Monday, May 7, 2012

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Acts 16:23-30

This is the text under discussion years ago in the Oak Street Bible Shop by Gary, Sue, Joy and Glen. They had been talking about how complicated some people make God’s offer to rescue people from the penalty of sin. Each of the four had stories from their experiences, which they wanted to share.

Gary, standing behind the counter, had just read the above text.

“I can tell you it took me years to find out just how simple it is to accept God’s offer of salvation.”

“Years?” said Joy. “What are you, about twenty-four?”

“Listen,” he said, "I grew up in a system that told us your salvation was never sure, no matter what you did. At any time you could commit a mortal sin and, if you died out of a state of grace, that’s it, brother, you were out of luck--on your way to hell! And, yes, I was in it for years.”

“Okay, I’ve got ya,” said Joy from her position on the tall stool where she liked to preside. “Remember, I was in the same system, and even longer than you.”

Glen, in the back room, was staring down at his coffee cup as if it had some answer in it that he needed to learn. He was listening, but said nothing.

Sue, by the front window, had just placed the last of a box of new books on the shelves. She bent to pick up the empty box and then stood up to speak.

“In my church, it wasn’t quite so grim. Most of us felt we were good enough to make it. We were such goody-goodies we weren’t worried. It was awful! We were little Pharisees and didn’t even know it!

"And, of course, we looked down on all those we thought weren’t as good as we were. If someone had dared to ask us if we were saved, we would have said ‘Saved from what?’”

They had each given a short description of their early religious beliefs. All except Glen, who silently stared at his cup.

There was silence for a moment, then Joy leaned around the door frame to look at Glen. She would argue with him and complain about his comments, but deep inside she loved Glen. His silence concerned her.

“You okay, Glen? We thought you would join in and share your experiences with religion.”

“I don’t like religion,” he said. “Never did. I’m a Bible teacher, not a religionist.”

These were harsh words coming from Glen. He usually found something good to say about different Christian churches.

Joy was very concerned about her old friend. This was as low as she had ever seen him. She tried to get him to say something. He usually warmed up when he was discussing things with them.

“Sure you don’t want to talk about it?” she asked.

“Oh, I was a Methodist all my early years. I remember dry sermons about how to be better and help the church grow--things like that. I finally quit going. Then years later I joined a Presbyterian church because they said we would be studying the Bible.

"Now that appealed to me!” he said with emphasis. “I was an outsider in those days--a lobo wolf, you could say. I wanted truth, but couldn’t get along with the people who said they had it.”

Joy smiled as she asked, “Kind of like you are today, right?”

Glen smiled back at her. “Guess you know me pretty well, don’t you?”

Sue walked back to the coffee urn table. “That stuff looks yucky,” she said. “How about I make you a cup of your Constant Comment tea? I’m going to throw this old coffee out.” She liked to wait on Glen--fuss over him.

“That would be great. I’d appreciate it, Sue.”

He turned to face the others. “I try to be critical of myself as I get older,” he said rather heavily. “I don’t like what I see.”

Before anyone could comment, he continued. “You know that passage from Acts that Gary just read? To me, that is the heart of the gospel--what the jailer asked. ‘What must I do to be saved?’ You can’t get any more basic than that.”

Joy had a puzzled expression. “I don’t see the connection between you looking at yourself and the basic gospel.”said Joy. “What is it you don’t like when you look at yourself?”

Glen straighten up in his chair. “Because I don’t give the basics is why! I think sometimes I get too complicated and that’s what I’ve always hated about religion. They complicate the gospel instead of giving us the simple truth. And it is simple!”

“Amen to that!" said Gary.

“But you’re a technician,” objected Joy. “That’s what you’re so good at. Salvation is simple, but prophecy is not so simple. And that’s your area. When things get complicated call for Glen!”

Glen was touched by this support. Before he could express his appreciation, Sue added hers.

“You even make complicated prophecy simple, Glen. Remember when you told me about the church age and how to look it up in Acts chapter fifteen? I did, and now nobody can mess up my mind about it.”

Glen pretended to fiddle with his teacup, too moved to speak.

Gary spoke up. “I think there are two things here. Prophecy can be complicated, and we need mechanics like you, Glen, to figure it out.”

“And to show us how to figure it out, too,” added Sue.

Gary continued. "I remember how you put me onto Things to Come, by Dwight Pentecost. Greatest single volume on prophecy that I’ve ever seen.”

