Relationship Disturbers

Jan Antonsson

God touch Adam

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

September 3, 2017

Neosho, MO

“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?” (Numbers 23:19, NIV).

The graphic is Michelangelo’s impression of God’s creation of Adam, which he painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.  It’s quite amazing to contemplate this exquisite artwork in person.  Thanks to my generous sister and brother-in-law, Drs. Bob and Mary Blattner, Lenny and I were treated to a tour of the Vatican back in about 2005. This painting evokes the beginning of man’s relationship with God, where all relationships have their true source. 

What stirred my thinking about relationship was a comment made by my dear friend Jonathan Mitchell regarding my writing last week on guilt.  He wrote, “Yes, guilt is a heavy load.  Christianity became performance-based rather than the good news of the new covenant being relation-based.  Our performance comes from out of His life in us, or as the theologians have said, our relationship stems from the indicative (Paul’s statements of what God in Christ has done).  The NT writers’ imperatives are founded on, and are to flow from, the indicatives.  The father never laid guilt on his prodigal son, but his self-righteous brother did.  Why have Christians blamed people for being dead, because of Adam?  Ah me, sis.  It’s a mess out there in religious-land.  Thanks for shining the Light.”  End quote. 

Jonathan’s comments stirred me to think again about the big concepts of spirituality, such as  grace, forgiveness, mercy and unconditional love.  My recent blog offerings have been on Death, Sin, Satan, Sex, and Guilt. I could go on and name more disturbers of our peace which cause us to worry and fret, but really, Jonathan summed it all up in a couple of sentences.  When we live a performance based life, which I did for decades, rather than a relation-based life, we can never put the burden caused by disturbers down and enter into rest.  There’s too much risk of missing the mark of the high calling of Christ, for us to rest on our laurels, or so the flesh tells us, so we push and shove, worry and pray, repent and wring our hands in an effort to please God. In that scenario, the light gets dimmed by sin, shame and guilt. How can we be a city set on a hill with all that darkness in us? 

What a waste of time and effort this behavior is because Christ in us, our hope of glory, as Paul put it, is the One who said,My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Religion has made it heavy, unwieldy, and impossible to carry.   At the core of it, I suspect is our innate insecurity that we aren’t lovable.  We’re too unworthy to love ourselves, so how could God love us?  This comes from having been fed a steady diet of law from the time we could walk.   Our parents and church leaders thought they were helping us grow up to be “good Christians” and God-fearing adults, thus saving us from hell.   What that did for me was to plunge me into hell right then and there, present tense, the hell of not knowing for sure if God loved me, and if I didn’t know that, how could anything else matter?

When Jesus baptized me in His Spirit, and I saw Him on that cross for me, it changed the play book of my life forever.  I knew He loved me enough to die for me, and that meant I could count on Him.  Like His Father, Jesus cannot lie, nor fail to keep up His responsibilities to us and for us. Because this is true, we can trust Him to lead us and guide us, help us in every sort of problematic situation that living on planet Earth can throw at us, and yes, because we have felt His love, we can then finally love Him and everyone else God puts in our path who need love.

Because He first loved us, the Apostle John wrote, we love Him.  If we haven’t felt His love, we cannot give love to ourselves or anyone else.  The basis of most relationship disturbances seems to be our trying to make our insecurities go away at someone else’s expense.  Marriages fail; families are torn apart, countries go to war, and criminals flourish because we don’t know that God loves us.

Signs I’ve seen around here advising us to repent or burn don’t help at all.  Fear has to do with punishment, and the only remedy for that is God’s perfect (unconditional) love, which NEVER fails!

We’ve been trained to be duality thinkers.  Everything is good or bad, black or white, godly or sinful.  The image portrayed of God in the Old Testament scared me spitless as a child, and it took several decades to be loved out of that mind set.

We were never told that God delights in us, or as one e-mail I received put it, “He’s crazy about you.  He has your picture on His fridge.”  The thought made me smile, but really, isn’t that what loving parents do?  I have pictures of my daughter and her family all around me so I see them in every room.  I’m crazy about them all, love to be with them, and do anything I can to share Good News with them (which basically is, God loves me and He loves you, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  He loves you)!

Since all relationships begin and end with God, I feel led to share with you a portion of God’s Trombones, The Creation, by James Weldon Johnson (1871- 1938), an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and civil rights activist. This was assigned reading in a College Lit class I took and it has stuck with me all these years.  Here’s a portion of 

The Creation:

And God stepped out on space,

And he looked around and said:

I’m lonely…

I’ll make me a world.

And far as the eye of God could see

Darkness covered everything,

Blacker than a hundred midnights

Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,

And the light broke,

And the darkness rolled up on one side,

And the light stood shining on the other,

And God said: That’s good!


Then God walked around,

And God looked around

On all that He had made.

He looked on His world

With all its living things

And God said: I’m lonely still.

Then God sat down.

On the side of a hill where He could think;

By a deep, wide river He sat down;

With His head in His hands,

God thought and thought,

Till He thought: I’ll make me a man!

Up from the bed of the river

God scooped the clay;

And by the bank of the river

He kneeled Him down;

And there the great God Almighty

Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky

Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,

Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand,

This Great God,

Like a mammy bending over her baby, 

Kneeled down in the dust

Toiling over a lump of clay

Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,

And man became a living soul.

Amen. Amen.

James Weldon Johnson

Father, we thank You for Your love, Your patience, and especially for the gift of Your Presence in us.  Your love is like a river flowing through our lives, on which we sail with You at the helm of the boat.  Neither the shallows nor the rapids, the waterfalls, nor the unseen boulders beneath the surface are cause for alarm, for You are with us.  You will never leave us nor forsake us.  Your light can never be dimmed. We worship You and join our voices with “the voice of a great multitude, and the voice of many waters, and the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.”  Amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

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