Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 10/12/03
"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down" (Rev. 12:10, NIV).
Lenny and I have been in the refining fires for weeks now, or as one brother described it, "the processing of the Lord." In such a place, all any of us can do is cry out to the Lord for clarity. We well know that there is a gift in every horrible, scary thing that happens in our lives, and my opinion is that the quicker we can see it, the quicker we gain the victory over it. Clarity, like everything else, comes from the Lord, part of His mercy and grace to us as we traverse the deep waters and walk through the fiery furnaces He provides to cleanse off the dross. He showed me this years ago, which prompted the comment, "Parts of me are pure gold."
I write about "where the rubber meets the road," and what it means to me that the accuser of the brethren has been cast down, is simply that we are to "give him no place" (Eph. 4:27). Therefore, I no longer give the devil a vote or allow him to express an opinion in my life. Revelation 12:11 declares, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." In the final analysis, all we have is our testimony, wisdom born of pain. Theology is defined as "the study of divine things or religious truth; divinity." Even if we are not familiar with names such as Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, E. Stanley Jones and Karl Barth, they have greatly enriched our lives. My acquaintance with these men comes mostly from Harry Fox, who has been my "baker," the one who grinds the big words and lofty thoughts down and bakes bread out of them for me to understand and apply to my life.
But in the trenches, in the fiery furnaces of affliction, only God Himself can give us comfort and hope and encouragement and the sure knowledge that He will transmute our afflictions into glory, sooner or later. That's WHO He IS, and WHAT He does. The I AM, the ever present NOW, reveals Himself to us at the exact moment we need to hear from Him. Just when we have sunk to the depths of self-pity, fear, and abandonment, the still small voice bathes our souls in hope and in joy and in His love. It is the personal experience of the cross in our lives, the death to self that leads to life eternal.
All that is to preface God's processing in me, which culminated in the death of our beloved kitty, Mister. Lenny had been very ill as well, and after watching Mister get sicker and sicker and then die, my heart went cold thinking that Lenny would be next. My prayers did not appear to get higher than the roof of this 5th wheel, and I felt abandoned and afraid for the first time in years. The cry of my heart was, "Tell me why, Lord." I always ask that question, and He always answers me in His time. What He said about our kitty was, "I spoke to you through Mister."
God speaks out of eternity and we live in time, often making it difficult to get His meaning until He translates it for us. It took a couple of weeks, but Lenny and I finally understood it. We loved that little cat unconditionally, to a staggering degree. We love our other two kitties, but not to the depths of love we felt for Mister. What we both saw is that God gave us a taste of unconditional love for this little cat, a love so powerful, so all encompassing, so soul moving that you're never the same again after experiencing it. We came to the conclusion that He wants us to experience how much He loves each of us and His entire creation, to feel it and taste it, and give it away.
We realized that if everyone loved each other the way we loved God's creature named Mister, there would be no interpersonal problems in the world! The Palestinians and the Israelis would sit down together, help each other, care for each other, and defend each other. Their children would play together, go to school together, and enjoy each other. The United Nations would be a love feast where men and women from all over the world would come together to help, to aid, to comfort, to supply those less fortunate than they. I know it sounds radical that we could get all that from a cat, and some of you may throw up your hands in disgust and walk away saying, "Jan and Lenny have lost it, big time," but I can only relate what happened with this gift of love God gave us and what He has done with it.
As I was wringing my hands about Lenny's illness and continuing struggle with chronic pain, the Lord gave me a vision (picture), to explain to me how the finished work of Christ plays out in our lives and in our experiences, especially when those we love are very ill. Scripture teaches us that "his work has been finished since the creation of the world" (Heb 4:3), and Jesus said of His work, "It is finished" (John 19:30). I've written about that and count it a glorious truth which enables me to enter into His rest (Hebrews, Chapter four). Yet, how do we reconcile His finished work with a horrendous crises in our lives, when the work seems far from finished in our actual experience?
I was wrestling with God about this, for after all, His is the only answer that means anything to me when I'm in the pits of despair. He gave me a mental picture (vision?) of a house. We recently sold a brand new house to a young couple, and often drive past it to see how the work is progressing. In God's house, I saw the finished product, complete down to the cement drive way and beautifully landscaped front lawn. He took me inside and went into great detail to show me that the house was wired for electricity; the wires were connected to the meter, which was connected to the power pole outside. He showed me the television set, the VCR, the stereo, the computer and modem, the toaster, the stove and oven, the microwave, the refrigerator, the washer and dryer, and on and on, pointing out that all these appliances were brand new, in perfect working order; all were plugged into the wall, but none of them was working because no one had turned on the switch!
That remarkable example filed me with great anxiety, because the thrust of my ministry has always been to declare that God is the author of everything, and if He doesn't do it, it won't get done. He has shown me in exacting detail this year alone in the series, "Second Hand Religion" (See Link at End), that under the New Covenant, nothing depends on me, but everything flows from His promise to Abraham that in His seed (Christ) would all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8). (See Link at end to read, "God's Simple Gospel"). My anxiety level rose alarmingly as I asked, with fear and trembling, "But who, Lord, will turn on the switch? Please, please, I beg of you, don't tell me that I must be the one to turn it on. Don't tell me there is even this one little thing I must do, for what if I can't do it?" I was in great soul's distress waiting for His answer, which was slow in coming.
