. . . Helena

EXHIBITING A CROSS BETWEEN a blank stare and x-ray vision, Helena
       had a way of peering through those horn-rimmed glasses that made you
wonder if she was really listening.   Such was the case on May 9, 1992:
   "Helena, Jesus is not angry with you; you don't need Mary to intercede.   There
is only one true mediator.   Here . . . I'll read it to you: ‘For there is one God, and
one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a
ransom for all’
(1 Tim. 2:5-6) . . . Do you understand?   Do you want to get
saved?"

   "Yes . . ."

Sept. 23, 1997. . .

   By the seventh ring, Pastor Jim Manning was ready to hang up, when someone
picked up on the other end: "Fairmont Baptist Church, Pastor Robert Micheals."
   "Bob, it's Jim Manning.   How are you doing?"
   "Great.   How's the progeny preacher of Pittsburgh?"
   "Funny.   But this isn't Bible college, anymore.   I've got a church related
problem; need some godly advice."

   "When you find a good source, call me back."
   "No, seriously, Bob, one of my church members has a problem relating to her
heavenly Father.   I remember you describing something similar a while back."

   "How long she been saved?"
   "Five years . . . I believe it's five."
   "I've got some material written by a pastor in Amarillo.   He's been in the
ministry fifty years; seen it all.   He hit upon something that's a real eye-opener.
I'm sending you a copy."
   "Great."
   "But listen, brother, read it first, yourself, before you expose any of your people
to it . . ."

Nov. 5, 1997. . .

   Pastor Manning was going over his sermon when someone knocked on his
office door.   He looked at his watch.   "Come in, Helena."
   Helena Jacobson shyly entered, and in lady-like fashion, straightened her dress
before settling into the chair facing the pastor's desk.
   "So," Jim said, beaming a polite smile, "how are you doing?"

   "Fine."
   "Good.   I have something I want to show you.   I hope it'll be a blessing and get
you closer to God."

   Helena smiled without saying a word.   She pushed up on her glasses with a thin,
manicured finger.   They were the same pair she wore for years; so worn out, they
spent more time sliding down her nose than staying glued to the ideal spot.   Yet,
aside from her glasses, Helena was meticulous, always prepped to look like a lady.
Her long, straight, auburn hair made her look like a youthful girl, who had
patiently spent many long hours throughout the years brushing it.   Helena was well
into her thirties.
   The Pastor smiled.   He was used to her quiet demeanor.   "Did you bring a Bible?"
   Her expression changed.   "I'm sorry, I can run home and--"
   "No, no, that's okay.   I have an extra one . . . turn to John 14:8"
   Jim opened his own Bible, and waited for her to catch up.   "I'll read the first
verse: ‘Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us’
(John 14:8).
  You see, Helena, Philip's question is similar to your's.   Notice how
Jesus answered him: ‘Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you,
and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? HE THAT HATH SEEN ME HATH
SEEN THE FATHER; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?’
(John
14:9).
  Would you please read the next verse out-loud?"

   Helena gave him a nod and began to read, "Believest thou not that I am in the
Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of
myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works"
(John 14:10).
   She looked up from the page.
   "You know what it means?"
   "That Jesus and the Father are the same?"
   "That's right.   When you look at Jesus, and how He reacted to mankind, you're
seeing exactly the way the Father would react.   Read Verse Seven to me."
   She found the verse: ‘If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father
also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him’
(John 14:7).
   "Helena, in Chapter Twelve--I'll quote it for you--Jesus also said: ‘And he
that seeth me seeth him that sent me’
(John 12:45).   Jesus not only came to earth
to save us, but He showed us the Father through His earthly walk!"
   She stared back at John 14:7, silently moving her lips.
   "That's a good idea," Jim said, "keep reading it until it totally grabs you."
   She looked back at the pastor, drawing her eyebrows inward.
   Jim continued.   "We tend to view God the Father the way we view our earthly
father.   For example, if you grew up with a judgmental father, you'll tend to think
of God as ready to judge you at the drop of a hat; we project a mental picture of
God the Father based on what we think a father is supposed to be like."
   She shook her head in agreement and went back to reading the verse.

