Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 11/9/03
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:10, RSV).
Have you ever been really angry at God? You don't have to tell me, but your answer will give you a clue about where you are in your journey back to Him from whom we all came. I grew up fearing the God of the Old Testament, who like the mythological Greek god Zeus, seemed to me to be very opinionated, very powerful, and extremely cranky most of the time toward those who disobeyed Him. That terror continued until I met Jesus personally. When I fell in love with Him, He dispelled my fears, my worries and doubts, and filled me with His unconditional love. At a cellular level, I knew that God loves me and has only good planned for my life, no matter what bad things appear in the meantime. As I wrestled with some of those bad things, which hurt a lot, the Holy Spirit gently led me into the truth that God sends everything: the good, the bad, the lovely, and the awful, as part of His eternal plan to conform us to the image of His Son.
When I realized that God is the only one with whom I have to do, a lot of the anger and blame I had affixed to others fell away. He is responsible for it all (Rom. 11:32). "It's His fault," as Lenny puts it, and then, to my surprise, once I acknowledged that, I encountered a whole bucketful of rage for God.
At first, like most folks brought up in Fundamentalism, I was afraid to express it, but He held my hand even while I was working my way to the bottom of this unexpected cache of anger toward Him. When Lenny and I married, we were into jogging as exercise, and as we ran down the road, I would rail on God about my irritations, and about what I thought was fair and not fair. Lenny teased me about it by looking heavenward and shouting, "Lord, don't get confused. I'm over here. Be sure to send the lighting bolts on her side of the road." If expressing anger would get you fried, I'd have been a pile of ashes long ago, but instead of that, He kept loving me and assuring me of that love. Finally, His love swept away the rage; light dispelled the darkness, and I realized experientially the wondrous promise expressed by Paul, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28, RSV).
He continued by saying that He foreknew those He called, and they are justified and glorified, until they are conformed into the image of God's Son, for Christ IS the first born of many brethren (Vs. 29-30). Paul is, among other things, very logical, which I appreciate because of my left-brain orientation. He concludes this passage by asking, "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom. 8:31, RSV). There are a hundred sermons in that short sentence. With one mighty blow, the Apostle knocks down the absurd idea that there are two powers in the universe: God and Satan; that we have to turn ourselves upside down and inside out to defeat the devil and follow God.
As an aside, someone wrote this week asking if I believe in the fall of Lucifer, and then asked, "And if not, where do the fallen angels come from?" I haven't answered him, and won't unless the Lord gives me something on the subject. I am guessing though, that he may think that these fallen angels are what people call evil spirits, the devil's minions, the powers of darkness, the things that go bump in the night, and all of that which gets people casting, binding and pleading, or heading to the nearest exorcist. If God be for us, then who can be against us indeed?
The Apostle continues the thought by adding, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies" (Rom. 8:32,33, RSV). This is an echo of Jesus' words, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). And the thought is repeated in the Hebrew letter: "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8, RSV).
This is not a treatise on suffering, or cross carrying, but a comment on the need to forgive God. Of course, first you have to own up to the fact that you are angry. Suffering and cross bearing have consequences, and because these are so severe in some Saints' lives, there is the natural tendency to be angry at the One causing it. Been there, done that.
I will confess that for years, I was angry at my mother and blamed her for a good many problems in my life. That lasted until I was almost forty, when some excellent counselors with skin on and the Holy Spirit (the best in the business) helped me to understand my identity in Christ. Self help gurus suggest you give yourself positive affirmations, but depending on how damaged you are, those are often just Band-Aids trying to hide a gangrenous wound. For me, I've got to have the power to back up the words, and I found it in Paul's glorious statements. I'll share some of these with you, for a surprising number of people I meet could really use them.
Here are the Spirit birthed positive affirmations (a buzz word in the 70's) that pack a punch, a means by which God delivered me from the depths of low self-esteem, lack of self confidence, guilt, shame, and self denigration.
I was chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); I am loved by God; saved by His grace, and seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:4-6); neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39); I am holy, blameless, unreproveable (Col. 1:22); I am the righteousness of God (II Cor. 5:21); it is Christ living in me whose faith sustains me (Gal. 2:20); I am a son of the Most High (Gal. 3:26).
I wrote these God breathed affirmations on 4" x 6" cards, and put one on the mirror in my bathroom so I could see it when getting ready for work; one on the refrigerator door; one on the dashboard of my car; and one in my purse. When I began to feel down about myself, I would whip out a card and read these statements, often out loud. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they never failed to buoy me up to face whatever it was which troubled me.
Dealing with anger is a process, no matter who is the target. Turning it on God is safe, because He knows all about it, and has made provisions in Christ to deal with it. Think about the Jews who dragged Jesus before Pilate, accusing Him of all manner of trumped up charges (Matt. 27:2, 11-12). Pilate couldn't find anything wrong and would have let Him go with a scourging, but the Jews, seething with rage and anger screamed, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"(Vs. 22-23).
