Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 10/26/03
"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Col. 1:19-20, NIV).
Paul's statement to the Colossians is one of those beautiful gifts God gives us which lifts us up and out of the pit of despair where we often find ourselves when we only look at circumstances, rather than at His promises to us. This truth redirects our focus away from our problems, to Him who holds within Himself all the fulness of the godhead bodily. That concept is so huge, so all encompassing and so mind boggling that we can scarcely take it in. That it applies to our sometimes pitiful existence is beyond the human mind to embrace. It takes the Holy Spirit of God, in one of His creative acts, emotionally comparable to the "Big Bang," to whisper, "Let there be Light," before we can see it. We feel it. We taste it and we shout "Hallelujah for the cross! It shall never suffer loss."
Our title today comes from an old Pentecostal hymn, which I've never heard, but read about a couple nights ago in a book about David Duplessis: A Man Called Mr. Pentecost. He tells about his childhood in South Africa, and recounts an event that happened in his youth. He was attending a church service where the mostly black congregants were worshipping the Lord. One woman got up and began to dance around the room, singing praises to God. She encouraged them to go and pray for a sister who lay dying in a hut nearby. The congregation got up and followed her. David explained that they would rejoice when a Christian died, knowing he would be with Jesus, but what they couldn't stand was the suffering (I'm with them there), and so their custom was to pray by the bedside of the sick person until the Lord healed her, or she died.
Accordingly, the whole group went to the sick woman's hut, where David's father, the Pastor and a few others went inside. All were praying and praising the Lord, when suddenly, the sick woman burst through the door with her hands in the air, praising God and shouting, "I'm healed. Glory to God, I'm healed!" They sang "Hallelujah for the cross; it shall never suffer loss." When I read those words, the Holy Spirit moved on me and I knew it was the title for this writing.
I always go to scripture to find a passage that will support what I'm getting, which I did, but in the meantime, we received e-mail from two different troubled parents, concerned about the health and safety of grown children.
The first came from a dear brother whose daughter is living with an abusive husband. Typical of abusers, the man has isolated her completely, cutting her off from friends and family. She has no money of her own, and the property they own is entirely in his name. They live out in the boonies, away from town and neighbors, and they work in the same office giving him almost total control over who she sees, where she goes, and what she can buy. Abusers never get better without intensive treatment, and our friend fears that her life may be in danger as the abuse escalates. He is troubled about her, and what he can do to help her, if anything.
The second e-mail was from a distraught sister who has recently discovered that her 36 year old son, her only child, is living in a homosexual relationship, about which she had no clue. She was horrified to discover this and wonders how it happened, what she can do about it, and how she can deal with the guilt she feels over her real and imagined failures as his mother. I empathized with her because years ago, I spent countless nights wringing my hands before the Lord as to where I went wrong. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if my own mother hasn't done the same about me, for I haven't always followed all her rules, to put it kindly.
Our hearts go out to both these fellow travelers on The Glory Road, for we have traveled the same road as they. Lenny and I have had our share of problems with our children in years gone by. From our vantage point of hindsight, we can say that there is a gift in every dilemma a child brings a parent, no matter their age. There's a progression of feelings assaulting us, beginning with shock and horror (as opposed to shock and awe). How did this happen? What went wrong? Where did I fail? How can I fix this kid?
Next comes the anger: How dare she treat me this way after all I've done for her? What is the matter with him? Drugs? Is he crazy? What will the neighbors/family/friends think about me?
Then comes the self justification: I took him to church; I read the bible to her; I dressed and fed her well; I worked hard to put food on the table; I loved him/her unconditionally and on and on we go.
After this litany of self-righteousness, we usually spend some time organizing and enjoying a pity party. We make party favors, invite our friends, serve a cup of whining and depression, along with pastries sprinkled with fear, righteous indignation, and guilt. Depending upon our own neurotic make up, we hope to hear our friends say, "What's wrong with that kid?" and "It wasn't your fault." For me, it was in this awful place that God broke through the gloom and jerked me out of there. People who tend to be clinically depressed may stay there longer than others, since they always have one foot in the abyss known as, "Oh, woe is me." For the rest of us, we may visit depression at times, but we don't take up residence there.
I fully understand the angst, but what I want to convey is, this too will pass! GOD sent it for a purpose, which is always the same: to reveal Himself to us. If everything went swimmingly with our children: if they got straight "A's" in school, behaved themselves according to our standards, excelled in a good job, married a spouse who loved and treasured them, and if they presented us with beautifully behaved grandchildren, we'd think parenting was a snap. We'd have no empathy for anyone who had problems with their children; and worst of all, we wouldn't understand what God has put up with since Adam and Eve and everyone else thumbed their noses at His rules, from then to now. We would never understand the cross, nor appreciate what Christ's blood delivered us from and transmuted us into, i.e. sons of God.
Under the Law, the sins of the fathers were visited upon the children unto the third and forth generation (Ex. 34:7; Deut. 5:9). That would give you pause, and probably is where my mother got her oft repeated warning to us kids, "I'll have to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of how I raised you." That sounds spiritual and very righteous, but it is pure law NOT the New Covenant. Like me, however, she did the best she could.