   "The Bible says that in Jesus, ‘God was manifest in the flesh,’ (1 Tim. 3:16),"
Jim said.   "So I want you to read through the Gospels.   Find out what Jesus was
like; get to know Him better.   Christ said, in that very verse you're reading, 'If ye
had known me, ye should have known my Father also.'
  I want you to learn what
your heavenly Father is truly like.   Do you understand?"
   She looked up from the page and nodded.
   "Good."   Jim grabbed a pen and wrote on his desk calendar.   "Same time next
week?"
   "Yes, that's fine," she said.
   "Okay, get in as much reading as you can.   Jot down any questions you have."
The pastor stood up and led Helena to the door.   "Goodbye, Helena."
   "Thank you for your time," she said on her way out . . .

Nov. 21, 1997 . . .

   "I don't know, Bob.   She's not responding.   She says she still can't imagine God
as the father-type; much less as her Father."
   "What was her dad like?"
Bob asked.   There was no response.   "Hello?   You still
there?"
   "I feel stupid."
   "You didn't ask?!"
  Bob began to laugh.
   "It's not funny . . . Didn't even occur to me."
   "Well, go back and find out.   If she has a negative image, stress the fact that her
heavenly Father is nothing like her real father,"
Bob said.
   "All right . . . Hey, thanks."
   "No problem . . . And don't worry, I won't bring this up during the preacher's
conference."

   Jim could hear Bob chuckle as he hung up . . .

Nov. 22, 1997 . . .

   "How much do you want me to write down?" Helena said, bringing her pen to
the blank page.
   "Whatever comes to mind," Jim said.   "You know . . . how he treated you and
your mom; anything you remember.   Take your time."
   Helena took almost five minutes, occasionally stopping to gently poke the top
of the pen into her bottom lip.   Somehow, the childish mannerism helped her
concentrate.   When she finished, she sat up straight and smiled.   Jim reached over
the top of his desk to grab what she had written.   He spent two minutes examining
it, frowning from time to time.
   "Is something wrong?" she asked.
   He glanced at her once and shook his head.   "No . . . not really," he said, as he
finished reading her notes.   "This sounds like a very happy childhood."

   She smiled.
   "Don't get me wrong . . . but are you sure he never did anything that might
give you a bad image of God?"
   She stared at the floor, trying to think.   "No . . . He was a wonderful father;
faithful to my mother, always there to help, never came home drunk.   He didn't
even drink."
   "Please understand, I'm not doubting you, but I'm a little baffled--"
   "I understand, Pastor."
   "Would you say your father was a softy, then?"
   "Excuse me?"
   "I meant . . . was he too far to the--"
   "Stern when he had to be?" she asked.
   "Yes!   That's what I meant.   Thank you."
   "There were some things I just couldn't get away with.   He did it in love, of
course."
   "Do you still keep in touch?" Jim said.
   "Yes, he's always calling to ask how I'm doing."
   Jim settled back in his chair as he glanced at his watch.   He silently prayed hard
for more wisdom.
   "Did my notes help at all?" she said, reacting to the frustration all over his face.
   "Helena . . . you seem to have a healthy picture of what a good father is like.   So
why can't you simply project part of that image to your heavenly Father?"
   Helena's face changed instantly as she reached into her purse for a
handkerchief.   The tears began to flow as she brought the hanky to her face.   "But I
can't.   God's nothing like my dad . . . I can't even--"   She broke into an
uncontrollable sob.   "I can't see myself meeting Him in Heaven."   Helena stood up.
"Can I go to the ladies room, please?"
   Jim was now standing, also, not sure what to do.   "Ah, yeah, go ahead . . . Or,
better yet, why don't we stop for now.   Go home.   Get some rest.   Can you come
back tomorrow?"
   She motioned yes, as she hurried out the door, hanky still pressed to her face.
   Jim plopped back in his chair, rubbing his face with both hands, wondering
why he wasn't taught about this in Bible college . . .

Nov. 23, 1997 . . .

