Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 6/17/07
"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. 3:3).
"Critical mass" is a physics term meaning "the minimum amount of fissile material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction." Used figuratively, as we are today, it means "the minimum size or amount required to start or maintain a venture." What has that to do with kingdom living? This is what we're here to find out. We know many Christian families in crisis right now; there's a whole lot of shaking going on, as Jerry Lee Lewis would put it. At 2:30 A.M. recently, unable to sleep, I was making a pilgrimage through my Bible. As usual, it eased me, generated faith, and helped me regain my focus, which has to remain on God, not on circumstances. I briefly touched on verses in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, Romans and finally, came to hit pay dirt for my angst in Hebrews, Chapter 12. The theme of the chapter is that God disciplines His sons, beginning with Jesus: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Heb. 12:2-6).
I personally don't think that the word "punish" in this passage is used the same way we think of it, i.e. chastisement for sin. For Jesus had no sin, and yet, Heb. 5:8 states, "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." This verse alone is proof that suffering does NOT imply that a person has sinned and is being punished. I prefer to think of the discipline of the Lord as a "course correction." When we are heading down a wrong path, God shows us in various ways that we need to change direction.
When we were "circling the drain" in California, I knew that God was not angry at us, or punishing us for our sins, but rather, He was bringing a course correction to us, though at the time I had no idea what it was, or what the outcome would be. The Hebrew writer encourages us to submit to God, to surrender everything, the theme of the latest series on "unconditional surrender." Then, he pulls aside the veil that we may get a tiny glimpse into God's goal for us: "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness" (Heb. 12:10). When we are in the flames, however, holiness is far from our minds and emotions, and the Hebrew writer acknowledges that as well: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:11).
A friend e-mailed us his thoughts about suffering, using Job and Jacob as two examples. His comments caused me to think again about the purpose of suffering exemplified by these two polar opposites. Job was described by God as "perfect," while Jacob was a conniver, a schemer. The name Jacob means "heel-catcher" or "supplanter," someone who replaces someone else, as in this case, where Jacob stole the birthright from his twin brother Esau. God took both men right where they were and applied the heat and pressure of stress, suffering, persecution, and defeat. In the end of the process, Job said, "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee" (Job 42:5).
After Jacob's struggles with his wily father-in-law Laban, and his encounter with his twin brother Esau, the Lord sent him to Bethel to build an altar to God, whom Jacob said, "answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone" (Gen. 35:3). Here, God appeared to him again and blessed him saying, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel. So he named him Israel" (Gen. 35:10; Israel means "he will rule as God".) In this same place, on an earlier occasion, God had repeated the unconditional covenant He had made with Jacob's grandfather Abraham, that in his seed, would all nations be blessed (Gen. 28:13-15; Gal. 3:8).
Reflecting on Job and Jacob, I saw again the power and authority of Almighty God, to do whatsoever He wills in the lives of men, regardless of whether the raw material is good or evil, perfect or marred. Neither Job nor Jacob were ever the same after wrestling with God, and so it is with us in our struggles to figure God out, to decipher His will, and to follow Him whithersoever He goes.
Our friend's observation about Job and Jacob is, "There seems to be no way to completely surrender to God. It seems like I 'wrestle' with God all the time in my mind, yet, he makes all this so by putting so much confusion on me."
And of course, he is right. There is no way to surrender to God. If there were, the Law would have worked and kept them in right standing with Him, but surrender, like everything else: love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness are all part of the DIVINE nature, NOT the human nature. We only make it worse when we try to cram God into the "box" of our preconceived religious notions. He never will fit there, of course, which keeps us running in circles until He reveals Himself in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, which He will in His time.
I've been through an uncomfortable testing myself lately. When I was whining about it one night, God asked me, "Why do you always expect bad things from me?" The short answer is, "Well, look what You did to Your Son!" I hesitated a second to put that in this writing because of the likelihood of offending someone, but I decided that the only one I have to worry about offending is God, and He is NOT bothered by what I say. Putting on a "happy face" like most Christians do, just won't cut it with God who sees all, knows all, and is responsible for all things. I "got it" that He's rooting in my "basement" again, and so all I can do is say, "Go, God Go!" He has brought me thus far, and He will bring me safely through to what I need to know, to see, and to rejoice in.
We have friends who seem to believe that because we have Christ within, we never have to deal with any of our neurotic behaviors. I'm not sure how they think we should go about doing that, but it doesn't work with me, because He has shown me a lot of my neurotic stuff in 72 point type, has delivered me from enough of it that I want the rest dealt with, because it is what stands between me and emotional comfort NOW. Never mind that I'll be delivered from it at some indefinite future time; I want it now. Whatever yearning desire He puts in our hearts, He intends to satisfy, so perhaps this is why He keeps rooting around in me (Ps. 37:4).
