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

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

One Man’s Bridge

On February 8, 1999, I was laying on a mat on the floor of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. My wife Vicki was in her bed, battling the cancer that would eventually take her life four years later. As the following vision unfolded I shared it with her, and she recorded it – word for word – in her journal.

I was in the Spirit one day when I began to see a path begin unfolding before me … a path that gradually stretched out for miles. The pathway rested between two very steep mountains; these two unnamed mountains formed a “picture frame” for what I saw next.

About 100 feet in front of me a Person suddenly appeared. This Person was walking away from me, but when He glanced back over His shoulder I instantly recognized Him. It was Jesus!

Jesus stopped, turned toward me and smiled a warm, welcoming smile. Then, turning again to continue His walk, Jesus gestured to me to catch up, beckoning with His hand extended over His head. Jesus continued waving until I began to run toward Him.

As soon as I began to pick up some speed the path that had been clear and free from impediments suddenly disappeared! It just melted away, replaced with a 30-foot wide chasm. I skidded to a stop. I knew I couldn’t jump across the gorge. And when I peeked over its side, the chasm appeared to be bottomless. Certain death awaited anyone foolish enough to attempt the leap!

When I looked up I took note that the pathway continued on the other side of the chasm; it still stretched out to Jesus, and The Lord was still gesturing to catch up. What did all this mean?

Then, I noticed to my right, and just off the path, a pile of boards. Each board was sturdy and strong, and each was longer than the chasm was wide. Here was the answer to my dilemma! Instinctively I grabbed the board that rested on top of the pile and dropped it across the chasm. Perfect! It had no problem reaching the other side. Problem solved!

But when I attempted to walk across this one board, as sturdy as it appeared to be, it began to sag. With each step toward the middle of the board, the board’s ends would move closer and closer to the edges of the chasm. I froze! I thought, “With the next step I take I will surely fall into this ‘bottomless’ abyss and I will die!” I very cautiously retraced my steps and returned to my side of the chasm.

Then I heard a Voice thundering in my heart: “You, my son, must build a bridge. Your weight is too great from just one board, or even two or three boards. You must use all the boards. You must use ALL of the materials provided for this bridge’s construction. Jesus will wait for you … unless you try to shorten the process. That is, if you disobey this command, Jesus will move on.”

While I was concentrating on listening to the Voice, Jesus had turned around and walked back to the far edge of the chasm. He stood there so majestically for a moment, waiting for the Voice to finish, and then He spoke to me, saying, “My dear friend, you must build the bridge. And this bridge will be built because you have the heart for it.”

The Lord opened up my mind to understand that every person who had walked with Him in intimacy in the past had had to build a similar bridge. Jesus said to me, “Walking with Me is never based on a man’s talent. Walking in intimacy with Me can not be based on a person’s effort, or even sincere or passionate desire alone. You see, my friend, I have work for you to do, and the work I intend for you to do cannot be accomplished in your own strength. Your wisdom and your strength will never be enough, and you need to learn this truth now. Thus, you must build this bridge. Bend to the process. And cheer up! Remember, you have the heart for it.”

In true humility I asked, “Lord, may I know what work You have for me?” And with amazing grace Jesus replied, “God, my Father, created you to do wonderful things. Let us call your work, ‘signs, wonders and evangelism.’ These three elements are interlocked, interdependent, and are meant for ‘the last days.’ And signs, wonders, and evangelism will take place in and through your life, but that’s later, after we walk together for a time. As for today … build the bridge!

After such encouragement I got to work. First I took note of the boards. Each had a name burned onto its surface. The first board I had impulsively dropped across the gorge was in its proper place, and on this board was burned the word “PRAYER.”

• The second board was named “WONDER & AWE.”
• The third board was “HUMILITY.”
• The fourth was “DISCIPLINE.”
• The fifth, “FASTING.”
• The sixth, “SUBMISSION.”
• The seventh, “TIME.”
• The eighth, “INTIMACY.”
• The ninth, “CHARACTER – INTEGRITY.”
• And the tenth and last board was named, “LOVE.”

And so the work began. Each board was dropped into place, each next to another, and each placed “in its proper time.”