   "Sounds like she may not even be saved," Bob said.
   "There's nothing else about her life that would suggest that."
   "I've seen them do a lot in the flesh.   It's amazing, sometimes."
   "For five years?"
Jim said.
   "Look, Jim, I know how close a pastor can get to these things; sometimes so
close, they don't see the forest.   Use your God-given discernment.   In this day and
age, false professions are everywhere."
   "Okay . . . fine.   What do you suggest?"

   "Get prayed up and have her give you her testimony . . . slowly," Bob said.
"Go through it with a baby's comb, if you know what I mean "
   "I meet her again today."
   "Then hang up and start praying."
   "What if I can't find anything?"
Jim asked.
   "It's not you doing the finding, remember? . . ."

Later that same day . . .

   "All right, Helena.   This may seem unrelated, but I want you to give me your
testimony; tell me how you got saved."
   "You think I'm not--"
   "I didn't say that, but it's worth going over.   We might learn something."
   Helena paused to collect her thoughts, "I remember realizing I was lost--"
   "Go further back," Jim said, "When did you first hear the gospel?"
   "A friend of mine gave me a tract--"
   "Your friend was saved?"
   "She claimed to be.   This was after not seeing her for a while.   She had dropped
out of my church--"
   "What church?   I'm sorry I don't mean to interrupt so--"
   "That's all right," Helena said.
   He smiled.   "I deserved that."
   "Pardon?"
   "Never mind.   What Church did you attend before getting saved?" the pastor
asked.
   "Saint Jude's, here in town."
   "Tell me what you were trusting in to get you to Heaven."
   "Well, everything, I guess; my baptism, communion, membership, you know."
   "Yeah."   Jim leaned back, staring at the ceiling, trying to find something to
hang a theory on.
   "I thought the virgin Mary played a role, also," she added.
   "Why?"
   "Well, I was taught as a girl that Jesus was angry for having been crucified;
Mary was the only one who could appease Him.   I assumed you couldn't pray
directly to Jesus."
   "When did you learn you could?" Jim asked.
   "When Marsha Stanberg sat down with me and told me how to get saved.   She
showed me from the Bible that Christ is the only true mediator."
   "Then what happened?"
   "I trusted Christ as Saviour."
   "Did you repent?"

   "Yes, of course; I was a lost sinner.   God was angry; I needed to get saved from
Him--"
   The phone rang.   "Excuse me, Helena.   I forgot to turn off the ringer.   Hello? . .
. When? . . . Is he Okay? . . . Which hospital? . . . Yeah, I'm heading out now."
  Jim
hung up the phone.
   "What's wrong?" Helena said.
   "My son, Andrew is in the emergency room."
   Helena placed her hand over her mouth.
   "It's not serious . . . praise God.   He's getting a few stitches.   He was skating
without his knee pads . . . I hate to cancel our meeting."
   "That's all right," she said.   "I'll pray for him . . ."

   An hour later, Jim, his wife Judy, and Andrew were driving home from the
hospital.   Jim looked in the rear view mirror at Andrew, sitting quietly in the back
seat.   His son was avoiding eye contact.   "So, Andy, is there anything you want to
say?" Jim asked.   Judy turned her head to look back at her son.
   "I'm sorry, Dad."
   "Can you be a little more specific?" Jim said.
   "I'm sorry, you told me to wear my pads, but I didn't.   Please, dad, don't be
angry with me.   I won't do it again!"
   Jim's eyes flew wide open.   He pulled the car over to the curb, and turned around
in his seat, to face Andrew.
   "Daddy, please!   I said I'm--"
   "No, no, son, it's okay!   I accept your apology.   But repeat what you just said."
   "What's wrong, Jim?" Judy asked.
   "I said, I won't do it again."   Andrew said, a confused look on his face.
   "No, before that," Jim said.   "You thought I would be angry, right?"
   "Yeah--"
   Jim unbuckled himself, and opened the door.   "Honey, you drive.   Drop me off at
the church.   Take Andy home . . ."

   "How is your son?" Helena asked, sitting in the pastor's office for the second
time in one day.   The sun was now beginning to set.
   "He's all right.   Only four stitches."
   "I hope I'm not keeping you from being with him."
   "He's fine, really; I don't believe in babying him.   Besides, this shouldn't take
long.   I called you back because my son said something that may help solve your
problem."
   She began to blush.
   "Oh, no!   I didn't counsel with him about you!" Jim said.   "He's only eleven! . . .
He accidentally said something profound.   Here, take this Bible, turn to John
3:16.
"
   Jim continued to talk while she flipped through the pages.   "You said something
right before the phone rang.   Something about God's wrath?"

