February 2, 2003
Today’s report will be a bit different, as we did not cover any earthshakingly new ground to day. We had seven guests, a bit above average, and I gave away more Bibles and literature than usual. The real story in my mind has to do with the spirit of the meeting, which was so very encouraging.
The day started off when I entered the lounge where we study and a young man was watching a movie on the TV. I handed him some literature and told him I hoped he would stay for the Bible study. He read what I handed him, a bit later got up to leave, and then I invited him to take a Bible with him. When he saw that I had some copies of New King James Version, his eyes lit up and he asked if he could have one of those. He said he had been borrowing his partner’s Bible, and his partner suggested that he get his own. I told him that he sure could take it, but why not stay for the study as well. Said he couldn’t. He had been up all night and needed to get some rest.
[Many in the Church of God groups do not have confidence in God working through us to repeatedly ask someone to attend a Bible study that we are giving. I still personally struggle with this. I have heard too many men pitch the greatness of their message or their organization and found it to be a lot of human hype. But a simple study of God’s word is indeed great and worth a repeated invitation because God is Great. — NSE]
Meanwhile, other truckers started to come in. But just as we were getting started, lo and behold, the first driver came back in with his partner, and the partner asked if he could have one of those “King” versions too. And both stayed for the entire study.
Let me give you some general impressions. I was sitting in a room today of men and women who were hungry and thirsty for the word of God. They are seeking the Father’s face, have faith in Jesus Christ, and are striving to learn to do his will. One of the men today is 22 years old and has been in God’s Word for only three years, yet his first love and enthusiasm glowed from his face. And his insight in scripture was commendable for one so new. And the glow was there not only for him, but for all those in the room today.
I believe God honors that attitude, and I am beginning to see this more and more. Maybe I’m seeing it now and not earlier because I’m looking for it now.
Yesterday as I was taking my Saturday morning walk through the neighborhood, I saw an acquaintance from a Wednesday morning Bible study that I have been attending for several months. He has been studying just over a year and is planning on being baptized soon. Again, he literally glows with enthusiasm and gratitude for the Father, the sacrifice of his Son, and is hungering and thirsting for more understanding of the Word of God. He simply drinks in the Word of God and can’t get enough.
A couple of weeks ago my sister back in New York called me. Her daughter befriended a Bible believing couple who have literally turned her life around, and my niece is now heavy into Bible study, and what was even more touching for me, my sister cracked open a Bible and has begun the adventure herself. I could feel the joy and enthusiasm in her voice. I was moved to my core by this wonderful news.
I relate these events because I want to share with you a metamorphosis in my thinking that has been a wonderful result of my usually weekly trips to the truck stop. I used to be like Job’s friends. “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.” (Job 12:2 KJV). I know “stuff” that they don’t know, so that makes me better than they are. What I didn’t understand, though, is something very strange about knowledge. Paul said it. “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1Cor 8:1, NKJV). Yes, there is a certain arrogance that comes from knowing secret knowledge, and too often it does nothing more than feed one’s ego. It made me into one of the few special, exclusive acolytes, and like a little brat I effectively ran around chanting, “I know something you don’t know.”
I don’t think God was pleased with that attitude. But I’ll tell you what God is pleased with. He is pleased with a humble and contrite heart, like my friend here in the neighborhood who tells me that the changes God is making in his life is bringing reconciliation between him and his family. Or the young truck driver’s love for God that glows from every pore. Or my sister and her daughter who now have a purpose in life and for the first time realize that God hears them and loves them, and that they do not need to go through a priest to get there.
Yes, knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
I have learned through this truck stop ministry that I limited God in how he can work. And I have learned that having all knowledge and all truth will not get anyone into the kingdom. God is looking for humble and contrite hearts, and in the years we have done this ministry, God has shown me hundreds if not thousands of such hearts. And those hearts did not depend on how much they know or how much they think they know. Instead it depends on love for God and love for fellow man. That is, after all, what Jesus meant when he talked about the weightier matters of the law.
God is bigger than we are, and we should not limit him to our own pet doctrinal babies.