Glen nodded in agreement.

Joy spoke with anger. “It’s when they make salvation complicated that I get mad. Because salvation--being born again--is not complicated. A child can understand it.”

“Lots of children do,” added Sue.

Gary’s eyes brightened as he recalled one of his favorite films.

“Do you remember ‘Day at the Races?’” he asked. Groucho wants to place a bet on a horse. Chico stops him. Tells him he has to buy three books on how to place a bet before he puts his money down.

"Finally after a long discussion he buys the books. As he is rushing off, Chico calls him back. He tells Groucho he has to buy another book.

"Groucho asks ‘What for?’

"‘So you can understand those books,’ says Chico.

"By then the race is over and Groucho’s horse has won, but he didn’t have time to place his bet.”

Glen sipped his tea and looked at Gary. “Maybe you should finish that wonderful quote?” he asked.

Gary looked down at his Bible and read, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31."

“That is how simple it is,” said Gary. And they all agreed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Day Your Sins Were Paid For

"It is so difficult to explain good news to people," said Glen.

On this afternoon he was not in his prophecy corner or at the coffee table, but standing at a shelf containing ministry books--some of the most requested books at the Oak Street Bible Shop.

"You can show a person the most wonderful promises and facts in the Bible, but there is a barrier that prevents the good news message from getting through."

"It's too good to be true. that's what a lot of people say," said Joy from the back room.

Gary looked thoughtful. He was setting up the type on his Bible imprinter to emboss a name on the cover of a pocket New Testament. When he had the name right he threaded in some silver tape and turned on the machine to heat up. "Silver on blue," he smiled, "that will look nice."

"Trouble is," said Joy as she climbed onto her stool, "a lot of good looking Bibles and Testaments look nice, but they don't get read."

Sue turned away from the shelf of children's books she was arranging. "People are scared of the Bible. That's what I think. The world looks so fun, but for a lot of people religion is a real downturn."

"Religion is a turnoff, or whatever you called it," said Glen. "I know it was for me. Most of it still is. But the Bible--that's different! But it is so sad you can't get the Good News message to a person who needs to hear it."

"Gospel means 'good news,'" said Sue.

Gary shared a memory. "I was visiting with my aunt and uncle, one summer. My Uncle Frank was usually a happy man. He would sit in the living room in the afternoon and listen to music on the radio and smile and hum along with it.

"But he had a long bout of illness, including surgery. When he came home from the hospital, he had changed. My aunt worried about him and told the doctor he was not like he used to be.

"Doctor told her there was nothing physically wrong with my uncle. His operation was a success. "‘For some reason he is depressed,’ said the doctor, ‘but the cause is not organic.’

"So the radio in the living room was not turned on. My uncle would sit and stare out the window, but not really looking at anything. Then on the last day of my visit the mailman delivered an envelope from the medical insurance company.

"My aunt was sitting at the kitchen table reading aloud all the items and what they cost. She went on and on, and my uncle in the other room listened and said nothing. He just looked more and more depressed. I don't remember exactly, but the whole bill was about fifty thousand dollars.

"My aunt put the paper on a little rack on the kitchen wall. She poured out a glass of iced tea and took it to my uncle in the living room. ‘Isn't it wonderful, Frank, that you got that plan?’ she said, ‘I mean to pay for all those bills.’

"My uncle turned around and said, ‘What! Paid for?’

"Then it hit her. All that time he had been brooding, thinking they could lose their house or something, over that huge medical bill.

"I can remember all the yelling. They were a very emotional family. Some of them were laughing. Some of them cried when my aunt said, ‘Bless his heart, he didn't know the bills were taken care of!’

"When my parents came to pick me up, the radio was on again. There was a guy who used to bow a bass fiddle and hum along with it, like one voice. My uncle was listening to him, tapping his foot and as happy as he could be."

Glen turned to Gary. "Now that's just what I was looking for--a wonderful illustration and a true story too!"

Joy was touched, thinking of the old man agonizing over a bill already paid for. "Think of how many poor souls go around carrying a load that they could put down as soon as they heard that their sins were already paid for by Jesus."

"Too bad we can't have a contract and send it through the mail." Gary pretended to write on a piece of paper.

Dear Sir or Madam,
You have incurred the following debt because of sin. The penalty is death.
PAID FOR: by Jesus of Nazareth
Place: On a hill in Jerusalem
Time: almost 2,000 years ago

"That's right," said Joy, "If you would read the good news and believe it, you would be happy too."