After the ten boards were in place I noticed that hidden under the larger, long boards were shorter boards, and each shorter board had the same word written on it: “WORSHIP.” I laid the first “Worship” board across the width of my bridge, and the fit was perfect! Starting at my end and progressing toward the side where Jesus stood watching, I worked my way across the cavernous void, all the while on both knees and weeping. And as my tears fell they became silver nails that I pounded into my Worship boards. Beginning with the first board, silver tears for nails and on bended knees, I sang to my Lord.

As I finished my last Worship board, I stood and faced Jesus. I was within 10 feet of The Master, and within seconds I could have been at His side. But I noticed that Jesus was looking past me, toward what was now the far side of the bridge. So I turned and looked back over my work. My bridge was in place and solid. But something else caught my eye. On the far side another pile of “building materials” appeared out of nowhere … and I KNEW, these, too, must be added to the structure of the bridge … and my Lord would wait for me.

This is when my vision became very mysterious. Up to this moment I felt I understood the need and purpose of the bridge. I felt I had grasped the importance of building into my life each aforementioned element of the bridge as it appeared. But as I approached this newest pile of revelation I was truly puzzled. There was a canvas cloth, heavy and dense, long and wide enough to perfectly cover over the bridge. And then there was a smaller board with no name burned on it, sitting next to the canvas. I turned and faced Jesus … and I knew. Stretch the canvas cloth over the bridge. Cover the structure. Make the ten long boards and numerous Worship boards disappear so that only you and Jesus would know what it had taken to cross the deep chasm that would finally lead to intimacy.

As I went to work the name of the canvas cloth slowly revealed. “Brokenness, Sorrow and Loss.” Three haunting words. But I knew, this canvas is the reason the ‘Humility’ board was the hardest board to lay across the chasm. Fearfully but courageously I completed the task of stretching the canvas across my bridge.

When I returned once more to the beginning side of my bridge to retrieve the “final board” of the project, as I bent over to pick it up its name appeared. A stake that would serve to hold this little board appeared as well. The stake and small board would make a sign in the form of a cross. I pounded my cross-sign into the hard soil at the end of the bridge farthest from The Lord. “COST,” the sign read.

As soon as the “Cost” sign was erected I ran across my bridge and into the arms of My Friend, Jesus … the One who had witnessed and supervised the building of a bridge that would make intimacy with God a reality. My bridge had crossed a Chasm of Despair and led to a pathway of Joy.

Today I walk in step with the One who created me and Who had mapped out my destiny long before the path and the chasm had appeared in my mind … and in my life.
Every discerning follower of Jesus who longs for intimacy with God knows that they, too, will have to build a bridge and cross their own chasm of despair.  St. John of the Cross called his chasm “the dark night of the soul.”   But true believers will build their bridge for the sake of walking with Christ, for He said, “If any man would come after Me …”

Hope Reprised

It’s been three years … 3 YEARS!! … since I took to the keyboard.   My hope is that you missed me, and that you’ll connect with me at a new, and deeper level.

A friend gave me a small, laminated post-it with the following circular outline:

  1.  Healthy things grow
  2. Growing things change
  3. Changing things challenge us
  4. Challenge forces us to trust God
  5. Trust leads to obedience
  6. Obedience makes us healthy
  7. Healthy things grow

At some point in time I stopped being healthy.  I am having to discover the truth of point number 4 – “Challenge forces us to trust God” – and I am in pain.   Self-inflicted wounds are the worst for they usually are not fatal, but they leave terrible scars.  And I am sad because my self-inflicted wounds don’t just pain me, but those around me suffer, too.

I know I’m being FORCED to trust God now, today.  (I thought I knew what it meant to trust Him.  I presumed to be an expert in trusting Him … but if trust was meant to walk and live in obedience, my true state of heart was revealed.  I heard His voice but ignored His commands and went my own way.)

In my case, my hope in God is a confident assurance that God will, in time, bring me back to spiritual health, that “all things” will work together for the good, and that my destiny, while delayed, is not “dead.”

Pray for me.

