The Dividing Line

This entry relates to a recent Twitter post:

Try to imagine the accumulation of all your sins through today. If we’re honest, the number is staggering. Now extend that thought to every person who has ever lived or will ever live until Christ returns. It’s a number beyond comprehension. Think of how any one individual sin grieves God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the crushing weight of the rebellion of mankind that fell on the back of Jesus Christ.

Our sins put Him there. The nails held his physical body there. But it boggles my mind how Jesus and the cross could keep from plowing through the earth to physically cut it in half, loaded as He was with all our sins.

It’s a mental picture to be sure, of the impact and weight of sin, but in fact Jesus & the cross does divide the earth. Jesus himself said:

 
Luke 12:51-53

Do you think that I have come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.  For from now on, there will be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

I also thought of the three men who professed to follow Jesus, but gave excuses for not doing so.

 

Luke 9:57-62

As they went on the way, a certain man said to him, “I want to follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  He said to another, “Follow me.”  But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce the kingdom of God.”  Another also said, “I want to follow you, Lord, but first allow me to bid farewell to those who are at my house.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

On the surface these are not unreasonable requests. But Jesus knows the heart of these men. And He is certainly making point, an emphasis, on the radical nature of being a fully devoted follower and disciple.

So what about us?

I profess freely that I have not loved Jesus with my whole heart. I have fallen short of His standard and His love. And what’s worse, sometimes it’s as if I try to keep one foot on each side of the dividing line. One foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. It’s like trying to straddle a fissure line during an earthquake; in the end you just get swallowed up whole.

Our collective sin, grievous & voluminous as it is, did not break the back of Jesus. His triumph is our redemption.

