Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 9/13/09.
"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Num. 23:19).
When I first "heard" this title, I thought, "Oh, surely not," but the Spirit kept bringing it back to my mind, which meant I would be writing about it. As a youth, I was quite the cheerleader for the strong right arm of Almighty God. The miracles recounted in the Old Testament thrilled my soul; built my faith, and fired me up to experience them for myself. Though I grew up in a church which taught that the miracles no longer happen; God doesn't heal; the Spirit doesn't move directly on men other than in the Bible, nevertheless, I didn't believe it, not really. From a small child, I knew that God was big; He was mighty; and He would not be deterred from whatever He set out to do. That child like faith was twisted and warped by the doctrine I was taught, but somewhere deep inside, I knew that God was unchanging. The Bible said so after all: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). That being the case, this question was settled in my mind, at least; so, why then the question, "Can God Fail?"
The more difficult things become, the more people question, and the more they fear that they have skated out on very thin ice with no one to save them when they break through and fall into the icy depths. We've all been there, done that, but it usually doesn't last long. One of my flock at Medicalodge frequently says, "God gave us mountains so we can learn to climb, and I'm a pretty good climber." Not a bad testimony from a woman in a wheel chair who survived a brain aneurysm. A dear friend wrote recently, "If there were nothing to overcome, how could we be overcomers?"
This same friend also sent us a marvelous gift, consisting of two DVDs and two CDs, entitled, "First Love." The presentation consists of the testimonies and music of the young men and women God called out of the tumultuous 1960s, into His love and power and might. Some were on drugs; others were hopelessly depressed and wounded by their experiences in Vietnam, but all had the gift of music which poured out profusely on street corners, on the beach, wherever people gathered.
Lenny and I have watched it many times since we received it because it exudes Spirit breathed and Spirit born power and beauty. The music is so lovely, bringing back for both of us the "glory days" of the Hillcrest Christian Center in Thousand Oaks, CA, where we met. That fellowship was made up of some "Jesus people," and some Church of Christ people who had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was a Charismatic Fellowship which offered the right hand of friendship to anyone who loved Jesus. The "Jesus people" still came to worship services dressed in jeans and birkinstock sandals; while the rest of us dressed up for church. It mattered not, because we all knew that what was happening among us was bigger than a dress code, bigger than any theology we had heard before. The Sunday service was lively with music reflecting the power of God to deliver us from evil. "Let God arise and His enemies be scattered" was one of these choruses. Many of the songs were the Psalms set to music. In this setting I learned to walk by the voice of the Lord, and to believe again that God could still do what He ever had done: deliver men and women from themselves.
It was there that I first met and became fast friends with John Gavazzoni, who was one of the pastors, and later, with Lenny, who had been in charge of remodeling and modernizing an old hospital purchased by the group, into a combination fellowship hall and Christian School. The three of us became very close friends as time went by.
However, as the musicians on the DVD "First Love" recount, the organized church always had problems with the "Jesus People" because they were unconventional; they had long hair and beards, wore jeans and tie die shirts. They brought a zeal and passion to worship, clearly in short supply. Organized religion has always had trouble with the moves of God. They crucified His only Son, after all, and continue to crucify anyone today who challenges their sacred views.
The untimely end of the Hillcrest Christian Center, in my opinion at least, came because they stood against what God was doing. The Church of Christ I had previously attended had split down the middle over the issue of the outpouring of the Spirit today, manifested then in speaking in tongues, and the Hillcrest Christian Center later split when it became known that John Gavazzoni, one of the pastors, believed God would eventually save everyone. The same elders who had proclaimed earlier that God moves today as He ever did, and decreed that those who rejected tongues were acting against God's will, were now the very ones who declared that John was demon possessed because he rocked their tiny theological minds and dogmas. These elders demanded that the rest of us sign a declaration of our faith in the "established principals" of the church, i.e., that Jesus came to save us from our sins, and if we didn't repent and choose Him, we would burn in hell forever. I, of course, was horrified, refused to sign any such thing, and left in sorrow and burning anger. This was the second time God has forced me out of a religion that I was comfortable in. What did it mean? Had God failed, or had I?
