Weekly Bible Study-Is He To Blame?

Weekly Bible Study-Is He To Blame?

Weekly Bible Study

Is He To Blame?

June 13, 2017

“God—His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is pure” Psalm 18:30

It was here at last; graduation night. Carla and Jeb were best friends and had competed for best grades since high school. They pushed each other relentlessly, demanding more and getting it in the end. Carla graduated with honors carrying a 3.9 GPA. Jeb also graduated with honors and a GPA of 3.85.

“I told you I was smarter,” she laughed as they hugged tightly.

“I held back on that last test because I am a gentleman,” he kidded, spinning her around in a wide circle.

“Humph,” she snorted, “If you were a gentleman, you wouldn’t lie like that.” They both doubled over in laughter.

“Hey, you two, let’s go, Heather is giving a party and you are the guests of honor. Get it? Honor!”

“Yeah we get it. Ok, lets have some fun tonight.”

“Can I drive your new Audi?” Jeb asked Carla.

“Sure you can but after tonight don’t ever ask again. I worked hard for this car and it’s all mine.” She pinched Jeb and winked, tossing him the keys.

The ringing phone brought Cynthia Johnson abruptly out of her sleep. Her heart leaped. She had the horrible foreboding feeling. Something is wrong. “Hello, is this Mrs. Cynthia Johnson?”

“Yes,” she shakily replied, the tears filling her eyes. “What is it. What’s wrong?”

“I am with the State Police and we are at your front door, ma’am, could you come talk with us?”

Cynthia leaped out of bed and slipped into her robe, taking the stairs two at a time. She opened the door. Two state troopers were standing there, a man and a woman. Both looked very serious.

“I am trooper Wilson,” said the woman. “And this is trooper Gentry. Can we come in and talk with you?”

In a moment they were sitting in the living room, the female trooper sitting next to Cynthia.

“Do you have a daughter named Carla?” She asked.

Now she knew. Something has happened. Now the tears began to flow.

“Does she drive a new gray Audi?”

“Oh no. What is it? What’s wrong. Is Carla ok?”

Trooper Wilson held Cynthia’s hands and said, “Mrs. Johnson, I’m afraid your daughter was killed in a car crash out on Hayward Drive, early this morning.”

The flood gates flew open as tears flowed relentlessly and Cynthia sobbed hysterically. “Oh no. Oh no. Oh God, it can’t be. There must be a mistake.” Trooper Wilson understood and pulled Cynthia into her shoulder, holding her firmly, letting her pour out her unspeakable grief. There is no real consolation for such times but a shoulder to cry on helps.

Two Months Later

Cynthia agreed to spend the weekend with her best friend, Claire at the beach. Claire’s family had a small cottage there. It was secluded which allowed for contemplation and prayer if the guests were so inclined. Cynthia was not so inclined. She was angry at God.

“Ok, Cynthia, let it all out. Rant and rave to your heart’s content and then we can talk.”

For the next twenty or so minutes, Cynthia did just that, she ranted and raved at God’s unfairness, the Universe’s horrible Karmic twist of fate and Jeb’s stupid, thoughtless, careless driving. She found a long list of people and things to blame for her daughter’s death. Finally, exhausted and wrung out, Cynthia could find nothing good to say about anyone involved, including the car manufacturer who she had sued for negligence. Her conclusion? Rather than joyful, life is horribly disappointing and no longer worth living.

Pouring more tea, Claire said, “What do you mean by not worth living, Cynthia?”

Looking through tear-filled, swollen eyes, Cynthia reach for her friend’s hand and said, “No, dear friend, I don’t mean I want to take my life. I simply mean I am so, so tired of trying to find peace in this horrible mess. And, if I’m honest, I want an answer from God, if he really exists. People tell me to look to God and I have most every day since this happened. However He has not answered me. How could He have allowed this tragedy? Carla was a good girl and so young. Truthfully I hate God.”

No one spoke now. All they could hear were the gulls occasionally squawking and the perpetual ocean waves breaking on shore. They sat silently for several minutes. Then Claire spoke.

