Given for Medicalodge, Neosho, MO 64850, on 8/24/03
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (I Pet. 2:9, NIV).
The title reminds us of recent events when the east coast of the United States and parts of Canada were plunged into powerless darkness, a fantastic opportunity for God's light to shine. I have no doubt that something good will come from this catastrophe which left 50 million people without power! Rolling blackouts are a metaphor for what God is doing in many lives today, as His power ebbs and surges in our lives. We've talked for several weeks now about the struggles endured by the elect, and in fact, the whole world. The Apostle Paul was no stranger to that, nor to the blessings which come to us in the midst of the gloom. He tells us that "God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Cor. 4:6). Note that the dark place where He shines is the human heart, and He does it to give us clarity (knowledge of the glory of God). It is this glory which overpowers the darkness, as the same power which raised Christ from the dead empowers us.
I need to remind myself of that when minor irritations ripple across my landscape. A few months ago, at the onset of a thunder storm, I intended to unplug the modem, but instead of pulling the plug from the wall phone jack, I unhooked the modem connection to the computer. My mind was on vacation that day, apparently, but lightning was not. It fried the device and left me without power to get onto the Internet. We had to purchase a new modem in order to continue the ministry. The Lord provided some financial help from dear friends who regularly support The Glory Road, but it was an inconvenience and I confess to wondering why He had caused this to happen right then. God is the author of everything good and bad which happens to us. The good things we can easily see, but the not so good ones are more difficult to figure out, and we often do not understand them until later.
This came to my mind today because the Lord has sent us a little real estate sale, and I needed to get a floor plan from the listing agent. With the new fax/modem, it was a simple matter to have her fax it over, and for me to fax her anything she needs. I am thanking the Lord for it because, with the old one, I could neither send nor receive faxes from the local real estate brokers. The new fax modem saves me time and gasoline and I'm grateful for the Lord's provision of the new and improved model.
Another example happened this week as well. As we were getting dressed for an appointment in Joplin, a neighboring town, I couldn't find my wedding ring, which I always keep in a little basket on a shelf. My other rings were there, but no wedding ring could be found, though I searched everywhere. Lenny even sifted the kitty litter box, which sits under this shelf, thinking that it might have fallen in there. Time was getting away, and we had to leave for our appointment. As we were driving to Joplin, I said out loud, "Lord, You know where that ring is." I had no sooner said it than the thought occurred to me that it was in Lenny's pocket. When I asked him to look, he said, "It's not there. I felt everything before I put it in there." What he meant is that his eyesight is now so poor, that he can't see well, and must go a lot by his sense of touch. The ring is a wide, heavy gold band with engraving on it, easily distinguishable from his money clip and loose change that he always carries. "Just look," I asked, and he did. The ring was there! How it got there, we don't know, and the Lord did not say, but He told us where to look.
These supernatural interruptions in the time/space continuum show that God cares about everything, no matter how small, and I suspect He performs these little wonders to show us that we can trust Him for the big things that go wrong in our lives. Sometimes it seems easier for me to handle big events rather than the irritating little ones, which tend to aggravate me until I can get caught up higher and realize that God sent it for some purpose. My lesson is never to look at things with my natural eyes, but always to know that He is doing whatever it takes to reveal His glory in us and to us. I had two more lessons about that last week. One culminated in the real estate sale which came immediately after I had been fussing at the Lord about what I considered His lack of concern for us in a certain frustrating situation.
I have friends who insist we must always say, "Praise the Lord," no matter what happens. If that's your thing, go for it, but if you don't really mean it and are just trying to con God with your spirituality, your words won't get higher than the ceiling. I learned decades ago to be real with God. He's the only one I ever really let it all hang out with, because He's the only one who can do anything about whatever is wrong. The buck stops on His desk. He can handle my negative feelings until His clarity on the subject gently brings me around to praising Him for whatever it is that troubled me. When we first married and were into running, I would jog down the road railing on about this or that which was frustrating me. Lenny would tease me by looking heavenward and saying, "I'm on this side of the road, Lord. She's over there. Don't zap me by mistake."
Watchman Nee told a story in one of his books about a woman who came to him griping and complaining about her husband's abusive treatment of her. He finally said gently, "Sister, you need to tell the Lord all of this." Horrified, she said, "Oh no, I couldn't tell HIM." As if He didn't know.
This speaks to me of the fact that we have anthropomorphized God, which is a Six Dollar word meaning that we have created Him in our own image, or in that of our parents, instead of the other way round. The Greeks and Romans created all their gods in their own image, which resulted in a grotesque parody of the divine: gods with all the faults and frailties of human beings but with awesome power to wreak havoc, ruin lives, and create mayhem. Our Father is unconditional LOVE! He does what He is. Whatever He sends to us, even if He locks us up in a prison of disobedience is so that He can show mercy upon all (Rom 11:32). It is the gospel in a nutshell! It is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Paul said it this way: "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power" (Eph. 3:7). He wields His power in big things and small things, all for our ultimate good and growth and His glory.
Paul said about the conflicts, traumas, doubts and problems we all face everyday, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (II Cor. 4:7). I think this is a wonderful explanation of why God sends us periodic rolling blackouts. The treasure we contain is Christ, the seed of the New Creation, the source of the all surpassing power and glory that comes only from Him. If things always went swimmingly in our lives, how would we ever know that we have within us a Life-giving Spirit who delivers, saves, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies us from the inside out?