 

~~~ . ~~~

 

Poem:

World-Breaker

He came to bring a message the world had no taste to hear

To build a bridge to Heaven, He first buried death and fear

The world was broken on His back, His hands, His feet

Our Lord Jesus, Messiah broke the back of sin

and the world became complete

01/26/15

Convergence of Complexities

Anybody else…or just me

That point when you have way more list than day to complete it. When both work and life are unbalanced, despite your best efforts. When all the chainsaws you are currently juggling double in size and accelerate. When the world seems to get crazier by the day. When the Merry-go-round won’t let you get off…

Take heart. Put your focus on Jesus, and I will too.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction; but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.

Poem:

Foolishness – A Dichotomy

I. “Innocent” Foolishness

We all know this one. Engaging in harmless fun, goofing off and the like. I’m not here to be a Grinch and rain on everyone’s fun. Having fun and letting off steam can be a good thing. Recreation and leisure is a necessary antidote to a workaholic life.

Yet, I think we all know the dangers of letting these attitudes dominate. Procrastination is a problem in and of itself, as this author well knows and admits to. But I am referring here to what the Bible calls “slothfulness.”

Proverbs Chapter 26 has a few things to say about the topic:

13 The slothful [man] saith, [There is] a lion in the way; a lion [is] in the streets.

14 [As] the door turneth upon his hinges, so [doth] the slothful upon his bed.

15 The slothful hideth his hand in [his] bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.

16 The sluggard [is] wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Okay…so the slothful man can barely get out of bed and feed himself…not exactly a flattering description. The point here is that we cannot, particularly in an environment of endless distractions, allow ourselves to be lulled into a life of inactivity and listlessness. A life of inadequate motivation and productivity. When we reach this point, it is no longer “innocent” foolishness.

II. Immortal Foolishness

The Bible is clear that the gospel message is the essence of foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). The behavior of persons who are not believers in Jesus Christ (as indicated by speech and actions which are in stark contrast to God’s Word; only God knows the true heart) seemingly continues to shock and amaze us. But it really should not. Unconverted hearts combined with the assault on traditional family values and the Judeo-Christian ethic has resulted in alarmingly sinful behavior. As an aside, the behavior of believers (who seem more worldly than godly) is sometimes troubling as well, but that is a topic for another time.

Later in First Corinthians [2:14] Paul reminds us that the “unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This is indeed a danger zone. The human heart, when unfettered by the boundaries of God’s moral law and influence of the Holy Spirit, is capable of the utmost evil and depravity. The Bible, human history, and our life and times are filled with examples too numerous to mention here. But, my guess is that at least one or two from the headlines or your own experiences just popped into your mind.

What are the consequences of this immortal foolishness? The Bible tells us that it is appointed once for a man to die, and then the judgement [Heb 9:27]. That the wages of sin are death [Rom 6:23]. That Jesus will come again to judge all mankind; of which some are sheep who receive “Well done good and faithful servant” and some are goats who hear from the Lord, “Depart from me; I never knew you.” (Mat 7:21; 25:23, 31-46)

One chilling example from Scripture of a person exhibiting immortal foolishness is the rich man from Luke Chapter 12:

16Then He told them a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced an abundance. 17So he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, since I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and will build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. 19Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!”’  20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’  21This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Woe to the man or woman whom Almighty God calls “fool”! Each of us likely knows a family member, friend, or co-worker with this attitude toward life. A life motivated by greed and material wealth. Perhaps by lust or desire for alcohol or drugs. It is for these precious souls that we as intercessors labor before the throne of the Lord as often as we can.

III. The Foolishness of God

I Corinthians Chapter 1

20Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I just love sections of Scripture like this. It gives us insight into the mind of God as Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth (as divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit). And as I mentioned in an earlier piece God’s Upside Down Economy, the Lord excels in flipping things on their head. God describes all of our so-called “human wisdom” as folly, when compared to the good news of the gospel. The former has the power to deceive and confuse, and Satan makes much use of that. The latter has the power to soften and plow even the most hardened heart. And thus allow the saving message of the gospel to take root.

The “foolishness of God” – once despised as the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable – is now gladly worn as a badge of honor and glory to Almighty God in the converted heart of a redeemed sinner. Each of us, in some form or fashion, were considered a hopeless foolish case. Now we are proud to be considered fools for God.

POEM:

Foolishness

Unbeliever:

“I have no time for foolishness.” The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

Believer:

“I have no time for foolishness.” I put away childish things. I run from the things of the world to pursue Christ.

01/23/16

Handprints

I see the handprints of God…

It was an innocuous event really.   One that stems directly from our smartphone generation.   The screen of my phone went suddenly dark after having timed out to keep the battery from draining.   I happened to look down at the reflection of the light hitting the the surface of the phone; and what I saw was a bunch of little hand prints.  All the Taps and swipes that come from using a smartphone.  

This got me to thinking.  I thought about little handprints on the back door from our grandchildren, looking out in amazement at the world and leaving the imprint of their little fingers on the glass.   Then I thought about, of all things, our cat.  She has a habit of climbing up on the roof of the car while it’s parked in the driveway and in the course of doing that – leaving little prints all over to mark where she’s been.

