Now is bleeding into eternity

As I sit here, my littlest sister is laboring to bring Henry Jordan Martin into the big wide world. I was just there, just visiting Texas, hoping against realism that Henry would come while I was there, but alas, he was simply waiting for me to leave.

This brings me full circle, to ponder the chapter I read in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, last night. At the same time, it highlights a recent Facebook post by a man I have admired for most of my life.

Just a brief background:
Harold Ray Wells, is the father of two of my best friends growing up. What time wasn’t spent in our home around the school desk was often enjoyed in their living room eating breadsticks and homemade cheese sauce, in the backyard harvesting honeysuckle and stalking slugs, at church with them or on vacation with them at Grand Lake.

Mr. Wells was my parents’ Sunday school teacher. He exuded a poise that comes only from being inhabited by the Holy Spirit. He was quiet, intentional, relaxed, happy and peaceful. He was almost an enigma to me as a child, How does he do that?

My heart was crushed when I learned a few years back that he had been falsely accused of a crime. As a police officer nearing retirement and with a stellar reputation, the charges seemed rubber, ridiculous and contrived as they were, we prayed that the lies would bounce off of him and shatter on the floor at the feet of his accusers. God hasn’t seen fit to let that happen. So Mr. Wells is now in prison, awaiting response to his appeal.

Frequently, those of us who pray for him are privy to pieces of his journals and letters that he sends out to encourage us – imagine – him encouraging us. Reminds you of Paul, right?

“Waiting for the love of my life to visit and listening to ‘interludes’. I was thinking that just as I am unworthy of prison, to a much greater reality I’m unfit for paradise. How can I ever complain when both are gifts and both must be received with thanksgiving? Knowing both are divine appointments, designed that God might be glorified. One is temporary and one is eternal. When does ‘eternal’ take place? Before today, before yesterday? If eternal life with God (as Charles Stanley points out) happens the moment we trust God – then could it be that our resurrected life begins at that time and what does that mean? This life, with all it involves, has no power, ownership, or control over us. We are buried with Him in baptism, raised/resurrected with Him to walk in newness of life – a glorified life in a fallen world. The evidence of Christ in you – NOW. How do I do this? Through the crucible of life. I feel as if I am in the 4th quarter of the life testing. What am I made of? Who am I? Who is God? I am experiencing the overwhelming, surrounding knowledge of God’s blessings.”

I added the bolding, because that’s the question I want to address.

When does ‘eternal’ take place?

Consider Lewis’ reference to those on a trial run to Heaven as “ghosts”. And when he treads upon the terra firma of that land, he finds it’s foliage more solid than himself.

The grass, hard as diamonds to my unsubstantial feel, made me feel as if I were walking on wrinkled rock, and I suffered pains like those of the mermaid in Hans Andersen. A bird ran across in front of me and I envied it. It belonged to that country and was as real a the grass.

Most of the time, most people press through this atmosphere, feel the rush of it against their skin and believe that they are real, that where they are and what they do is real. And, even most Christians act as if we won’t live forever. Our habits and decisions are refined to exploit today, and fend off the ultimate end of our personal worlds.

But what if eternal has already begun? What if we will only become more real over time, through long walks with God, through intimate conversations with Jesus and solemn attentiveness to the Holy Spirit? What if we don’t need to squeeze every drop of pleasure out of this moment, because we anticipate endless moments, ever better,  stretched through the expanse of eternity?

What if?

It’s The Least We Can Do?

Counter-intuitively, the church of Jesus Christ has historically seemed to flourish in the midst of persecution. In Iran, China and Ethiopia, Christians are hunted, hounded, harassed and often killed. Pastor Youcef was arrested nearly 3 years ago. He remains in prison in Iran for “offending Islam.” Recently, an execution order hung imminently over his head. It was denied following international indignation, yet daily he waits with no resolution. In spite of this, the church grows. In July 2011, it was reported that the Christian church in Iran was growing annually at 19.6%. [oprev.org]

In Turkey, Christians are getting tired. It’s been five years since three Christian men were bound, tortured and killed in Turkey. [persecutionblog.com] The church is barely hanging on.

“Within Turkish culture, Christians remain vilified and are treated as second-class citizens. The news media often portray Christianity in a negative light, and some church leaders rely on bodyguards and police protection. In 2011, a Protestant group documented 12 attacks against Christians, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom added Turkey to its list of 16 ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ this year.”

 There is another blessed outcome of persecution.

“Let the whole world bless our God
and loudly sing his praises.
Our lives are in his hands,
and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver.
You captured us in your net
and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
Then you put a leader over us.
We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.” Ps. 66:8-12

As a grateful Christian, living in America, it’s hard to know what to say. I feel refined in my own daily life, sometimes I feel like the heat is more than I can bear. Why am I spared the sufferings that Christians in other countries experience? Does God know that my faith is not yet strong enough to endure? I pray that’s not the case!

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17

Often we feel like there’s little to do from where we sit. “All we can do is pray,” is a common, comfy-Christian refrain. First, there is no such thing as “only praying.” I think we see little because we ask little, we expect little, we endure little. However, there is something else we can do.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

Stacy Harp is the editor of persecutionblog.com. I asked her what I can do, what we can do, to raise the awareness of the persecuted church and to increase the fervency of American Christians to support our brothers and sisters. Her first, specific request is that we write to Pastor Youcef.

Would you do that?