Lois was out of town this weekend helping our daughter Heidi and our grandchildren Keira and Koen. Hope was home with me and our faithful Hazard. Saturday I met with the elders early in the morning. Later in the day was a memorial service for Bill Younkin, one of our Bethel men. The rest of the day I spent preparing for my message on Sunday morning to the Bethel family.
In the evening Hope and I spent nearly two hours together out on the summer porch watching the sun go down the sky, looking off into the south woods, savoring a warm spring evening, hearing the call of the Barred Owl we so love off in the woods. We talked. Mostly I helped her prepare her story for children’s church–Bethel Kids. We thought hard and talked long about how to help little children see their way from the Old Testament stories to the cross and beyond–How the stories of the Old Testament point to Jesus and the ultimate storyline of the Bible. It was sweet to be with her there and talk deeply of the things of the Lord.
The older I get the more I am aware that the greatest pleasure to my heart is conversation with others who love the Lord. A neighbor we had not yet met stepped across to greet us and we stood out in the drive until the sun nearly set getting acquainted. She was a delightful lady with a shared love for Jesus.
This week I would like to tell the story I alluded to in last week’s Bittersweet Farm Journal:
Today I would like to tell you a story I have cherished in my heart but not put in print for over eight years.
On our Israel tour in the spring of 2011, Lois and I stayed with our group for a few nights at the Nof Ginosar Kibbutz on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. The dinning commons was on the second floor of a building with large glass windows that faced south down the Sea of Galilee.
One night we ate with a professor and his wife. He was a professor at Christian Seminary in America. They were good dinner companions. I peppered the professor with questions. It was a lively discussion but at one point it was clear we lost the interest of the ladies. I changed the subject.
A new book had come out about that time and the release of the book created a stir of publicity and controversy. The book was by a West-Michigan pastor named Rob Bell and it questioned the existence of hell. I asked the professor what he thought about the book.
“Well,” he said; “I visited Mars Hill (Rob Bell’s church at the time) and I thought the layout and the music were odd but I really have no problem with theology.”
Bell’s book questioned the reality of hell. It skated close to a kind of universalism. I was not at all orthodox or true to the teaching of Scripture. My wheels started to turn.
“You’ve read the book?” I asked.
“Yes I have.”
“Did I understand the book that he doubted the existence of hell and suggested a type of universalism–that eventually God would save everyone in the end, even those who rejected Jesus while they were living?”
“Well, I don’t really see a problem with his theology.” He repeated.
Things got quiet at the table. Things seemed to get quiet all over the restaurant.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t want to be impolite or argue with the professor. I was not sure how that would go. His wife seemed a little uncomfortable. I considered changing the subject, but I felt like I should say something.
Then Lois spoke.
“Well, when I was a little girl we moved from Kentucky to Michigan. We found a little church in our neighborhood that we liked. The pastor of that little neighborhood church believed in hell and he preached about it. That is how I got saved. I don’t think I would be saved if my pastor had not warned me about hell.”
No theological footwork could take the power out of Lois’s brief and sincere testimony of salvation. Nothing more really needed to be said.
We had a pleasant dinner there overlooking the land where Jesus walked. The land where, when Jesus taught, He regulary warned of the reality of hell more than anyone else.
We finished our dinner and our dessert and coffee and strolled back to our quarters in the gathering dusk.
Back in Michigan it was still winter, but here in Galilee spring had fully arrived. The beautiful land was rife with growing things and lush with flowers, grass and fruit trees in blossom. The land was a migratory pathway for birds returning along the east shore of the sunny Mediterranean.
As evening fell and we walked along I was grateful for Lois, and her straightforward, simple, sincere faith. I was proud of her conviction and her polite directness. She was not disrespectful, but she was in no way intimidated by the opinions of a lettered man. Her faith is a simple faith in the plain teaching of the Bible. This faith, by God’s good grace we have passed on to each of our eight children.
Many in their psuedo-sophistication have managed to explain-away the plain teaching of the Bible and what they have left is powerless to convert sinners and build holy lives, powerless to deliver souls from hell.
That night I lay in bed beside my little wife and I was reminded that a person with an argument is never at the mercy of a person with an experience with God.
May 20, 2019