[This is a wonderful message that I have tried to convey myself many times. It should be obvious that God gives believers truth at bit at a time, and that He does not give the same truths to every believer at the same time. Truth is important and those who hold to error, even unknowingly, do suffer because of it (Hos 4:6; Luke 12:48). But it often seems that Church of God brethren are too intent on finding every last bit of truth, and do not realize that they are too judgmental of others. “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt 7:2). If a believer dies holding to only one false doctrine, but has condemned others as unbelievers for their false doctrine, will Christ judge him with his own judgment, and call him an “unbeliever” because of his false doctrine? Whereas, if a man believes ten false doctrines, but holds out help and hope for others with even more error than he, cannot Christ, in the judgement, correct his ten errors and accept the man to rule with Him? — NSE]
February 9, 2003
It was a bit downbeat at the beginning today. People are on edge over the war and need encouraging. I’m not a prophet and don’t claim to be, so I refrain from making any predictions. I do know, though, that God has a plan, and we need to be in tune with that plan. Part of being in tune is to deal with the stresses and doubts that this world brings. I am fascinated with Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This letter was written from prison, yet Paul continually refers to his joy. That’s incredible, if you think about it. That was a function of being in tune with God’s will.
One of the drivers today is from Canada, and I asked him about the Canadian impression of American religion. He said that Canada is not at all a religious society. It is illegal in Canada to quote certain scriptures, and some of them are wondering if it will even be legal for them to meet in ten years. At a recent memorial event, the order came from the Prime Minister that no one was to use the name of Jesus Christ. The view in Canada is that the US uses its religion as an excuse to intervene.
It is certainly interesting to note that as secularized as the US has become, it is less secularized than most other Western nations. It is also a fact that there are forces in this country who would love us to go down the same path as Canada, although there is considerably more vocal resistance to it here than there was there.
[Both statistics and numerous testimonies from our readers in other countries agree: the USA is abandoning God, but other nations are far ahead of us. Sabbath-keepers need to realize that it is largely Sunday-keepers that have fought for rights for Christians to mention God and the Bible in public places. Sabbatarians have fought primarily for rights to keep the Sabbath and Holy Days, and to avoid military service. But even as these Sunday-keepers have mistakes in their doctrine, the majority of them incorporate their churches and apply for tax exempt status with the IRS. This effectively places all significant activities of their church under government control—in a noose that is now loose, but that can be tightened at will. Sabbatarians, who often desire to dig out biblical truth and historical fact can use their skills to help all Christians see these facts and to encourage them to form churches directly under God. — NSE]
March 2, 2003
There was a talkative and well-spoken bunch this morning, which made my job a lot easier. I would get the discussion started and let them talk it out, maybe putting in a comment or question or two and let them carry the day. This is ideal when it happens right because it gives these men and women a chance to talk about what is important to them and also to minister to each other. The problems they face a are different from many of us in their lack of ability to fellowship with other God-fearing people when they are on the road, and it is a real service if they can just vent and share and study together.
The flip side of this from my perspective (control freak that I am) is the difficulty in controlling the agenda. As an example, one point of discussion revolved around the busyness of our lives and how difficult it often is to set time aside for God and to reflect the truly important things. This was a wonderful lead-in to a discussion of the importance of a Sabbath rest and all that it implies, but the discussion was so animated that I couldn’t get in my two cents until the discussion moved to a different topic. But God’s ways aren’t my ways, and surely my need to control is often at odds with God being in control.
One of the men relayed a problem going on their church which sounds all too familiar to me. They hired a new pastor (who had never before been in a pastorate) who has come in and is making wholesale changes in this more than 100 year-old congregation. Membership rolls total 200, but attendance has dwindled down to 50. He is taking it upon himself to rewrite bylaws, and wants the ability to disfellowship people on his own authority alone. He has big plans for new buildings and change in worship styles, and he has begun to meddle in the youth group to the extent that the kids are turning away from him. Little regard is paid to those with concerns and are contemplating leaving. The truck driver is inclined to work things out, having gone to him privately, but his suggestions have not been considered. I know there are two sides to every story, but when I heard that the pastor wants the sole authority to kick people out, that sent up a giant red flag about where he is trying to take this thing, and I stated my opinion. This type of church trouble I guess is not unique to the Churches of God. If we can accept that, we might be a bit more sanguine about things that have happened among us.