 

Follow Up to “It’s Time” (October, ’11)

Just a short update. I’ve acquired a two-burner and a single burner stove and some utensils. We’re starting small … out of the back end of my pickup. Several opportunities have arisen to provide a supper meal to kids that receive school breakfasts and lunches, and we’re inviting their siblings and parents to join in. We’re serving something warm, nutritious and tasty (stew, chili, soup and bread), and we’ll be doing so between 5 and 6:30 PM (hopefully, before dark). Pray for us at The Bridge (www.thebridge2hope.org), and especially the Youth Group. Our kids are going to be the preparers and servers going forward; we’re teaching our young people that the Church has no walls, and no age limitations when it comes to ministering the love and grace of Jesus! We’ll keep you posted here.

Hungry, Thirsty, Unknown, and Naked

Matthew 25:35-40 is a text social justice folks mention in hopes of mobilizing people who are apathetic about the needs of others.  These verses, I’ve observed, are quoted most often when talking about reaching into the heart of a broken city … a broken-hearted city like my own – Richmond, Virginia.

Take a look at the New Living Translation’s version:  35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’   37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’   40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The words of Jesus.

Rarely are these words … His words … quoted in the context of judgment, but that is in fact what Christ was talking about.  Take a look:   31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty … etc.

Maybe the most startling statement Jesus makes when preaching this sermon is verse 46.  It certainly is to me:   46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

He talks about separating the “sheep and the goats.”   According to Jesus, when He comes to judge the world, the righteous (the sheep on His right) and the unrighteous (the goats in His left) will be assigned their place in eternity.

I gathered from reading Michael J. Wilkins’ commentary on Matthew the following:  Jesus had given some clues about the events that would accompany His return (24:4-35), and then He taught lessons about watching, waiting, and being prepared for His second coming (His “first coming” being His birth in Bethlehem, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection).  Those lessons (24:36-25:30) include the parable about the homeowner and the thief, the parable about 2 kinds of servants (faithful and unfaithful), the parable of the 10 virgins (prepared and unprepared), and the parable of the talants (productive and unproductive).

When Jesus talked about sheep and goats He was talking about followers of God verses people living independent of God.  He made clear there was a reward for followers and punishment for the independent.  What is really cool is the surprised reaction of the sheep – those who would be rewarded:  “Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, being a stranger, naked, sick or imprisoned” (the last two categories found in the other Gospels).

The Lord was referring to Isaiah 58:6-10, where God declares that true righteousness (right with God, right living, right motives) is displayed by caring for the needy.

But NEVER does Jesus in the New or God in the Old Testaments indicate that acts of mercy and kindness lead to salvation and eternal life!  Jesus was clear about that, and Paul made sure the people that received his letters were totally informed.  One example of Paul’s teaching is found in Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9:   “God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.   Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Jesus was very clear:  acts of mercy and kindness are evidences that the sheep are already righteous!  The surprise of the sheep indicates that these acts of mercy and kindness were not intentional meritorious acts to gain access and entrance to the Kingdom of God, but were evidence that the sheep belonged to the Kingdom.

In light of my previous blog (“It’s Time” – October 11, 2011), I’ve been thinking long and hard about the motivation behind acquiring a specially-equipped truck, with all the bells and whistles and amenities.  I’ve come to a point where I’m asking myself, “Does it need to be ‘perfect’ before I begin to do what God is calling me to do?  Does the step-van/food truck need to come first – before I’ll venture out into the unknown?”

So … would anyone in the Richmond area consider joining me in an experiment.  First, prayer – asking for God to lead us.  Second, doing some “prayer-trips” around the city, looking for the places where needy folks are currently NOT being served by those already involved in such projects and ministries.  I think then, thirdly, it will be time to put a few propane burners in the back of my pickup, some previously prepared soup that we can warm up when we’re on location, something to serve coffee, some good water, along with cups, bowls and spoons.

What say you?

Life In A Faster Line

It can get so quiet in an airport. As passengers, and in my case, would-be passengers, wait for a weather update from up north it can become quite still – very much like the sound, or lack thereof, of a professional golf tournament crowd when a contender is standing over THE crucial putt.

Today it’s quiet in the main terminal of the Southwest Florida International Airport – the airport that serves Fort Myers, Florida. Eerily quiet, considering just a few hundred miles to our north the sky is exploding. Last night The Weather Channel estimated that “tens of thousands of lightening strikes” and roaring thunder filled the airways from Mississippi to the eastern Kentucky state line. They predicted that today would be “more of the same,” and they were right. Right now a gigantic storm 800 miles long and 500 miles wide is saturating the flight corridors of the whole Atlantic seaboard, from northern Florida to southern New Jersey.

