SEPTEMBER 27, 1996
Westlake Village, CA
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).
EDITOR'S NOTE: This book was begun on September 27, 1996. It details the stripping process Lenny and I went through as God shut us down in California and moved us to Neosho, MO, in 1998. Through this process, we came to know the sovereignty of God at a cellular level. The Glory Road ministry, which began as Jan's Journal, is more than words on a page. It is our calling from God. The book may make you laugh, cause you to be sad, but please don't let it cause you to be afraid for yourself. Even as no two fingerprints or snowflakes are alike, even so all God's children are individually unique, as are the methods He uses to reveal Himself to us. God is love and He loves us all unconditionally, choosing the perfect way to reveal Himself to each of us. Hindsight is always 20/20 and so it is easy to see that The Glory Road ministry we have today was what it was all about.
The Spirit prompted me to republish this book at this time (fall, 2008), because millions of Americans are now experiencing a process similar to what Lenny and I walked through. As of 9/27/08, there have been ONE MILLION HOME FORECLOSURES; 600,000 JOBS LOST since the beginning of the year, and many people are in a panic about the status of their jobs, retirement income, and everything else affected by this crisis. My prayer is that each and every one will see God in the midst of their own personal fiery furnace. J. A.
Chapter One, Verse One
OK. So it can't very well be Chapter one, Verse one, since I've written nine million words before, but this is officially the first chapter of my book, Faxes From The Fiery Furnace. I don't know if anyone other than menopausal women wake up at 3:00 AM, with gut wrenching, hair raising thoughts, but if you have had the experience, you know that the brain rarely turns out anything amusing at that dark hour of the soul. So, naturally, when this title floated through my brain, and I smiled, I knew I was on to something. The next day, as I was remembering the title, I thought, "I might as well do it. Why not? This book will probably just write itself." Of course, it will be my fingers flying over the key board of my computer to translate my thoughts onto the screen, but I believe God will help me out here since He has been sort of "herding me" in the direction of writing a book about our current tribulation experiences.
Tribulation? Now there's a topic that's on everyone's lips these days. Granted, most people aren't calling what's happening to them by that name, but by whatever terminology they care to use, tribulation is upon a good many people we know. I'm not talking about the kind of scary things that fundamentalist preachers say to keep the youth group in line. I am talking about the kind of events which God says work patience in us (James 1:2-4), and most certainly the kind which precede the coming of the Lord and the attendant glory, which Jesus said will come upon us in "the last days" (Matt. 24:21; 29-30). For I do believe that we are in the last days, and in my search for God's truth, I've been compulsively devouring a lot of scripture that I hadn't read for years to see how those who went before us handled the ordeals they experienced, and what it all might mean for us today. Those musty old prophets were on to something, but I'm getting ahead of my story.
The title probably originated from my reading about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the Hebrew children who were among those deported to Babylon in 605 B.C.. They were tossed into the white hot flames of persecution because they wouldn't fall down and worship the golden image which King Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean monarch, had made of himself. Healthy ego, he had, eh what? He was so upset by their failure to obey the royal edict, that he ordered them to be bound up and thrown into the fiery furnace after he had caused the thermostat to be cranked up seven times hotter than normal. This was the just deserts, he felt, for rebellion in the ranks. God has many ways to give us a reality check, and old Neb got his big time! The flames were so hot that the men who cast them into the burning cauldron died on the spot! Imagine the King's surprise then, when he saw not three, but four men, loose, and walking in the midst of the fire. He called to them to come out. When they did, there was not a hair of their heads singed, nor even the smell of smoke on their clothing. What a story! But glorious ending notwithstanding, I think it's worth while considering how they may have FELT when facing certain destruction. Happy endings are great, but what about the hardship we experience in the middle of the story and the confusion we feel at the beginning thereof?
