NOVEMBER 14, 1996
Westlake Village, CA
Edited, SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Chapter eight, Verse eight
Well for starters, I know this is a shocking title, but I can't help it. I had to do it. It came to me in the shower, and I just had to use it. Ask my mother. She'll tell you that I've been causing her consternation about the things I've said ever since I began to talk, which she insists was at the age of nine months. That sort of set the stage, I guess, for what she could expect afterward. What's more of a dilemma is whether this is just your run of the mill journal chapter, or could it possibly be the real last chapter of my book? I can't stand it. I thought this book was finished at chapter six, but one more came out, and I suspect there might be one more still. Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do, slaughter to the English language notwithstanding.
No doubt the title of this chapter will have all the charismatic Christian types binding and casting the demons off me and pleading the blood for my deliverance. That's OK. It gives them something to do in the self effort department. In reality, however, this is just one of those doors that we've been told not to go through since we were children. I'm reading Anne Lamott's book, Bird By Bird (An Anchor Book, published by Doubleday, Copyright 1994), for the second time. It's her instruction manual for aspiring writers, and one of the things she says, is that if there is a door in the castle which you've been told not to open since you were a kid, then as a writer, you have to do it. You just have to open it! This is probably one of those doors.
I think most of us learned to fear the devil one way or the other, probably in the bosom of our family, way back there in our childhood, somewhere. In response to that fear of evil, some of us got into some sort of religious activity which helped us manage our fright, like binding, casting, and pleading the blood of Jesus, or making the sign of the cross, in order to ward off demons and evil spirits, which we were sure were lurking everywhere.
Others became too grown up and sophisticated to own up to these dark terrors. They may deny it, but for sure, they never ever walk on a crack in the sidewalk, or under a ladder, or cross the path of a black cat; and they're super careful on the occasional Friday the 13th, not that they really believe in that superstitious twaddle, of course, but just in case. You know, couldn't hurt. I spent time in the first camp, actually, and being an excellent disciple, I sank to the low, low level of actually casting a demon out of my clothes dryer one day. (Well, it wouldn't run, you see, and it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. I mean, who knew what kind of dastardly things the devil might be up to?) Confession is good for the soul, they say (whoever they are), but I don't feel better, just stupid and embarrassed. I think that incredible event was at the zenith of my dread of Satan.
Gradually, God began to show me that there are NOT two powers in the universe. There is only one, and that is the Lord God almighty! (Deut. 6:4; Eph. 4:6; Isa. 45:5; Mark 12:32). Satan is not the opposite of God like it sounds when some people "Tsk Tsk" about the works of the devil. To hear them talk, it sounds like there are two equally powerful forces at work, and there may be some doubt about who will win, God or Satan. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Isaiah declares, " I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:6-7). Then, God opened the book of Job again to me in a new light and I saw finally that Satan is merely an actor on God's stage. He is NOT the director. He works from a script that God wrote, and he's not omnipresent as some people appear to think.
When God asked him where he had been, he said he had been "going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job. 1:7). In other words, he wasn't everywhere at once. He is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. He seemed totally unaware of Job before God pointed out this remarkable man to him (Job 1:8), and he had no power to do anything other than what God delineated for him to do. In other journal chapters, I've commented that Satan does the dirty work, no doubt, but he is merely a lieutenant doing God's ultimate bidding. I know that sounds radical, but it's true. Now, don't fuss at me about this. It's in the book. Read it for yourself. (I'm going to give you a bazillion scriptures to prove my point. Try Isaiah 45:7 for starters.)
The scripture I quoted on the title page from Hebrews just puts a big portion of my life in a nutshell. I spent my formative years in bondage to my fear of death. I learned that one at my Grandma Daisy's knee. I adored that woman, and still do. She was one of the most wonderful people in my life, but boy did she scare us little kids about hell and death, especially hell and death. They seemed to be one and the same thing to her. So, when I found that scripture in Hebrews, I just said, "All right, God! Thank you for reminding me that Christ has delivered me from the devil!, and from being in bondage to the fear of death." The passage in Hebrews 2, goes on to say that Christ did not take on himself the nature of angels, but rather of the seed of Abraham, and that He became "a merciful and faithful high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:16-18).
