Author Archives: cazehner

About cazehner

I'm a woman who loves God's Word, the Bible. And I love sharing what it is God reveals to me through his Word. I pray that everything I write is consistent with Scripture, and that everyone who reads this blog will be drawn closer to the Savior. I am praying for you.

Matthew 19; A Great Place To Live

My thoughts on the Kingdom of God, the Church, continue as I read what Jesus said here in Matthew 19. What does it mean that His Kingdom is made up of children, and poor people?

Well, first of all, it isn’t. But Jesus teaches us an important lesson about attitude here. Child-like faith is not childish faith.

I’m with my niece from Texas and her two young daughters this weekend. This is only the second time I’ve been with her 18 month old, so it took a while for her to warm up to me. But I’m proud to tell you I can now peel a banana for her, and actually pick her up on occasion. We’re becoming best buds!

Last night we went to my sister’s house for a cookout. There were about 50 people there, none of whom were familiar to Colette. And even though there were children running around the back yard, Colette stayed close to Mommy. She’d venture out a bit, but if things got confusing, she’d run to her mom.

At one point, I held out my arms to “rescue” her when she found herself among grown ups she didn’t know. She looked at me and I could tell she knew who I was. But she shook her head no, then ran to Mommy. She wasn’t upset. She just wanted to be close to her mother.

I think that’s like us who are in God’s family. We live life, venture out, but we also stay close to our Heavenly Parent because when things get confusing, we know where to go. We know who to trust.

Of course, that’s not all there is to a relationship with God. As we mature, our walk with Him deepens, our faith is strengthened, and we become farmers and fishermen like I talked about the other day.

But Jesus is teaching us that our attitude toward Him should be as pure, as innocent, and as complete as a child’s trust in her parent. I never saw Colette even consider handling her fear on her own. Never saw her try to manufacture confidence or power in herself. Her 18 month old self understood what some of us have forgotten: Complete trust outside ourselves.  I believe that’s what God wants of us, too. Just to trust Him. Period. Not to depend on our selves.

Or our possessions.

That wealthy young man was undoubtedly a good man. But he wanted to hold on to God and his money. He wanted to follow Jesus, but he also wanted one foot in the world, too. Jesus tells us that’s not how it can be in His Kingdom.

Everything we have, everything we are, has to be given to Him, nothing held back. There will be people in heaven who had healthy bank accounts while living here. But they will be the ones who held Jesus more tightly than they did their dollar bills. And Jesus warns us that’s not always easy to do.

The Kingdom of God is made up of us who have placed our trust, our very lives in the hands of the Creator. Like a child in the arms of the Father, nothing held back.

The Kingdom of God is a great place to live.

Matthew 13-18; The Kingdom of God

I have a burden for the Church, we who are God’s Kingdom through the blood of Jesus. I’m concerned because it seems we are looking more and more like the world, and less and less like the Kingdom described in Scripture. I’ve been encouraged, and convicted as I’ve spent some time these past couple of days looking at what Jesus said about His Kingdom. I’d like to pass on to you what God has laid on my heart.

William Barclay says, “To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2; page 87;Westminster Press; Philadelphia, PA; 1975) God’s Kingdom isn’t some future phenomenon. It’s us today in 2018. And our King has drawn pictures about how He expects His Kingdom to look.

Matthew recored seven parables that Jesus taught in the chapters I’ve been looking at. Each one begins, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” As we look at these I pray we will consider our own standing in God’s Kingdom, that we will consider how our church fellowships are doing, and what we can do to make the Church, God’s Kingdom, be exactly who He told us to be.

The first three parables Jesus spoke in these chapters concern something small growing to something big. The good seed (13:24), the mustard seed (vs 31), and the yeast (vs 33). I’ve looked at this a couple of ways. One, when we first come to know Jesus as our Savior (the Sower of the good seed),  our faith is often as small as a mustard seed, our knowledge limited. But as we spend time with our Savior, as we read His Word and fellowship with other believers, that faith grows. Or it should. I wonder if there are people in our churches who are satisfied with their seed-faith. What good is that? There can be no harvest of stunted seeds. That can’t be good for the Kingdom.

The other way I see this is in the common misconception: “What can one person do?” We are tempted to focus on the weeds growing all around us. God is telling us not to worry about that. He’s got it covered. We are asked to do is grow, stay connected to Him, the source of all we need to be healthy Christians. Yes, there is a force of evil out there that intends on choking the life out of us. But if we are growing, those weeds have no power over us. And God is the One who will weed out the evil. He wins.

And, like the yeast, if we are faithfully doing what God is asking of us, it will spread. You might think you are insignificant in light of the Billy Grahams of the world. Your contributions to the Kingdom might be done behind the scenes, your efforts quietly transforming your surroundings and the lives of people you touch for Jesus’ sake.

What can one person do? There is no limit if Jesus in it! Dear one, nothing done in Jesus’ name is insignificant! And it all works together to produce the Kingdom of God Jesus is describing.

Jesus said the field in which He is sowing good seed is the world! Oh that the world, our world, our homes and neighborhoods, would be germinated with the Gospel… and thrive!

The next two parables are about treasure. (13:44-45) What is that treasure other than Jesus Himself? The world is desperately searching for Him. They keep turning over rocks and finding fools gold and glass pearls. But the truly valuable treasure, the real thing they are looking for is Jesus only. And those of us who know Him know He’s worth everything.