“Cynthia, how can you blame God for this tragedy when you don’t even believe he exists? Even though you can’t face the truth yet, a part of you knows the car crash and horrible outcome are consequences of poor judgment on Jeb’s part, not really God’s fault.

“Considering how devastating the death of Jeb and Carla is, try to imagine how God must have felt when His Son, Jesus was beaten and then killed on the cross.”

Cynthia and Claire talked late into the night, alternating between English tea and rocky road ice cream as they bared their souls and cried profusely.

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The Paper Boy!

The Paper Boy!

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I grew up in a medium-sized San Joaquin Valley city in California about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. Life was seemingly safer and kids free to roam the neighborhoods in search of friends, fun, and hideouts. The house we lived in when this story took place was on a gravel road, across from the train tracks.

          Our house actually did have a white picket fence and there were lots of vacant lots nearby (where we dug monstrous caves and tunnels). There were four of us at home, Mom and Dad, me, and Carole, my older sister. We were three years apart. Carole was 11 and I was 8 when my parents bought her a German Shepherd named Lobo. Although he put up with all of us, Lobo was definitely Carole’s dog.

          Once, when we were swimming at a lake, Lobo sat on shore, never taking his eyes off Carole. Just to test him, she began waving her arms, yelling “Help!” Immediately, he sprang into action dashing into the water, grabbing her arm and taking her ashore. It was amazing to see. She never pretended to be in trouble again.

          We had a paper boy who thought it was funny to throw the daily paper at Lobo if he happened to be in the front yard. To this day I have to wonder at his I.Q. One day, just as the paper left his hand, flying at Lobo, my Dad came out the door.

          “Hey!” he said to the boy, causing him to stop his bike. “You better stop throwing papers at our dog. If you don’t he’s going to leap over this fence one day and make you wish you had.”

          The boy said he would stop and pedalled away. I saw the look on his face as he glanced over his shoulder at my Dad. He would have to learn the hard way. And it didn’t take long.

          A few days later, as I rounded the corner of the yard, I saw our paper boy headed our way. I stopped just out of his view to watch what I guessed would be an exciting event. Sure enough, he reached inside his canvas paper bag and pulled out our paper, eyes fixed on Lobo. Just opposite the gate, he hurled his projectile at Lobo with a glee…which was very short-lived because Lobo decided it was time to teach this boy a lesson.

          I’ll never forget how it played out. Lobo was standing about twenty feet from the fence, watching the paper boy pedal our way. He seemed to know what he would do. As soon as their eyes met and the boy hurled the paper, Lobo came alive, heading for the fence. He passed the paper on the way to leaping over the fence with ease. It was beautiful to see. I thought I was watching Rin Tin Tin in action.

          The boy screamed, hunched over his handle bars and pedalled for life. It was no contest. Rocks flew from his tires as he wailed and pedalled for all he was worth. Within 30 feet Lobo was alongside him and grabbed his pants cuff with his teeth. Then he planted his feet and sat on his haunches, sliding a bit in the gravel. All was lost as the boy fell off the bike, now crying in terror, expecting the worst from this huge dog. Instead, Lobo slowly and methodically drug him a few feet down the road, released him and trotted back home, leaping our fence with ease.

          When I told my Dad the story that afternoon, he grinned and said, “Well, I warned him.” and reached down for the paper held in Lobo’s mouth.

Words

Words

 

The unrelenting sun scorched everything in the arid oilfields. The grizzled, rough-and-tumble men approached the lone speaker slowly, determined to stop his mouth permanently. A few feet away now, the solitary sentinel turned to face them, eyes penetrating, fire like.

“Boys?” he enquired.

“We come to show you your words ain’t enough to stand against us. We come to shut you up once and for all,” they said.

Squaring his slight shoulders and facing his threatening accusers directly, the slender young man opened his mouth, but the words were from another realm, “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer with shatters a rock?”1

As though held by an unseen force, the men were frozen, mouths agape, eyes wide. They were silent.

