Saturday, May 6, 2017

While We Wait

“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.” –Brennan Manning
What is a good working definition of evil? Well, the best thing to do to really identify it is to look at how it manifests in one’s life. We have all experienced the presence of evil firsthand perhaps unwittingly. Actually if we look at the above, the first sentence is a good list of the presence and active working of evil. How? Well, if you look closer, you could say the same thing about the presence of good. In every case, the human condition faces the same set of ‘fruit’. We could say that good and evil are ever present with each of us because we all experience these aspects. The real insight comes from how we respond to the first sentence’s list of let’s call them negative aspects no one wants to have present in their lives. Our response proves what force is dominant – good or evil.
In my personal life, I have experienced both and I would say you have as well. We all have. We all will as long as there is breath. A key thing to understand is where the path leads for us as we respond to the in the first sentence. I remember when I lost my children to a dysfunctional religious group. Was I to blame? Oh yes. They were not to blame. The first few months were unmitigated hell. I can remember my wife and I driving to the beach on Friday night in very early spring (no green yet but signs of the change). We passed a car and that was not so unusual. But our thought was not to check what was even coming the other direction, we did not care. Vicki would usually always say to me ‘Please be sure’ but this time there was silence. We wanted to take the pain away at any cost to ourselves or any other. Friends, that is evil. We were engulfed in darkness. We stayed engulfed in darkness. We blamed everyone including ourselves. I would pass by a dead church (my old church that I pastored) everyday on the way to work and it was a painful reminder of my failure. My lost hope and close to my lost faith. I remember one of the leaders telling me on that fateful night that the building was ‘tainted’ and God would never move there again. Those were my thoughts and my heart would break. And so it went on and on all the while with my wife and I swimming in a sea of blackness, pitch black. Somehow, the building did not pass into their ownership which I honestly believe was their very intention during the ‘transition’. There was to be no pastor to take over but a scattering of my little flock to other places in their world. No, the plan I believe was to sell the building. This is proven by the fact that the main leader told me that fateful night ‘you know I can take you keys…’ and I let him do so. The building’s sale could increase their coffers quite a bit and that was the motive. As I look back on it, I am sure I was not the first to be fleeced. But there it sat, vacant and forlorn. I would mow the grass and pray, pray and mow my heart breaking. This went on for two years. Then something happened. A wife of a pastor somehow got my number and contacted me about renting the building. On the next Saturday, I walked my dog down to the building and let them in to take a look around. It was turnkey. There was nothing they would need to do. All they had to do was show up. I told them I would pray about it and meet with them over dinner for my decision. At that dinner, as I recall it, they did not talk about the building. They talked about us with a compassion I had not seen in my former life with my former leaders. Mercy was not one of their strong points. I remember in one pastoral meeting one of the main leaders said ‘You have to be ruthless…” when she said that I remember a chill went up my spine. These people were worlds from the world I came from. That was the major factor in my decision to have them use the building. They have been in it ever since. I have even had an occasion to preach in that building a few times. I have seen God move in that building, I have seen the altars full, I have been at the altar myself.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the force of good. I have faced the horrors but I have also been convinced that no evil can resist grace forever. If our election is confirmed by the choices we make then I am a goner. But our election is based on something stronger. It is based on the mind and intent of God to bring good – even in the face and presence of evil. He turns self destruction into redemption. He brings mercy where there has been ruthlessness. He is the author of a Kingdom that will ever increase and never decrease. That is why His sons and daughters can go through hell in this life and still make their election sure (confirm it).
I have seen evil and I have seen good. I have been the author of “Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death” but for the Cross, I would have died years ago.
That is why I still wait and I still hope. It is not in my power to deliver one. But in the end I am convinced :
No evil can resist grace forever.”