A single storm.

I’m headed north, into the teeth of the maelstrom. I’m now separated from my travel buddy – Becky. She was able to get out on the Noon flight. Me? I hope to catch US Airways flight 1810 – Fort Myers to Charlotte, North Carolina – that is supposed to leave at 3 PM but has been delayed another two hours, to five.

What if I miss my flight?

That would be inconvenient … requiring separate trips to the airport, just hours apart – the first to pick up Becky and the second to pick me up. And what if I’m delayed again in Charlotte? Will that put me into Richmond tomorrow? Will I lose a whole day because God scheduled reservoir-filling rain for today?

I’ve got another trip coming up. My departure will be right on time, with no chance of delay. I’ve had my ticket punched since the moment of my conception – when Claude’s sperm met Retha’s egg. “I was woven together in the dark of the womb” that God sees like it’s lit up with noon-day sun. “Every day of my life is recorded” in God’s book – the one He reads like yesterday’s news. And I’m on time.

While I’m waiting at the gate, how will I invest my time?

Here, at SFIA I can enjoy a latte, read up on the NFL draft, make a few time-filling phone calls … just waiting. Just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Or I can be more pro-active in my waiting – writing, praying, strategizing (while I drink my latte).

I have this sense that we’re all waiting … every man woman and child on planet earth … we’re all waiting at The Gate. And every person’s ticket is in order; no computer foul ups or human error complicating things. And every flight to The Wild Blue Yonder is right on time.

With only two destinations on the board, there’s no clickety-clack in the background like you’d hear in a European train station. Two long lines of human beings – men, women, children – are snaking in opposite directions, one headed for Concourse A and one toward Concourse B.

Today I’m thinking about those who have made the flight before me. I’m wondering if my waiting time is making a difference.

I’m watching people in the line I’m standing in leaving the queue, running over to some familiar soul in the other line, grabbing their arm, shaking them up with the news that there’s life to be had in one line and death in the other, and gently but urgently pulling them toward the other line.

Funny, I watch people from BOTH lines running to family and friends in the opposite line, and debating the pros and cons of changing lines. Both parties chatter. Both parties insist. “Sure you can change lines!” “My destination is set in stone.” “My destination is better than yours.”

Nobody talks about change fees.

There seems to be a faster lane. I wonder if that means anything?

Gearing Up for 2010

Thanks to all who’ve been supporting me, in every way, since I departed Trinity for points unknown.Leadership Training International

I’m still in uncharted waters, but confident that Jesus is directing my life.

Leadership Training International (or LTI) continues to excite me beyond words.  Since August I’ve become a “certified instructor” of the curriculum.  Not long ago I finished the highest level of teacher certification LTI offers – “Mobile Advanced Trainer” (or MAT).  That allowed me to travel to Lakewood, New Jersey and Washington, DC to participate with Neal Kelley (LTI’s operations director) in two exciting teacher training events.

After the first of the year the “I” in LTI becomes part of my experience.  I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic, to meet with the leadership of a denomination that has already purposed to use our Foundations for Emerging Leaders curriculum (all 12 modules) to train DR pastors!  I don’t have to “sell” them.  They’re SOLD!  I’m going with my buddy Neal, to meet the people we’ll be working with for years to come.  Neal will then stay in the DR for another week, overseeing our super training event.  Because LTI’s materials are in Spanish (and English, Russian and Romanian), these pastors will learn to teach our curriculum in their own language.  That’s invaluable!

I mentioned that Neal and I will part ways – Neal stays and I fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Tommy Barnett “33rd Pastors and Leaders School.”  Once again they’re expecting over 7,000 pastors and church leaders at the “school” – an intense three day event (February 1-3) that challenges conventional church thinking and methodology.  It’s all about “The GREAT Commission,” isn’t it?

Well, more updates will follow.

If you’d like to be one of my partners, write me at revgolf@gmail.com.  I’m looking for people who will enthusiastically share my travel expenses.  Donations of any size are welcome, and air miles would be great!!   I’m incurring costs almost daily now, and I’m serving LTI at no salary … so … any help would be wonderful!

