Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO on 3/21/04
"Here and now, my dear friends, we are God's children. We don't know what we shall become in the future. We only know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is!" (1 John 3:2, Phillips).
When I was in high school English class, we read a poem by one of the Brownings (Robert or Elizabeth), in which the poet observed, "God's in His heaven and all's right with the world." I remember thinking, "Well, Duh, where else would He be?" As the mystery of the incarnation increasing apprehends me, I know deeper and wider and higher, the power, the majesty and the mystery of the indwelling Christ: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5.)
God living in us and writing His laws on our hearts is such a simple, basic teaching in the New Testament, but as far as the moon from the earth to most Christians on a practical, daily basis. The dear old Saints at Medicalodge have embraced this truth. We light a candle every week. It burns on the baby grand piano throughout the service. When I ask them why we have a candle burning, they smile and say, "God is light," and "God is fire." When I ask them where God dwells, where His temple is, they reply, "In our hearts." It was a short hop for them then, to see clearly that the fire of God, you might even say the "lake of fire" dwells within us as well, cleansing us constantly of all unrighteousness. (See Link at end).
But back to Browning's premise and the title of this piece that "All's well in the kingdom," how can that be when there is violence, war, and rumors of war everywhere on the planet? Worse yet, a place can scarcely be found (except perhaps North Korea), where CNN's cameras and roving reporters are not. We get an instant replay of every disaster everywhere, often even as it is happening.
The world seems to be a frightening place where death lurks on every means of transport and bombing and maiming are the norm, rather than the exception. An astounding percentage of the world still goes to bed hungry and sick every night, with no means to feed themselves, get medicine, or even just clean water.
I read some of Buckminister Fuller's writings in earlier years. I'm not sure how to categorize him for those who don't know him, but he had some profound ideas, which impressed me greatly and still do. He said, for instance, that there is enough food being produced on the planet to feed the entire world, but because of governmental greed and need to control, it is being stockpiled and not shared. We live in a country where farmers are paid NOT to grow crops. Why? Simply put, if the supply exceeds the demand, the profit margin drops to zero. It's all about money, and apparently, always has been. So take a ride with me for a minute on the Bucky express (his fans call him Bucky) and imagine a world in which farmers are encouraged to produce as big a crop as they can without depleting the soil, and then the wealth of their skillful husbandry is shared with the starving children in Bangladesh, Somalia, and North Korea, regardless of who is in power there. In other words, imagine what the results might be if we sent them butter, not bombs?
It's a proven axiom that the lower down on the hierarchy of needs a person operates, the more basic is the method needed to reach him. A hungry man cannot hear the gospel message of unconditional love. The growling of his empty belly drowns out even the greatest preacher who ever stood behind the lectern. This is why missionaries often help out in many ways other than bible teaching and preaching. They plant crops, dig wells, care for the sick and dying, rescue orphans and do whatever it takes to show the love of God to the peoples to whom they were sent.
Jesus said to those sheep who found themselves on His right hand, "Then will the King say to those on his right, Come, you who have the blessing of my Father, into the kingdom made ready for you before the world was: For I was in need of food, and you gave it to me: I was in need of drink, and you gave it to me: I was wandering, and you took me in; I had no clothing, and you gave it to me: when I was ill, or in prison, you came to me. Then will the upright make answer to him, saying, Lord, when did we see you in need of food, and give it to you? or in need of drink, and give it to you? And when did we see you wandering, and take you in? or without clothing, and give it to you? And when did we see you ill, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will make answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:34-40, BBE). Here you have people's most basic needs met: food, shelter, medicine, and comfort from a fellow traveler on The Glory Road.
