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Neosho, Missouri

July, 1999

 

"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7).

 

I think most of us believe that we trust God. It's the right thing to do after all and the Bible is replete with examples of what happened to folks who couldn't or wouldn't trust Him, (Deut. 1:32; II Kings 17:14; Ps. 78:22; Zeph. 3:2) as well as many proclamations that He is worthy of trust. (Ps. 20:7: 31:14; 40:3; 52:8; 55:23; 62:8; 78:7; Isa. 50:10; Jn. 14:1; Rom. 15:13; Heb. 2:13). We insist that we believe Job, when he said, "From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you." (Job 5:19). And yet, when troubles invade our lives, as they do on a regular basis, if they find us cowering under the bedclothes, whimpering in fear, it gives the lie to our declarations of faith. As we continue our work assigned by the Father here in the Bible Belt, heartland of America, we are blessed to fellowship with many different kinds of Christians, men and women who profess Christ and who do and say all the right things in terms of what they perceive as their confession of faith and Christian duty. Yet, all too often, they become immobilized by fear, doubt, and worry, unable to function in their lives, and seemingly unable to access the life of Christ within. Since God has delivered me from man's worst fear, (i.e. that He is not able to rescue us, to save us from whatever troubles or sins besiege us) I offer these observations to any who are looking for a way out of the bondage.

The Apostle John wrote, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (I John 4:18 ). To the degree that the Father has not opened our eyes to see that punishment is no longer our fate because of the price Christ paid, to that same degree, we fear hell after death and other lesser evils in the here and now. It is His responsibility, not mine to reveal this truth. However, I feel led to share a few thoughts today. The fear of hell fire after death boils down to this: if there is any single thing that any of us may inadvertently do, the results of which will ultimately send us to torment, the fear of doing that thing plucks us up out of His grace and unconditional love, and plunges us into hell right now, in the present moment. I don't know about you, but I have faced my own foibles and shortcomings. God has shown them to me in 72 point type and stereophonic sound, and as a result, I realize that if there were any way possible for me to mess things up and miss the mark of heaven, I probably would do it, left to my own human failures and weaknesses. He has shown me clearly, that I cannot count on myself to make sure everything goes according to His plans. This does not mean that I'm being hard on myself here, or suffering from low self-esteem. What it means is that I have realized that in Jan, there is no good thing. (Rom. 7:18). The carnal nature is ruled by sin, and those who continue to dwell there, are controlled by it, made prisoners of it, and are continuously condemned by it. (Rom. 7:9,11,13-14). Probably everyone has read Romans 7, and thus, we know this intellectually, but what some have missed, I fear, is that we don't live there in the carnal nature any more. We don't even have to visit this dreadful place, because it's no longer the truth about us in God's kingdom.

Intellectual reckoning of this truth will not bring the reality to pass, however. Only "Christ in us," the "Hope of Glory," (Col. 1:27) will deliver us from fear and bondage to death which has held us prisoner all our lives. I love the assertion of the Hebrew writer, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Heb. 2:14-15). For most of my life, I lived as a slave to my fear of death, with all its accompanying fears. This fear kept me from enjoying life to the fullest, filled me with dread and worry for my own life, my daughter's safety, and for the rest of my family as well. Worse, it left me consumed with worry about every action and every thought which might miss the mark of God's high calling for me. Not a pretty picture. Not good for the old blood pressure either. But I want you to notice that the verse says that the devil has the power of death. I'm guessing that's where the expression, "The Devil's in the details," came from originally. Most Christians want to run screaming into the night at the thought of the devil's power, and thus miss the best part about that verse, which is, Christ destroyed the power of the devil by his own death. Other verses make it clear that it is the resurrection power of God, which raised Christ from the dead, which has accomplished this mighty feat. (Acts 2:24; Rom. 1:4; 6:4,9; Phil. 3:10). The devil is nothing to fear, dear ones, for he has been cast down from the high places where we now live, and has been overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. (Rev. 12:10-11).