Those of us blessed enough to be brought up in Christian homes often assumed that this gave us right standing before God, and it makes the insult of a disobedient or rebellious child even more difficult to bear and/or to explain to our Christian parents. A subtitle for this writing could well be, "God has no grandchildren." Or, as the old saying goes, "Being born in a Christian home doesn't make you a Christian, any more than being born in a bakery makes you a bagel." There's more truth than humor in that statement.
When we established our own Christian homes, we often thought that we were giving our children the freedom in Christ we had come to appreciate, but in fact, we were giving them only the freedom to be like us, to do as we say, to think as we think, and to order their lives as we have ordered ours. That's not freedom, it's bondage. As Lenny said once, the package may be tied up with gold and silver cords, but inside the beautiful wrapping is still the LAW.
For me, the answer lies in the UNCONDITIONAL of God. (Another possible subtitle for this writing). Unconditional what? Mercy, love, grace, forgiveness, and PURPOSE. God has never deviated from His plan, which Paul declared in this passage: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30, NIV).
I recently uploaded a new writing by John Gavazzoni called "The unchanging will of God" (See Link at end), which I hope you get a chance to read. In it, he affirms that, "The thing that we cannot escape is the crisis of facing the unchanging will of God, which is that "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). In judgment we are confronted with the determination of God that we be saved." A friend wrote to say how much that writing blessed her. Her daughter is married to a cruel, abusive man, causing her to fear for her daughter's life and the life of her grandchildren. She said she enjoyed just sitting still and contemplating how God has it all under His control and that He is working it all out in spite of what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears.
When our children are small, we are charged with their care and nurture. We really do the best we can. I have never met a Christian yet who set out to do harm to his children. The problem is those sins of the fathers visited on the children, by which I believe the Bible refers to the neurotic stuff passed down in families. God nailed all that to the cross (Col. 2:14), and the Holy Spirit is even now in the process of mopping up the residue.
God is the one who shines out of the darkness of our hearts so that we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:6). "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:13-14). The action always begins with God, never with us. Christians admonish us to "Make Jesus Lord." That's impossible for man to do and unnecessary, because "GOD has made Him both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
It seems to me that the church has it exactly backwards, basing the New Covenant upon the model of Law where man had to approach God and offer sacrifices in order to avoid severe punishment. The Good News is that Jesus paid the price for our transgressions; our punishment was heaped upon Him. He bore our sins and our failures, nailing them to the cross. He left them in the tomb and arose again in triumph over them, taking us with him so that now, Paul says, we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). The trouble is that until God opens our eyes, we don't know this and thus, receive no benefit from it. Paul expressed it this way: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" (Col. 1:21-22). This is THE GOOD NEWS for us and for our children!
Notice that the Apostle says we were enemies in OUR minds (not God's). Some say this indicates that the mind is the devil's playground. Ann Lamott wrote about herself, "My mind is a bad neighborhood in which it isn't safe to roam around alone." Her self deprecating humor always makes me smile because she says of herself what is true for all of us occasionally. I don't practice giving the devil any glory at all; so I don't blame him for this garbage which sometimes surfaces in my consciousness, usually about 3:30 in the morning. I don't need any help from him to worry. The family neurosis does it nicely for him. In the blink of an eye, they can have you dead in the ditch and begin planning your funeral. It's our neurotic tendency to leap to the dark side and jump to the worst possible conclusion.
We had a heart transplant when we were born again. That's the promise of scripture: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26, NIV). In addition, the Holy Spirit is renewing our minds in Christ (Rom. 12:2; I Cor. 2:16). Like everything else, it is an on-going process by which God turns up the rheostat so that we can see Him as He is, with the promise that when we do, we shall be like Him (I Cor. 13:12; I John 3:2).
In order to appreciate a rheostat in the physical, you need a dark room in order to see the intensity of light change from dim to bright. In our spiritual lives, it is the same, which is why God sends us these problems that blacken our spirit and bring gloom into our soul. As we're groping around in the dark, feeling for Him (Acts 17:27), He shines the Light of His glorious truth into our heart and we see, feel, and taste that He is there with us and He will bring us and our children out of whatever pit of despair He has plunged us into and into His glory. He moves according to our individual needs and how He wired us, but I can testify to you, that He does it well for us and for our children also. You could say, the glory of God will be visited upon the children unto the third and forth generation.
Trying to find out what went wrong in our children's lives and who's to blame will eat you alive. Paul revealed that God is to blame for everything. "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). That passage is the high water mark, the pinnacle, the apex of the Gospel. It is so simple that most can't believe it, and so bad for business, churches avoid it. God did it all, the good, the bad, the horrific and the scary. Why? That He may have mercy upon all. That includes us all, and our children. "Hallelujah for the cross; it shall never suffer loss!"
For all who are hurting about the well-being of their children, worrying about their safety and longing for a better and deeper relationship with them, I add my prayer to the Apostle Paul's that "you may ...grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Eph. 3:18-21). Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 10/22/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/28/08.