John began having Wednesday night fellowship meetings in his home, which is where I first really encountered Lenny. He had been friends with John as had I, but it was a big fellowship and we hadn't really known each other. So, painful as the situation was for so many of us, God used it to fulfill the prophetic promise He had made to me that He was sending me a husband. Lenny and I were married in John's "upper room" (an upstairs family room), with those who came for Wednesday night prayer meeting as witnesses. Harry Fox and John officiated over the ceremony; Jan Gavazzoni had bought a wedding cake; another friend brought champagne, and we were married before God and those gathered.
The "First Love" DVD records a commemorative gathering of the "Jesus Music Pioneers" such as "2nd Chapter of Acts," Jamie Owens Collins, Barry McGuire, Terry Clark, Chuck Girard, and Andrae Crouch to name a few. Jack Hayford (Church on the Way), Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel), and Pat Boone made comments about how the Jesus music infused new life and new love in the traditional churches. And yet, what struck me is that these same pastors who were among the few who welcomed the "hippy" musicians into their fellowships, are among those who speak out forcefully against God's reconciliation of all.
This has ever been true. Every move of God's Spirit has been smacked and attacked by indignant Pharisees who are trying to preserve the status quo, no matter how stale it has become. In the glory days of the early church, when the power and authority of Almighty God was flowing like a river through Jerusalem, the Apostles were arrested and thrown into jail: "But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people." Those sent to look for them did not find them in the jail, which they went back and reported to the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:19-21).
When it was discovered that the Apostles were teaching in the temple courts, they were hauled up before the Sanhedrin, who lectured them about their disobedience, and ordered them to "stand down." To that charge, Peter replied, "We must obey God rather than men!" (Vs. 29). The furious elders wanted to put them to death, but a wise Pharisee named Gamaliel counseled: "Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
It seems to me that organized religion has ever been fighting against God to preserve the status quo. Their idea seems to be the same as Peter's on the Mount of Transfiguration, "We've found the truth, now let's build a tabernacle around it." Of course, Peter wanted to build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus, but God had other ideas. Listening to religion's dictates always results in more tabernacles than we need!
Yet, for as beautiful as the move of Spirit was in the "Jesus people," there's a further step in store for us, which we don't have to wait until death to take: "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power" (I Cor. 15:24). Shortly after He moved us here to Missouri, God gave me a vision, which I realized was what this scripture meant for me. I was in the antechamber to the Throne Room, feeling a little nervous about meeting God face to face. Jesus, my best friend, was there. He took me by the hand, led me into the Throne Room, and left me there! I was shocked and scared and felt betrayed. Jesus has been my best friend through some serious knocks in my life: a difficult marriage, followed by divorce, being a single parent for six years, walking through two church splits (a really huge betrayal), losing our house and credit, being summarily uprooted and moved here to Missouri, and dealing with our private financial down turn.
I wondered, why would He leave me alone now? God was very gentle with me and in that way He has without words, I knew that the scripture in First Corinthians was happening to me. All I could say through my tears was, "Can I still call you Lord?" He told me I could and I do call Him Lord in daily conversations, though I also pray to the Father, as Jesus taught us. It came to me then, that it was time to grow up. Little kids can play for a season, until the time comes for them to go to work. We've been at our Father's business here and it has been a pleasure, sometimes a challenge, but always a testimony of His grace, His presence, and His pervasive authority in our lives.
"The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:28), which means, God only moves in one direction: forward. What He promised to Abraham, that in his seed, would all nations be blessed, God has systematically fulfilled in all our lives, and will continue to fulfill until the last trumpet sounds.
Father, we thank You that we can count on Your Word, Your Promise and Your Son to bring us out of where we were and into all You have planned for us from before the foundation of the world. You cannot fail, and You will never sleep nor slumber until every last one of Your creation is safely in Your bosom. We praise Your name forever! Hallelujah! Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 07/25/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister