It Is Not "If" ... It Is "When"
Published June 22, 2014
by Rachael O'Halloran
I have a rule. I actually have several rules, but today I want to talk about just this one.
I rarely discuss the topics of my religion and my faith, online or conversationally outside of my immediate social circles.
I'm going to make a big exception to my rule, just this one time, in writing this article because of something that happened at my Bible study group this week.
We split our time between homes in Virginia and Florida, and after moving from the West Coast to the South, I seem to have landed squarely in the Bible Belt. I was semi-aware of that beforehand, of course, but I didn't know to what extent.
Because we move every five years or so, finding a "non-denominational" church is high up on our list shortly after our move, then - for me - I set out to find a women's Bible study, if there is not one at the church we attend.
In Virginia, I found a church I like, very small at only 49 members, with a women's Bible study after the Sunday service which lasts about three hours. After nearly two hours for the church service and adding another three hours for a Bible study, it isn't always convenient because we have obligations on the weekends. So after attending two sessions there, I started to look around for a morning study group that met during the week. My only requirement was I didn't want to go far from home.
I hit the internet, found several Bible study groups not far from my zip code and attended several in the last three months just to get a feel for the groups. Some of these groups have very intense and lively Bible study sessions! The West Coast is downright sedate when compared to the South.
When we were setting up our home in Virginia three months ago, I attended my first (and last) non-denominational women's Bible study.
I was admonished by some of the ladies because I am not able to quote Scripture from memory, nor can I find the book it is located in. My manner of dress was not suitable (they preferred their members to wear dresses or skirts, I was in slacks and a dressy blouse). Each member was required to host one Bible study session per week in their homes in addition to attending four studies per week in other members' homes. That amounted to five days per week attending Bible studies before I even made it to Sunday service. Huh?
They didn't tell me about that until after the first meeting. I decided this group was way too much for me.
After coming to Florida to set up our second home here, I attended another "non-denominational" group that wanted each member to publicly confess their sins to the group before the start of every Bible study session. I had to check the name on the building to make sure I wasn't in a Catholic church. Needless to say, I didn't last long at that group either.
The "non-denominational" group I'm in now in Florida meets on Tuesday mornings, and up until this week, I thought "so far, so good." For three weeks, I've been carpooling the 45 mile round trip with three other ladies from the area.
This week, the moderator (the wife of a minister) was leading the study in the Book of Revelations regarding the Second Coming and end of days. Afterward, we were told to form groups of four to a table to discuss the lesson and complete the assignment she gave us.
Finding A Comfortable Group Was Most Difficult
My other three carpool ladies and I had been sitting together for three weeks and I assumed this week would be no different. Before taking our seats, we all went to the refreshment counter to get coffee and pastries. I was last in the line and the lady in front of me started chatting me up about my newcomer status. I had only met her for the first time that day. In the course of conversation, I learned she had been a Bible study member for six years, but had been absent the last two months due to her husband's illness.
Someone had taken my seat at the other table, so she asked me to sit at a table with her. We were having a nice conversation, but I was surprised that no one joined us to make the foursome for the completion of the assignment. Instead, I saw ladies pulling chairs up to other tables so that there were five or six seated when there should have been four. When my coffee was empty, I said I was getting a refill and that I'd be right back.
At the coffee urn, one lady from my carpool appeared at my side and asked me, "Didn't you know she was a former Jehovah's Witness for over 30 years?"
"How would I know that? I just met her today." I said.
"We've been talking about her in the car for three weeks!" she hissed with her Southern drawl.
I said, "What difference does it make? Isn't she part of this group now?" That puzzled me. Didn't the word "former" count for anything?
A second carpool lady came to my other side and said: "Once a Jehovah's Witness, always a Jehovah's Witness. I'm sorry your seat was taken at our table by someone else and that you had to sit with her. The minister's wife is leaving soon, so you can move to that table with those three ladies." Then they both went back to their seats.
On my way back to my seat, the third carpool lady passed me on her way to the counter and said, "We can see she is witnessing to you. It's pointless to get into discussions with her. She can talk any of us under the table quoting Scripture by rote. That's one of the reasons that no one sits with her."
Oh, boy! Now what do I do? I was counting on the carpool to get me home and if they were going to hold it against me for talking to her, I might be calling a taxicab to get home.
Only 144,000 Going To Heaven
Her words echoed in my head: "Once a Jehovah's Witness, always a Jehovah's Witness." Evidently, the fact that she left her congregation and has been coming to this group for six years didn't mean anything to these ladies.