Thus, when we fear the events or the people in our lives, it is because we have not experienced our ultimate deliverance from fear, which comes from that deep knowing at a cellular level, that God loves us unconditionally. The sickest joke ever perpetuated on mankind is conditional love. It is preached from the pulpits every Sunday, and sadly, still delivered by family members to wayward sons and daughters. It goes something like this: God (and I) will love you and forgive you if you repent of your sins, change your lifestyle, and shape up the way we tell you to. And if you "make amends" to us, your family, who have suffered long with you and gone the extra mile, then we'll welcome you back into the bosom of our fellowship. Don't bother to come around until you can ask our forgiveness and start to act better. This scenario grieves me more than I can say, because it is so far from the Father heart of God.

We have a dear friend with a great sense of humor who said, "God should have thought one more day before He created families." She said this contemplating the emotional pain caused by her son's divorce, but that anguish paled in comparison to the internal turmoil she experienced when she realized that he was going to reconcile with the woman who had wounded them all, and she was expected to love her and welcome her back into her fellowship. Not surprisingly, she discovered that in and of herself, she just could not do it, no matter how much she knew she should. She couldn't forgive her daughter in law and she couldn't forget all the pain that this woman had caused. That's why she made the statement about God thinking about it longer before creating families. While I smiled at her observation, and hurt with her over her inability to deal with her feelings, I saw at once that this is the very reason God placed us in families in the first place. Here in the midst of our parents and siblings, we learn the difference between unconditional love and the other kind that does so much damage and gives psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors job security. No where in the universe is it possible to be wounded any worse than in the one place where we think we should be safe: in the bosom of our families.

I think God designed it that way so that we would always turn to Him for unconditional love. I've been saying for 30 years that if mothers were perfect, our kids wouldn't need God. They could just come to us to heal their wounds, right their wrongs, change the consequences of their actions, kiss their "boo-boos" and make everything all better. And as a matter of fact, some families do try to accomplish all of this, even when they should not. Other times, families and churches, which God showed me one day are just larger versions of our birth family, bring us down farther into the abyss of despair than we ever believed possible and hurt us well nigh unto death, by administering judgment without love, law rather than grace. The need to reel the kid in, get him in line, make him mind, bring him into submission to parental or ecclesiastical authority is very great. Why? Because of fear of punishment, of course. We're only trying to control him for his own good, we tell ourselves. If he won't mind us, then how can he mind God? And if he doesn't do that, well, he'll end up in hell, for sure. So goes the reasoning, whether conscious or unconscious. But the fact is that we cannot give to another what we have never received, and without the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and His patient tutelage, we cannot experience the unconditional love of God. Most of us never got it in our birth families because our parents didn't get it from theirs, who didn't get it from theirs, and so on back to Adam and Eve.

At the cross, Jesus changed the program. While we were yet sinners, (Rom. 3:24-25) He took on flesh and allowed us to nail Him to the bitter tree. We all know that. We hear it so many times during communion services that I wonder if its real meaning has been eroded away by mindless ritual. But God reminded me again this week, that unconditional love is not just a religious ritual, a communion table topic, a subject for godly hymns and prayers. It is the only real way we can hope to relate to each other in the kingdom of heaven. He said that the world will know we are His disciples because we love one another. He was not talking here about right doctrine, church attendance, prayer, Bible study, tithing, or obedience. He was talking about unconditional love. The Apostle John said, "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, (or his mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, etc.) he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (I John 4:20-21).