That means that the price has been paid and I do not have to live with fear and dread anymore. I think that the temptation referred to in that verse is to think that God has stepped away from His desk, put us on hold, and that He is definitely not watching over us for whatever reason. Or worse, we fear that his secretary will come out of the executive office and inform us that He's too busy with more important things and people to be able help us out with our piddly problems.
Fear is such an insidious dis-ease. Lenny has had some physical problems and at one point, I was sure he had prostate cancer. Why? Because he had pain there, and because we had so much trouble finding out the results of the blood test for prostate cancer. The doctor kept calling the office, instead of here at home, and leaving the message on our voice mail that he wanted to talk to Lenny about the blood test result. We would call his office and ask him to call us here at home, and sure enough, he would call the office again. This went on for three days! The fear leapt up in me and I thought, "If the results were negative, why wouldn't he have just said that on the message? They must have found something and that's why he wants to talk to him in person." Lenny said, "You've got to see that it is God tweaking you, showing you your fear." He was right, of course.
What made it worse was that one of our friends, whom we've not seen for years, called out of the blue a couple of weeks ago and told us that her husband does have prostate cancer. Another dear friend whom I love so much just found out that she has breast cancer. They did a lumpectomy, and yet another one, and now, after a painful, traumatic ordeal, they think they have it all, but what a scary thing! All these things which happened to my friends have really set me off. You know the joke about the mother who went to her son's first grade teacher and said, "Now, teacher, my Johnny is very sensitive. You won't have to raise your voice to him. If he misbehaves, just yell at the kid next to him; he'll get it right away and shape up." Well, that's me. If one of my friends gets sick, right away, I think, "I probably have that too." And I manifest symptoms. I've actually had pain in my breast for days now.
When my friend called today to tell me she probably won't have to have chemotherapy because the test results showed the cancer was not in her lymph nodes, I told her about my pain, and she said, "There's no pain with breast cancer" (not until they start cutting on you, anyway). Tell that to my body. I told my doctor about some of this bizarre sympathy pain stuff and he smiled at me and said, "Oh, that's med student's syndrome." I knew what he meant because my sister is a doctor, but it isn't fun. Clearly, I see that God is in the process of showing me all my fears. I know He wouldn't do that if He weren't going to deliver me from them.
November 17, 1996
I've really been through it these past few days, and how! We had our meeting with the Buyer and the Seller and Will, the man from whom we want the easement, or Pharaoh, as I called him in my last chapter. At least, that was the intention. We met at a deli in Westlake Village, but unfortunately, the Buyer didn't show up. After awhile, of chit chatting about nothing, Will looked at his watch and announced that he'd give us 10 more minutes and then he'd be on his way. After 45 tense, frustrating minutes, he left. Lenny and I came home. We'd just walked in when the phone rang. It was the Buyer, who said he and his son had been waiting 45 minutes for us at another deli in Thousand Oaks. He was sure that was the one I'd mentioned. I'm equally sure I told him the right one, but who knows? My brain has turned to mush with all this stress and I suppose it is possible that I told him the other deli. Since, I believe God is in charge of all things, I knew that at some level, He had arranged the "mistake." For whatever reason, the Buyer was not supposed to be there. I felt pretty miserable, and said to God, "So, what was all that stuff about Moses and Pharaoh? Did I make that up?" He answered, "You're not at the Red Sea yet." "That's nice," I thought, "but how will I know when I get there?" No answer to that one.
That night, I woke with a start from a sound sleep, thinking, "There's a curse on this escrow and everyone involved in it. That's why there has been absolutely NO BUSINESS since we opened it in early August." Now, I hope you realize from what I said at the beginning of this chapter that I do NOT believe Satan has any power over me, nor do any of his little minions either. Still, I couldn't shake the thought from my mind in the middle of the night. Even though I was very sleepy, I got out of bed, went into the living room, and sat down on the couch and opened the Bible, for God has proven over and over to me the truth revealed in James 1:5-6, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." So, I said, "Show me the truth, Lord, and deliver me from this fear."