He continued, “Long ago in many ways and at many times God’s prophets spoke his message to our ancestors. But now at last, God sent His Son to bring His message to us. God created the universe by His Son, and everything will someday belong to the Son. God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like Him in every way. By His own might word, He hold the universe together.”2

Without a word, the hardened, sunbaked men sank to their knees onto the superheated ground with their heads bowed, tears streaming down their crevassed faces.

Only God knows if this was the only time men were baptized from a canteen!

1. Jeremiah 23:39; 2. Hebrews 1:1-3

A Slice of Cake

A Slice of Cake

Desserts

 

Visualize a triple layered cake of your favorite flavor. Before you cut into this beautiful domed treat, your taste buds are already hard at work, stimulating your sugary desire. This is the perfect moment. No guilt. No calories. No disappointment. So you savor this dreamlike moment just before you change it all by sliding a very sharp knife deeply into the center, easily cutting through the layers. And then again, completing that familiar wedge-shaped slice bringing you closer to the first anxiously anticipated bite.

Now on your plate, exposing the layers of color and texture, every inch promising delight, you carve an arc of pleasure with your fork, pulling it away from the slice and into your mouth. Oh, such delight and pleasure, literally melting in your mouth, not much chewing required. If you can, you exercise control, taking bite by bite, slowly savoring the succulent perfection until the final bits are smashed together with your fork. You did it. You loved it and now you should sit back, pour freshly brewed coffee and wash it all down sip by sip.

As in life, eating sumptuous, triple-layered cake demands discipline and restraint to be fully enjoyed. Once eaten, the first slice seems to be just a bit short of complete satisfaction. If only, you think, just one more taste…a few carefully consumed bites should do it…you’ll just have another small portion and call it good. Finished for now. Save the rest for later. Parse it out over time.

Then something happens. Something, if you’d admit to it, that could have been prevented. Instead of covering the cake, walking away to recall the tasty treat, you give in. The greed takes over. You quickly slice another piece–and not a miserly half-piece, a full-fledged, over-indulging piece of triple-layered cake, now waiting for you fully exposed on your dessert plate. Eat me now!

Unlike the first piece, this one demands to be eaten with gusto before you come to your senses and stop. Tear at the layers, rip them away from the whole. Eat quickly, don’t stop. Shove it in, all of it. Pay no attention to your body that tells you it is full. Take this slice and enjoy it because you will devour all of it.

Then, afterwards, sitting stuffed, unsnapping a button or two on those too-tight trousers, you wake from the hypnotic, self-indulgent greed-induced experience, wishing you had resisted the second slice and remained guilt free. But you didn’t. You gave in and instead of relaxing in peace, smacking your lips with pleasure, you are wallowing in the aftermath of greedy consumption, taking more than your share and certainly more than your need.

Funny how eating too much cake can be just like demanding too much from life. Taking more than you need even when that little inner voice warned you to stop.

Wasted Time

Wasted Time

Wheat field gate

 

All his family and friends took turns in the hospital room, waiting for the inevitable. Death. Outside the family, looking in, most everyone who knew, read about, or worked with Stanley Robinson were certain his life of wealth and privilege was ending well. After all, he was responsible for so many innovations in the publishing industry. His combination of paper and electronic media revolutionized how news and information was broadcast. Stanley seemed to have a sixth sense about when to divest or invest. He invested millions in electronic news gathering equipment against the advice of all his fellow corporate moguls. As usual, he proved to be on the cutting edge. The money poured in faster than anyone expected or even dreamed.

And yet…what are those expressions on his family’s faces? Stanley’s wife seems disinterested, chatting on her cell phone with one of her attorneys. "Yes, Randolph. I wish to sell those stocks. I understand your hesitation but I am turning a new page in Stella Corporation’s history. No, future. Stanley is nearly gone and my signature is all you need."

Three children, Daniel in the room reading a novel, Priscilla and Sarah in the cafeteria, sipping coffee drinks, absently checking their watches. Not one of those faces carried emotional distress or even sadness on this final day.

"Mom. Would you like a coffee or tea?" Daniel asked. "I’m off to the cafeteria. I’ll send Sarah or Priscilla up."

"Excuse me, Randolph," she said to the phone. "Yes dear. I’d love an iced tea please." Back to the phone, "Go ahead Randolph. What about the Archimedes Yacht Company?"