In my last journal chapter, I noted that I was told by a Christian newsletter publisher that people don't want to hear about the gory details of our walk with God, only the glorious endings. I think he's wrong, and I believe the time has come to change all that, because it's no secret that there are a lot of folks out there who have lost their jobs, their homes, their marriages, their worldly goods, their health, and maybe even their faith, and they just might be needing a word of encouragement here and there from others who have trudged along their same path and survived to tell the tale. They just might be encouraged to learn that the Hebrew children overcame their tribulation gloriously, in spite of their despair, their doubts, and their stark terror. I suspect that many of us suffering through hard times may be thinking, "Hey! I didn't sign on for this. God has abandoned me, there's no hope! Of all men, I'm the most miserable. I cry all day and all night, but God doesn't hear me. I am a worm, and no man (or woman); a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they stick out their lips; they shake their heads and say, 'Where is this God he trusted in. Let Him deliver him.'" Of course, this is my paraphrase of Psalm 22, but when I found it yesterday, it comforted me to know that even the most courageous King Israel ever had felt like I was feeling right then: abandoned, forsaken, deserted, foolish, and a complete failure. So, I said to myself, "Self, there might be some other poor miserable wretches out there who would be helped to know that God is right here with me even when no one else is, and even when this time, things look bleaker than ever before; and even when I was sure He wouldn't stick around and wallow in this sticky mess called my life, He did!"
It was at this point, that I definitely knew I had to sit down here and write a book. How? Well, one word at a time, of course. What will become of it? Not my problem. Like everything else in my life, what happens to it will be God's department, not mine. If this really ever does get to be a book (as opposed to merely something that keeps me "off the street and out of bars" as I sometimes say), someone might read it who doesn't know me. Therefore, I will state for the record that my husband Lenny and I are real estate brokers who live in Southern California. God has blessed us over the years, and He is always faithful, even when we're not. His blessings come in many packages, of course. Why is it then, that when we don't have money, with all the boring problems that come along with that lack, it feels like He has stopped blessing us? Is money our only yardstick? Sometimes, it is, and that's too bad, which is another reason I'm writing this book. This has been one of those weeks where He pulled the rug out from under me. The writer of Hebrews talks about God shaking the heavens and the earth, and says that He is doing so in order "that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:26-27). It's the same idea we get from the first epistle of the Apostle Peter, when he says, "Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1:6-7).
In any event, let me speak plainly here. Lenny and I are being squeezed by God financially, and have been for over one year. We have made a wonderful living in real estate over the years. We have over 40 years of experience between us; (hold on, this is NOT a commercial), and we have made a lot of money in this business. In other words, if you're using money as a yardstick as we mentioned earlier, God has blessed us abundantly. Now, I hasten to say that He is still blessing us abundantly, pressed down and running over, but He is withholding money for reasons only He knows. Therefore, if something doesn't occur quickly, we'll have to sell our house, if we can and if God allows us to. Like so many others in Southern California, we owe a lot on our house, and we're not sure what the market will bear, all our expertise notwithstanding. We have had multiple experiences in helping other people who are "upside down," as we say, in the value of their homes. (That means, they owe more than the home is worth). California is still in the throes of a severe economic downturn (a euphemism for a mess), no matter what the politicians say, and it makes it tough for all businesses to survive. But I digress. Business is boring and this is not about business. It is about God's dealings with His children, and our relationship to Him in the middle of it all.
The essence of what I've learned is this: God chastens His sons and daughters (Heb. 12:6). If He hasn't chastened you, then, either you are still a babe in need of milk and "unskillful in the word of righteousness" (Heb. 5:13), or you'd better check out your birth certificate, for the Hebrew writer says, "If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb. 12:8, RSV). My observation is that if you have never been chastened by the Lord, then you might as well stop reading right here and now, because this will be a) boring in the extreme; or b) so scary you'll probably want to run screaming into the night. And by the way, the reason I'm putting in all these scriptures, is because my family are all "died in the wool Bible bangers," and I grew up that way. The written word is very precious to me, as is the living Word, who is Christ Himself (John 1:14). But the main thing is, I'm not making this stuff up. It's in the book! Go on and look it up. As another aside, it will save you some time to just go ahead and read the entire books of Hebrews, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Revelation right now, because that's where I've been living these past months, and those books have sustained me throughout this trying time we're going through. If reading "the Book" is not your "bag," that's OK. The name of Jesus is "The Word of God" (Rev. 19:11,13). We left brain types need to see it in print and God honors that too. Whatever gives you life, comes from His Spirit. Follow Him.