When we were vacationing in Sky Valley Park, in 2002, Lenny and I were sitting in the spa one night, visiting with the folks who had gathered to relax. An elderly retired Baptist minister was waxing eloquent about how important correct doctrine is. I made the statement to him that I didn't think God cares a hoot about doctrine, good OR bad. He immediately leaped to the bait and began to accuse me of playing fast and loose with scripture. I gave him this illustration just quoted in Matt. 25, and reminded him that Jesus never commended anyone for their good doctrine, their astute knowledge of scripture, or their ability to quote it. Ending up on His right hand, I insisted, was a matter of how we treated the least among us. He practically snarled at me, "Now, you're preaching a social gospel." His tone of voice and body language showed me that he equated that with Communism or Hinduism or some other "ism" that he had fought against his whole life. I mention this to show how indoctrinated we all are by our ideas, and sadly, not even our own ideas, but rather those that were drummed into us by our parents, Sunday School teachers and preachers.
John Gavazzoni sent us a writing taken from a book called Stillness Speaks, by Eckhart Tolle, in which he describes the trap of defining ourselves by our thoughts: "I think therefore I am," as the existentialists proclaim. Mr. Tolle wrote, "Dogmas, religious, political, scientific, arise out of the erroneous belief that thought can encapsulate reality or the truth. Dogmas are collective conceptual prisons. And the strange thing is that people love their prison cells because they give them a sense of security and a false sense of "I know."
"Nothing has inflicted more suffering on humanity than its dogmas. It is true that every dogma crumbles sooner or later, because reality will eventually disclose its falseness; however, unless the basic delusion of it is seen for what it is, it will be replaced by others. What is this basic delusion? Identification with thought. Spiritual awakening is awakening from the dream of thought." End Quote.
Along these same lines, our local PBS station is having their pledge drive, and one of their featured speakers is Dr. Wayne Dyer. His first book, Your Erroneous Zones, helped me a great deal in my early struggles to get free from the concepts and precepts of my childhood which did help me survive, but seemed to be in my adult life, like anchors weighing me down in the sea of unresolved childhood baggage. The Apostle Paul remarked, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (1 Cor. 13:11, NIV). Leaving childish thoughts and dogmas behind is easier said than done, and in fact, for me, has been a lifelong, journey, beginning with counselors "with skin on," and now by availing myself of the endless resources of the Holy Spirit of God, who is, after all, the Great Counselor whom Jesus promised would lead us into all truth.
In the beginning, Wayne Dyer was a self-help guru, like so many others who sprang up in the 1970s. It was a natural phenomenon after the excesses of the sixties generation, and it flourished in Southern California where I lived, like mushrooms after a rain. I jumped on the band wagon and enjoyed a tremendous ride, as far as their precepts would take me, but I noticed that Dr. Dyer has now gone into the spiritual aspects of personal growth, probably because, like me, he has discovered that you can't get very far on your own strength alone. Like the Law of Moses, most church doctrine and New Age precepts, all man made attempts to be better, act better, and think better ultimately fail. If the Law had produced righteousness in human beings, Jesus would not have had to die for our sins. God could have just sent better and more persuasive "naggers." (Though Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Moses did a mighty impressive job of nagging, cajoling, threatening, and manipulating, their attempts nevertheless failed miserably, as God knew they would).
Wayne Dyer quoted the Apostle Paul on occasion, mentioned other truths found in the Old Testament, and then quoted a Hindu mystic he had met in a remote region of India. When asked the secret of a long and happy life, the guru had replied, "Everything is good in my world." I pictured an ancient man with long hair and beard, a flowing robe and sandals, sitting beneath a tree high in the Himalayas. My first response was, "Well, he's far away from smog and terrorist bombs, and what does that have to do with the rest of us who live in the real world?" Almost immediately, I laughed at myself for such childish thoughts as the Spirit brought to mind the Apostle Paul's words, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18, Phil). The Apostle is expressing in mystical language the divinely revealed truth which keeps us going when things go terribly wrong in our bodies, our bank accounts and/or our relationships.