"Of course, there is such a contract,” said Glen.

Sue turned to Gary. "You know, your uncle's insurance? I wonder if it was Blue CROSS?”

Friday, May 4, 2012

...Till My Change Come

If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Job 14:14

My wife and I had supper at our beloved 63 Diner for the last time one evening in July. We took our time, not knowing we would never be here again. Soon our meals together would be over. But we have a date we are sure to keep. It will be with Jesus and all the saints at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

It was just at the beginning of dusk when we finished and headed for the parking lot. I suggested we take the country way home, knowing that is what she liked to do. We turned off the highway onto a country road through woods and farm fields.

Off to the left the full moon was rising as the sun was setting behind a row of trees. Suddenly three whitetail deer burst from cover and ran across the road in front of us. The large buck soared into the air to clear a fence, followed by two does. They sailed over the wire fence with room to spare and scudded across a bean field kicking up little spurts of dust as they headed for the distant woods.

My wife took it all in with such a happy expression. We realized that if we had been a few seconds early or late, we would have missed this beautiful scene. I am so glad we had this evening together.

Soon after, her cancer advanced to where she could hardly eat at all. I tried to fix her things she could keep down. She loved grapes and other fruit and did pretty well with them. But no matter what I prepared it came to a point where I held a pail while she vomited it all up.

We both knew she was dying. Her faith was so great that she was never downcast. I tried not to be, as I shared her faith in the Resurrection and the eternal life to follow. But if there is a worse torture than watching the person you love most in the world as they live out their last days, I don't know what it is.

Our last ride together was to the hospital where she died. Her last ride of all was in a hearse.

A few days before she died she told me she had read the entire New Testament again. She said, "You know what I really love? It is where Jesus says 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'" (John 16:33) She had tears in her eyes as she said these words, not of sorrow but of joy.

A few days later my phone rang and her doctor told me to come to the hospital right away. He said my wife had had a stroke or something. He was not sure.

I was there in less than fifteen minutes. A lady met me just outside her room and told me she was dead. I went into her room. Her doctor was waiting for me. He said mournfully that she had collapsed as she was talking to him.

He gave me some time alone with her. Already little red tracings of blood vessels appeared on her face. I patted her hands that were crossed on her chest.

"I'm so sorry my darling, but I'll see you in the rapture" was all I could say.

My friends, whatever they believed, did not try to comfort me by saying, "She's in a better place." They know my hope is--as was hers--in the return of Jesus and our reunion in the first resurrection. Until then my darling is asleep in Christ.

My own doctor tried to comfort me. When I went for my exam shortly after, he expressed regret that he had not seen her that day. He went to visit her, out of friendship, but arrived too late.

He beamed at me as he said, "Well, there's a new angel in heaven now."

I said nothing concerning this. He has been a good doctor and a good friend, but I knew his faith.

His father had been a Presbyterian minister, and from his accounts, a good one who, like his son, cared for people very deeply. But my doctor did not share his father's faith. He told me, "Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, I wouldn't be surprised that some day we'll find they're all the same."

Sure doc. Have you ever seen any of them but Jesus pictured as nailed to a cross?

We all bring different things to the faith, I suppose--different hopes and desires. And don't we all take different things away?

I would like to give you my personal testimony right now. If I did not believe God sent Jesus to be willingly sacrificed to pay for my sin, my life would be worthless and I would have no future at all. I owe Him everything. But where almost everyone I know, hear or read about, focuses on sin and forgiveness, right and proper as that is, my personal focus is on eternal life through the resurrection.

I hope you don't think I am a heretic. Sin haunts me like a buzzard that follows me around. I am aware of sin all the time. I thank God for His grace every day.

But when I think of my wife, my loved ones who are dead, and myself some day--unless Jesus returns first--it is the hope of resurrection that fills my heart. We have an "appointed day" my friends. Dead or alive we wait for it. The world, the flesh and the Devil can't stop that day from coming. I sure hope it is soon!

Let me quote from Job again. Thank you Lord, for including these words in your Bible!

Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
2For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Job 19:23-27

Amen, brother!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Remembering What Jesus Did for Us

And He took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:19,20

It is a wonderful thing to see what a group of Christians can achieve in understanding the Bible. It is necessary to study alone and concentrate until we have the message in our hearts and minds first. But when two or more work together much good can come from it.

This is what I witnessed one day at the Oak Street Bible Shop when Glen presented a problem he was having in explaining communion to his class.