This book began several years ago as a journal of my walk with God, and will continue as that, as a testimony to the Faithfulness of God as He trains us for ruling and reigning in His Kingdom, which is not only within us (Luke 18:20-21), but it is now! The thing I'm coming to grips with as we endure this present financial disaster, is that Jesus promised us that "immediately" after the tribulation, which I will certainly testify is upon us, we can expect to "see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:27). In whatever form it may occur, Jesus is coming! Hallelujah! And regarding the tribulation which is upon us, He also promised us that "except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake, those days SHALL BE SHORTENED" (Matthew 24:22). That's a great comfort to me when I feel like I just can't take any more. In fact, I was in such emotional distress these past weeks that I didn't recognize the still small voice of God, which said, "Occupy till I come" (Luke 19:13). I didn't get it the first time, and so He said it again and yet again. If you don't think God talks to us today, turn up your hearing aids. He most certainly does, but you have to be still in His presence to hear it. Anyway, this fleeting thought, "Occupy till I come," wafted through my mind like a tendril of fog on a winter morning. It usually happened while I was pondering the weighty things of the world, like how we are going to survive in Southern California without money.
As a note of explanation here, real estate brokers only get paid when an escrow closes. Actually, we do have an escrow that could close any moment, but we've been struggling for three weeks now trying to find the man I'll call "Will." (I changed the name to protect us from lawsuit. There's a lawyer under every bush in Southern California). Will owns a 40 foot strip of land that we need for an ingress and egress easement to the parcel of undeveloped land we sold back at the first part of August. Will's son-in-law, a passive aggressive type, has delighted in handing out mysterious editorials about Will's health and intentions, and has refused for three weeks to give us Will's address or phone number. He claims that even though he has no authority to speak for Will, nevertheless, all correspondence and telephonic communications (his terminology), must go through him. I have tried everything to find this man, who has now moved to another town: from the Post Office to the DMV, to grilling all the neighbors out here in the canyon where we now live (or at least the ones who remembered him from when he lived here). I spoke to the mountain to be removed. Would you believe he actually owns the top of two mountains, both of which I can see from my own windows. God turned a deaf ear, it seemed. No matter what I did, tried, prayed, repented of, or confessed in faith, absolutely nothing happened. Finally, on Wednesday, the title company found his address, and, I wrote him a letter asking for an easement over his 40 feet of worthless dirt, which I then took to town and mailed.
Meanwhile, on another battlefield, we had written an offer for some Buyers one month ago on a half million dollar property in Westlake, in which the Sellers were embroiled in the bitter, hostile takeover action called divorce. The wife absconded in the middle of the night with the children and the furniture and he got the police out looking for her. They hate each other so much that neither would sign a counter offer, especially when she demanded that he give her 100% of the proceeds. Our Buyers finally called last Sunday and said that they would meet the Seller's price, but they had to act quickly. The selling agent said she would do her best to find the wife, of whom there was still no trace. The husband was agreeable, and it seemed like we might put something into escrow. I heaved a sign of relief since the commission on $525,000 is enough to keep the wolf away from the door and maybe even back down the driveway for a while, at least.
