Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO., on 9/14/03
"You boast that you have struck a bargain to avoid death and have made a deal to dodge the grave" (Isa. 28:15, New Living Translation).
When the Lord spoke to me two weeks ago that my covenant with death had been annulled and my agreement with the grave would not stand, my spirit soared because I hoped it meant that He was going to heal our beloved kitty Mister. (His picture is at the end of this page). The reason I dared hope is that it has come to me for some time now, that, "...God saw EVERYTHING that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen., 1:31, RSV). This includes our pets, other animals, and the planet itself. When I read the Apostle Peter's announcement about the restitution of ALL THINGS, I came to believe that this means that even our pets will be restored. They, like all of us are waiting with eager longing for the manifestation of the sons of God, "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19-23). These scriptures and the one in Mark which says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15, KJV. See also Rev. 5:13, KJV), have convinced me that God loves our animals, and to whom would we go but to the Lord to ask Him to spare their lives and heal them?
This writing is not a book, chapter, and verse treatise on pet healing. Rather, my aim is to share how God uses absolutely everything in our lives to work out His unconditional love in us and through us. In spite of our prayers, our confessions of faith, our tears and our pleadings, Mister died on 9/6/03, and went back to be with the Lord from whom He came. "For FROM him and THROUGH him and TO him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).
We buried him beneath the Walnut Tree in the pasture below the 5th wheel where we live. I replaced the rough cross I had made from twine and twigs, with a cross made of red roses and baby's breath that was left over from Memorial Day. We can see the tiny grave site and the cross from the south facing windows. We thanked the Lord for all the fun, the frolic, the love and the joy that He brought to us in this gift we named Mister. He will live forever in our hearts and we believe we shall see him again in "the restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21).
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). We found out up close and personal how costly love can be. In the process, some things came up in me that needed healing and release. One such thing was the loss of our home in April of 1997. I never cried while it was happening, because I truly believed God was going to save our bacon at the last minute, and even after we moved out and into the guest house provided by Lenny's brother, just a mile up the canyon from where we had lived, I was too busy trying to survive to let go and feel my feelings. To my surprise, as I was praying and weeping for Mister's healing, that terrible loss came up for me, as well as my father's death in 1984! This confirms my conviction, that time heals nothing! Sorrow buried is sorrow that festers and causes grief later on until it is healed by the Holy Spirit.
After we buried Mister, I began to see that I needed to bury once and for all what I have railed on about in many writings, i.e., the belief taught by the Word of Faith preachers, that we can control God with our words, our confessions, or our works. Intellectually, I have seen the folly of such an idea for almost twenty years, but emotionally, I was still living under Law. The idea that you can get God to bless you if you obey Him is found throughout the Old Testament, with Deut., Chapter 28, spelling it out in all its might and gore.
I'm reading a book Harry and Jeri Fox loaned me, called Christ, A Crisis in the Life of God. by Jack Miles. I had started reading it awhile back, but drifted off, and then Sunday evening, I picked it up again, and as with everything He sends our way, God has used it to bless me in my present distress. Miles has impressive credentials and is well versed in scripture. In fact, he translated many of the passages he quotes in the book, but he makes no claim that it is about either history or theology. He says it is fiction, and yet, the Spirit triggered me on several points he makes. Rather than review the book, let me just share some insight I received from it as I was grieving my painful loss of Mister and other things in my life.
I am an amateur student of the Old Testament, which provided me quite a few pegs upon which to hang some points that Miles made. In last week's writing, I shared that Isaiah had the terrible job of telling Israel that God was going to punish her people with the sword of warring nations because they did NOT remain faithful to the Covenant the Lord made with them on Mount Sinai.
You'll remember that Abraham was living in Ur of the Chaldees, in Babylon, when God first appeared to him and said, "Follow me to a land I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). The Lord made a unilateral (one party) covenant with him in Canaan that Paul says is the gospel message, i.e., in Abraham's seed (Christ), would all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8,16). God later made a bilateral (two party) covenant on Mount Sinai with Abraham's descendants. That agreement was the Law of Moses.
When the Israelites repeatedly broke the covenant, and after decades of being scolded and given a chance to repent by the prophets, God used Nebuchadnezzer to punish them, and back they went to Babylon from whence they had come. This is perhaps a metaphor of the truth that when we quit trusting God, and go our own way, we end up in back in captivity, sent there by God until He frees us by His light and love. Notice how the prophet Jeremiah described it: "Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him" (Jeremiah 27:6, RSV).
Yet through the prophets, God also promised the Jews that their punishment would eventually end and He would restore them to their former glory. A better day was coming, Isaiah said, when, "No one living in Zion will say, "I am ill"; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven" (Isa. 33:24, NIV). The power of the Lord God Almighty, whom Miles calls "the warrior god," will bring justice, "For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause" (Isa. 34:8). His power and might will bring great rejoicing: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert" (Isa. 35:5-6).