I looked up the word "curse" in the concordance, and then turned immediately to Revelation 22, where these words jumped out at me: "And there shall be no more curse." (Vs. 3). The cross reference for that verse is in Galatians 3:10,13, which I turned to next. These verses are glorious and it filled my heart with joy to read, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; (That's not me for I'm under grace!) for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them'" (Vs. 10), and "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, 'Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree'" (Vs. 13). This was looking better and better, as I ran the next reference in Romans 13:1, which declares, "FOR THERE IS NO POWER BUT OF GOD." That pretty much states my position for many years.
So where did these thoughts about a curse come from? What dark hole in my psyche did this fear crawl out of? We have a friend who is involved in a deliverance ministry through her church. That means that they learn how to appropriate the power of the blood of Jesus to deliver people from Satan's clutches. Lenny says that's a natural part of growing up in God, but boy, I think it's so sad to think that some of these church leaders and teachers are scaring young Christians with the devil as though he had any independent function outside of the narrow confines which God ordains to him. My friend was telling me about how they were learning to deliver people from hexes and curses, etc., which may have been put on someone's great, great grandfather, which wreaked havoc in their family for years.
That she was afraid of curses and hexes troubled me greatly, but I only commented to her that "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:9). Since He did not fail, we don't have to worry about him any more. It's not my job to amend her theology, but if it were, I would point out that the Apostle Paul indicates that Christ triumphed over hell, "when He ascended upon high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Ephesians 4:8-14). Paul explains that before Christ ascended into heaven, He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth, but now He is "far above heavens, that He might fill all things" (Vs. 9-10). Paul declares that the result of this mighty display of God's power is so "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Vs. 14). And, of course, it's so we won't have to cower in terror either.
When we fear Satan or his demons, and think that a human being on his own steam, can put a curse on us, or a hex, or anything outside the will of God, it flies in the face of all the teaching about the sovereignty of God, the efficacy of the blood of the Lamb, and the mighty power of God, "which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth ALL IN ALL" (Eph. 1:19-23).
Of course, it is true that Paul says, that "we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). Nevertheless, he tells us this only AFTER he has said that Christ is set "FAR ABOVE ALL PRINCIPALITY AND POWER" (Eph. 1:21). In Paul's corollary statement in Colossians, he says that Christ blotted out "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, HE MADE A SHEW OF THEM OPENLY, TRIUMPHING OVER THEM IN IT" (Col. 2:15).
This is good news to everyone who is afraid of the powers of darkness, because these verses lead me to the inescapable conclusion that Christ is all powerful. He has ALREADY defeated the devil on every front. In Revelation 12:7-9, the Apostle John tells us that "there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and PREVAILED NOT; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." I personally think this was the event Jesus referred to when He told his disciples, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:18). Jesus shares His power with us. That goes way beyond cool!
What I'm talking about here is that light drives out darkness in the spiritual world even as it does in the natural. God showed me long ago that I don't have to deal with the devil. He's over. He's done with in my life (I John 4:4). So, for the most part, I don't even bother thinking about him because I prefer to stay in the light. But for those who are still afraid of the dark, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6). This was a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Is. 9:2). This includes all of humanity, for since Adam sinned, we have all tasted death, and inherited the consequences of sin which plunged us into darkness and despair.
Paul says in Roman 5, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned;" (5:12)... "Therefore as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Vs. 18). That's pretty plain to me. Because of Adam's sin, we all died spiritually. Because of Christ's sacrificial death on the cross, we all have life eternal. Paul says it briefly and beautifully in I Corinthians 15:21-22: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. FOR IN ADAM ALL DIE, EVEN SO IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE." This has exploded in my spirit and given strength to my weary soul for many years now, since God first expounded it to me. Sin is no longer an issue: "In Him, every believer is absolved from everything from which you could not be absolved by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39, Modern Language).
Therefore, again I say, why should I fear the devil? The Apostle Peter says that God has called us "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9). And later, he writes, that prophecy is like "a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (II Peter 1:19). I just love that verse! Jesus rebuked Satan by saying, "It is written" (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), when He was tempted of him. The written Word of God is still powerful and able to defeat that old serpent, the devil, but Jesus, the "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12), Himself, the living word (Rev. 19:12), is even more powerful as He rules and reigns from the throne in our hearts.