On Wednesday morning, I was doing my early morning meditation, and playing the piano, when a lovely melody began to emerge. As I was playing it, I heard the words, "Get out of the boat. Come walk on the water. Come walk on the water. Come unto me." I knew God was giving me another song. When that happens, I write the words down immediately, and write the name of the notes above them because I haven't learned to write musical notes on a score. In that way, I capture the song (printed at the end of this chapter). This song moved me to tears, and gave me the "Holy Ghost" goose bumps, as I realized that indeed, we are walking on water right now. The song goes on to say that we are sinking because we've been looking at the waves and the storm instead of at Jesus. I was so lifted out of myself and so blessed by this heavenly visitation, that the financial crunch faded somewhat for a moment or two. I have had the impression all through this year, that God is showing me in ways too powerful to ignore that He is in charge; He is our source; He will provide. I am in recovery from being a "human doing," and giving up is always the very last thing I think to do, and that only after I have totally exhausted myself with trying every single solitary thing I can think of or anyone else has suggested for me to do.
So, having said that, it will be no surprise to learn, that earlier in the week, I had even responded to a "make money quick in the privacy of your own home," type ad. The job was billed as being a HUD Tracer, and was described as "easy." Hopeful of some way to make a little money, I picked up the COD package at the Post Office and gave them $40.00 cash, which I could ill afford at the time. I went out to the car and opened the package, only to find that the ad was fraudulent. This "easy money deal" was nothing even close to what it purported to be. I went back inside and demanded my money back. "No can do," they said. "You bought it. It's yours." "Well, don't you care about fraud?" I fumed. So, they handed me the form to fill out and send in to the Post Master of the United States Government reporting fraudulent advertising. I was not impressed, but realized almost at once that it was one more way God was showing me that we're in a fiery furnace from which He won't let us save ourselves, and He's not letting us out until He's good and ready, which was clearly, not yet. What I'm going to tell you next may cause your eyebrows to go up a tad, but oh well. I've been doing that since I was born. Ask my Mother.
I went into the 7-11 to get a paper and a one dollar lottery ticket. (OK, if you must know, I figure if the Apostles chose Matthias by lottery (Acts 1:23-26), it can't be all bad). Anyway, as I was moving forward in the line, I thought, "Like, right, I'm sure to win here since every thing I touch turns to dung." Immediately, I heard the still small voice of God say, "It's over. You passed." I laughed and said, "Oh Lord, you are so funny. How could I have passed when I failed everything I've touched forever?" But I pondered that in my heart. Obviously, I know that when God speaks, it comes from eternity. We live in time, and thus it usually doesn't mean what we think it does at first glance, and so, even I knew that it did NOT mean we would win the lottery that night. I was right on that one! However, we had just gotten Will's address that day, which was some progress at least; and that night, lo, and behold, the selling agent on the house in Westlake called and said that her Sellers were in a rare state of agreement and would agree to our counter offer if we could close escrow in two weeks. Music to my ears. I called our Buyers and they said, "Well, sure, we can if the lender can." I called the lender, and he said, "Not a problem." So, here were two things that I had been struggling with seemingly over. Maybe God knew what He was talking about after all. Oh, and before we went to bed, one of the former neighbors called and actually gave us Will's phone number. "All right!" I was higher than a kite, and went to sleep with the words and melody of "Come walk on the water," playing in my ears.
The next morning, God pulled the plug. When I called the Buyers, they informed me that they were withdrawing their offer. It seems they decided they didn't want to be on this "emotional roller coaster" anymore and they told me they were planning to buy a home they'd seen in Camarillo, with another agent, of course. Can I describe my feelings here? I felt like I'd been hit in the stomach with a battering ram. I felt betrayed. I felt forsaken. I felt deserted by God. No, first set up with false hope, and then deserted. I went down for the count. Thursday was a very black and bleak day for this little girl. I've had a lot of counseling in my life, for which I thank God. He, of course is "the Counselor," but I've also had good human counselors who have helped me to "do business" with myself. I learned early on that the only way out of the pain is to go through the pain. And where is God? Right there, of course. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:4-6).