"For some reason," he said, "the doctrine of communion has been very confused in the church. People hold different ideas and some are troubled over it. A lot of people are even afraid to partake because they have been warned they must be in a special state of grace at the time or they will be guilty of a very serious sin."

"A mortal sin," said Joy from her high seat. "When I was a Catholic, we were taught that to take communion without prior confession and penance could put us in danger of hell."

Gary was looking into his Scofield Bible. "Well, Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 11:30, For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. Isn't Paul warning us that if we take communion wrongly we could become sick or even die? That's what Catholics teach isn't it?"

Joy corrected him. "No, I don't think so. Being sick or even dying before your time is not the same as going to hell. It's punishment for taking communion wrongly. Isn't that what you believe, Glen?"

Glen had been listening with the happiest expression you ever saw. He loved to hear his friends discuss together this way. Something good always came from it.

"I believe you have it absolutely right, Joy. Paul is warning about dying before our time because of sin. The question I think that divides so many Christians is, what is the sin he is warning us of?"

Sue looked puzzled. "Before we go on about what sin it is, I'd like to know what is meant by the expression 'dying before your time'? Do we have a set time when we are going to die? And if that is true, how can we die before the time that is set?"

Glen smiled at Sue. "I'm glad you mentioned this, Sue. The Bible does indicate we have a set number of days we can live."

Suddenly Glen had a look of frustration and sorrow that made Sue feel sorry she had asked the question. "I can't remember a scripture to prove the point, and I feel terrible about it. I really am getting old!"

Gary spoke up. "Seems like Job has a lot to say about number of days, but I can't remember a specific quote either."

Joy directed her question to Glen. I know I've read that too. But what about Sue's question of cutting life short. I mean if we have a set time, how can it be changed?"

Glen brightened up a bit. "Well," he said, "The idea of a set time is the idea of a limit of your days that you can live."

"Like an upper cap," said Gary.

"Exactly," said Glen.

Sue smiled. "Maybe it's like a mother telling her daughter, 'You can talk on the phone for one hour tonight. That's it! But if I hear any off-color talk I'm cutting you off, right away.'"

Everyone smiled at that. It was a good illustration.

"But,” Joy continued, "we haven't defined what Paul is warning the Corinthians about."

Glen began, "I think it's important to explain how different people are taught about communion. The Bible is very simple on this point, but religions really complicate things. Some churches teach that the bread and wine are actually the body and blood of Jesus."

"The mass,” said Joy. "That is what we were taught."

"Some Lutherans, too," said Gary.

Glen went on. "And a number of churches teach that God's grace,--His forgiveness--comes to us through communion. If you don't take communion you are cut off from His forgiveness. Lot of them teach that. That's where we get the term 'ex­communicated'. It means you are not able to take communion."

"That is awful,,” said Gary. "Like the church controls forgiveness."

"If you don't have your Chevy serviced at an authorized dealer, it cancels the warranty," said Sue.

They didn't know how to respond to that. Even Joy had to laugh.

"What do you believe?" Joy directed her question to Glen.

"That communion is to remind us of what Jesus did for us by giving Himself for us, and giving up His blood. That is why we are saved. Before He died He said It is finished. John 19:30. Anybody who says they can offer up the body and blood of Jesus in a ceremony is teaching a lie. Jesus offered Himself once and for all."

"I agree,” said Joy. "But what is Paul warning the Corinthians about?"

Glen read from his pocket testament.

"Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 11:27. In verses 27 and 29 there is the word 'unworthily'. That is the clue we need."

Gary brightened. "I get it. 'Unworthily' is an adverb. It describes how you do something."

"You've got it,” said Glen. “An awful lot of churches teach that the passage says 'an unworthy person'. But what the Bible says is a person doing it 'in an unworthy manner'."

"That's why we have to follow the Word, not any church," said Gary.

"What was the unworthy manner of the Corinthians?” asked Joy.

"It's in verse 21." Glen read, "For in eating everyone taketh before the other his own supper; and one is hungry, and another is drunk."

"They were being pigs at the communion table!" said Gary.

"Imagine getting drunk on communion wine!" said Joy.

"That is why Paul asked them 'Have ye not houses to eat and drink in?' Verse 22. At least you never hear of people doing that any more. But they do often teach falsely about communion. They charge people for taking it, or frighten them away from taking it," said Glen. "And every Christian is told to remember Jesus this way."