I have previously mentioned Jack Miles book, Christ, a Crisis in the Life of God. In it, he gives an excellent background for the rage Jews had against God, though like most Christians, they would not have admitted it. Of course, they denied that Christ was God, and instead accused Him of having a demon (John 8:52), but in fact, they took out all their rage for Yahweh on the innocent Lamb of God. Miles points out that humanly speaking, they had just cause for their rage. The prophets had promised freedom from oppression by their enemies, safety in the promised land; that each man would sit unafraid under his own fig tree and vine (Isa. 30, 31; 33:29-24; Micah 4:4). Instead of that, the rebellious sons of Jacob were dragged off to Assyria and Babylon, and even when they were allowed to return to rebuild the temple, only a remnant came back. They attempted to rebuild the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem, a trowel in one hand and a sword or spear in the other (Neh. 4:13-18). The temple, which Zerubbabel helped them build, was so far inferior to Solomon's great temple that the old men wept when they saw it (Ezra 4:2-3;.3:12).
From the time of Nebuchadnezzar's deportation of Judah to Babylon, God's people were never again a sovereign nation in their own land, under their own government. As we recall, the law allowed them to hate their enemies and make war against them. In fact, some of the prophets gave blood curdling accounts of God mopping up on Israel's enemies, putting them to the sword, as Joshua did when he led the invasion of Canaan, and utterly defeating them all who opposed them (Isaiah 34), to the glory of their "warrior God" (Miles' term for Yahweh, the fierce right arm of Israel). They were looking for Messiah to come and fulfill these prophecies, defeat the hated Romans who held them in a violent, iron grip, and victoriously restore to their rule, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Imagine their surprise and anger then, when Jesus came along preaching LOVE. He had the power and authority of the promised Messiah, but horrors, His teachings caused them to tear out their hair and run screaming into the night: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27). If they behaved this way, He told them, they would be like their Father: "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:35,36).
I have to say in their defense that I understand how shocking this must have been for them. I read about God's punishments of Israel under Law and was terrified of Him; they had lived it. Not only that, but He had been totally silent for four hundred years. Not since Malachi had a prophet come from God. And like a lot of us today, they probably only remembered the parts of what he had said which was to their liking: "For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch" (Mal. 4:1, RSV). Even now, some Christians today still expect evil doers to be burned in hell by God.
It's no wonder the Jews expected the fire of God to burn up the Romans, their hated oppressors. Like many Christians, they didn't want to hear about this purifying process God had in mind for the sons of Levi: "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD" (Mal. 3:2,3, RSV). Ouch!
Thus, when they had the chance to lash out at Jesus, who dared to say God was His Father, and "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), they seized the opportunity, and with fierce determination and wicked hands, crucified the Son of Glory. But even that was in God's plan, according to Peter in his soul stirring sermon on the Day of Pentecost, "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it" (Acts 2:23,24, RSV). In the final analysis, it won't wash to hate and condemn the Jews for their part in the crucifixion, because a) God set it all in motion, and b) we are as guilty as they. When we did our worst to God, He gave His best for us. However, people are still angry at Him today, because He hasn't performed according to their expectations.
A man recently poured out his anger and frustration at what he calls, "27 years (and counting) of receiving only 'crumbs' from God, with occasional whole slices (such as the universal salvation revelation.)" He described his own "root of bitterness" as a BIG one against God. He hates himself, he said, and worse: "I know the Bible says we 'must through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the Kingdom of God,' but, ....that is part of the reason why I hate God." OUCH!
This brother has a problem, on the order of the magnitude of first century Jews. He is disappointed, angry, and appears unable to wait for God's process to work in Him. He wants it now, thank you very much, and anyone who says it takes longer than a minute is preaching "Bad News," so far as he's concerned.
I have given him some thoughts, but more importantly, I have prayed that God will reveal Himself up close and personal to this conflicted brother.
At the other end of the spectrum, a man emailed us who has sublimated his rage for God to the cold analysis of his intellect, with which he proudly attempted to impress me. About something I had written, which he never identified, he wrote, "Although your article is well written and fairly articulate, in the end, your conclusion is faulty. Religion is a vestigial remnant of a highly superstitious animal called man. The first part of your article is historically correct, for the most part. However, the second law of thermodynamics assures us that entropy will continue to increase with time, and that the randomness of events is strictly circumstantial and non-discriminating. To ascribe 'good' or 'evil' which are highly subjective terms, to anything other than a statistical distribution of events, is foolish...... As education and reasonableness spreads, the superstitions of religion and these nonsensical ideas will fade to black." End Quote.
I sort of forgot about his comments until I was working on this piece, when it came to me that here is another wounded child, raging against what he cannot see and cannot control. The emotional tirades against God and religion by the first man, and the clinical, cynical dismissal of all things spiritual by the second man, both reflect opposite ends of the spectrum of rage against God. The answer to both men's angst and ire is LOVE, but we cannot give love or forgiveness, UNTIL we have felt and tasted God's love and forgiveness for us. Meeting Jesus up close and personal is what we each must experience in order to be drawn up by the Holy Spirit, out of the miry pit of corrupted flesh, into the peace and unconditional love of Almighty God, which is our inheritance in Christ.
Father, You alone are the answer to the anger erupting throughout the world today. Flow out in love to all who hurt, who rage against the night and the dying of the light. Be Yourself in each of Your creation that Your PEACE may reign supreme in every heart. Only then can we truly love our enemies, because then, no one will be an enemy. All will be Your Sons in Christ! Shine forth in us, Father, that we might be part of the healing of your glory land. Amen. Jan Antonsson
To Be continued.......
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Forgiving each other"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 11/6/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/28/08.