In the classic text regarding spiritual warfare, Paul writes in Ephesians 6, about putting on the whole armor of God. The part of that verse which speaks to me today is, "having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). God has already won the battle. Satan is defeated. We merely have to stand on His victory. Paul admonishes us, by the power of the Spirit, to "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1). It's not as easy as it sounds, of course, because we are surrounded by events in life which cause us apprehension. It is a constant temptation to those of us who were raised in bondage to our fear of death to believe that God might fall asleep at the switch and allow us to die. From this horrible image comes our neurotic need for constant vigilance.
I think I've made the point sufficiently that we need not fear the devil. With one more scripture, I'm going to leave this point lest I beat it to death. In the epistle of John, he writes, "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (I Jn. 3:8). I believe it is safe to say that if God wills for something to happen, it will. Throughout this book, I have rejoiced in the scriptures that say, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it" (II Kings 19:30-31; Isa. 9:7; 37:32). God started it, and He will finish it. Paul says that He works "ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL" (Eph. 1:11).
I can rejoice, therefore that whatever seemingly bad things happen to me and those I love will ultimately be for the purpose of working out the perfect will of God in my life or that of my loved ones. This is why Paul could declare that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). He goes on to mention some of these difficult things we endure like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness or peril or sword, and to that list I would add cancer and other life threatening diseases, bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce, poverty, homelessness, child abuse, loss of job and loss of self esteem, to name a few more. Paul says, "Nay, in ALL THESE THINGS, we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39). That about covers all my fears, I believe.
Our friend John Gavazzoni came over yesterday and we spent several hours in rich fellowship. I was sharing this story with him and reminding him of a sermon he preached years ago, in which he said, "You believe in death. You believe in it far more than you believe in life." This is so true. We are immersed in death. Every newspaper; every TV news broadcast, every drama, every movie has something in it to convince us that death is the reality. Life hangs by a thread, it appears, and it continues by the merest chance. What is it we've heard since we were knee high to a duck? "There are only two sure things in this life: death and taxes." That's almost a metaphor for the urban experience.
What is the cure for the fear of death? It's the same cure for all of our fears: experiencing the love of God. The Apostle John wrote, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I Jn. 4:18). I believe this verse says that God's love will deliver us from all fear. So, when I am desperately afraid, like sometimes when I wake up at 3:00 in the morning terrified for my children or grandchildren, I say, "God, I see that I need another big dose of your love. Pile it on, higher and deeper so that I can overcome this fear." And of course, I do realize that if He didn't present me with scary situations, I would never have the opportunity to see how fearful I am, nor to experience the wonderful redemption of His overcoming love.
While our friend John was here, I asked him what the number 8 means, just in case this becomes chapter 8 of my book. He smiled and answered, "A new day." All right! That being the case, I'll accept this meaning for chapter 8, for I'm ready to say, "This is the day which the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24).
November 20, 1996
I woke up about 6:00 this morning thinking about Jesus' friend Lazarus and our infamous escrow. We are supposed to close the escrow on the "piece of dirt" tomorrow, the Lord willing, and no more crises erupt. It is quite anticlimactic for me, since I was expecting that God would move on Will to do the right thing about the easement. The one thing our meeting with him last Friday established is that he has no intention of doing "the right thing," at least not by our standards and expectations. He wants water rights, and even though the Seller offered him money in exchange for the easement, he refused. So, instead of going out with a shout (my visualization of the Red Sea crossing as recited in the last chapter), this escrow is closing with a whimper. The Seller is lowering the price by $9,200.00 to compensate the Buyer in the event he has to litigate with Will to get a legal easement at a later date, which at the present moment seems likely. I would have liked to see Will stand up and do the right thing, as it were, but God is very patient with all of us, and I'm sure, he'll have opportunities in future to chose right over greed.