"Chuck Swindoll told about communion in a church way down south,” said Gary. "The table had cornbread and Royal Crown cola in little cups. But they understood what it meant."

Sue had been thinking. "I have an idea. Wanna hear it?"

"Go ahead," Joy told her.

"Well, communion is like every American can fly the flag. There's even a special Flag Day. But we shouldn't put it up wrong, let it drag on the ground and so forth. We should do it in a worthy manner."

Little Sue! You never knew what she might say.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

God Loves for Women to Teach

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1 John 4:7

It was quiet in the Oak Street Bible Shop, as was often the case in the morning. Joy and Gary were preparing book orders from little slips of paper, looking through stock books and filling out the forms.

Sue had entered with the mail and was sorting through the envelopes and putting rubber bands around little bundles of bills and advertisements.

Glen, seated by the coffee urn, was writing in a little book and occasionally looking out the window at the birds gathered round the feeder.

"I've found the little bird we were wondering about," he said. "It's a white crowned sparrow."

"I thought you were studying,” said Joy, not looking up from her order form.

"I am studying,” said Glen, "I'm studying birds".

"What's the book then?" She asked idly, still not looking up.

"It's one of Peterson's Field Guides to the Birds," he replied. "You know there are all kinds of sparrows, you'd be surprised."

"And His eye is on all of them," said Sue. She laid her little bundles of mail on the counter.

Gary was lost in details, unaware of anything except the task at hand. He often got so lost in thought that a customer would approach his counter and have to speak to get his attention. This was true on this particular morning when a thin and energetic woman came through the door.

She was in her late thirties with a little gray in her short hair. She was wearing slacks and a quilted vest and had a knitted headband over her ears. Her rather thin face had a tense expression.

Joy looked up at her and asked, "Can we help you?"

"I hope so," she replied. "Do you have a book on the woman's role in the church?"

Gary had looked up by now and was about to slide one of his New Testament's across the counter. Joy anticipated this and waved one hand frantically behind her back as if to say, "Knock it off.” She led the woman to a shelf marked "Ministries".

“Is there a particular area you are interested in?" she asked politely.

"Teaching," was all the woman offered.

"Joy tensed a little, remembering the conflicts that often arose over this subject. "You mean Sunday School?" she asked again.

"No, I don't mean Sunday School," the woman snapped. "I mean regular adult Bible classes."

"Oh, you must mean an adult women's class.”

"No, I don't mean that either. I mean men and women taking a Bible class and a woman teaching!"

The expression on Joy's face gave the woman reason to reconsider. Joy was not one to speak harshly, and it was visible on her face.

The woman changed her tone. "I'm sorry I snapped at you, but since you are a woman I thought you'd understand. You see, our church has installed a woman teacher, and my husband won't even attend now."

"Your husband won't attend her classes?" Joy asked.

"He won't attend the church," the woman replied, “or give any offerings. He says they have crossed the line as far as he is concerned and he is through with them. He is a Bible man, as he describes himself, and he said if anyone can show him a place in the Bible where a woman can teach men, he will take
back everything he said. Can't you help me turn him around? I mean, he is so old-fashioned!"

Sue and Gary kept quiet, realizing that Joy was in a situation. Joy would not compromise on Bible doctrine. Of course she did not want to antagonize a potential customer, but most of all she wanted her to know the truth about the role of women in the church--and for the woman and her husband to come to an agreement.

Joy took a deep breath. "Just like that sign outside says, this is a Bible shop. And we are committed to Bible doctrine. I would never want to take sides in a personal issue between a husband and wife."

Glen laid down his field guide and closed it carefully over his pencil to keep the place. He approached Joy and the lady.

“Pardon me," he said. "Good morning, ma'am. I overheard your conversation. And since this is such an important matter I was wondering if you would be willing to accept the words of a third party as a negotiator?"

"Well," the woman said, glaring at him. "I think I know what your opinion will be before you even say it. Who are you, anyway?"

Glen introduced himself, but before he could proceed, the lady showed her hostility towards him.

"I know who you are, my husband thinks you're so great. But why do you think you are qualified to act as a third party in this or any other disagreement?"

"Oh, forgive me for not making myself clear," said Glen. “I wasn't speaking of myself. The third party I had in mind was the Bible. Since you are attending a Bible class at your church, I felt you would be willing to abide by what the Bible says concerning women teaching men. You already said your husband will."