Calling All Atheists and Theists #3

Dear friends engaged in the discussion of beliefs (both atheistic and theistic),

Abu Ali al-Basra (a Tenth Century Persian scientist, also known as Ibn Al-Haytham, 965-1039 CE) interests me because my wife is an optometrist, and his Book of Optics has greatly influenced the development of lenses, mirrors, refraction, and theories of vision and the dispersion of light.  This great Muslim scientist is “a pioneer of the scientific method,” that is, the search for truth.  He said, “Truth is sought for its own sake.  And those engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things.  Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough.”  (Physical Thought from the Pre-Socratics to the Quantum Physicists;© 1979, ISBN 0-87663-712-8)

I bring him into our discussion because I love his take on the search for truth, and the fact that he is seen as the “Father of the Scientific Method.”

The Scientific Method was described in laymen’s terms by “Ubiquitous Che” – a commenter in my previous blog articles on Atheism and Theism – this way:

“I was drawn to atheism for a very simple reason.  I find the naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is to be wholly satisfactory.  (my emphasis) From this, I find it highly irrational to propose a supernatural entity as an ‘add-on’ explanation when no add-on was needed in the first place.

“Also, because the naturalistic explanation is … well … naturalistic, it means that we can get stuck into it very deeply.  It removes the foggy, murky veil of mystery and brings the picture of the universe into sharp focus, allowing us to peer deeper and deeper into its workings and bring about change according to our will.

“There’s more to it than just that, but it’s the core of the matter.”  (Ubiquitous Che, 5/04/2008)

I will paraphrase/interpret the quotation above this way:  Natural Science (Che’s “… naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is”) is the truth.  It explains the origin of the Universe in a way that satisfies man’s search for the truth. 

While there is much more to his rationale, Che says that Naturalism provides “the core” for his belief system.

The Scientific Method involves the collection of observable, empirical and measureable data (“evidence of and for cause and effect”), observation, experimentation, and the formulation of a theory (“hypotheses”) based on reasoning. 

This 20th Century “hypothetico-deductive model” of the Scientific Method has been the engine that has driven the study of physics and biology – the very foundation stones of Naturalism.

But because the Scientific Method has its limitations when talking about the origin of the Universe (you and I can’t collect observable, empirical DNA-rich data, experiment with it, and then observe measurable cause-and-effect outcomes).  Because of these limitations, the scientific community had to develop a whole “new class” of scientists:  scientific philosophers.  (These are the “atheologians” of the atheistic community.)

This new class of scientist is not limited in their search for truth by the Scientific Method’s primary requirement – “proof.”  Their only limitation has been the span and capacity of human imagination.  These new scientists (the “Darwinist Class”) began with (and still begin with) a belief – what they call their “theory” – and they search for evidence that will reinforce their belief.

In the scientific community, the guardian of the Scientific Method was “peer review.”  The object of these guardians of truth – peer scientists – was to find possible mistakes in observations, reasoning, and the interpretation of data.  [The way out now for peer review, when it comes to the origin of the Universe anyway, is simply that peer review only applies to the “experimental sciences” (physics, chemistry).] 

When it comes to proof, scientific philosophers are exempted!  They are not held to tough, evidentiary standards when it comes to defending their theories.  Scientific philosophers don’t have to “substantiate” their beliefs.  They just have to write about them, and see if the ideas postulated will find an accepting audience.  And they do, because now there are more scientific philosophers than true scientists.  Scientific philosophers have bastardized the proof systems inherent to the Scientific Method’s search for truth … and then these people have the audacity to say to people of faith (i.e., believers in God), “Show us your proof!”

Honest biologists and physicists are coming forward now, swimming against the tide of atheistic belief, saying, “There are unexplainable gaps in the evolutionary chains,” and “There are mysteries that defy logical human interpretations when it comes to what we are observing in the Universe.”  They are daring to suggest that Naturalism is built on “un-faith,” so to speak.  They are challenging the scientific philosophers to defend their un-beliefs.

Interesting, don’t you think?

I really like Ubiquitous Che’s style, and respect his intelligence.  (I even like the name he has chosen to describe himself because his peers are “everywhere, omnipresent!”)  U-C is a modern “every-man.”

Would his friends please care to comment on what I have written above.