While it's wonderful, too wonderful for words, to have this escrow closed, it's too little, too late to save the house. Because we are now three payments down on our house, our lender will not accept anything less than two payments on the mortgage. There's not enough money coming to us from this escrow to make two payments. We did the sale at a reduced commission, thinking that it would be an easy one. But, even if they would take one payment, or even if we could make two payments, that's well and good, but what would we do next month? Escrows usually take 30 days, and there is nothing in there which is to close next month. We have only one other little escrow, which isn't to close until January, and that's not even enough for one payment, let alone all the other commitments we have.
So, that's why I woke up thinking about Lazarus. As you may recall, Jesus was close friends with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. In his Gospel, John says that Jesus loved them. When Lazarus fell ill, his sisters sent word to Jesus that he was sick. When Jesus heard it, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but FOR THE GLORY OF GOD, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (Jn. 11:4). So, He stayed where He was for two more days, before going to Bethany, where His friends lived. He told his disciples "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep" (Jn. 11:11). They misunderstood Him and thought that Lazarus was sleeping, not dead. So, when I woke up today, thinking about our financial situation, I said to God, "Well, you did it again. You waited too long. Lazarus is dead and so are we."
God knows that I know the end of the story, and He knows my wacky sense of humor. Yet, somehow in those hazy moments between sleep and wakefulness, I clearly understood that one of the reasons God tarried in our situation, was so I could write this book. I have no clue whatsoever what will happen to it, but that's not the point. I was supposed to write it and I was supposed to see the things which I have tried as faithfully as possible to write down. The book may never leave this house, but that's OK, because I'm clear that the message in it is for me. If anyone else gets anything out of it, that's gravy. I got the benefit from it by living through the experiences and they were reinforced for me by my writing them down.
I fell back asleep, and when I got up, I read the story of Lazarus again. It is wonderful in many ways, but I was blessed by two powerful realities: 1) it really shows the sovereignty of God in our lives, and how that events which we view as tragic often display His glory and His grace; and 2) it shows us that Jesus came to save us from the death realm, where we all have been walking from the time we left the womb until the time we are laid to rest. We all walk in death. We believe in it. We fear it, and we expect it. When Jesus finally got to Bethany, Martha met Him and said, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. but I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee" (Jn. 11:21-22).
When Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, she gave him the good and correct religious answer, which most of us Christians would give as well: "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (Vs. 24). To this response, Jesus shattered the conventional theology of that day and this one as well, when He replied, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (Vs. 25-26). She gave Him the right answer, "Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world" (Vs. 27).
At that, Jesus went to the tomb. When He got there, He wept (Vs. 35). He was fully human and fully divine in this interaction. Then, He asked them to roll the stone away, even though Lazarus had been dead four days. When that was done, He prayed and, "cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come forth'" (Vs. 43). And come forth, he did, bound hand and foot with graveclothes. Jesus said, "Loose him and let him go" (Vs. 44). I believe that this is the gift He's still giving us today. He's loosing us from our grave clothes and freeing us from the power of the tomb. The glory of this resurrection miracle filled Lazarus and his friends and family with joy in the power of God, but it also sealed the Lord's fate. For after that, the chief priests and the Pharisees decided to kill Him because He was too dangerous, they felt, to go on living. (Vs. 47-52). "Then from that day forth, they took counsel together for to put him to death" (Vs. 53). All of this was according to God's plan set forth from before the foundations of the world (Rev. 13:8), to save us from death and bring us into His marvelous light.
Yesterday, I found this wonderful passage in Paul's letter to Timothy: "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS, but according to His own purpose and grace, WHICH WAS GIVEN US IN CHRIST JESUS BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath ABOLISHED DEATH, AND HATH BROUGHT LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT THROUGH THE GOSPEL" (II Tim. 1:9-10). It blesses me to know that God is the one who calls us for His own purpose by His grace, and that He did it all before the world began. I know so many, many people today who are asking, "What's it all about? Why are we here? What is the purpose for our lives?" So many of us are struggling with heavy issues, problems with finances, problems with family, problems with health, problems with our job. Especially those of us who are 50 or older are tired of doing the same old thing. What worked for our parents, or at least, we think it did, is not working for us. We are aware of a spiritual angst that throbs like a dull toothache. We are just putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions, hoping against hope that things will be better, that we will find some meaning in our lives.