"Oh, you can prove anything from the Bible. You can always find something somewhere to prove any point you want to make."

"Good," said Glen. "Since that is true, then you should be able to find a place that says women can teach men."

Joy backed away and sat back up on her stool. Sue and Gary exchanged looks, but said nothing. At this point they were happy to be spectators.

"I don't know of any particular place that says, yes, women can teach men, but I don't see why it has to," she said. "After all, the Bible says that men and women are equal. I don't know where offhand. But I know it says somewhere, ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek,’ and so forth. And it goes on to say ‘there is neither male nor female.’ I know that."

"I sure do agree with you on that, ma'am," said Glen. "The passage is in Galatians, chapter three.” Glen recited from memory. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28.

"But this passage speaks of equality before God. Between human beings, the differences still existed, and they still do now. Slaves and free are equal before God in salvation, but that passage did not abolish slavery. Men and women are equal in terms of salvation, but they are distinct in other ways. I'm sure you don't approve of men marrying men."

"Of course not!" she objected.

Glen held up his hand. "I'm not trying to bait you, really. It's just that being equal does not mean being the same, that's all. In the Bible God assigned different roles for men and women and they still hold true today. I don't understand why anyone would object to that."

"We have in our church," the woman began, "a highly qualified woman who the church has assigned to teach the Bible. I think she's terrific. She is a good speaker and is very highly qualified. She has a doctorate degree."

Glen listened patiently. "Ma'am," he said, "I'm sure you aren't old enough to remember the Nazi era. But did you know that over ninety per cent of Hitler's SS officers had doctorate degrees?"

"Oh, I see, if you have a Ph.D. you are no better than a Nazi!"

Again Glen held up his hand. "Please," he said, as he gestured towards the shelves of books. “Many, if not most of these authors have doctorates. But having a doctorate does not qualify a person to teach the Bible any more than not having one disqualifies a person to teach."

Glen stepped to his "prophecy corner" and pulled out a small volume--Jesus is Coming, by W.E.B.

"You take this little book," he said. "The man who wrote Jesus is Coming, did not have much in the way of formal education. But even though he died the year I was born, in all those years since he wrote it, no one, with or without a degree, has ever been able to find one flaw in his book."

"You're getting away from my point. Why can't a woman teach men? How can a Bible person, as my husband calls himself, object to it?"

"I'm sure your husband has referred to what Paul wrote in first Timothy chapter two. Help me out, Gary."

Everyone turned to Gary as he found 1 Timothy 2:12.

"For I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

"But that was then!" the woman objected. "We've come a long way since that time."

"If you follow that argument, then men can marry men," Glen said. "If a person says it is against the Bible, it is objected, 'but that was then.' Paul refers to the events in Genesis to prove his point."

Glen turned to Gary, who continued to read.

"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1 Timothy 2:13,14."

"So not only can't women teach, they are responsible for the Fall!" the woman objected.

"Not at all," said Glen. "Paul is not talking about who sinned, but who was deceived. In this passage Paul is not talking about who is the worst sinner, or who gets blamed for the fall. He is saying that woman came second in the creation and that she, not Adam was deceived.

"In fact, the Bible lays the fall on Adam. Adam wasn't deceived. Kind of like that old song 'With My Eyes Wide Open'. Adam knew better and ate the fruit anyway. He has the greater guilt."

"He has the greater guilt, but men can teach and women can't!" the woman objected.

"Awful, aint it?" said Glen. "Hate to admit it, as a Bible teacher, but teaching is not so much about being perfect, but about knowing and telling the truth.

"Don't get me wrong. Sin distorts our knowledge. But the issue is authority. I mean here, the authority of the Word. In Matthew chapter twenty three Jesus told the Jews to listen to the scribes and the Pharisees, because they sat on Moses seat."

Gary found Matthew 23 and read,

"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: and therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not. Matthew 23:1-3."

"You see," said Glen, "God's word gives the order of creation. And the purpose of His creation as the reason women are to submit to the teaching of men, and not the other way around. Some day men will be judged on how well they carried out their orders. So men need to shape up."

The woman looked at Glen. Then she looked at Joy. Joy kind of shrugged as she smiled.

"So that's it!" the woman said with resignation. "If I was to follow what you say is in the Bible, I have to tell my husband that he is right. Women are forbidden to teach. He'll love that!"

Glen had started to walk to his seat by the coffee urn, but Joy knew him too well. Just part of his theatrics, she thought to herself. He can be such a ham
at times.