Did that mean that no one was ever redeemed? Once a sinner, always a sinner? I started to think about all the people who needed second chances - former drug addicts, former alcoholics. If they came around these ladies, they'd never get a second chance.
Later on, when I joined the other table, I was again told that they all just put up with her, hoping she'd find another group to join. That's real Christian-like, I thought.
Clearly, I now knew I was going to have to find yet another Bible study group because any way I looked at it, this was not a very Christian way for these ladies to be with anyone, no matter what their former faith background was. I wondered, but not cared, what they were saying about me with my Northern accent and Yankee ways.
The whole incident bothered me from Tuesday until today, enough for me to write about it here, so you must know I'm pretty perturbed about it.
But you know, once I started talking with this "former Jehovah's Witness" lady, we had a good enjoyable discussion. I liked her fine, even though we didn't see eye to eye on the Book of Revelation.
Like anyone who leaves another faith, we bring certain things with us to our new groups. While she and I were working on the Second Coming and end of days assignment, she brought it up that only Jehovah's Witnesses know the date of Our Lord's return and when the end of the world will come.
And, not nastily of course, I had to ask what that date was. I didn't ask nastily; I was very sincere. She got around answering the question by talking about all those who are in the group of 144,000, who will be going to Heaven. She said that after talking to me about the day's lesson, that unless I changed my thinking, I wasn't included in the group of 144,000.
I usually joke about a lot of things, but I refrained from joking about this because she was obviously very serious. If she thought badly about me, imagine what she thought about the rest of the ladies in this group.
She said she IS one of the 144,000 "persons" who will be going to Heaven. I mentioned that I believed there was a lot of symbolism in the Bible, and that the number shouldn't be taken literally. I even pushed it further, saying she missed the point of the Bible lesson which the pastor's wife was trying to convey. The above link will take you to a more detailed explanation that was similar to what we talked about.
No matter how many Bible passages I pointed out to her to show that the Last Day is not known to us in advance, that no one has insider knowledge about it, she said I didn't know what I was talking about.
I said the world could go on for another one million years or one million days. No one knows. In the end, we agreed to disagree.
She considers herself a true Christian, no matter what. And of course, so do I. We just don't see it from the same perspective.
New Table, New Conversation
When the pastor's wife left, I was summoned over to that table and the lady I had been sitting with left the meeting. The conversation at the new table was "How would the Lord be received into our homes if He came knocking at our door right now?"
I carry my Bible in a carrying case that has pockets in it where I can keep previous lessons, pen and paper. Lessons and things I like to remember are stuffed in the pockets.
I brought out my copy of a 2003 newsletter that had a poem in it. The poem is called, "If Jesus Came to Your House" by Lois Blanchard Eades (1919-2011, died at age 91). It is not in public domain, but it has been reproduced everywhere since she wrote it in 1953 for advertising the 20th Century Fox movie "The Robe." I offer it below, as Fair Use.
If Jesus Came To Your House by Lois Blanchard Eades
If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two,
If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you'd do?
Oh, I know you'd give your nicest room to such an honored Guest,
And all the food you'd serve Him would be the very best.
And you would keep assuring Him you're glad to have Him there,
That serving Him in your home is a joy beyond compare!
But when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door,
With arms outstretched in "welcome" to your Heavenly Visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they had been?
Would you turn off the radio and TV and hope He hadn't heard?
Or wish you hadn't uttered that last, loud, hasty word?
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about?
And I wonder - if the Savior spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing the things you always do?
Would you keep right on saying the things you always say?
Would your life continue as it does from day to day?
Would your family conversation keep up its usual pace?
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing, and read the books you now read?
And let Him know all the things on which your mind and spirit feed?
Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you’d planned to go?
Or would you, maybe change your plans for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him meet your very closest friends?
Or would you hope they stay away until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do,
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you.
These are the two Scriptures we were assigned for the lesson.
20 Jesus said: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him." --- Revelation 3:20 (ESV - English Standard Version)
Luke 12:35-40 (NIV - New International Version)
35 “Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.
37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.
39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.
40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Isn't that a great poem!
The questions should test the quality of our Christian life and, more importantly, our behavior. The poem's message is that we know not when He comes, so always be prepared. Jesus will return and we need to be constantly ready for Him.
I recited the poem to the ladies at my table and after the first two lines, the room became quiet. Everyone was listening to me read this poem, but yet everyone heard it differently. When you read the poem, each question may mean something to any one of us. Because we all live our lives differently, the poem will mean something different to each of us.
