Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/29/07
"Ah Lord God! It is thou who hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by thy outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for thee" (Jer. 32:17).
Earth Day, 2007, has come and gone bringing dire warnings of what humans are doing to the planet, and what the bleak outlook will be if we don't change our ways. I watched, listened, and read the predictions based on computer models, about what we can expect to happen to our beautiful blue/green planet if we don't take action now. AOL ran a chilling synopsis of the probable effects of global warming over the next hundred years, broken down by decade. It's dark, scary, and depressing, and weighed on my mind as I was going to sleep. Most of us won't be here in 100 years, but our children and grandchildren will be, and thinking how much they will lose of what we take for granted is a real downer. When I turned this bleak news over to God, the euphoric thought came to me that this planet was created by God, sustained by God, and ALL EVENTS thereto were planned out by God before the foundation of the cosmos.
Isaiah is my favorite Old Testament prophet because he articulated the big picture, and brought to Israel's (and our) attention the grand scheme of God's control of the destiny of men. For instance, he had prophesied that Babylon would defeat Israel some 115 years before it happened, but the Lord didn't leave them wondering about who caused it and who would deliver them from it: "My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? The LORD's chosen ally will carry out his purpose against Babylon; his arm will be against the Babylonians" (Isa 48:13-14). In two verses, Isaiah shows that the creator of heaven and earth had preordained that Babylon, whom He sent to carry out His judgment against Israel, would herself be brought down by a nation the Lord calls His "chosen ally." That's as dramatically specific as Jeremiah's description of the one who would bring Judah to her knees: "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" (Jer. 27:6).
I was a single parent for six years before God brought Lenny into my life, and during the times when I would despair about some circumstance, Isaiah's world vision brought me great comfort and reassurance, by showing that since God is in control of everything in my life, there was no need for me to fret or be afraid. This passage has always set my feet on Mount Zion: "This is what the LORD says, the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts" (Isa. 45:11-12).
In a real sense, people have made science an idol, believing that technology can save us, heal us, defend us, and deliver us from ourselves. Some scientists would have us believe that we alone are to blame for global warming, and we alone can save ourselves. That's as damaging on an intellectual level as is the church's stance that we alone are responsible for our soul's current well being, spiritual growth, and eternal destiny. Methinks that mankind has tried to shove God aside and is now attempting to sit on the throne. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: either God is in charge of everything, or He's not, and if He is not, then we have a worse problem than sin, terrorism, global warming, and anything else you care to name.
Someone asked us recently why repentance is necessary if Christ paid the price on the cross for all sin. The church has it backwards when they insist that we must repent in order to receive forgiveness. This is NOT true, for it is only the Holy Spirit's witness to our hearts that we have already been forgiven, which gives us sufficient grace to repent. Christ did NOT need us to repent before offering Himself as a sacrifice: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Not only that, but Jews (the righteous) and Gentiles (the unrighteous) "are justified by his grace AS A GIFT, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). Therefore, since Christ gifted us with salvation, making us sons of God, joint heirs with Himself, we need to repent about who we think we are. We are sons, not sinners, but because of the doctrines of men, many continue to trash talk themselves, and put themselves down for real and imagined failures.
It has long seemed bizarre and UNFAIR to me that the church holds us accountable for how we live the Christian life. If it were POSSIBLE for us to be good, to obey all the commandments, and to whip ourselves into shape on our own, Christ would not have had to pay the ultimate price for us. One of our readers puts a wonderful quote at the end of each e-mail, "Christ died to save us from a condition, not a location." I like that. It is modern parlance for Paul's assurance that Christ alone is the One responsible for our cleansing, sanctification and justification: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church (that's all of us), and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). It is very comforting to know that it is Christ who will present us to Himself holy and without blemish!
Periodically an e-mail claiming to be from God makes the rounds. In it, He says something like, "Good morning. This is God. I will be handling all your problems today. Your help is not needed, so kindly step out of the way and let me do it right." That always makes me smile, because if we took that advice, we'd all have lower blood pressure, fewer stress headaches and gastro intestinal malfunctions. Divorce, depression and addictions would plummet, and our immune systems would be better able to fight off infections and/or chronic diseases. Of course, like everything else, we can only take the advice to let God handle our problems when He opens our eyes to see that He alone is in control.
I believe global warming is a scientific fact based on many indicators over the past few years. Americans are extremely dependent upon oil, and it's clear that the burning of fossil fuel plus industrial air pollution by manufacturing and processing plants have contributed to a hole in the ozone layer with resulting climate change. At the bottom of all this, is probably simple greed, lust for wealth and power, fueled by big business and oil company contributions to politicians in both parties to keep the status quo. The dire rhetoric is bringing these problems to the attention of the world's population, who can hopefully demand changes in how businesses are run and resources are managed. I was amazed to learn that Brazil has used ethanol made from sugar cane for decades, freeing them from the clutches of oil cartels. Someone on an Earth Day program quoted Vladimir Lenin (Marxist leader of the Russian Revolution) as saying, "The West will manufacture the ropes with which we will hang them." Likewise, the net effect of our dependence upon foreign oil is that until we make other arrangements to fuel our lifestyle, we are funding the activities of the very terrorists who are trying to kill us. No amount of military programs can deliver us to safety while we're supplying them revenue from the sale of oil with which to finance their terror attacks. That's a fact of life.