Ultimately that led me to think about all the handprints of God in my life.  How behind the scenes and often not visible to the naked eye, God is there.   Working, moving, interceding on my behalf.  And on the various and sundry requests that I lift up to him.  That we all do.  

God is there.  He never left the throne, and He has our best interest at heart.  I encourage you to think about that today.  The little handprints of God.  If you look really hard, or maybe even not that hard, you should be able to see them.  

The Love of God Descending

The Love of God Descending

The Love of God Descending

The Sons of men, not apprehending

The innocent, the tender babe

The manger, obscure and vague

The Magi, honored guests

The shepherds, nothing less

The horde of sinful men, destined to die

He the Savior, for them, crucified

But for now, a tender coo

The baby Jesus, delivered

For me – For you 

This Pain…

How can I not compare this,

to the thorn embedded underneath

providing a sharp reminder

of that which You ordained

Paul to keep

 

How I long for a dramatic

power of healing

instant pain relief

that incredible feeling

 

And of course

You’d receive all the glory!

Until I resume my routine again

And Your healing becomes

lost in the noise

 

Would I then remember —

When I could not walk

When I could not sleep

When my despair

was dark and deep?

 

I think of the man with leprosy

Who simply asked Jesus

“Lord, if you are willing”

“You can make me clean.”

Jesus was willing.

 

But what is clean?   What is healing?

It is far better, to be cleansed within

To have a spotless soul

Even if the body never fully heals again

 

A/N:  I continue to pray for physical healing, consistent with the will of God.   But the state of my soul is paramount. 

The Lost Art of Being Patient

The desire for the instantaneous, or even pre-fabricated  satisfaction, has tainted our society to expect, nay demand the unattainable.   What has been lost is the art of being patient.

Even though it’s called “fast food.” it’s really not that fast.  At least not by the standards of many in the drive through lane.  Imagine this scenario; you have probably witnessed it.  Many times.

  • A customer speedily enters the parking lot of his or her chosen brand of fast food. Despite encountering a long line of cars winding back from the drive through order board, they take their place in line because its “more convenient.”
  • As the line seems to move slower than Christmas for a 7 year old, the customer begins a process of huffing and puffing, followed by fits of rage when the car in front does not immediately move up when the other cars move.  Ranting and cursing may ensue.
  • When finally reaching the spot to place an order, the customer is fit to be tied when the employee fails to hear the order properly.  When reaching the pay window, the employee is regarded with contempt.  The last straw occurs when the customer is asked to wait a few more minutes in the drive through parking space.  Oh the humanity!

You get the idea.  More, now.  Better, but not any slower, now.  We have become a society of convenience on its own terms, and they aren’t up for negotiation.  And, when disappointing results occur, well, that’s license for a tantrum or conniption fit.  And of course, we are implanting these traits in succeeding generations. Especially if they see us as parents and grandparents acting this way.

And of course, now comes the rub.

The reason that I am writing this is precisely because I have been the person yelling at the slow car that won’t get out of the passing lane and is holding me up.  Or been abrupt and unfriendly to people working in fast food that receive 99 comments about how awful and slow things were, and not one thank you or word of encouragement.  Now, of course there are people who are poorly trained or who just don’t care about doing a good job.  I’m not minimizing that.  But I also know how far a word of encouragement can go in lifting people’s spirits.  We ought to be more intentional about that.

And it starts with that lost art of being patient.  Paul had a lot to say about that in the New Testament:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.  [Philippians 4:11-13]

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  [1 Tim 6:6]

Yes, I need to be reminded of this.  At times, we all do.  If you read my last post, you know that I am dealing with pain that just doesn’t seem to want to go away.  My wife has lovingly reminded me of times when I have been short, impatient, and downright cantankerous.  Mostly because I have forgotten the lost art of being patient.

God wants us to wait.  Not to be mean, but to help us grow into people that are kind, encouraging, understanding, compassionate, and who are able to lift another’s spirits because we have been in that valley before.  Of course I want instant pain relief; but that’s just not God’s timetable.  And Father knows best.  Perhaps, one day, I can encourage someone else dealing with pain.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  [Gal 6:2-3]

How about this?  I will pray for your patience, and you pray for mine.  It’s a practice worth developing.

 

Poem:  Test of Patience

People who seemingly cannot drive

But on the highways seem to thrive

…and multiply

Forgive my thoughts and epithets

Take them home with care

and still my mind

cool my jets

that I might love

those who drive me insane

The Purpose of Pain

One could easily say that the past month of my life would fit in the category of “thrown for a loop, and then run over back and forth by said loop.”

For 50+ years, I prided myself on my general good health.  And this from an infancy where I was sickly, had to drink soy milk, and began to see an ophthalmologist at age two.  But for most of my adult life, I had little if any health problems, never saw a family physician [I did ask my father – who was the epitome of the rural general practitioner – general health questions], and praised God for my good health [except when I was running from Him, nee Jonah].  I had a record of never spending the night in a hospital, that I intended to keep.

As I got to age fifty, I celebrated a half a century on earth with continued good health.  I did have one issue that was not bothering me too bad, but finally underwent surgery to correct it last year.  But I convinced the surgeon to send me home same day, thus keeping my record intact!

And then there was the latter half of August, 2016.  The pain in my right leg went from nagging to intolerable.  It would be later diagnosed as a bulging disc in my back doing a number on the sciatic nerve that runs down the leg.  I was unable to walk.  To get to the car, my wife and my brother-in-law had to support me as I took one baby step [or dragging of the leg] at a time.  Then a whirlwind week of ER visits [yes, multiple – a story for another time], painful MRIs, and finally referral to a Neurosurgeon who fixed the disc.  But my record came to an end with an overnight hospital stay.  Oh well – age…