In this group of perfectly coiffed ladies who were dressed to the nines, the poem was an insult. I scored absolutely no points if I had been bucking for them and, it was then I realized I had to find another Bible study group where I could be comfortable and where the people had a similar belief system.
Meeting a wall of dead silence, I asked, "Don't you think Jesus has a good reason for not revealing to us the actual date of His return?"
One lady of about 80 years old said, "That's not the point. The poem implies that we have many things to hide, many things to put away, so we wouldn't keep Our Lord waiting."
I was flabbergasted. I said, "What poem did you just listen to? Here, read it for yourself!" I handed her the newsletter folded over to show the poem.
She refused to take it and one by one, they left the table until I was alone. The driver of our carpool came over and said she would take me home but I was not welcomed back next week. I couldn't even bring myself to ride home with them. I called a taxi cab.
A low voice said behind me, "You should never have implied that these proud Southern women had secrets to hide. Some things you see as wrong, they think are perfectly acceptable." I turned and there stood the youngest lady in the group of about 45 years old who also was the quietest. I never heard her speak before that day.
I told her I didn't imply anything, I was just reading a bloody poem and now I'm sorry I ever did it. If these ladies took offense, then for sure they have something to hide before they would let Our Lord in their front doors!"
"Could you let Him in your door without making any preparations?" she asked me.
"Obviously I could do it a helluva lot faster than it would take some of these ladies to open their doors!"
My retort didn't mean my life was free of everyday distractions or that I was already perfect. It was meant to show that I certainly didn't have much to hide or put away out of sight before I could open the door.
When I got home, my daughter and I talked on Google Hangout like we do on every Tuesday afternoon. We both have Bible study on Tuesday mornings and we like to compare notes. After I got done typing to her what I've told you here, she didn't answer back for more than five minutes. When I asked her again what she thought, she wrote back that she was laughing so much, she couldn't type.
She said she could just picture me at my Bible study, telling these ladies "what for" and she was having a good laugh about it. Well, of course, I saw the irony in it all after I calmed down.
When you think about the fact that I've lived in a different state every five years for the last 60 years or so, I should have met every manner or type of person by now. But, the South is uncharted territory for me. Some of the people here are very different in the way they live and think. I guess I have much more to learn about how to take people in social situations.
If Jesus was coming to your door tomorrow ...
Online Bible Study Resources
Women's Bible Cafe - offers small group study for Christian women of all denominations.The purpose of the Bible Cafe is to unite Christian women in fellowship and study of the scriptures, in an organized and spiritually rewarding fashion.
Women of Faith -based in Plano, Texas, this group is for women who want to deepen their faith and women exploring what faith is all about.
Good Morning Girls - to inspire, encourage and equip women all over the world to get into God’s Word through our online community.
Women Study The Bible - to support Christians as they strive to implement their beliefs on a daily basis.
Free Bible Studies For Women - to get biblical materials into women’s hands as inexpensively as possible so more women can have the opportunity to get into God’s word.
Crosswalk.com - Practical biblical application for everyday life
The Take Away Message
I guess the take away message I had hoped for was that we'd ask ourselves similar questions:
How easy would it be for us to live our lives a certain way until just near the time of His return, then hurry to clean up our act?
Would we be running around at the last minute making everything proper and ready before He arrived?
Well, ready or not, when the day comes, He will know then, as He knows now, about anyone's need to perform hurried last minute preparations.
I know about 32 little old ladies who will be hustling to clean up their acts, if what they had to say at this week's Bible study was any indication.
I think they forgot one important lesson when they misunderstood the questions in the poem as personal attacks.
He knows our hearts; He is all-knowing. We can't fool Him even if we are running around to put stuff away before we open the door.
We should welcome each visitor in the same fashion as one would welcome Our Lord. As the Bible says, we should be charitable to all, because He lives in all of us.
If we refuse to answer His knock at our door now, He may refuse to hear our knock at His door hereafter.
Along with that take away message, I have also learned that I must not assume that everyone will "hear" and "understand" things the same way.
I thought the poem was innocent enough and certainly was "spot on" with the question at their table: "How would the Lord be received into our homes if He came knocking at our door right now?"
I will find another Bible study group, I'm sure. The experience of this one will stay with me for a very long time.
For now, I'm going to look into online groups. I have listed a good selection in the sidebar.
Thank you for reading and I welcome your opinions and views.