I find it wonderful that this Psalm comes right after Psalm 22 in which the writer laments, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent" (Psalm 22:1-2). Isn't it awesome to know that everything we have ever felt or experienced, God anticipated and put beautiful words of hope and help there for us? And the Hebrew writer says, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. LET US THEREFORE COME BOLDLY unto the throne of grace, that WE MAY OBTAIN MERCY, AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED" (Heb. 4:15-16).
So, I threw myself into the everlasting arms and sobbed my guts out. I cried and cried and cried some more. God is the most wonderful friend of my life, the one who is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of my heart," and "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:12-13). Lenny and I have a wonderful marriage, an incredible relationship, and one of our secrets to success is that he understands that when I get like this, he can't "fix me." We support each other in our travailing, but we both know that when the chips are down and the fear is about to capsize the ship, only God can deliver us from that soul devouring desperation. We have loving, supportive friends, and one of them called about then and wanted desperately to help ease my pain. I appreciated it so much and felt her distress and her love, but when I get like this, I know that nothing man or woman could possibly say to me would help. Only God can sustain me in the blackest depths of despair. And He did. He brought me through it, perhaps more with a whimper than a shout, but He held my hand the whole way. I love this verse in 2nd Peter: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto A LIGHT THAT SHINES IN A DARK PLACE (my heart right then), UNTIL THE DAY DAWN, and the day star arise in your hearts" (II Peter 1;19). I believe that's a continuation of what he says in his first epistle. I already quoted it on the title page, but it bears repeating: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy" (I Peter 4: 12-13). God reminded me of this scripture, and said again, "Occupy until I come."
Now, all though out this year, as our financial situation has worsened, until I have likened it unto cancer of the pocketbook, I have felt like if I could just endure until the end, I would inherit the crown of life. And I kept thinking, "But how long is it until the end? How will I ever make it that long." Now, granted, John gives a time limit to the angel of the church in Smyrna, "Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried and you shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). But what does that mean? Beats me, 10 days might be 10,000 years, you know, and that's a tad much. Anyway, you get the drift here that I have felt all year that I just had to endure to the end, and since most of us agree, that "the end" has to do with the coming of Christ, I often prayed, "Come quickly, Lord." And I just hoped and prayed that I could hang on until He did.
Then, a wondrous thing began to happen. God began to show me through scriptures what many, many saints are seeing now, including my own resident mystic, my personal guru, Lenny, and that is that Jesus is here. He has come! He is coming, and He will continue to come, but in fact, He is, in one sense, here now as real as He'll ever be. Oh God, I pray You will open our eyes to see You; our ears to hear You; and our lips to proclaim You to a lost and dying world, starting with our own heaven and earth: ourselves. If the Kingdom is within us, as Jesus said it is in Luke 17:21, then that's where the throne of God is. And that's where heaven is, as well. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven" (II Cor. 5:1-2). Part of the comfort God gave me as I cried out my frustration, failure, and pain, was that "the house not made with hands" is where He lives, not in this physical house located in Carlisle Canyon where Jan and Lenny dwell. We live in a marvelous house, a wonderful location out in the mountains, but it is a house made with hands. It is just a house. If God requires it of us, clearly between it and the revelation of Him, there's no contest. If this house is standing in the way, or as Watchman Nee once said, is "something in my hand," then I give it up to Him.
We watched the first chapter of the series, "Promised Land," on TV the other night. It is a story about a man who loses his job, loses his house, and takes his family on the road in search of "The Promised Land," which he finds out is within him as well as out there on the road. In one of the scenes, they have run out of gas in front of a church, and his wife has gently suggested that he might want to pray for God's guidance. He never did much of that, but as he is pacing around in the cemetery adjoining the church, he has his hat in hand and says something like, "I did my best Sir. I really did, but if you'll tell me what you want, I'll do my best to give it to you." So say we all. That really brought tears to my eyes, because isn't that what we all want to know when trouble comes around? What does God want? What does He require of me? Lenny has been telling me all along that God doesn't want me to DO anything. He just wants me. Maybe it's because there's still a part of me that doesn't want me, that I sometimes find that difficult to believe.
