Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 3/16/08.
"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).
Last week's writing, "Healing, or Stealing God's Glory" (See Link at End), was in response to a dear friend's concern about how to get a miraculous healing for her son. Her pastor's answer to her question about healing, set my hair on fire and caused me to want to run screaming into the night, because it was the perfect example of the difference between religion and life in the Spirit. Here's her reply after reading that writing:
"Do I need to send you a wig?? HO HO! I'm glad your hair was set afire because I think I "sorta get" it. We should just praise and thank God for all situations in our lives knowing that He means it for good whether or not we understand or like it? He chooses what will happen to all human kind. Right?
"Does God ever get up 'on the wrong side of the bed'?
"God won't ever do anything for us that is not already in His plan for us and those we love. Is our praying for somebody useless? We can never ever ask God for anything and have any chance at getting it? It is God's plan for some people to be so poor that their babies die or else those who have can glorify God by providing for the poor? It is God's will for the gangs to exist? for people to get hooked on drugs? Is prayer all about just being still and in awareness of communication space for God to speak to us? What about asking for forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings? Is all God wants to hear from us thanking him for sending his Son to save us from our sins and for our praises to God?
"Does human kind just exist for God's amusement?
"Is there no such thing as an accident?" End Quote.
If her reply set your hair on fire, it may be an indication that your level of compassion is a quart low. Before you rush to judgment on her, consider this. The reason most of us wouldn't SAY those things (though we might think them), is because we grew up terrified that God would throw us into hell at the slightest infraction of His rules. Clearly, this woman is not afraid of hell after she dies, but rather is protesting the hell of doubt and insecurity she lives in right now.
Lenny and I have known her and her husband for the better part of two decades. We met them in our real estate business and soon became fast friends. Because she is very open about how she sees things, we've been dialoguing about spiritual matters and her longing to know God better since we met. She is a diligent seeker of God, which as I told her, qualifies her for the reward stated in Heb. 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Some of you may have concluded that she doesn't have the faith, and therefore does not qualify, which she herself has said many times, but really, whose faith is it that qualifies us? Here's Paul's answer to that, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is THE GIFT OF GOD, not because of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
Those of us raised up with hell fire and damnation were trained at an early age never to make a negative statement about God's power and authority, lest we be cast into outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth, and/or whatever punishment our parents preferred. That was supposed to insure that we would become devout Christians, lovers of Jesus and others. But did it, or as Dr. Phil would ask, "How's that working for you?" Not very well for most of us. Feelings denied and stuffed down become "demonic," in the sense that they control us. We've heard from so many people in the time we've been on the Internet, who because of harsh parenting and dogmatic church leaders, have given up not only on church but on God Himself!
"If He's that picky, then I couldn't qualify anyway, so I might as well do whatever I want to." That attitude does not a good church member make. On the other side of the coin, some of us were VERY dedicated and dutiful disciples of church dogma. Following the letter of the law, the straight and narrow path, or at least doing what we were told was right, helped us feel safe for a little bit. It didn't last long if we really were diligent Bible students, because there was always some pesky verse or another that showed us up for what we really were.
For me, it was Peter's description of the kind of woman God is pleased with: "Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious" (I Pet. 3:3-4). I have many faults, but self deception usually isn't one of them. Whenever I would be tempted to think I had it made so far as righteousness was concerned, I had only to think of this passage, and I was a goner, down for the count, defeated and in despair. Why? Because I have NEVER been in the same county as "a meek and quiet spirit." Ask my mother. And the worst part is, contrary to what the church teaches, there really wasn't anything I could do to change myself. Only God can, but I didn't know His power and thus thought it was all up to me. What a hell hole that was!
This sorry state was where religion left me until God baptized me in the Holy Spirit. That was the key to open heaven's gate and enter into fellowship with Jesus whom I'd come to see died on that cross for me personally. Until that experience, I knew He died for the sins of the world. The preacher told us before every invitation hymn what Jesus had done for us, but it was only words until He touched me with His presence. I saw and felt and tasted that GOD IS GOOD and God loved Jan so much He gave His only begotten Son to die that ghastly death for me, for the forgiveness of my sins. It truly was the born again experience for me. I had been baptized on my 13th birthday, but that experience left me outside the gate wanting more, depending on my own works, unsatisfied and frustrated.
Jesus is the baptizer about whom John the Baptist prophesied, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. HE WILL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WITH FIRE. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them" (Lk. 3:16-18). Many people overlook the words, "with fire," which Luke said was part of the "good news."
Our friend has experienced the fire many times in her life, but it will take the outworking of the Spirit, the Master's Touch to show her that it is all part of the process. She knows I love her and therefore is not afraid to tell me how she feels. What she perhaps hasn't known before is that God loves her more than anyone else can and she can tell Him how she feels as well. His reputation does NOT hinge on her words. This brings me to the title, "Risky Business." When I heard it, a few days before my friend's e-mail came, I knew it was a title for a writing, but for what I hadn't a clue.