   She found the verse then looked at the pastor, trying to remember her exact
words.   "I knew God was angry," she said.   "I needed to get saved from Him."
   "Who's Him?   Which God?   I mean, which person of the Godhead?" he asked.
   "God the Father, of course."
   The Pastor's smile grew as all the pieces came crashing into place.   "Helena,
please read John 3:16."
   "‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’
(John
3:16)
," she said.
   "Now, Helena, who so loved the world?"
   "God."
   "Which member of the Godhead?"
   "God the Son . . .the Bible says, "But God commendeth his love toward us,
in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
  Rom. 5:8"
   "Forget that one for now.   Answer the question from the verse I had you read!"
   Helena looked at John 3:16 again.   "I don't understand what you mean?"   She
began to tremble.
   "The verse says, HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON," Jim said.   "So
which member of the Godhead so loved the world?"
   She reached up to her face, wiping a tear with her delicate finger.   "I can't
understand . . . Jesus is God . . . He saves us from . . ."
   "From who, Helena?!   What is the Father's role in your salvation?"
   "I'm not sure," she said, wiping a tear escaping from the other eye.   "Jesus
does all the saving . . . He's the only mediator."
   "What do you mean by mediator?   Come on, Helena, don't be embarrassed.   If
you're not sure of the right answer, tell me what you think anyway."
   Helena was now crying.   "He makes things right between us and the Father."
   "Why?   Keep going!   What kind of Father is He?   What mood is He in?"
   "HE'S ANGRY, he's mad at me for sinning.   Jesus had to step in, TO
APPEASE HIM!"
   "Read John 3:16 again," Jim said, getting teary-eyed himself.   "Read it, and
tell me who sent who?   Who's original idea was it to save mankind?"
   Helena sat there, whimpering, staring intensely at the verse, as pillars of
misconceptions began crumbling inside her.   The pastor rolled his chair next to
her's, and began turning to another verse.   She stared, still not saying a word, nor
bothering to wipe any more tears away.
   "Helena, I think you're treating Jesus the way you used to treat Mary.   You
used to view her as the only one who really wanted to see you get saved.   In your
mind, Christ was angry, He couldn't care less about you.   That's why you thought
Mary was necessary to your salvation.   But when you got saved, you assumed that
Mary's role of the ‘appeaser’ was now played by Christ, with the angry one now
being the Father.   You simply shifted all the roles up by one.   But you have to put
away that misconception.   Do you understand?"
   Helena's red, tear-drenched face began to quiver.   Jim couldn't tell if it meant
yes or no.

   "Okay . . . I'm going to read this next passage," Jim said.   "Just listen: ‘Then
cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the
disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.   And he took with him Peter
and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.   Then
saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye
here, and watch with me.   And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and
prayed, saying, O MY FATHER, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:
nevertheless not as I will, BUT AS THOU WILT’
(Mat. 26:36- 39)."
   Jim paused for a moment to let the verses sink in.   "Now, Helena, who willed
that Christ should die on the cross?   Who sent Christ?   Whose idea was it to save
mankind?   Who played as big a role in saving us as Christ?   Who, even now, is
also reaching out to you, not in anger, but in love?"
   She turned her wet quivering face toward the pastor.   Her eyes began to focus
on him.   "I guess it's--"   She looked down at the Bible, contorting her face to cry
again, "--the Father . . . My Father, also, loves me . . ."
   Jim quietly stood up, allowing Helena some time alone in his office.   He made
his way outside the building.   Night had already fallen.   The air was cool and fresh
and pleasant to his whole being.   He took a deep breath as he stared up at the stars,
trying to imagine the Father's face, and then sighed.

. . . How long does a misconception last?   How
long is a piece of string?   In a tiny dust ball of a
world, where time is precious, one hopes the
answer isn't tool long.   Especially the God, who's
dying to have a relationship . . .

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