That pretty much wraps up the events of Thursday, except that my daughter called late that night to tell me that if she thought their own financial woes couldn't get worse, she was wrong. A woman she had rear ended in a car crash last year had them served with papers. Two days short of one year (the time limit for filing a suit), this woman was suing them for personal injury and loss of wages. Since she didn't have a scratch on her and her car had very little damage, we figured she was just out to get something from the insurance company. Normally, I just groan inwardly and don't share my troubles with my family, but I told my daughter a little of what we've been going through and we prayed together for God's grace, for His wisdom, and for His deliverance and failing that, His strength to endure the fiery trials which have come upon us. I told her that I believe that this is the very tribulation that Jesus talked about, which precedes His coming. Now, the interesting thing that I've been focusing on is that Jesus says, "Verily I say unto you, 'This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled'" (Mat. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). So whatever it is that He promised in those passages, some of his disciples experienced it in the first century. Either that, or there are some very old Jews lurking about on the planet who've been alive since Jesus walked the dusty streets of Galilee. I think we've all been looking at the so called "second coming" in a misguided way: backwards, upside down, with natural rather than spiritual eyes.
Lenny, my mystical husband, has been saying for years that Jesus fulfilled what have been called the "second coming" prophecies on the day of Pentecost, when he came again in like manner as He departed (Acts 1:11). Certainly, the Apostles saw Him, and heard the sound from heaven "as of a rushing mighty wind," which filled the house where they were sitting. They saw the "cloven tongues like as of fire, which sat upon each of them" (Acts 2:2-4). The multitude heard them speaking, each man in his own tongue. "They were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, 'Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" (Vs. 7-8) And being filled with the Holy Ghost and with power, Peter conveyed this happening to the crowd in such a way that they also saw the Christ of God, who Paul says is the Spirit (II Cor. 3:17), and they accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. The record states that 3,000 men and women were baptized that day (Acts 2:41). I think perhaps we've all put our spiritual lives on hold waiting for some far off day when He comes again the way the church fathers have told us He would, a day in which we can get our "pie in the sky by and by."
I've been pondering the word of the Lord which came to me often these past weeks, "Occupy until I come," and trying to figure out what it means. I finally found it in the Bible just today. It is Jesus' story told in Luke 19:12-27 about the nobleman who went into a far country. Before he left, he called his servants together and gave them 10 pounds to invest for him, and said unto them, "Occupy till I come." As the story goes on, the man ultimately returns from his trip and calls for an accounting of the money. One servant earned 10 pounds with his pound, and was commended and given authority over 10 cities. Another servant earned 4 pounds with his pound, and was likewise commended and given authority over 5 cities. Another one came and handed him back the original pound he was given and said, "Lord, behold, here is your pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin; for I feared you, because you are an austere man; you take up what you didn't lay down, and reap what you did not sow" (Vs. 20-21). In other words, he was so afraid, he did nothing. He was, needless to say, condemned by the nobleman, and that which he had was taken from him and given to the one who had 10 pounds.
Now, it's interesting that God would use this parable to talk to me about the Kingdom of heaven being right here and now, because I've always viewed this particular story with trepidation due to the fact that in my youth, my Sunday School teacher, Brother Floyd, God rest his soul, told me, "Now, Jan. You are a ten talent man. And God will call you to account for what you do with your many talents." For years, I have trembled thinking that I may have squandered what God has given me, and have wondered fearfully if I'm doing what God wants me to do. If that won't make you a "human doing" nothing will. As I was talking to Lenny about this tonight, he pointed out that in this story, Jesus was dealing with servants, not sons. The lights went on for me. I saw it!