John Gavazzoni made a profound statement about provision in a recent writing: "To know God without extremity of need, is to know Him only in a benign way. To know Him as the provision for our (and His) profound deprivation, is to know Him in the passion of His love. Neediness is the perfect complement of provision, and the catalyst for over-the-top provision. Christ became both that need and that superabundance of provision with and for us. In a word; deprivation draws forth provision out from its otherwise untapped depths." End Quote.
God sends us deprivation (problems, or a lack of something we need), because He intends to be our supplier, our need meeter, our source of whatever we lack. Lenny raised 17 foster children in his first marriage, and he recalls telling the kids, all of whom had terrible problems, that when things go well, they learn about 25%, but when things are difficult, they learn 75%. That's wisdom born of pain in his own life.
Because of the Internet, International news services, and cell phones, we have the ability to get news out instantly. When someone in Chicago sneezes, he may get a "God bless you" from Pakistan. If you are one of those who think we were better off in our ignorance about what's going on, and who blame the "liberal media" for all our problems, you should live in North Korea, where the government has absolute control over all media output and not one unauthorized word escapes. It's doubtful anyone would like that. Knowing what is going on allows us to intercede for those in need, and ask the Lord what, if anything, He would have us do to help.
Along those lines, we got an e-mail today from Kenya. Many of you ministering on the Internet get these kinds of e-mails frequently. Here it is:
"Hello Jan and Lenny, I am very grateful for the e-mails you have been sending me; they have a lot of encouragement in the kingdom of God. When reading them I feel blessed in my heart.... [I have] asked you some time back to pray together with me about the vision of my ministry of helping orphans, widows and preachers; the going is not easy because the ministry is very much down financially. The orphans in our program and widows are now going without food; some widows are now sleeping in the cold because of the heavy rain in the country which has demolished their houses. There has been outbreak of some diseases due to that and it has been hard to take them to the Hospital due to lack of money. Therefore I am asking you to consider us with what God is going to place before you for the benefit of these needy children and widows in Kenya. The Government of Kenya gave us a land sometimes back where we can build a center, Hospital and office for the ministry but we can do nothing because of lack of funds. I remain praying for the positive respond from you. God bless you all." End quote.
While requests like this admittedly tug at my heart strings, one of our friends answered a Macedonian Call like this (come over and help us), and learned later that the money she brought from her readers was not used for the ministry for which it was e-marked, but for the personal gain of the young man who invited her to come. What to do? The only thing we can do is to follow the Lord's leading. I believe our friend DID follow the Lord's leading and she was very distressed afterward to find out it had been a scam, but God bears the responsibility for all things, and there's always a gift in every situation, no matter how it looks.
Isaiah quoted God: "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isa. 45:7). Why would the Lord bring prosperity and create disaster and allow scams? We look to Paul for the answer. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose....He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:28, 32). When we were enduring God's "divine downsizing" in California, before He moved us here, I said to Christian friends wringing their hands over our situation, "God has brought this, but He is not out to kill us. It will turn out for our good and His glory." That was a prophecy about the ministry which was fulfilled when we came to Missouri, in May, 1998.
The thing which kept me sane and on track was KNOWING by the Spirit, that ALL of God's workings do turn out for good for us, eventually, NO MATTER WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE at the time. He took us back to basics, where we learned that God's provision for us is not always what we want, but always what He knows we need. "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). Here's what I tell those who write from third world countries asking for financial aid: If God has told you to do this ministry, He will supply what you need to do it. If He does not do so, then you have missed the mark somewhere, either in timing or purpose. We do not give or do anything or go anywhere unless the Spirit authorizes it, having learned the hard way that He must authorize whatever we do. As Paul puts it, our works will be revealed "by fire." If they are burned up, they were of the flesh; if they survive, they are of the Spirit and God alone gets the glory (I Cor. 3:13-15).
"Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?" (Isa. 66:1).
Father, the earth and the fulness thereof and all who dwell therein are Yours. Your children are the house in which You have chosen to dwell, flowing through us, to minister the Good News to the world, Your world. We rest in Your perfect care of the earth You created for us. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Back to Basics: The Sovereignty of God
Back to Basics, II: Sovereignty and Reconciliation
Back to Basics, III: A Practicum on Sovereignty
Back to Basics, IV: Out of the Box
Back to Basics, V: The Codependency Factor
Back to Basics, VI: The Tomb Is Still Empty
Back to Basics, VII: Where Is Hell?
Back to Basics, VIII: God Is Love
Back to Basics, IX: By Man Came Also
Back to Basics, X: Victory Over Death
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 04/25/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 11/28/08.