I have written and said to my friends, that I long for the rest, which the Hebrew writer says belongs to the people of God (Heb. 4:9). Yet, even though we have been given a forced rest in our business this past 4 months, it didn't feel like a rest to me, because I didn't fully understand what was happening. So, we continued to struggle, as we attempted to change the program, and save ourselves from what seemed like financial disaster. Now, I see that God really dealt self effort (soul power) a major blow in my life. He is purging me from the deceptions of Babylon. He showed me first hand the folly of trying to accomplish something by the strength of my own right arm.
I know that this concept drives workaholic types nuts, because work is another powerful addiction which we use to self medicate the emotional pain and distance ourselves from our emotional wounds. Work is a drug every bit as powerful as alcohol and cocaine. It defines us, molds our self-esteem, and delineates our boundaries, and it allows us to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are in control, that we can make it on our own. That kind of thinking is very adversarial to our spiritual life because God is the one who paid the price and He is the one who is in control, who makes it possible for us to walk in the light as His children. That's why Jesus and others said the rich would weep and howl (James 5:1), no doubt because they have trusted in self-effort, in uncertain riches, rather than in God (Luke 6:24).
So, gradually, I'm coming to see that my identity is in God; my self worth is in Him; my purpose in life was set forth by Him from before the foundations of the world. He's been in the process for years now, which He has speeded up during the past four months, of tearing down all the false gods that I've erected in my life, and taking away the false trappings on which I hung my identity.
And what of the house? What about the mortgage? I don't know. I don't have those answers, but all I can say is that if God wanted it paid, the business would have been there to pay it. Since He has gone to such extraordinary means to show me that this is "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6), I conclude that He is not going to let me take any credit for whatever happens here. That's wonderful, because the opposite is also true: I do not have to take the blame either! Obviously, God is by no means limited to my feeble efforts to save this house. He has all the resources in the universe at His command, and He can send an angel out here with a bag of money, if He so desires. Right now, I'm not worried about it. We have the house on the market. Buyers are NOT beating a path to our hard-to-find door these days, but as I always tell our Sellers, "It only takes one!"
We would like to stay here in this beautiful location, but we have both said, "Thy will be done." I'm no longer trying to control it. I'm just observing it. God does all things well. I've come to understand and appreciate what Paul wrote to the Philippian brothers, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, NOT HAVING MINE OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHICH IS OF THE LAW, BUT THAT WHICH IS THROUGH THE FAITH OF CHRIST, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Phil. 3:7-10). When we are conformed to His death, there's only one place to go: UP! After the cross, comes resurrection, and the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this!
Let me say it one more time. I believe that this is that day which God foretold through the prophets, in which "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn" (Isaiah 61:1-2). This is indeed, the day that the Lord has made. He has opened wide the door to my tomb, and I hear him shouting with the voice of a trumpet, "Loose her and let her go." He is the Alpha and the Omega, the bright and morning star. He is the beginning and the end, and His reign is from everlasting to everlasting. I will rejoice and be glad in that, and in Him, knowing that out of the ashes of this seeming disaster will come resurrection for us as surely as it did for Lazarus.
Editor's Note: There is one more chapter. The Lord gave me the words and music to the song below. It is on the website, but on a dial up modem, it takes at least 2 minutes to load. J.A.
Lazarus, Come Forth!
Oh Lazarus, come forth; Come out of your grave. I have called you out. Your life I will save. The life that you live, you live it in me. The life that I give will set you free.
Come out of your tomb. Walk into the light. Cast away your doubts, for in you I delight. The life that you live, you live it in me. The life that I give will set you free.
You will never die. Believe in me. We will walk as one through all eternity. The life that you live, You live it in me. The life that I give will set you free.
By Jan Austin Antonsson, September, 1996
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to Faxes From the Fiery Furnace
Faxes From The Fiery Furnace, Chapter One
Shame From Shiloh, 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
News From Neosho, Chapter Nine
The Glory Road
We would enjoy hearing from you!
This writing was uploaded to the web 8/27/05,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 12/04/08.