In some mystical way, God is telling me that occupying until he comes is a servant's role, not a son's. There's no need to occupy, or hold on for dear life is another way to put it, if he's already come. I began to think about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), and how when he had squandered his inheritance with "riotous living," he "came to himself" in the pigpen where he had ended up. Jesus says, "And when he came to himself, he said, 'How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven , and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called your son; make me as one of thy hired servants.'" Of course, we remember that when he got home, his father saw him coming a great way off, and ran to meet him. He "fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to be merry" (Vs. 20-24).
As I was meditating on this story and the parable of the talents, it occurred to me that "the fatted calf" is provision or supply; "the best robe" speaks of his position in the family; and "the ring" represents authority. As Lenny often reminds me, when we are servants, we are worthy of our hire (Luke 10:7). In other words, we get paid for what we do for God. When we are sons, however, we are one with the Father and with Christ, our elder brother. John wrote, "Beloved, NOW ARE WE THE SONS OF GOD, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). Because God is our Father, all that He has is ours! We will come into our inheritance, I believe, as Christ is revealed in us, a process which has mostly involved tribulation in my life. And yes, we have to endure the chastening of God, but the end result is "that we might be partakers of his holiness" (Heb. 12:10). After acknowledging that the chastening of God seems grievous, the Hebrew writer promises, "Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Vs. 11).
I don't like fiery trials any more than anyone else does, but I am tremendously comforted by the Spirit of God in my travailing. Peter tells us that these "manifold temptations" are but for a season, "IF NEED BE," and, "that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it BE TRIED WITH FIRE, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:6-7). As I've said for years, parts of me are pure gold because God has burned off the dross in His purifying fires. I have discovered, in the process, that the fire is really nothing to be feared because "our God IS a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). Therefore, when He appears, as He always does when we're in the midst of the fiery furnace (which is in reality, God Himself), we receive Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Listen to this description to the fire of God: "And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel" (Ex. 24:17).
So, I think that if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have had access to a fax machine there in that furnace that old Nebuchadnezzar ordered heated seven times hotter than normal, they would have faxed out something like this: "Be of good cheer. 'For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us'" (II Cor. 4:6). And I couldn't think of a better fax to send my own mother, nor could I hope for anything more glorious to receive from my daughter's family, or from Lenny's son.
What I see from this is that God Himself is the fire which burns up the tares that are mixed in with my wheat (Matt. 13:24-30), but He is also the living water which quenches those flames. Jeremiah lamented, "For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2: 13). Lord, haste the day when we can see You as You are so that we will be like You in this world. Mend us, the broken cisterns, so that You can pour out of us unto a thirsty and dying world. In that day, we can say, like Jesus did, "Whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Amen.
Editor's note: these are the words to the song the Lord gave me. Hopefully, you can hear the music which is on the website. J.A.
Get out of the boat; Come walk on the water.
Come walk on the water; And come unto me.
I'm calling you out; I'm out on the water
Come out on the water; I'm setting you free.
I'm out of the boat; I'm walking on water.
I'm running on water; I'm coming to Thee.
Oh, Lord, I am sinking; I see the waves crashing,
I feel the fear trashing, all hope left in me.
And Jesus says come; Just walk on the water.
Come take my hand now, and just look at me.
Now you're not sinking; Don't look at the storm now.
Don't look at the water; Look only at me.
By Jan Austin Antonsson, September, 1996
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to Faxes From The Fiery Furnace
Faxes from the Fiery Furnace, Chapter Two
E-Mail from Armageddon, Chapter Three
Baggage From Babylon, Chapter Four
Just A Note From Job, Chapter Five
Joy From Jerusalem, Chapter Six
Memo From Moses, Chapter Seven
Dancing with the Devil, Chapter Eight
News From Neosho, Chapter Nine
The Glory Road
We would enjoy hearing from you!
This writing was uploaded to the web 8/24/05,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 12/04/08.