Every time He puts me into the "Divine Combine," I am uncomfortable; I squirm and complain to Him; ask Him questions and then, do the best I can to submit and surrender, knowing that ultimately, the veil will be rent and I will see what He sees. Sooner or later, He will reveal Himself, be it out of the whirlwind or at the River Jordan, and all will be well again in my soul until the next time.
There's a great deception being practiced in Christendom today, the subtle lie that if we have faith, believe, and refuse to be sidetracked by those messy details which hamper our peace, we will enter into a state of "nirvana." In Buddhism, "Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma. It represents the final goal of Buddhism." In Hinduism it is "the liberation of the soul from karma and bodily existence."
And why would I mention Nirvana here? Precisely because Eastern Religion is the basis of all New Age doctrine, a fact which many Christian writers and teachers seem unaware of when they tell us to just focus on what we want, declare it to be so, and it will be so. That is the basis of the Charismatic doctrine of "name it and claim it" as well. The mind is a powerful tool, no question about it, but do we really want to settle for what we can conjure up with positive thinking, or do we want to rest on the reality, the finished work of Christ?
To help us see our codependent responses to religion's demands, God periodically turns up the heat. A brief overview of His dealings with Israel proves that God was non negotiable in His determination to bring them out of their sins and into Himself. Jeremiah advised, "Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it'" (Jer. 6:16). He gives us the same instructions, but unlike those under Law, we are not left to find the ancient paths ourselves. He leads us and guides us into them. Knowing He is there with me helps me to deal with what I must walk through.
The Hebrew writer does a spectacular and poetically beautiful job of describing the difference between Law and grace. Law is represented as "a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire" (Heb. 12:18). This is a perfect metaphor for Mount Sinai about which it was written, "The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, 'I am trembling with fear'" (Heb. 12:21). We are not brought there, though it sounds like a place I have visited many times in my life. Thankfully, however, led by the Spirit, we have come to "Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect" (Heb. 12:22-23).
The chapter ends on one of scripture's great promises, though it sounds scary if you take it literally. It begins with a warning from God: "At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken, that is, created things, so that what cannot be shaken may remain" (Heb. 12:26-27). The kind of shaking depends upon what the Master Potter is trying to achieve. His hands shape the vessel on the wheel to produce exactly what He had planned before the foundation of the world.
All of us are unique, each with a different response to pain, deprivation, rejection, or whatever stressors He chooses to use. To achieve "critical mass," He applies the exact amount of pressure and shaking tailor made for each person. Some are quite a bit more sensitive than others. Paris Hilton, for instance, cracked under the pressure of a mere three days in the L.A. County lockup. The poor dear didn't like the food. Others, like Senator John McCain, spent years as a Vietnamese Prisoner of War, and walked out bloodied and bruised, but unbowed.
There may be more than one "final frontier," more than one experience of reaching "critical mass," but each time we go through it, we grow a little more spiritually; we gain more clarity; and above all, we trust God more because we have always found Him to be worthy of trust. My observation is that if we don't "get it" the first time, God just sends us another lesson until we do get it. If we don't learn to trust Him for our children, He will arrange a lesson using our grand children. We all SAY we trust God, but like unconditional love, faith, and everything else in our Christian walk, trust is a gift of the Spirit in time of need. If we sit around, wringing our hands with worry about something, we are not trusting God for it, no matter what we say. He arranges circumstances to show us so that He can meet our need in a way that lets us know it is ALL HIM!
This is what the shaking is all about, and will continue until only that which cannot be shaken will remain. The Hebrew writer's conclusion on this subject is, "Our God is a consuming FIRE!" (Heb. 12:29). That is not a scary verse at all, but very comforting when our eyes are opened to see that He burns up the chaff, burns off the dross, including our neurotic stuff, leaving the New Creation, which we are, free to soar in the heavenlies with our Father.
Paul asserts, "For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified" (Rom. 10:4). He also tells us that faith itself "IS A GIFT OF GOD" (Eph. 2:8), which means that there is NOTHING we can take credit for or claim glory for ourselves. It's all God from start to finish. Legalism, Sectarianism, and neuroses are the consequences of trying to live by Law. How wonderful to know that it doesn't really matter if the Ten Commandments are not allowed to be displayed on the courthouse steps, or that we're not allowed to pray publicly in school, for we are in Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law, the incarnation of grace within us. Gradually, the New Creation is swallowing up the neurotic behaviors caused by trying to do it ourselves. The end result will be worth the wait and the pain of the process. Meanwhile, until the total fulfillment of the promise, we rely on the mercy and GRACE of God to keep us. In Christ, we have come to the city Abraham never found in this life. It is the new Jerusalem, the "city whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10; Rev. 3:12; 21:2).
Father, we thank you that You have provided everything we need to live overcoming lives in Christ. We love you and worship You and long for the day when Your glory shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. Praise Your holy name forever! Amen. Jan Antonsson
To Be Continued.......
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Final Frontier, Unconditional Surrender II
Religious Addiction, Unconditional Surrender IV
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you
This page was uploaded to the web on 06/13/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 06/20/07.