Then, the scene changed from this perfectly constructed, beautiful, brand new house, in which nothing worked because no one had turned on the switches, to the throne room of God. I saw John's vision acted out (Revelation, Chapter five), and heard the angel ask in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" (Vs. 2). I felt John's pain expressed in these words: "But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside" (Vs. 3-4). He described exactly how I felt, fearing that God would tell me to turn on the switches in the house, knowing I was not worthy or able to do it.
I rejoiced in tears when the next verse came alive for me: "Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals" (Vs. 5). The Lamb was worthy to open the book and He surely is worthy to turn on the switches in the house the Lord showed me, which is me! You and I are the house God built, His Temple; God is the architect; Jesus is the builder and the Lamb turns on the switches! The burden fell off my back and onto His strong and capable shoulders. Jesus came to demonstrate that we do not depend on ourselves for anything at all, because He has accomplished it all and finished it all for all the men and women who ever lived! The joy of heaven and earth filled me as I praised Him along with the four living creatures, the twenty four elders, and the ten thousand times ten thousand angels: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Vs. 12-13).
All glory belongs to God, our Father; all praise and honor go to Him, because He alone can open the seals that closed our "book"; He alone can turn on the switches which were turned off, corrupted by sin and neurotic "stuff" passed down from generation to generation. Only He can bring victory from the most bitter defeat and create LIFE where there was only death.
It was a lesson full of pain and heartache, which He used to reveal His glory to us and it didn't end there. Last week end, I was to drive to Hot Springs Village, AR, with my sister, Dr. Mary Blattner, who was the featured speaker at a Presbyterian Woman's Conference. The week before, I was plagued with anxiety about the trip. Lenny said, "Maybe you're not supposed to go." I wondered that myself, but concluded that I would go unless the Lord spoke to me and told me to stay home.
I've written before about "the family neurosis," which is, I believe, part of what the bible refers to as "the sins handed down from the fathers to the children to the third and forth generation" (Ex. 20:5; 34:7; Num. 14:18). A large part of our family's "neurotic stuff" is fueled by fear of death and hell (See Heb. 2:15). A close relative told me recently about an old aunt who got so upset every time she and her husband would take a week end trip that she wouldn't speak to them for days afterward. They might get killed on the road and then, who would take care of her? I commented, "That's a little neurotic around the edges," but my relative defended this behavior as proof that her aunt cared about her. And so the beat went on and was passed down to me.
In the way God has of revealing and then dimming the truth, I lost the details of that vision about the house until I wrote this. Perhaps it was swallowed up by the anxiety I felt about the drive to Arkansas. When I asked Him if I was supposed to go, He said, "Do you think I have to take you all the way to Arkansas to kill you off if that were my goal?" That brought me up short in a quick hurry and I repented of the evil I had worried about in the Lord's dealings with me.
I drove us down there and we were quickly plunged into one event after another. In the past, I have had a difficult time relating to "church women," and so I really dreaded the two days I would be confined with a whole bunch of them. I woke up at 4:30 on Monday morning, suffocating in anxiety and sadness. I got the Gideon Bible in the motel room and opened it to this passage: "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:5-6). Those inspired words opened the flood gates of pent up sorrow and pain and I cried a river of tears, which brought me through the fires of grief into the joy of knowing the Lord, the ecstasy of fellowshipping with Him, the awe of seeing the purity of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and ending with the privilege of worshipping Him who calls the things that are not as though they were. It was a glorious time of crying, praising, loving, and being loved by our Heavenly Father and the Lamb who loved us unto death, and delivered us from the grave into His Life!
From there, He took me to the beautiful words of King David, a man after His own heart, in Psalm 130:1-6: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning."
In God's unique way, I experienced first hand the chorus of an old hymn: "He brought me out of the miry clay; He set my feet on a rock to stay." That is exactly what happened to me early Monday morning, Sept. 29! From there, we drove to the Woman's conference in Hot Springs, where I had a wonderful time and met some dedicated, caring women who love the Lord with all their heart. My sister gave a fabulous multimedia presentation, with the Lord's help, of course, in showing the contrasts between the Old and New Covenants. And we all rejoiced greatly that we do not live under Law, but under grace!
If you have not heard Fernando Ortega's Spirit filled song, "Give me Jesus," it will bless your soul. The words are something to the effect, "You can take all the world, but give me Jesus." The title of the seminar was "Shadows and Reality," but the essence of it was "Give me Jesus." The Lord is all there is.
Dr. Mary reminded us of the sublime attributes of our precious Lord found in Colossians, Chapter 1: "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" (Vs. 13-14). He is the author and finisher of all things: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Vs. 15-17).
God sent His Son to reveal to us our Heavenly Father: "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" (Vs. 19-20). And wonder of wonders, this Jesus dwells in our hearts by the power of the indwelling Spirit. After my "born again, again" experience in that motel room, all fear and anxiety fled away and I was filled to overflowing with His peace, His unconditional love, and His joy unspeakable and full of glory. Words cannot convey what I experienced, but the Holy Spirit can translate it for you, which is my prayer and my hope. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Second Hand Religion"
"God's Simple Gospel"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 10/8/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/28/08.