Lenny lives with horrendous, unremitting pain 24 hours a day. I listen to him groaning at night as he struggles to get out of bed so that he can walk the floor until the pain subsides in his hip or knee joints (it travels around). I cry out in anguish to the Lord about healing him once and for all, pretty much getting "in His face" about it, because it kills me to watch my beloved suffer. Yet, when I mention it to him, he always tells me that it is the glory of God that keeps him going. He is positive, upbeat, and knows that he knows that he knows that God is going to overwhelm his flesh with Resurrection Life and that will be glory for God and much better for us as well. What he is saying in his own terms, is what Paul said in the same passage I just quoted: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:16-17, Phillips). This truth has been embedded in Lenny's spirit and no matter what his body tells him, he knows that his suffering will bring glory to God eventually.
We had a routine visit with the VA Rheumatologist this week, who drew 12 vials of blood to run extensive tests. She said excitedly three times during the consultation, "There's nothing life threatening going on." I'm sure that she was eliminating serious diseases like cancer to be sure that they were not the cause of all his pain. It reminded me of the painful time in 1997, when we were losing our house to foreclosure. Our Christian friends would wring their hands over us, giving us this advice and that counsel in an attempt to change God's mind, and to them all, I would say, "God is doing this for His own reasons. He is NOT out to kill us. It will end up being for our growth and His glory." I had no idea how that would play out, but I was convinced at a cellular level that this was the truth. I told them Sunday at Medicalodge that if anyone had told me in 1997, that God was closing us down in California to bring us here to Missouri as a witness to His light and glory, I would have thought they were crazy, plain and simple. And yet, that's exactly what happened. "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" (Rom. 11:34, RSV).
We simply cannot know, except by the Spirit, what God is about, and in my life anyway, sometimes it is just a knowing that He is the one doing it, without understanding at all what "it" is. This has led me to the conclusion that until He reveals His plans to me, my best approach is to sit down, shut up, buckle my seat belt, and wait to see where the trolley takes me.
Knowing that God alone sees the end from the beginning, allows me to trust Him. He does all things well, no matter what it looks like. Paul himself was no stranger to trouble in the flesh, serving God "in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger" (2 Cor. 6:4-5, NIV). It seems to me that a great failing in the extant church on planet Earth is the dearth of teachings about the faithfulness of God. We hear a lot about the need for men to be faithful, but never have I heard a sermon about the faithfulness of God to care for us, to save us, to protect us and keep us no matter how deep the water nor how hot the flames we must walk through. Let me do my little part to amend that lack. GOD IS FAITHFUL IN ALL THINGS AND IN ALL WAYS IN THE LIVES OF HIS CHILDREN.
Our title today, "All's well in the kingdom," can only be true because GOD sits on the throne. In Daniel, Chapter 2, we read the account of the dream of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. His wise men were helpless to tell him the dream, let alone what it meant. God showed Daniel the dream and the interpretation. As you may recall, the king dreamed of a huge statue, with head of gold (the Neo-Babylonian empire...Jer. 51:7), arms and chest of silver (the Medo-Persian empire), the belly and thighs of bronze (the Greek empire), and the legs and feet of iron and clay (the Roman empire).
Daniel concluded the interpretation, "While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan 2:34-35, NIV). This is a beautiful description of the kingdom of God on earth, which truly is the rock not made with hands. It's foundation and King is none other than Christ Jesus the Lord. Seeing ourselves seated in this kingdom, along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, secure in the protection of and fellowship with our Father, allows us to enter into rest no matter what storms of deprivation and violence assail us.
Father, we thank You that YOU are the rock which cannot be moved, our fortress, our mountain, our ever present help in time of trouble. Open our eyes that we may see You as you are in every circumstance we find ourselves in. Help us to draw strength from Your presence, and comfort from Your wisdom and hope from Your unconditional love. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Editor's note: If you would like to read the piece by Eckhart Tolle, let me know and I'll e-mail the excerpt to you. JA
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"The other side of the lake of fire"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 3/18/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.