And so it went on Stanley Robinson’s final day on earth. His last few breaths were ebbing now. His vision fading. His thoughts nearly obscure. And then he spoke to his wife, "Stella? Can you hear me?"

"Stanley. Did you speak dear? Was that you? Phillip," she called to her personal secretary, "get the children up here please. Immediately."

"Stella listen to me. I don’t have much time now. Please express my great sorrow to Daniel, Priscilla, and Sarah." He paused to catch his breath here. "Tell them that I am so sorry to have ignored them in favor of this business empire I’m leaving." At this point Stanley raised himself up onto his elbows. "Stella please forgive me for ignoring you as well. If only I’d had more time…"

Stanley Robinson fell back down on his bed, stared up at the ceiling and exhaled his final breath. Stella stared transfixed at the single tear falling down his face.

Moments later, the children entered his room. They looked at their father and then their mother. "He’s gone. He did have some final words for us." They looked at her, waiting for the conclusion. "He apologized for not spending enough time with all of you. He said he was sorry for just making lots of money instead of spending time with you. Oh, and he also asked me to forgive him based on the same failing."

As one, the Robinson family turned their eyes on Stanley, their absent father/husband. In an odd, eerie sort of way, he was once again absent from his family.

Sarah’s Special Christmas

Sarah’s Special Christmas

 

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Sarah’s Special Christmas

By David Nelson

 

Sarah was an industrious young girl, saving all her money during the year to buy her mother a very special necklace from Johnson’s Jewelers.

She and her mother were looking last December and her mother, in a moment of total honesty, said, “If your dad has extra money, I’d ask him for that beautiful necklace so I could keep your picture next to my heart.”

They grinned and hugged each other in that special mom to daughter embrace. Later, Sarah returned to get the name and stock number for her secret surprise next Christmas. 

Well, it was almost next Christmas and Sarah had saved nearly all the money she needed, $125! It was so hard to not spend any of her money during the year. Many times she almost weakened to buy herself or her friends a treat. But she refused even when her best friend, Caroline, begged her to go to a movie starring their favorite actress. With tears in her eyes, she held fast to her promise, keeping her money safe in her bedroom.

Every week, Sarah stopped by Johnson’s to remind herself of why she was saving all her money. The necklace, with a heart-shaped locket always gleamed and sparkled back at her. Two more weeks and you will be mine, she thought. Mom will be so surprised.

The following two weeks were filled with all things Christmas. Decorating the tree, the house, lights on the house and wrapping presents for friends and relatives. It was just about time for Sarah to pick up the necklace. She couldn’t help grinning as she pictured her mom opening the box.

Two days before she was scheduled to get the necklace, Sarah decided to tell Caroline why she had been saving all her money. She knew she would be excited for her when she found out. 

Caroline’s mother opened the door and invited Sarah in. She seemed downcast. “Can I see Caroline?” she asked. Mrs. Willis replied, “Of course, honey. But she is not in a good mood. We got some bad news today. See if you can cheer her up for me.”

Caroline was on her bed, crying into her pillow. Sarah sat beside her and spoke her name, “Caroline, what’s the matter?”

“Oh, it’s so terrible, Sarah. My dad got fired today. He’s been at his job for longer than I can remember and they sold the company last week. Today he was called in and they fired him. And it’s Christmas.”

“I am so sorry. What can I do to help?” She wondered why she asked that question. What could she possibly do to help Caroline’s  dad?

“I don’t think you can do anything. His final check was very small because they made him pay off his loan before he left. Now he can’t get the car out of the shop to look for work. His cousin Billy said he could work for him until he finds a better job.”

“Then why are you so sad? He has another job right away.”

“Because after he paid for rent and stuff, he doesn’t have any money to pay for the car repair. And he needs the car to go to work tomorrow.”

“Wow. That’s horrible. Does your mom have any money?” And then a little voice spoke inside Sarah–“You have $125 to help your friend’s father. Give it to them.” Sarah was horrified to think of giving up her mom’s money. She had saved all year and her mother deserved the necklace. Giving the money to Caroline’s dad wouldn’t be fair. It was his fault he got fired, I am sure.