"Oh, no!" he said as he walked back to her. "Please don't misunderstand. I hope you tell him the Bible gives you the authority to teach. Personally I think that America is going down and down because women aren't teaching enough. The signs are all around us. Please tell him, since he thinks so highly of me and all, that I said women must teach. It's in God's word, very plainly."

Joy turned her head away. Glen could be impossible at times.

Sue smiled at Gary. They had a good idea of what was coming.

The woman raised both arms and let them drop. "Now I know why my husband likes you so much. You're as crazy as he is!"

Glen pretended to ignore this remark. "You know I've often wondered why women don't teach more. I mean they have a big responsibility and just let it go by, while they're trying to do the job of men. What a waste, is all I can say."

Glen walked over to the counter and turned Gary's Bible around. He found the book of Titus. He turned towards the woman.

"Some women get so mad at what Paul says in First Timothy, but they need to read what he says here in Titus. Paul seems to take with one hand, but he gives with the other. Both are God's words to the church. Here is what he says of women and their teaching role.

"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. Titus 2:4.

"Sounds so simple, doesn't it? But it sure is important. Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Every wonder how much education she had?"

The woman spoke softly now. "I'm sure Mary couldn't read or write," she said.

"But she was chosen of God to bear Jesus and to mother him. When Jesus was on the cross, he told John, 'Behold thy mother.' John 19:27. And the Gospel says John took her into his own home. Women are to teach love, and the great ones do, through example. It doesn't get much credit in this world. But imagine their rewards in heaven!

"Nice talking with you, ma'am," said Glen. And he walked back to his seat by the window.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Church Doesn't Do It All

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14

That Glen was an avid and tireless Bible teacher, no one doubted. But once in awhile someone would question his devotion to soul winning, as they called it.

On this particular afternoon, Glen was in the Oak Street Bible
Shop early. He was working on a lesson for Revelation and said he would be leaving soon.

Joy looked his way from her high stool and started in on him.

"Glen, how do you answer people who say we should all be soul winners? I mean, in my church they really get on us if we don't go door to door and hand out tracts and witness to people. They make you feel guilty if you're not evangelizing actively all the time."

Glen turned from his place in the corner and was about to answer when Sue commented. "In my church it's all about foreign missions. We have missionaries that we support come to visit and speak from the pulpit. Missionaries are considered the top of the line in our congregation."

Once again, Glen was about to speak when Gary joined in. "Our church has a motto, ‘Every member a soul winner’."

Finally Glen spoke. "Joy, you asked how I answer people who question my enthusiasm about ‘soul winning’. Well, I don't have to answer them at all. They know my stand on soul winning by now. And once they've heard how I stand, they generally avoid me altogether. So I don't have to answer them."

Joy kind of shifted on her stool. She was obviously not satisfied with Glen's answer.

As you probably know by now, Glen could get to people in at least two ways. One was to immediately agree with them so they lowered their guards. Another way was to seem to be evasive, so they closed in on him and pressed him for an answer. This is what he was doing with Joy.

"That's not an answer," she persisted. "What is it you said to them that caused them to avoid you?"

"Oh," said Glen, pretending he had not understood her question. "Let me speak to all your comments. I think you deserve answers.

"I'll start with you, Joy. First of all, I don't let churches make me feel guilty. They each have some issue they push, at least ones I have known about. They keep repeating it until people believe it must be true. Same way advertisers break you down, only I'm not buying."

Again, Joy looked impatient at his answer. "I'm asking what you say, Glen."

"I ask them what is the Biblical basis for their claim. That is what I say. If they insist every church member should be an evangelist, I insist they show me where it says that in the Bible. Otherwise, I tell them, it just sounds like a membership drive."

"And how do they answer you?" said Gary. "After all, Jesus did give the great commission to the disciples. He sent them out into all the world to preach the good news."

"No doubt about it," said Glen, "that's what Jesus commanded the disciples to do, no doubt about it."

Joy, Sue, and Gary just looked at him. Was he agreeing with Joy's church?

"But," said Glen, "I ask them what that has to do with the church? I ask them, did Paul tell the churches he founded that each one of their members was an evangelist? To the contrary. If you will read Ephesians chapter four and verse eleven you will see how the Holy Spirit gives various gifts. This is a wonderful passage. It frees us from church planners and preachers and tells us we are assigned by God Himself to do different jobs, and we know what they are by the gifts He gives us."

