived”. Jesus says in Luke 12:47-48 that the servant who doesn’t do his master’s will because he doesn’t know better will be beaten with only a few stripes. Hebrews 9 says (NKJV and NIV) that the High Priest sacrificed on the Day of Atonement for “the sins that the people committed in ignorance” (v7). This Holy Day seems to point toward those sins which mankind has committed because he is deceived and therefore not wholly responsible for.
It is interesting to present material such as this in a way they have probably never heard it explained, for these insights—though hardly new—can be made so much clearer in the context of some of the things we in our tradition take for granted.
One of the men said that he has a friend in Salt Lake City whose church is looking into the Holy Days and starting to keep them and also beginning to follow the dietary laws. (If anyone knows anything about this group, I would love to learn more about them.) He warned his friend not to become legalistic about them, whereupon I said that Christians can become legalistic about anything. (Examples: Legalistic about praying exactly 30 minutes a day, about church attendance, about Bible Study). We can learn much about God’s plan for us from the festivals, but keeping those days doesn’t save us. If we think they do, that’s when they become legalistic.
I would like to ask for prayer in regard to two of the men today. One man has become almost a regular in our study, and I count him a friend. He left today in the middle of the study but did not come back. Something seemed to be bothering him—I don’t know what. He left about the time I was reading Hebrews 9:7, using the NIV because of clarity of translation. He is a King James Only fan. Although he and I have discussed in prior weeks my position on this (the King James Version is my main study Bible, but I refer to modern translations for clarification of poorly translated verses), I have a suspicion this had something to do with his departure. In any case, I count him a friend and ask everyone’s prayers that he will come by again some time and we can have a chance to talk matters through.
[Obviously, we should try to avoid offending others in our teaching. If we are talking to one person whom we know likes only the KJV Bible, then we should use it with him as much as possible. But some people are “turned off” by the KJV’s Old English. When a group is larger, it is not possible to please everyone all of the time. Some people were offended at Christ just because of who He was (Mark 6:3). It is sad that people are offended, but we should not worry when it is not our fault. — NSE]
Another trucker asked for prayer for his estranged wife, who has become involved in crack and a generally immoral lifestyle. It is evident he still cares about her and wants her to return to her Christian roots. Truckers have a reputation for being tough and burly, but when combined with a love of God these people can be among the most dedicated believers you will ever find. Please remember them in your prayers. They lead lonely lives.
Before the study today, a trucker came in early to share a burden he had been carrying with him. A while back he visited by invitation a Pentecostal church and said for only the second time in his life he was “slain by the Spirit”. Afterwards, one of the parishioners came up to him claiming to be a prophet, who proceeded to try to prophesy for him. Some of the things this prophet told him were correct and some were not. No, he was not having financial difficulties (at least not yet), but yes he was a little dissatisfied with his job (who isn’t)? He was told that he needed to move to a “two-climate” area (i.e., down south), but he has just bought a house in Idaho that he is content with, but not totally pleased, since it is in a depressed area and not large enough if he were to get married. The driver was wondering whether this was really a prophet and whether he should sell his little house, move and take other life-changing actions.
I turned to 2 Timothy 1:7, which says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. I submitted to him that whatever this spirit was, it seemed to put fear on him, and that is certainly not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I also pointed out that a prophet of God would be right on the details if the prophecy was truly correct, as we read in Deuteronomy 18. If the prophecy is false, then we shouldn’t fear that prophet. Finally, we looked at Ephesians 5:17, which discusses God’s will for us. We read the passage and its context, and it is evident that God is not as much interested in where we live as he is in how we live our lives. The trucker laughed and said, “I don’t see anywhere in here that God’s will is for me to live in a ‘two-climate’ area”.
We were joined at this point by another trucker, and we discussed how society has changed over the past thirty years, and we discussed how all this happened. Jesus tells us to “remember Lot’s wife” when speaking about the last days. The story of Lot and his wife reveals that they gradually became accustomed to society around them, and that their society changed them without them realizing it. The same thing has happened to us.
Carl, the Baptist who joins us regularly, has made an extensive study of New Age philosophy, and he pointed how much that has begun to influence our society. The spirit of God must be used to resist it. I made an oblique reference once again to 2 Timothy 2:7 to the first truck driver, reminding him that we had talked about this earlier and that there are spirits that are not of God—which I believe is what he encountered at that Pentecostal group. Both Carl and the second trucker related experiences where they knew an evil spirit was present and prayed that God would rebuke such. The specific circumstances they described lead me to believe that their assessment of the circumstance was correct.
The concept of the One World Government and concerns about the same are on many people’s minds. We were able to discuss these issues openly, and while I am not one to get concerned about conspiracy theories, I do know that such is coming at the instigation of the devil. I reminded the truckers that Isaiah 2 illustrates what the world will be like after Jesus Christ returns, and that the Gospel is good news. Things might look bleak, but in the end everything will be okay.
It was an especially rewarding discussion today because we were able to help a man escape the bondage chained on him by a false prophet. This was a man who knew enough about the Bible to find on his own the scriptures we discussed, but not enough to discern the spirits.
[After years in hierarchical groups, it is taking many
years for me to really grasp how Christ imparts gifts in individuals and works
with them on a daily basis. Most Pentecostals have known that all along. On
the other hand, many who have been in Pentecostal groups for many years are
used to being “slain in the spirit” (falling over backwards) and experiencing
other “spiritual manifestations” that are not in the scriptures. Some are just
now learning to avoid it. We have known that
all along. Maybe we can help each other. — NSE]
Of the two Great Commandments, Christians find it easy to profess love for God, whom we cannot see. But loving one’s neighbor, whom we can see, too often finds us lacking. How does love for God reveal itself in our love for fellow human beings? How can we grow in fulfilling the Second Great Commandment?
Helpers of Your Joy Ministries and the Church of God Kansas City is pleased to offer a free cassette tape of the sermon entitled “Love Your Neighbor”, presented by Ramon Coleman.
If you would like a copy, please send me your mailing address.
Lenny Cacchio; 705 Ne Bryant Dr Lees Summit, Missouri 64068