Jesus nailed the old law to the tree, washed away the ordinances contained therein with His own blood, (Col. 2:13-14) and gave a radical new edict: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35). Now this may sound very simplistic, like theology 101, and it really is, but what I'm seeing is that the reason there is so little spiritual growth evident in so many Christians today is because they never got this truth on a practical level. They have never experienced God's unconditional love, and thus, cannot give it to anyone else. I have experienced judgment and legalism delivered up by men and women who believe that they are "a cut above" in things of the Spirit. This grieves me and it surely grieves the father heart of God. My brothers and sisters in Christ, consider this: if God is not able to work with those with whom we are estranged and reconcile them to us, then maybe He is not able to reconcile us to Himself either. Can this be true? No! No! a thousand times NO! Our God is a God of reconciliation! He has called us to be ambassadors for Christ to the world, telling them the Good News. Unlike legalists and Pharisees, who love to point out the world's flaws and sins, our Father is not counting their sins against them! (II Cor. 5:19). Think of that! Our message is to speak peace to the heathen (Zech. 9:10) and implore them to be reconciled to God. Notice it does NOT say that we are to try to persuade God to reconcile Himself to them. Paul makes it clear in II Cor. 5:18 that we are the ones who need to be reconciled to God, and this has already been accomplished through Christ. But here's the question of the hour: How can we speak peace to the heathen, whom we have not seen, if we cannot speak peace to the loved ones in our family and church whom we have seen?

The Lord brought this message into focus for me this week, as He sent me on a mission of peace to family members who are temporarily estranged from each other. The details here don't matter, but the essence of it is this: each side feels hurt and bitter, betrayed and abandoned, misunderstood and angry. Each faction requires that the other shape up and get in line before they will fellowship again. And the worst part is that the welfare of an innocent child is being held for ransom while the adults bicker, accuse, judge, rage, pout, and then retreat in stony silence. This scenario is not unique to our family, of course. It happens every day, in every city, town, hamlet, and village all over the planet. It is the real basis for what went on in the Balkans. It's the reason that the Serbs are no more safe in their homes today than the Albanians were before the UN peace keepers arrived. It is as old as Cain and Able, and it has a death grip on most families, most churches, and most nations. I'm talking about conditional love based on performance and judgment of another's relationship with God and others.

Since Jesus painted the picture of God's unconditional love for us in the parable of the Prodigal son, I want consider it again now. As you recall, the son had wasted his inheritance on wine, women and song, and ended up in the pig pen tending swine. When that bleak reality set in, he came to himself and determined to pick himself up, dust himself off, and go home to beg his father's forgiveness. He was willing to take his place in the household, not as a son, but as one of the servants. He planned to say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men." (Luke 15:19). "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Vs. 20). Those are some of the sweetest words any of us can ever hear, for it says, "when he was a long way off." I think that fairly well describes where most of us are when God comes to us. We're a long way off! This father did not make him come back crawling on his knees, begging forgiveness, and groveling before him. He did not say, "Well, I told you not to go, but you wouldn't listen. Now, if you're planning to move back into my house, I want to know if you plan to try harder this time to manage your money, quit drinking and carousing, and behave yourself?" The scripture relates that far from that negative picture, this father was standing at the door waiting for his son to return. He ran to his youngest son, whom he loved so dearly, and kissed him. This is unconditional love. It is a beautiful picture of our Father's relationship to us, one which we distort and pervert when we offer those nearest and dearest to us conditional love; when we make them clean themselves up before we fellowship with them once more. The rejoicing spread to the whole household, "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." (Vs. 21-24). The son was dead, but now he is alive, the father said, which is a picture of our salvation and reconciliation to God. As an aside, I have observed over time, that it does little good to nag and lecture someone as a means to get them to reform. If it did, Jesus would not have had to die. Instead, God could have just sent better naggers.