Knowing this allows us, on a smaller scale, to empathize with Paul's affirmation: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (II Cor. 4:8-10). Out of the death He died "once for all," His life flows freely in us and through us (Rom. 6:10). Death was swallowed up by His Life, which continues to flow in us on a daily basis (I Pet 3:18).
We have an incalculable advantage available to us because of the indwelling Spirit. Left alone, we are sitting ducks for the atrocities of life, but with Him, we are overcomers. Before Christ, people did not have the indwelling Spirit. God granted faith or skill to them on a case by case basis to get the job done, which is why there are so few heroes of Faith in all the thousands of years recorded in the Old Testament. The few there were had extraordinary amounts of grace and faith, and are recorded for our edification, but they were not the norm. There's a story found in II Kings, 4:8-37, (NIV), that perfectly illustrates this as a woman and a prophet encounter God's rolling blackout together.
Elisha, a mighty prophet of God, had been anointed as Elijah's successor, and was given extraordinary power and clarity as well. This account tells of the wealthy Shunammite woman and her husband who built a little room on their roof top for the prophet to call his own when he journeyed by their home, his private Motel 6. The room contained a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for his use. He was pleased by her efforts and sent his servant Gehazi to ask her what he could do for her in return. She wanted nothing from him, but still Elisha persisted, asking his servant, "What can be done for her?" Gehazi said, "Well, she has no son and her husband is old" (Vs. 14). Modern readers may think, "So what?", but in those days, because there was no Medicare, Medicaid, Equal Opportunity Employers, or nursing homes, a woman was in a world of hurt if she had no children to care for her in her old age. Elisha jumped on this right away, saying, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. "About this time next year," Elisha said, "you will hold a son in your arms." "No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" It appears to me that this woman had perhaps tried to conceive without success for years, and did not want to be disappointed again. She had abandoned all hope, when God's light burst forth into her darkness. "...the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her" (Vs. 15-17).
She had no faith for it, clearly, but the word of God spoken by Elisha turned out to be the ultimate infertility treatment! Her barren womb produced a son and there was great rejoicing in that household! The child grew and one day, when he was in the field with his father who was overseeing the reapers harvesting the crop, the child was suddenly stricken with pain and cried out to his father, "My head! My head!" (Vs. 18-19). The father directed a servant to take him to his mother. "After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died." This was a rolling black out, big time, but she didn't freak out. Instead, "She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, "Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return." "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath." "It's all right," she said" (Vs. 20-23). It grips me that when asked by her husband why she needed to go see the man of God, she did not tell him their only child had died, but simply said, "It's all right."
The rest of the story clutches my heart as well. She rode the donkey led by the servant, saying to him, "Don't slow down for me unless I tell you." They headed for Mount Carmel, where the man of God lived (Vs. 24-25). Elisha saw her coming from a distance and told his servant Gehazi to run and meet her. He was to ask her specifically if she was all right, if her husband was all right, and if the child was all right (Vs. 26). The prophet knew she wouldn't be coming if there were not some pressing need for her to do so. When Gehazi asked her these questions, she replied, "Everything is all right." (Vs. 26). My impression here is that this was the real deal, not a religious formula, but a confession of faith. She knew that she knew that she knew that God, who gifted her with a child could restore him to her.
It wasn't that she was without emotion. When she got there, she threw herself at Elisha's feet and wouldn't let go. His comment to Gehazi, who was going to pry her loose, fascinates and thrills me. He said, "Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why" (Vs. 27). What a beautiful example of clarity! Elisha was accustomed to having God share with him what was going on. He heard from the Lord and took his orders from Him. In this case, he hadn't heard and he wanted to know what it was. After I read the story to Lenny, he told me, "This is the cry of my heart, that God would not hide from me what He is doing, but would show me everything, as He showed the old prophets."
Elisha, a man of power, expected his words to be obeyed; ordered his servant to run ahead and lay his staff on the boy's face (Vs. 39). But the child's mother said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So he got up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy's face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, "The boy has not awakened" (Vs. 30-31). The prophet and his servant went into the little room, to the bed where this mother had lain her dead son, and they prayed. God's man of the hour stretched himself out on the child's body, "mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands," until the boy's body grew warm (Vs. 33-34). He did that twice and the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes (Vs. 35). "Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out" (Vs. 36-37).
This woman, who had tasted the goodness and severity of the Lord, had come to believe in the power of God to call the things that are not as though they were. Her son's birth was a huge power surge, even when she had exhibited no faith that the Lord could do it. Clearly though, HE GAVE her the faith to say, "Everything is all right," to the prophet when her son lay dead on the bed she had provided him. I think this is why God gives us little traumas swallowed up with big joys. They reveal to us His hand in everything. When our children are small, we show them that they can trust us, which gives them courage to come to us when they really need our help, and in turn, makes it easier for them to trust in God. Our heavenly Father is building trust and Faith in His children in this hour.
Father we thank You for the rolling blackouts, big and small that You send our way, for they reveal Your light and glory in our lives. Ultimately, You only have one good and perfect gift to give us, which is Christ Himself. We praise You for Your faithfulness even when we are faithless, for Your mercy when we are undeserving of it, and for your grace when we miss the mark of Your high calling. We bless You, oh Lord, as we walk and talk with You, now and forever more. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We're always glad to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 8/20/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.