“What? You know my mom doesn’t work, Sarah. But actually, I have $15 I’m giving to dad. It’s all I have. Maybe he can talk the repair guy to put it on credit.”

“Yeah, maybe he can. Listen, I have to go now. Give me a hug.”

Wiping her eyes, Caroline said, “Why’d you come over?”

“Oh, no reason. I just wanted to talk. See you later.”

Why should I have to give her my money, Sarah wrestled with that little voice. I’m just a kid. He dad wouldn’t even take my money…probably. I’ve saved all year for my mother. Her joy was ebbing away, taking her excitement with it. Is this fair, she wondered. 

Standing in front of Johnson’s Jewelry with tears streaming down her face, Sarah knew she had to give the money to Mr. Willis. Her mom and dad were always giving stuff away and they told her it was what we are supposed to do…help others, especially when it isn’t easy.

Now she was in the store, staring at the necklace. “Come to pick it up?” a voice nearby said. “I’ve watched you come in all year and I figured you would get it for Christmas. Like me to wrap it up young lady?”

Sarah whirled around and ran out the door, crying as she ran all the way to the Willis’.

Mrs. Willis let her into the kitchen where Caroline and her father were sitting. Sarah reached into her pocket and pulled out the wad of bills, totaling $125, and dropped them onto the table.

“I’ve saved this money and I want you to have it, Mr. Willis. Caroline told me you can’t pay for the car repair so I want you to have the money. You don’t have to pay me back.”

Mr. and Mrs. Willis and Caroline were speechless as they stared at the wad of bills. Sarah ran all the way home, still sobbing. She cried herself to sleep.

“Honey, wake up,” her mother said, gently rubbing her back. “Your dad and I want to talk with you and it’s time to eat.”

She splashed some water on her swollen eyes and joined her folks in the kitchen. “Sarah, we are so proud of you,” her father said, tears in his eyes. “We know how hard it was to save all year for that special gift for your mother. But giving it away at the last minute was amazing. You are so generous, sweetheart. So loving and kind.”

Sarah was puzzled. How did they know what she saved for? “How did you know?”

“You’re not going to believe this,” her dad said, “but I was planning on buying her the same necklace. So today, when I went in to pick it up, the clerk told me about you coming month after month all year and then today how you ran away without buying it I wondered what had happened. So your mother called the Willis’ and they told us what you did. Honey you made us so proud. So very proud. We know how difficult they was. And your generosity was worth a thousand necklaces.”

“I love you so much, mom. But I knew you would want me to give my money to Mr. Willis.”

“You will be glad to know that your father bought the necklace for me and so I bought you one too. Here.”

During her life, Sarah shared the story of saving her money all year and then giving it away just before she bought the necklace for her mother. Her children and grandchildren knew it by heart after a few tellings but they too, became generous, loving people, giving away sacrificially, just as Christ did for everyone. 

Words

Words

 

The unrelenting sun scorched everything in the arid oilfields. The grizzled, rough-and-tumble men approached the lone speaker slowly, determined to stop his mouth permanently. A few feet away now, the solitary sentinel turned to face them, eyes penetrating.

“Boys?” he enquired.

“We come to show you your words ain’t enough to stand against us. We come to shut you up once and for all,” they said.

Squaring his slight shoulders and facing his threatening accusers directly, the slender young man opened his mouth, but the words were from another realm, “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”1

As though held by an unseen force, the men were frozen, mouths agape, eyes wide. They were silent.

He continued, “Long ago in many ways and at many times God’s prophets spoke his message to our ancestors. But now at last, God sent His Son to bring His message to us. God created the universe by His Son, and everything will someday belong to the Son. God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like Him in every way. By His own mighty word, He holds the universe together.”2

Without a word, the hardened, sun-baked men sank to their knees onto the superheated ground with their heads bowed, tears streaming down their crevassed faces.

Only God knows if this was the only time men were baptized from a canteen!

1. Jeremiah 23:39; 2. Hebrews 1:1-3

© David Nelson