As Jesus' story continues, we see conditional love, the only kind possible under law, acted out in the reaction of the elder brother. He had been out working in the fields when he heard the sounds of music and dancing, and no doubt smelled the aroma of the fatted calf on the spit. He asked a servant what was going on, and when he heard that the celebration was because his rotten puke brother had come home, he went away angry. His father followed him and entreated him to join the party, but the self-righteous brother said, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" (Vs. 29-30). Now isn't this just the way the world and most families we know operate? Those who abide by the family or church rules and regs get the goodies. The rest get judgment and the cold shoulder. Thankfully, our heavenly Father does not treat us that way. Listen to what the father in the story had to say to the self-righteous elder brother: "My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " (Vs. 31-32). This closing scene between the elder brother and his father portrays what's wrong in many churches and in many families as well. The reason conditional love is so deadly is because it is always based upon man's judgment, man's opinion, man's law, never on God's. It always presumes that the one withholding love and forgiveness is sitting on the judgment seat, trying the case, reading the evidence, and offering the judgment: guilty as charged. When we fail to give someone the benefit of the doubt. When we ascribe to them dark and evil motives continuously based on their past behavior; when we assert that we cannot trust them to behave in appropriate ways; when we decide that their doctrine is suspect or their theology full of error; when we fail to think that they have any reason whatsoever for their feelings or behavior, we have just put ourselves on the judgment seat. This is not only uncomfortable for everyone concerned, it can have deadly consequences because it takes us out from under the umbrella of grace, and places us squarely under law ourselves, where not one of us can afford to live. (Ps. 14:3; Rom. 3:14).

Jesus was very clear about judgment: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matt. 7:1-2). Why would He be so stern about this? Because Only God is the righteous judge. (Ps. 7:11; II Tim. 4:8). It is the Lord, Samuel said, who will judge the ends of the earth. (I Sam. 2:10). He alone will judge the world in righteousness, and its peoples in His truth. (Ps. 96:13; 98:9). Isaiah wrote, "For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us." (Isa. 33:22). Jeremiah said that he had committed his cause unto the Lord Almighty. Why? because He judges righteously. (Jer. 11:20). When we judge another, our decisions are based on human reason, intellect and understanding. There's a wide margin for error. No matter how hard men try to be fair, mistakes get made. Doesn't it give you pause when some man is released from death row, where he had been awaiting the death sentence because DNA testing proved he didn't commit the crime? Men make fatal errors, create disaster, start wars, and destroy each other when they judge. When God's judgments come upon the earth, however, the people learn righteousness. (Isa. 26:9). Only He can sit on the judgment seat.

We've been publishing our writings on the web for about a year and a half now, and believe it when I say that we have been judged, tried and condemned by a few, who took it upon themselves to amend our theology. One writer was so wroth over my journal, "Primrose Path to Gehenna" (Link to follow.) that he suggested the fires of hell would be stoked 7 times hotter to better show me the error of my ways. God gave me the grace to see it for what it was: his fear that doctrinal error would send me and anyone who believed what I wrote straight to hell. Since I knew that God has delivered me from that, I was able to be firm but gracious in my replies to him. Over a year later, he wrote to say that he had been exceedingly upset by this teaching of the reconciliation of all, but it had caused him to dig deep into scripture, to study, to pray and to reconsider the subject. Meanwhile, the Lord graced him with a second witness, a man whom he heard speak on the subject, who tipped the scales toward belief in this precious truth. He was gracious and loving enough to write me a letter of apology, which was certainly not necessary, but I did rejoice that God is still faithful to do just what He always said He would do, i.e., reward those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6). This brother is a testimony to me that we are not responsible for the results of the works of God's hands. It is the Holy Spirit's job to lead men into all truth, not ours. (Jn. 16:13). "Known to God are all his works from the beginning of the world," (Acts 15:18) and He will finish the good work that He began. (Jn. 4:34; Phil. 1:6). Ours is only to flow in what the Spirit reveals to be our task of the moment, for the battle belongs to the Lord! (I Sam. 17:47; II Chron. 20:15, 17; Ps. 24:8; Prov. 21:31; Isa. 42:13 Hos. 1:7). In all those thrilling Old Testament stories that give me goose bumps when I read them, the battle was the Lord's. When He said go, they could be assured of victory. If He did not give the command, those who went anyway, were destroyed, as all those Israelites who perished at Ai learned to their sorrow. (Joshua, Chapter 7). When they got themselves in line with God's will, He gave the city into their hands. (Josh. 8:1-29).