It is very risky business to keep your feelings bottled up, because they never get resolved and will haunt you the rest of your life. The reason that unexpressed negative feelings become "demonic," what the Hebrew writer calls "a root of bitterness," is because they become incorporated into our soul. This is why the Hebrew writer said, "See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled" (Heb. 12:15).
Our spirits are perfect, but our souls need a regular cleaning, whereby we open the windows and allow fresh air to blow through. Only God can remove any root of bitterness, and He does it by shining light on our dark places. What does light do? It scatters darkness wherever it gathers. This is why confessing our feelings to Him is for me, the way out of the long, dark tunnel of denial and despair. He can handle anything you can throw at Him. Your parents couldn't; your Sunday School teachers couldn't; the preacher couldn't, but God can, for He is in the restoration and restitution business. He will never sleep nor slumber until every last one of His children come home. Hallelujah!
A lovely refrain goes, "He touched me; He touched me, and oh, the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole." Our friend has never experienced this touch, or she could not ask if humans exist just for God's amusement. I have prayed for her many times to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. So far, she has not received this blessing. Since Jesus is the Baptizer, only He knows when He is ready to pour it out on her. I have learned to wait on the Lord, for only He has the power to save, to heal, and to Baptize us in His Spirit. What a day that will be though, when the glory of the Lord is revealed and all flesh will see it together. That's what keeps me going.
Jesus answered her question about prayer better than I ever could: "So I say to you: ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks RECEIVES; he who seeks FINDS; and to him who knocks, the door will be OPENED. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk. 11:9-13).
When Job was defending himself against his accusers, He said of God, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!" (Job. 13:15-16). And this is why I say, pour out your feelings, all of them, on the altar before our Father who loves you unconditionally. He is NOT in the killing business, but in the Eternal Life business. When you trust Him with your deepest, darkest secrets, He will deliver you from yourself and from religion's dungeons of preconceived ideas. It feels like risky, scary business, but He is faithful and He will bring you through the flood to the other side.
Perhaps the Lord nudged me to include her e-mail (and nudged her to write it), because some of you reading this may be struggling with something that you need to get the victory over. More than a few of you write to us regularly with your internal traumas, debates, and feelings of failure in a given area.
As I've shared before, it is for me a choice as to whom I will believe: the scriptures or my own neurotic voices about who I am, how God sees me, and what I can expect from Him. Before He baptized me in the Spirit, I used to SAY I loved God, but sometimes, I wondered if I really did, because the fear I had of Him canceled out true love for Him. As Carlton Pearson put it, you may be in awe of Him; you may decide to obey Him out of fear, but love Him? Hardly.
The Apostle John wrote, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because GOD IS LOVE. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 1:8-10). For my friend and certainly for me, loving God and really knowing He loves me is impossible until we feel His love for us. As Lenny puts it, "This is God's fault." By that he means no disrespect for our heavenly Father, but is using modern parlance to say what Paul declared: "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all" (Rom. 11:32). My observation and life experiences as well as scriptures tell me that if He brought it to me, then He will deliver me from it.
I took a break from writing this to go get the mail. As I was walking up to the front of the house, a clear picture came to me of the Prodigal Son's father standing by the gate waiting for his son to come home. Jesus told this story to fill us with hope and confidence when we approach our heavenly Father. He will not scold us or punish us for who we are, but will instead, put a robe on our shoulder and a ring on our finger; He will kill the fatted calf for us that we may fellowship with Him (Luke 15:22-24).
Now, in case your self righteousness kicks in here and you think, "Well, I certainly never sinned like that boy did," think again. All sin causes us to fall short of the glory of God, be it sex sin, theft, murder, or something the church winks at, like judgment, gluttony, and hateful thoughts about one for whom Christ died. We may need to repent (change our minds), about who we really are. We are sons of the Most High, chosen before the foundation of the world to be ambassadors for Christ, to share the reconciliation of God with all men. We are light bringers, good news sayers, forgiveness givers, and victorious overcomers in Christ! The real risky business is not accepting what scripture says about us. By God's grace, and with His help, we can believe His promises! With God's express authority, we have overcome the world in Him!
Father, we thank You that the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead dwells in us and quickens our mortal bodies. Because Your life dwells in us, we ask You to send us to those who walk in darkness with Your light, healing, and salvation. Make us instruments of Your peace and love. Amen. Jan Antonsson
To be continued.......
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
Healing, or Stealing God's Glory
The Royal Priesthood, Healing III
Rest in the GIFT, Healing, Part IV
Restoring the Glory Land, Part V
Organizing the Church, Part VI
Victory Through Helplessness,Healing, Part VII
What Does Faith Have to do With It? Healing, Part VIII
The Death of Death, Healing, Part IX
The Death He Died, Healing, Part X
Freed From Sin, Healing Part XI
Money, the Kingdom, and Bifocal Vision, Healing, Part XII
Flesh, Spirit, & the New Man, Healing, Part XIII
The Church, the Gospel, and God's Will, Healing, Part XIV
The End of the Law, Healing, Part XV
The Divine Possibility, Healing, Part XVI
What Shall We do? Healing, Part XVII
The Tyranny of the Vegetable Eaters, Healing, Part XVIII
The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 03/08/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 011/19/08.