Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Heaven’

The Signs of the Times

I don’t know for sure that I’m living in “the last days.” I suspect I am, in the biblical sense. For sure, I’m living in MY last days!

I was just telling someone today (oh, and when I did, I wasn’t thinking, “hmmm … this might make a nice post”):

“Let me tell you where I’m coming from … why I’m pastoring The Bridge. I think it’s information you’ll appreciate. When I was asked by my good friend to help out by speaking at Emmanuel Tabernacle from time to time, I saw doing so as temporary. Just for a few months. But it turned out that I really liked the people … and that “like” opened my heart to love them. The crew that was at the church at the time was beat up … bruised. The fights over petty things, and the power plays by some of the leaders, left people shellshocked. My protective instincts kicked in. I wanted to see, with my own eyes, a healing take place. It wasn’t long when they asked me to stay on. In October of last year I felt I had a green light from God to do so. I was on my face (literally on the floor of the former pastor’s office) asking Him, “What am I doing here?” and I felt I heard Him say, “Lowell, I love these people … and I WANT you hear.” It wasn’t a question of what I wanted to do – whether I felt sympathy for them or not. Didn’t matter. God was telling me, “THIS is something I want you to do for Me.”

“I’ve pastored/lead ministries since 1970, but I’ve never felt called to pastor. I have always felt called to do whatever He wanted me to do, where He wanted me to do it, and for how long. That, by no means, makes me an expert on followership. But all that time has allowed me to see and experience a lot. Also, being a preacher’s son, and seeing the ungodly underbelly of the Church from time to time from that perspective (how some in the family of God behave) has also been a part of my life experience, too.

“I haven’t always done so, but early on in my ministry life I decided/determined to be honest, and as transparent as I could be without being shameful or stupid. While I was experiencing the death of my first wife, that approach to ministry was dramatically reinforced. “Life’s too short to mess around” was the big message God gave me during her dying process.

“So … that candor that you heard last Sunday has been “purchased” – I’ve paid for it with the currency of my life. Forty years worth of life.”

I want to be candid without being harsh, and transparent for the sake of others … not because I feel this need to flush my junk out of my system.

I’m looking around me now … at my world … and I’m thinking, “How much longer can this insanity last? When will God say, ‘That’s quite enough!'” I’m watching TV like everyone else. I’m tuned into YouTube. I’m reading the blogs. It’s freaky. With all the reports of natural disasters, wars, the murder of innocents (and the killing of the ‘not innocent’), the economic uncertainty, the famines, etc., wouldn’t you think, “Yep, this is what Jesus, John (the saint/disciple), and the other prophets saw coming.”

Funny thing is, I’m not discouraged. I’m really surprised by that! I’m actually excited … and not because I’m some sicko hoping to see misery piled upon miseries, or like the rubber-neckers who slow down to see if anyone died in the accident. I’m excited because I feel I know what’s coming! And what’s coming will be tough, and will require sold-out determination, rock-solid faith, unwavering trust, and a depth of love I’ve never experienced or lived out but I’ve heard described in the stories of Jesus and His initial followers. But tough or not, it’s great! If … if you believe God’s in it all.

What are the signs of the times? Read Matthew 24, 25 and check out Luke 21. Then … you tell me. Comment. How do you interpret those biblical texts in light of what you’re reading and seeing and feeling right now. I’m interested in what you’re seeing.

Part 4 – Trust and Disappointment

Can we really trust God?

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were mighty He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”[1]

Lewis was an agnostic professor at Oxford University when he began to ponder the possibility that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic (on par with a man who imagined himself to be a poached egg), or He was the Lord He claimed to be – the Son of God Himself.  Those possibilities served to jump-start his quest for truth … truth that mattered, not just “in the long run,” but in the eternal run.  Maybe you’ve read some of Lewis’ findings.

I found the quote above, “If God were good, etc.,” in one of his books, The Problem of Pain.  In that book Lewis tackles one of the big “whys.”  (You know what the Big Whys are, don’t you?  Why am I here?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  In The Problem of Pain he’s trying to wrap his mind around this question: “Why is there pain?”  He asks it in the context of three  theories –  that God is good and all powerful, that God is bad, or that God may be good but not all powerful.

Eventually Lewis arrives at a place where he can say that God is both good and all powerful, and because He is, and because there is structure and stability in the Universe, and because He gave Mankind the gifts of choice and freedom … there is pain.

One of the observations Lewis makes along the way is that we live in a material world in which “nature is fixed.”  

I understand that to mean that fire is fire, a tree is a tree, etc.  That is, the nature of fixed material things doesn’t change from culture to culture, language group to language group.  If we were living a world which varied according to our every whim, we would be unable to act in it.  There would be no stability.  No structure.  No predictability.  Think of a world where one day, for no reason, the law of gravity takes a holiday and then returns the next – but with no warning, ever.

Lewis makes this point, and I add my comments in parentheses:  “The permanent nature of wood which enables us to use it as a beam (say, for construction of a house) also enables us to use it for hitting our neighbor on the head.  The permanent nature of matter in general means that when human beings fight, the victory ordinarily goes to those who have superior weapons, skill, and numbers, even if their cause is unjust.” (my emphasis) (page 24)

I’ve observed, as I’ve lived my life and watched others live theirs, that almost every high has its corresponding low, almost every yes its no.  There is black, and there is white, yin and yang, earth and heaven.  There is order in the Universe.  Tao.  There is a balance to and in almost all things that gives our world its stability.

I write and believe “almost” because if life was totally predictable, there would be no mystery, only the unknown.  There are some things that defy explanation.

C. S. Lewis goes on:  “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world (only in our imaginations) in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became as soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves (radio, or television broadcasts) that carry lies or insults.  But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter in which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted 

to frame them.  All matter in the neighborhood of a wicked man would be liable to undergo unpredictable alterations.  That God can, and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare … Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”  (pages 24-25)

For my friend’s, Ellie’s, sake, I wish there was never again the possibility of suffering.

Until the moment time, as we know it, ends, there will be suffering.

We live on a fallen planet, in a world where evil men can fly airliners into buildings in the name of Allah, where people who call themselves “Christians” can demonstrate at the funerals of murdered gay young men and disrupt the funerals of fallen soldiers, where politicians can lie, where policemen can choose to be corrupt, and where people who advocate abortion “choice” stifle free speech of conservatives on liberal college campuses.

I believe, one day, when time as we know it ends, Jesus will set up a Kingdom that will never end … and suffering will end.  He will “wipe away all tears.”

That’s a day worth living for.

Think about it.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Problem Of Pain; (New York:  HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, © 1940; copyright restored in 1996), page 16