Because He is faithful to finish that which He begins, we have no need to judge, criticize or condemn each other. In his letter to the Romans, Paul is very clear about why we cannot judge one another: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Rom. 14:4). Since we are all serving God, it is for Him to judge us for He alone knows the thoughts and intents of our heart. (Heb. 4:12). Many Christians say that they pray for this thing or that person, and assure anyone who will listen, that they do so frequently and with great passion. But sadly, many say it with the wistfulness of a kid looking through the window of a candy store, wishing he could go in and partake of the goodies, but having no resources to do so. How could this be? I think it is because many of us hound God to grant us our wishes, without bothering to ask what His will may be in the matter. John the Beloved gave us the simple truth regarding our prayer requests: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him." (I John 5:14 -15). Many things that we petition and/or demand of God are not in His will. We cannot see what His will may be because we're so caught up in the trivia, the emotions, the self, ego and pride, that we cannot see the forest for the trees.

This is the meaning of the saying, "The devil's in the details." Like Peter, on the night Jesus took a stroll across the Sea of Galilee, we impetuously shoot off our mouths and say, "Let me do it Lord. I can do it." To His credit, Peter waited to get out of the boat until Jesus told Him he could. That's commendable, and a minor detail which I've overlooked a time or two in my life, with disastrous results, needless to say. What an ego inflating rush it must have been for Peter to see the Son of God walking on the water, and hear Him say that he could hop out of the boat and walk on water right along with him. I can see Peter in my mind's eye, contemplating the excitement, the joy, and the triumph of being on the sea with Jesus, where no man had ever gone before. I think maybe he didn't ponder it for too long, but just leapt out there before fear changed his mind. Imagine with me his joy and wonder when the water held his weight and he began to walk toward the Lord. "I'm doing it. I'm walking on water," he probably shouted. Don't we do the same thing when we first contemplate some daunting task or another which God has placed in our lives? At first, we think, "OK. I can do this. God will help me." But like Peter, as the winds of trouble howl around us and the waves of adversity beat against our feet, the realization dawns that we're in the soup now. We're doing the impossible. It isn't going to work. Who am I to think I can overcome this? I'm only human, after all. Sure enough, the scripture says of Peter, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me'!" (Matt. 14:30).

Looking at the dreadful details, the obstacles, the past behavior of the one I'm supposed to trust now or the situation I'm supposed to overcome, causes me to fear, and fear causes me to doubt God's provision for me. Notice what Jesus said to him, "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?' And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down." (Matt. 14:31-32). Two things come to me about this verse. One, faith has nothing to do with sight. We fear what we can see, what we suspect, what we doubt. Sometimes we see the devilish debris in our path, and other times, we only intuit it. When we look at the details, however, we are not looking at Jesus. Secondly, Jesus planned this lesson especially for Peter, and for all of us following in his footsteps. The man Peter "knew the Lord," as we say in our attempt to delineate who is "in" and who is "out" of fellowship with Jesus. He lived with Him, worked with Him, prayed with Him, traveled with Him, and served Him daily for three and a half years. Peter had observed and participated in the healing of the sick, raising of the dead, casting out of demons, (Matt. 10:5-14; 11:5; Mk. 6:6-13; Lk. 7:22; Jn. 12:1) and just before this episode, had witnessed the feeding of the five thousand. (Matt. 14:14-21; Mk. 6:34-44; Lk. 9:10-17). To me, this account of Peter's adventure on the Sea of Galilee, proves beyond any doubt that intellectual knowledge of the Lord, His miracles, His ministry, His life, His death and even His resurrection does little to change men and women's hearts. It's only a starting place.