On that glorious day, "...the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa. 35:10). But when will this day occur? When can the Jews expect God to mop up on their enemies? When will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped? When will He come to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn" (Isa. 61:1-2). When, oh Lord God, will you move to "rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated"???? (Vs. 4). The cry of my heart is that God would restore and rebuild all the ancient ruins which were passed down from generation to generation, stored in the collective unconscious from Adam's sin onward. On Calvary, the ax was laid to the root of bitterness within us, and our covenant with death has been annulled IN CHRIST! Now we await the Holy Spirit's mop up action in each life.
Now, fast forward the tape from Isaiah's prophecies, until the day when Jesus stood up in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day in his home town of Nazareth. It was their custom to read the Torah aloud once a year, and on this day, the scripture which fell to Jesus to read was Isaiah 61:1-2. Was it coincidence? No, everything in Jesus' life was foretold and fore written and came to pass exactly as the prophets had said. In those days the chosen person would stand up to read the scripture, and then sit down to speak about it. On this day, Jesus "...rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk. 4:20-21).
They asked, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" The implication here is, "Who does he think he is? Why, he was conceived before his parents were married." He reminded them of God's sovereign will: "Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, only Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:26-27). This infuriated the crowd that day, for it severely messed with their self image and self glorification as God's chosen people. Jesus nicely showed them though scripture that God chooses whom He will save and whom He will heal, within the camp or OUTSIDE of it! They would have killed Him right then and there, but it was not yet His time. "They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way" (Luke 4:29-30).
The folks in this synagogue were like religious people everywhere, convinced that they had the right doctrine, the one and only way to worship God, and that because they knew the scripture, they had an inside track.
John the Baptist was representative of the most devout of the Jewish people, but he needed saving like everyone else. A prophet chosen by God from his mother's womb, he was filled with the Spirit from his birth (Luke 1:13-15). Like all Jewish boys, he would have memorized the Torah by the time he was 12 years old, knowing very well what God had promised through the Prophets who came before him. Yet in spite of the miraculous events surrounding his birth, and God's power pouring out through him in bringing thousands to repentance, he found himself imprisoned in Herod's dungeon. How could this be? I have no doubt that he must have hoped that God incarnate would rescue him. So, he sent a message to Jesus by his disciples, asking, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7: 19).
Luke gives this report, "At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Luke 7:21-23). What I had never thought about before reading Jack Miles' comments, was the significance of Jesus' reply. Notice that He reminds John that He is fulfilling ALL of Isaiah's prophecies in 61:1-2, EXCEPT proclaiming "freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." That's a significant omission. I can imagine, that when John heard Jesus' words, he must have felt like he was punched in the stomach, for Jesus did NOT say He would set the captive(s) free! Miles asks, where is the warrior god they counted on to rescue them from their ever present troubles? Where is the God of their salvation, the One who rescues them from death? (Ps. 68:20). Where, indeed?
Feeling John's pain, I wept, because it is the same abandonment I felt when God did not save Mister or our house. Then, God's sweet Spirit flowed into my heart and I experienced Jesus, who came to show us the heart of God, and a new way to overcome. God through His Son, knew up close and personal the high cost of love. "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered" (Heb. 5:7-8). No longer would we live by the sword, by punishing our enemies. Our Father's way is to love our enemies and forgive them, realizing that they do not know what they are doing when they hurt us. Christ showed us then and now that LOVE is God's way, the path home, the only LAW that matters, and it is written on our hearts by the hand of God Himself.
Israel was a nation built on God's Law, but they never kept it. How could they? The Law was perfect and they were far from that. Like many Christians, they failed to understand the truth of God's election They did not see that "It is obviously not a question of human will or human effort, but of divine mercy" (Rom. 9:16, Phillips). The sons of Jacob turned away from the Messiah because He did not fit into their dogma, their preconceived idea of what He should look like and act like and do, but thanks be to God, that is not the end of the story!
The Apostle of Grace, pulls aside the veil and shows us God's intention toward His chosen people, and how He will fulfill the covenant He made with Abraham so long ago: "And so ALL ISRAEL will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins" (Rom. 11:26-27). Notice that this is New Covenant Good News. It is all about what God, their deliverer will do for them, not what they must do for Him. Jesus was the price God paid to deliver us all!
No matter what it looks like or how bad it feels, Paul assures us that "...God's gifts and his call are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29). The Jews were God's chosen people, but God worked it out so that everyone everywhere has "now received mercy as a result of their disobedience" (Vs. 30). How can we be sure of that? "For God has imprisoned ALL PEOPLE in their own disobedience so he can have mercy upon EVERYONE" (Vs. 32, New Living Translation). The Jewish people even today have not yet been set free from the prison they find themselves in, but there is no time limit on God's promises. So, for them, as for all of us, "The deliverer will come from Zion." He comes to love us, to reconcile us to Him, and to lead us home to the still waters and green pastures He has prepared for us.
Father we give You thanks that You use all things, great and small, to reveal Your matchless love and endless provision. You willingly paid the high price to forgive all our sin and pain and hurt and loss and replace them with the oil of gladness. You set our feet to dancing in praise of Your Holy Name. We will praise You for ever, now and in the ages to come. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Your Covenant with Death has been Broken"
Reverse the Curse, Covenant with Death, Part III
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 9/10/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.
Mister, October 2002 - September 6, 2003