Rachael O'Halloran, June 22, 2014
© 2014 Rachael O'Halloran
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on September 04, 2014:
As you can see, the thought of being at the ready was lost on that crowd. I'm proud to say I haven't run into anyone else like them before or since. I don't usually discuss religion or politics for obvious reasons, but this article was chomping at the bit to be told.
I'm glad it gave you a little laugh and I thank you for reading my article and taking the time to comment.
Welcome to HubPages!
Doris H. Dancy from Yorktown, Virginia on September 04, 2014:
Like your daughter, I had a very good laugh as you described your search for just the right Bible study group…then I settled on your very serious message: We need to be ready to welcome Jesus at all times. I was born and raised in North Carolina and I have had some very odd experiences also, but for the most part, there are a great deal of wonderful people in the South, who REALLY love the Lord. I am not a Jehovah's Witness, but I have several friends who are. They have told me about the 144, 000 also, but we just agreed to disagree. I really enjoyed your hub: It gave me a chance to laugh, think, review, admire, and HOPE you find the right Bible Study. I know the Lord will lead you to the right places, and I think He already is doing that. He wanted a TEACHER in a variety of Bible study spots. Once the work was done, He sent you to another. Keep blessing others even when they don't realize that you are. They have to have time to THINK.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on August 04, 2014:
#mothersofnations, thank you for reading and I will go now to my email to read the rest of your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to write.
Mothers of Nations on August 04, 2014:
Very interesting article! You had my attention from the very beginning and that's not always easy to do! lol :)
I didn't find anything in this article to disagree with. I can clearly see your point of view. I thought the poem was beautiful. Its funny because at the end you mentioned how we can't atually hide anything when the Lord comes because He's all-knowing - that was the same thought I had when I was reading the poem.
My comment was becoming way too long, so I've cut some out and emailed you. Hope that's ok.
God bless you !
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on July 31, 2014:
I agree. Thank you
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 31, 2014:
No amount of reinforcements could have fixed that group. You were right to get in that taxi.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on July 30, 2014:
It's been awhile since this happened and I'm pretty much over my annoyance. But I'll tell you I was quite pissed enough to write this hub, that's how bad it was that week. lol
I know He was there, and I told my daughter that too. But if He was hoping I would straighten them all out, then I surely let Him down, for it was a much bigger job than even I could do. I needed reinforcements and I was all alone, except for my quick Irish temper and even quicker tongue.
I've lived in many cities in the US but the South has its own personality and with transmigration, now it is a melting pot of all kinds of people. I always liked moving to a new place ... it's a new start, getting to know new people. But that group was a group I couldn't wait to slough off. I have found a lovely online group of about 10 people which is just right for me. I'd rather continue in the online venue than ever to tread those waters again.
Thank you for reading and for your comment :)
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2014:
Rachael, I'm so glad you published this. Like you, I generally steer clear of the religious topics and political discussions in particular, in the forums. Things can get quite nasty.
Your experience was well worth sharing and the poem was a real thought piece. Their reaction to your reading of the poem was totally unexpected. I thought you'd actually shine a light on the hypocricy that was obviously going on in shunning that woman who was a Jehovah's Witness. Boy was I surprised.
Since He told us that "where two or three are gathered in My name", you can rest assured that he was at that Bible study meeting the day you described. He sees into our hearts and knows our thoughts. You did well to leave them behind.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on July 01, 2014:
Your question: Do you believe in Gay ministers? They have a lesbian minister at Wake Forest that ministers over children. Do you think God has changed His mind and that is OK?
It doesn't matter what I believe regarding gay ministers. As for your second question: God doesn't change His mind.
Thank you for reading and commenting
Pollyannalana from US on July 01, 2014:
That really is something that all those southern ladies were like that and the Jehovah Witness too. I guess they were right about her after all as it turned out, huh?
Do you believe in Gay ministers? They have a lesbian minister at Wake Forest that ministers over children. Do you think God has changed His mind and that is OK?
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on June 28, 2014:
For now I'll stay with the online group. Maybe when I go back to Virginia things will be looking up. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Dianna Mendez on June 28, 2014:
I am sorry you have had such a difficult time finding a Bible study group. It seems so simple a search but I can agree that at times it is not so. I am very blessed with my present group as they do not portray any of the ones you listed here. I pray you do not give up but find one suitable to your nature and beliefs.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on June 27, 2014:
I agree. I think an online group is a good decision for the time being. I attended my first one on Thursday and it is actually quite lovely. I think I'm going to like this type of interaction, even though it is not face to face, as I have been used to in the past.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
FlourishAnyway from USA on June 26, 2014:
You are better off without such people. These judgmental people are why some people turn away from organized religion.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on June 25, 2014:
Hi Shauna, Usually I steer clear of the 144,000 thing too because I've heard it interpreted too many ways. It only took one time for someone to put me in my place, for me to know that I am not equipped with enough knowledge to challenge anyone on that Scripture.