Since I've been here in Missouri, I've heard so many Christians tell me that they know they shouldn't be afraid, but they are anyway. They know they shouldn't worry, but gosh, things are just so apt to go wrong. Look what happened to so and so. Maybe it will happen to me. Or, look how that guy behaved before. He hurt me then. What's different now? What this tells me is that Jesus on the outside is thrilling and exciting, and when you begin to sink down into the water, He often does extend His hand and pull you up, but Jesus on the outside is like a coat of paint on an old barn, of which there are many here in in the Midwest. The new paint may look good for awhile, but before long, either storms or sun or freezing rain will begin to erode it away and soon, you see the same old boards showing through that were there all the time. The only answer is to tear down the old barn and build a new one out of incorruptible material. This is exactly what God did for us with the New Covenant, sealed by the blood of Christ. (Jer. 31:31; Lk. 22:20; I Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:8; 9:15; 12:24). He wiped out the old carnal nature, and built a New Creation, (II Cor. 5:18) created in His image and likeness, filled with the Lord of the Universe Himself, (Eph. 3:19) and "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Phil. 1:11). There is no longer any need to try to clean yourself up or put a new coat of paint on the old shell of the man or woman you used to be. That old Adamic nature is dead and buried with Christ. (Col. 2:12). We have risen to walk in newness of life with the one who holds the world in His hands. (Rom. 6:4-5). We live, but it is not our life which sustains us. It is Christ who lives within us, the hope of glory. (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).

It is not our faith upon which we must depend when the storm is howling around our little boat, threatening to capsize it. It is "the faith OF the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," upon which I rest. (Gal. 2:20). I believe that when Jesus admonished Peter about his lack of faith, He was merely pointing out the obvious: Peter didn't have any faith, and neither do any of the rest of us, for that matter. Paul explained to the Ephesians that faith itself doesn't come from within us. "It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8). Why is that important? Because Paul goes on in the next verse to say that "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:9-10). Hallelujah. This assures me that not only are God's works known to Him from before the beginning of the world, but so are ours as well. Paul told us that He "called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (II Tim. 1:9). This being the case, when I'm filled with worry and dread about what's going to happen to me or to my loved ones, I begin to sink. Soon, I'm up to my nose in sea water, thrashing about right along with Peter.

My last journal was about the futility of guilt and shame, which plague so many Christians. (Link to follow). Guilt and shame are heavy baggage from yesterday. Fear, dread, and worry, are grievous loads belonging to tomorrow. Jesus is in the now. He's here with us today. God gave me another picture of that this past Sunday, while I was doing my usual ministry in song at Medicalodge, the local nursing home. I take my battery powered keyboard out there and as part of my routine, I accompany the Baptist preacher who holds the little service there, before I move on to the other wards. This day, his lesson was taken from Matt. 25:1-13, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. He read the story, and then gave what I suppose is the Baptist party line, which is that if we don't prepare for the bridegroom's arrival, we'll be left outside the gate, and thus will burn in hell forever and ever. While he was droning on about how long eternity will last, I said, "Lord, why do you let him keep threatening these dear old saints with hell?" He didn't answer me about that, but instead, opened my eyes to something in this parable I have missed before, which has to do with our subject at hand. He showed me that in Matt. 25:1, Jesus said, "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins." He opened my eyes to see that this parable is not talking about the after life, about something that happens when we die, but about the kingdom of heaven, which is everywhere around us right now! How do I know that? From Jesus' own words. In Matt. 16:28, He said, "Verily I say unto you, 'There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the son of man coming in his kingdom." From this verse, the Spirit showed me that if the kingdom has not come, and is, as some think, still waiting to be established when Jesus comes back and takes over the throne of David in Jerusalem, there must be some very old people lurking about on Planet Earth. Jesus plainly says in this passage that some will not die until they see the son of man coming in His kingdom. Other scriptures bear witness to the fact that the kingdom of heaven is here now.

One of these has to do with that last Passover feast which Jesus celebrated with His disciples, right before they crucified Him. We're told, "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matt. 26:26-29). Luke says, "until the kingdom of God shall come." (Lk. 22:18). So, according to Jesus, when they ate and drank with Him again, they would know that the kingdom had already come. Luke reports the fulfillment of this condition in chapter 24, in the story of Jesus walking with the two on the Emmaus Road. After they had reached their destination, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it and gave it to them. (Vs. 28-30). They ate and drank with him, fulfilling what He had said at the Passover Feast about when the kingdom would have come. And of course, we fulfill that prophecy every time we break the bread and drink the fruit of the vine with Him as part of the communion service. (Acts 20: 7; I Cor. 11:26).