Gary had found Ephesians 4:11 and began to read:

"And he gave some, apostles: and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4:11."

Glen was very emphatic. "Does the Bible ever say, that every member of the church is equipped and called to be an evangelist? I mean who are we following? A preacher or the Word of God?

"Just imagine if a group of men joined the Army and when they arrived at their training camp their company commander said, ‘Men, you are going to be trained in the most important function a soldier can serve. You are all going to become recruiters! I know some of you must be wondering, what about weapons training and what about the various military occupational specialties? Well, I suppose training has its place, but the most important thing is, how big can we make the Army, not how well trained. When you have completed your recruiter training, then you too, will train other men to be recruiters, and so on.' I'm sure you get the picture."

Joy did not like the tack that Glen was taking, but she could not answer his point as yet.

Glen continued. "Gary, as far as every member being a soul winner, what bothers me is which souls do they win? Do they know if some of their own members are not born again?"

"There is what is called a false profession,” said Gary. "Someone gets caught up in the emotion of an evangelist's plea and goes forward, but without conviction. We even heard of a man who professed wanting to be saved more than once. He later admitted he was looking for attention, and that is when people gathered around him and prayed for him. Other than that, he felt neglected."

"Very sad," said Glen, "and very regrettable. Now Sue, these missionaries your church thinks so highly of. How long do they serve in one location?"

"It depends," she answered. "We had one man who stayed in a church in South America for twenty five years."

"And in all that time," said Glen, "couldn't he find at least one younger man, native to that area, who could carry on the work?"

Sue just shook her head.

"Sorry", said Glen, "but someone is not equipping people for the ministry. Since we know from the Bible that God raises people up to serve in His churches, all I can think of is these missionaries get in the way by keeping people dependent on them."

Joy was ready with her final salvo. "Our preacher says that when we evangelize, we are helping to bring about the return of Jesus. He has proved it from the Bible, and it sure convicts me. He says that as soon as the gospel is preached to the whole world, Jesus will return. The longer it takes for us to evangelize, the longer it will be until Jesus returns. 'You wouldn't want to slow the return of Jesus, would you?' That's what he says to us, and it's very convincing."

Gary and Sue were looking at Glen to see how he would answer this. They had heard the same idea put forward in their churches.

"How many times will Jesus return, Joy?" asked Glen. "I think you and I are agreed on this."

Joy answered carefully. "He will return for His church, the dead and the living--in the rapture, we all know that. That is our meeting in the air. Then, after we are in heaven with him, he will come to the earth to set up His kingdom and reign for a thousand years."

"I knew we all agreed on this, Joy,", said Glen. "What is the scripture you mentioned that your preacher cites to prove the church must evangelize the whole earth?"

Joy was not certain where this was leading. "You know the one, Matthew 24," said Joy.

Gary had already turned there.

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14."

Glen was very gentle with his question. "The end will come. The end of what, Joy?"

She carefully considered her answer. "The end of this world" she said, "and the beginning of the next one."

"Very good, Joy. I knew we agreed--all of us--on that. If the church was to fulfill Matthew 24:14," said Glen. "Would that bring about the end of this present world?"

"No," she replied. "It would be the beginning of the tribulation period. But not the end of the world."

"So," said Glen, "Matthew 24 is talking about another coming of Jesus isn't it? And since by that time we, the church, will be in heaven, we will not be the ones to preach the gospel of the kingdom to all nations."

"But who will, then?" asked Sue.

"Let's look at who will,” said Glen. "Let's look at Revelation 14:6."

Gary began to read:

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell upon the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6."

"There's your gospel of the kingdom being preached,” said Glen. "There was no church when the angels announced the birth of Israel's king. Here an angel tells the whole world that Jesus will soon return, and again the church is not there."

"It takes the church completely out of it, doesn't it?" said Joy rather sadly.

"Jesus takes the church completely out of it,” said Glen. "By this time our work will be completed and we will be in heaven with Our Lord."

"It'll be honeymoon time with our bridegroom!" said Sue.

"Sometimes we think the church is everything and does everything," said Glen. "Matthew is about the Kingdom of David, not the church. The church is not born until the Acts of the Apostles. And at the time Jesus is speaking of it in Matthew, the ministry of worldwide preaching is an angelic ministry."

Sue walked into the back room and poured a cup of coffee. She brought it to Glen. “I'll bet you could use this,” she said.

"Thanks, Sue," he said. "You're an angel!"