God was working through this entire ordeal and has been exceedingly good to me; I truly am forever grateful.  I can walk!  Hallelujah!

And that would be the end of the story, but for…

Pain.  Despite a successful surgery that has allowed me to walk again, I have a lingering neuropathy on my foot.  The surgeon was hopeful that this would go away on its own, but that has not been the case.  I have asked God to take away this nagging, sometimes burning, sometimes shooting pain.  My foot is ultra-sensitive.  Medication prescribed has little effect.  Sleep is difficult.  Wearing a shoe is extra painful.

I am hopeful that as I return to see the surgeon this week that some other course of therapy – medication or otherwise might be helpful.  And my prayers are still that God would heal as he did for the leprous man in Matthew 8:2-3

Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared

But God may have a greater purpose for my pain.  I am steadied in my resolve, that if God does not heal me and this pain continues to beset me – He is still holy, glorified, and sovereign.  He is still worthy to be praised!

The Bible tells us that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  Paul certainly knew this with his “thorn in the flesh.”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
[2 Cor 12:9-10]

Is this easy?  Not at all.  But I am confident in God’s plan for my pain.  Whether He takes this nagging thing away is irrelevant.  His plan, His purpose, His Word; my obedience, taking up my cross [light as it is], and becoming more Christ-like are the issues.  Thy will be done.

Amen.

 

No Dichotomy for Human Life

embI just recently added a link for a poem I published on my Wattpad page.  The piece, entitled “Dandelions” is a reflection on the unborn, who never had a chance at life.  In the end, it is our society and culture that is forever damaged – by missing the contribution of so many millions whose life ended before it began.

Many writers/bloggers/commentators [all of whom are doubtless more talented and eloquent than me] have written pieces regarding the tragic events of this week [murder of police officers in Dallas, et. al.].  I want to instead address a deeper issue, but one which underlies much of what dominates the headlines.

I believe that God created the universe and every living thing.  To us of the human species, He invested the gift of relationships.  First and foremost with Him as our Creator, but also with our fellow human beings; family members, neighbors [Pastor Terry preached on the Good Samaritan today ~ “who is my neighbor”], and other people that God places in our path.

All are invaluable.  All are irreplaceable.  All are made by God with the divine stamp of His image.

I have no delusions about the state of the world.  We live in a fallen world; seemingly to fall to greater depths each day.  People do unspeakable horrors to other people.  Children are abused.  People lie to and cheat on their spouses.  People react out of anger, jealousy, fear – and the consequences can be damaging or even fatal.

The Evil One, Satan, seems to be having a field day.  People and groups are divided against each other.  Blaming others/society/government and sanctimoniously taking on the banner of victimhood are byproducts.  Please don’t misunderstand; I know there are real victims ~ including the most innocent of all, the unborn lost to abortion.

I only wish to say that every single human life matters, from the moment of conception to natural death.  There is no dichotomy in human life.  We know that “God made them male and female”, and that every human is unique to the soul (even identical twins).  We live in different parts of the earth, speak different languages.  But we are all human.  We all have the same I.D. [“Imago Dei” ~ in the image of God].  We are all fallible, we all make mistakes, we all sin.  We all need a Savior.  Jesus Christ.

im·per·ma·nence

casey02 casey01

{One of the most important messages I have ever set out to write}

We focus so much time on things that will be dust, and comparatively little time on Scripture and souls – the only things on earth that are lasting and eternal…

Impermanence.

Of late, this word has been ringing in my mind.  I hear and see it everywhere.  It emanates from passages of Holy Scripture that emphasize and distinguish the temporal from the eternal.  I see it all around me in the ordinary items we all take for granted, as well as those we hold close to us as precious heirlooms.  It has been hammered home forcefully in the passage of time and inevitable change that accompanies it.

The year 2015 has been one of monumental change in my family, but inevitable to all of us who remain on this earth.  Our parents because of age and cognitive issues now reside in an Assisted Living facility.  It has been a struggle for them, especially for Dad – who has always been in control.  And an adjustment for us kids as well.  Nothing stays the same.  Impermanence.

We now face the task of going through a lifetime of accumulation at my parents’ house.  Not that my parents were greedy materialists, hoarders, or anything of the sort (maybe borderline hoarders in certain cases).  But all of us can have the tendency to hold on to things, to wrap and box things up for some later date.  Maybe with the thought of passing on to future generations.

We recently went through a project to clean up the basement in my parents’ house, and many items were ruined and could not be saved.  Including many items that Mom or Dad had fastidiously stored away, for years [wrapped in newspapers from the 1970s and 80s].  But mold and moisture found a way to get through.  Impermanence.

This was a lesson for me.  Do not hold on too tightly to things that will eventually pass away.  No doubt I will try to hold on to at least a few items, but I had to ponder this question, not only about things from my childhood home, but things from my own home:  What if my child, my grandchildren have no interest in keeping these items?  And even if they do, what’s most important is enjoying God-given family relationships while we still have these cherished people with us.  I am ever so grateful that I have Mom & Dad still with us, even if they can be a challenge some times.

We are or will be tempted to hold onto things that often have great memory or intrinsic value for us.  And I am not condemning that practice wholesale.  But let us remember that (1) we cannot take these things with us and (2) the things that last – people/family/souls, the Word of God – are where we should focus most.  All else is… Impermanence.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Mat 24:35

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Tim 5:8

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  Mat 24:44

Limited Time Offer

Blink – and you’re ashen dust

Set to expire like the rest of us

Reserve your mansion

before time rolls up

05/06/13

{Artwork by the talented Jeff Casey, high school classmate; framed artwork proudly displayed in my home]