What I saw from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins is this: those in the church world who have projected the coming of Christ's kingdom to some far off future time, are the foolish virgins who have no oil (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) in their lamps. Thus, they cannot see Him when He appears to them for they are looking with natural, rather than with spiritual eyes. Jesus said, "You must be born again to see the kingdom of heaven." (Jn. 3: 3,5). These who have been "born from above" are the wise virgins. Their lamps are trimmed with oil, and their lives are overflowing with rivers of living water, (Jn. 4:10; 7:38-39; Rev. 7:17) also representing the Spirit. These wise virgins see and enter the Kingdom freely, and they are enjoying the wedding feast with the bridegroom even now. The parable is not about the end of the story for all mankind, as some think, but rather, about the kingdom of heaven which is everywhere around us today. The things of God are never seen with the natural eye, but only discerned with the eye of the Spirit. (I Cor. 2:14-15). If you don't see the kingdom in your life, ask the Father to show it to you. He promised to lead you into all truth. (Jn. 16:13; I Jn. 2:27). The very fact that you want to see it, shows that you are bone weary, tired of living after the fears and worries of the flesh and are hungry to know more of the deep things of the Father. Ask God to show you the things which are not seen, the things which are eternal. (II Cor. 4:18). He loves us each one unconditionally. As the words of the dear song, "He Touched Me," proclaim, "The things of the world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His beauty and grace."

God has worked this into my very being that He is in charge of every single detail, positive and negative of our lives. When we were beginning the downward financial slide, a few years ago, He gave me a lovely little song entitled, "Walking on Water," (Link to follow). I wept and rejoiced all at once as I wrote it, because I thought it meant that the Lord, like the marines, would land on our sinking ship and we would be spared financial disaster. When that did not happen, I finally came to see what the Spirit was saying to me, which is that we are walking on water, when we travel through the kingdom of God. We are feasting on the fruit of the Spirit daily and we are trusting Him who knows the end from the beginning, (Isa. 46:10) to really work all things in our lives after the counsel of His own will. (Eph. 1:11). This high place where we live is Mount Zion, (Heb. 12:22) where we have ceased from our own labors, and have entered into the rest of God. It is the place, where like Jesus, we say, "My food, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (John 4:34 ). The secret to this marvelous way of living is revealed in the Hebrew letter: "Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.' " And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world." (Heb. 4:3). Once we realize that God's work is done, we can relax and flow along in whatever we see the Spirit doing in our lives. If He doesn't do anything about a particular situation, we don't do anything about it either. I see many Christians thrashing and scurrying about trying to do good, in an attempt to please God, or to rescue others from some dire situation, when really, He never called them to do it. If He does not sound the trumpet, only a fool rushes into battle. When God sounds the call, the battle is already won. When He does not, it clearly is lost. All of us can thrill as we read the Old Testament stories about God's deliverance, but what He has shown Lenny and me so clearly that we could never doubt it, no matter who says we are fools for believing it, is that God has ordered our steps. He has planned out our lives. He has forgiven us for yesterday, and He holds tomorrow in His hands. There is only today in the kingdom of heaven. There is only now. There are only God's works, which were finished before the foundation of the world, and it is only on this solid ground of Christ's faith, that we too, can walk on the water. Praise His holy name.

by Jan Antonsson

 

Jan and Lenny Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850

 

 

. "The Primrose Path To Gehenna"

 

"Guilt Trips and Shame Games"

 

Walking on Water

 

The Glory Road

 

We always enjoy hearing from you!

jantonsson@aol.com

this page was uploaded to the web in July, 1999

by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister

and last edited 10/14/08.