[This sounds like the parable in Judges 9:7–15. Good people in the church are too busy doing good things to govern, so a thorn-bush became their king—or became their pastor in this case. As the saying goes: “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. If good people want good governance, they have to take part in it. The Old Testament laws required people to take part in appointing judges and officers (Deut 16:18–20), to rebuke their neighbors when they are sinning (Lev 19:17), to stand against the majority when they are wrong (Ex 23:2), to expose false religion (Deut 16:6–8) and even to participate in executing those found guilty (Deut 17:7). (Before anyone throws stones, please realize that our nation has not agreed to follow these national laws as ancient Israel did, so we are not bound to carry them out.) The new “pastor” of that church has his authority from men, so when his congregation realizes that he is not leading them in a Godly way, they can ask him to change or take his authority away from him. Yes, it will take them out of their previously comfortable environment, but that is probably what God wants. — NSE]
I am often impressed with the faith so many of these people have. Many know very well what is going on in the world, but are honestly putting their trust for personal deliverance in the arms of God. As one of the men said, even if he had to pitch a tent and live in it, he knows God would provide his needs. There is something to be said for people who have to struggle daily with trials. So often they build a child-like trust in the One who sustains them.
A husband and wife team who were with us for most of the study are what I would term seekers. They have a religious background of sorts but realize that it doesn’t go very deep and are trying to do something about it. People like this are always wonderful to meet, and they also remind me of the simple but difficult questions that are common but often challenging to answer.  Why doesn’t God just end all the suffering and war in the world if he is so good?  How can I believe in a God I can’t see? In other words, a study like this will bring out the old mossy-horns who have been around the block a few times and the new babes. It’s great to get them all in the same room.
[Indeed, such studies are wonderful. Short answers to the above questions: (1) God wants us to learn to be good, and we will not do that unless we can see the results of our sins—and the world we see is the result of a lot of sin. (2) We can see what God has done. Study biology, chemistry, nuclear physics, astronomy or some other science that delves deeply into how the physical world works. When one sees the complexity there that defies human imagination—yet continuously functions without human intervention, one sees the work and nature of God. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). — NSE]
March 30, 2003
We had three guests today, which was a little below normal. I was talking beforehand with one of the men who said he was “lost”, and was concerned about it. He sins, and he is concerned that he shows no remorse. I tried to point out to him that the very fact that he came to the study and was concerned about it is proof enough that in fact he is showing remorse. When the other drivers arrived, we changed the subject, but I did want to touch on the subject of sin and how we all struggle with it in the course of the study, and hopefully this first man was encouraged by the discussion.
The discussions today covered wide-ranging topics, but I wanted generally to talk about what they wanted to talk about. Concern regarding the war is on everyone’s mind, and there is obviously an unease about it in most quarters, which is understandable in what I still believe is generally a compassionate society. One of the men, who used to be a youth pastor, believes that President Bush is fulfilling some kind of destiny—and in fact the President himself believes it—and that destiny ultimately leads to the end. None of us, of course, know for sure what is going to happen. After the study I asked him how anyone who understands the Bible and prophecy could possibly want to be president. Frankly, I’m not sure this president has much understanding of prophecy. The truck driver believes that he is talking to ministers all the time (which I am sure he is) who are telling him, “Do you know what you’re doing?” Well, maybe. We may never know for sure.
[I have also read that Bush believes he is fulfilling prophecy in some way. But we must remember that Jehu fulfilled prophecy for God (2Kngs 9–10), “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin. In those days the Lord began to cut off parts of Israel; and Hazael conquered them in all the territory of Israel” (2Kngs 10:31–32). What Israel needed then, and what the USA needs now, is not a few military victories, but to depart from our sins —NSE].
I asked them, “if these are the last days, what should we be doing?” In John the Baptist’s day, people believed they were in the end times, and we studied Luke 3 and John’s response to the people’s question “What shall we do?” Essentially the answer was to treat each other fairly and honestly, which is no different than what we should be doing if it isn’t the last days.
[That is the same answer that is given in multiple other places in the Bible—not to have prophecy figured out and be waiting, but to be doing the works of Christ.]
One of the men had a prayer request regarding a soldier recently deployed to Iraq whom he knows. His wife gave birth a couple of weeks ago, and the baby has developed life-threatening respiratory complications. As of yesterday they had not yet informed the father. This is a family that needs our prayers.
— Lenny Cacchio, L_cacchio@yahoo.com
705 NE Bryant Drive, Lee’s Summit, Missouri 64086
[War is a great sacrifice and should only be made when the lives of a people are really at stake. The US mission to Iraq is very questionable as to whether it is about saving lives or protecting industry oil interests. It may be worth being away from one’s wife and ailing baby to save one’s nation, but not to increase long-term oil profits. —NSE]