But to get past that with her and get back to the assignment, I said something along the lines "Boy, are you going to be surprised when your 144,000 has hitch-hikers!" That had sealed my fate regarding her opinion of me. :(
I think I'm going to stay with an online study group for the time being. Since I'm only in Florida for a few months and then back to Virginia again, I think the online group will have more continuity for me in study materials and possible friendships.
Moving to the topic at the second table, the poem was meant to provoke thought, not anger and examination of conscience, not finger pointing. Far be it from me to profess being squeaky clean; I'm nowhere near worthy, but I now know I'm not in league with some who profess to be Christians. I'm glad I'm not "that kind" of Christian.
So, I probably won't be sharing any more poems any time soon, but I have learned (reinforced) several valuable lessons on how to keep my own counsel and listen before I speak.
I agree with you that we should respect each other's views. If we don't, then we have no right to call ourselves Christians.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 25, 2014:
Rachael, every one of those ladies is a hypocrite. The Christian way is to love and accept - not judge. I have a very good friend who happens to be a Jehovah Witness. We never speak about religion (I try to steer clear of religion and politics). Nevertheless, we are good friends and share many of the same values. We respect each other's views.
As far as getting ready for Jesus. Not a single one of us would be fooling him by hurrying up to 'tidy our house'. He knows what we do, say and think every minute of every day. I think He would be more pleased to walk into a cluttered (human) house, than one that was squeaky clean. Furthermore, I don't believe in the 144,000 thing. God is not judgmental; He is forgiving and will welcome all those who welcome Him with open arms.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on June 25, 2014:
Guilty consciences, indeed! It was the first conclusion I arrived at after I got over being flabbergasted at the reaction. It only took one lady to react that way and the rest fell in line like soldiers. I just couldn't believe it of a whole group. One or two, maybe, but not 32.
Re: self-promoting .. If you have something that is relevant, self-promote all you want to! lol I will gladly check out your hub.
Also I want to thank you for your support of this article. I was very leary of publishing it because, quite frankly, not many hubbers write on this subject, or dare to point a finger at hypocrisy.
I didn't name the group, the city, or even some of the ladies. But seeing as how they were quick to think the poem was about them, I would be interested to know if any of them ever read this hub and identify the ladies I spoke of as their Bible study group! Now that would be something!
Thank you for voting and commenting. :)
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on June 25, 2014:
I believe it is how we grow as Christians when we meet others from all faith backgrounds. Some people are more spiritually developed than we are and we can learn a lot from them. Others are hungry to learn. When you look at them as a group, they make up a fine Bible Study group. :) Thank you for reading and commenting.
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 25, 2014:
Thank you for deciding to publish this hub Rachael. That is a wonderful poem and the only ones it should offend are those with a guilty conscience or who are living hypocritical lives. You are certainly better off out of that bible study group, and I agree some of those others put too many expectations on their members as well. Religion is a difficult topic to write about as is politics, but you needed to write this. I am not trying to self-promote but if you check out a poem I wrote called "On the Road to Kingdom Come" (one of my hubs) it's message is to be prepared for when Jesus comes, and that he may be in disguise, so you should live your life as though each person you meet may be him. I loved this, voted up.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 25, 2014:
We have to take our spirituality with us wherever we go, because we don't know what we'll find in other places. I learned that poem as a child more than 50 years ago, and I still remember it. The message is sobering: Jesus comes to our homes all the time.
Rachael O'Halloran (author) from United States on June 25, 2014:
That's exactly what my daughter and I were saying: they don't walk the talk. Bigotry was alive and kicking and I couldn't get a taxi cab home fast enough. I actually had to wait almost an hour for it to arrive and had to turn down two other offers of a ride. I was afraid of more conversation that could have gone in any direction. Thank you for reading and your comment. I can't tell you how afraid I was of publishing this after I wrote it. Thank you for your support.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2014:
I do make it a point not to talk about religion, or write about it...but this goes beyond religion...this is about walking the talk. Live the life you preach and all will be well...and that's what I try to do. Thank you for sharing this.