But God is asking me if I’m content to hoard the treasure I hold, when I can look all around me and see people who are still looking under rocks, who are parading around their fools gold and glass pearls and trying to pass them off as the real thing. Is it ok for me to say, “They can believe what they want to believe. If they want to think that glass is a real pearl, who am I to say it’s not?”

It’s not! And you know it.

It’s not enough to be in possession of this priceless treasure. There are people in your life, and in mine, who are searching. But is the Kingdom (are we) failing because we aren’t showing those people where they can find the real thing?

The sixth parable (13:47-50) is about the fisherman who throws out the net and brings in ALL the fish, good and bad. As the Church, we are told to go into ALL the world and share the Gospel. Sometimes I think we can get comfortable writing our check out to missions and feel we are obeying that commission. But is that how Jesus is describing His Kingdom?

All of us need to be faithful to throw out those nets in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, in the streets, wherever there are people who don’t know Jesus. It’s not up to us to decide who will be responsive. We don’t pick and choose who we think deserves God’s grace. We aren’t told to be judges. We are called to be fishers of men. I wonder if God’s Kingdom (you and me) doesn’t need to repair some nets and get busy throwing those nets out there.

The music minister at my church is an amazing fisherman. Recently he stopped at a gas station, and went inside to pay for his gas. The only person in the store was a young man behind the counter, tattooed, pierced, and sporting a spiked purple hair-do. Paul, whose teenaged son was waiting in the car,  didn’t throw his money on the counter and run. He stopped and started talking to the young man. And as Paul often does, he steered the conversation to Jesus.

He asked the young man if he knew Jesus. The boy said, No. Paul asked if the boy would like to know more about Him. The boy said, Yes. Right there and then Paul shared the Gospel with a weird looking young man who’d been searching for that treasure. Paul asked him if he’d like to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior.

The young man said, “Yes!”

But just then, another customer came into the store. Then another, and another. Paul went out to his car and sat with his son for awhile. They had somewhere to go, but there was a young man in that store who was more important.

Finally, the store cleared. Paul went back into the store and prayed with that young man to receive Christ. Paul threw out a net, and Jesus reeled him in.

I think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying to us through these parables. When we are faithfully doing what He’s asked us to do, He does the rest. And His Kingdom grows one soul at a time.

The last parable is found a few chapters later. (18:23ff) It’s so easy to recognize other people’s faults. Not so much when recognizing our own. And sometimes, we don’t forgive like we have been forgiven.

It always hurts me when I hear Christians say about someone who has hurt them, that they hope God will give them what they deserve. “What goes around comes around.” “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” I think that attitude is hurting God’s Kingdom.

We should never NEVER forget what God has forgiven of us. When Jesus taught us to pray He told us we should ask God to help us forgive others the same way He forgives us. That, my friend, is undeserved forgiveness, complete forgiveness, self-sacrificing forgiveness. And that’s the forgiveness we are to extend to others.

We as the Church of God are under attack. The Kingdom of God is being criticized for things that we should be criticized for, and for things that are outright lies. We, as members of God’s Kingdom are walking around with targets on our backs.

But we need to remember how Jesus told us to deal with our enemies. Love them. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek in Jesus’ name. If we get caught up with the social media frenzy, if we think we have to have a response to every stupid thing people say, we aren’t representing the Kingdom of God very well. Because Jesus died for every one of those people.

Every one. Including people with purple hair and nose rings. Including people who have treated us unfairly. Including the Muslim who just moved in down the street, or the homosexual who delivers your mail.

As I look at the Kingdom of God as described in these verses I am encouraged. I do see people who are farmers sowing seed, people who are sharing their gold mine, fishermen who are casting out their nets with abandon. May God bless each of you and grow His Church as you are yielded to Him.

But I also have a concern. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are we making God’s Kingdom stand out because we are being faithful, are we sharing the amazing treasure we have in Jesus, are we that yeast that is transforming the world by our presence? And are we casting out the Gospel net, and drawing people in?

May each of us consider our role in the Kingdom of God. And may we all be the people God can use to sow the seed, transform the dough, direct people to the treasure, cast the nets, and demonstrate what His forgiveness looks like.

For Jesus’ sake. And for His glory, may the Kingdom of God stand, and grow, until He comes.

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew 11-14; Indifference

Can you read about Jesus’ life on earth and not be moved? He showed compassion for individuals and crowds. He healed sick people. Fed thousands. Taught small crowds and big ones. He answered questions, sometimes answering the same question more than once. He revealed Himself as the Son of God with power, and gentleness. Isn’t He someone you’d like to hang out with?

Scripture doesn’t tell us a lot about Jesus’ ministry in Korazin and Bethsaida, or Capernaum. What He does say is that He was there. He performed the same miracles we read about in other places – but these people were indifferent to anything He said or did. Having an encounter with Jesus did not change them. And Jesus said the penalty for that is worse than anything that happened to Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.

William Barclay likens indifference to freezing. He says it “slowly suffocates the life out of (religion). (The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew, volume 2; William Barclay;1975; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA; page 13)

You’ve probably heard stories of people who freeze or almost freeze to death. A hiker is caught in a sudden storm, temperatures drop. In that extreme cold, the organs of his body begin to slow down. He gives no thought of dying. He doesn’t even feel cold anymore. He just wants to sleep…

Years ago my sister was having car trouble, so she and our Dad went to the garage to work on it. It was winter, but Dad insisted on keeping the garage door open a foot or two for ventilation. The trouble was in the ignition, so Dad told Kathy to sit behind the wheel and keep the car running while he tried to fix it. If the car began to stall, she was to give it more gas.

At some point Dad left to get a tool out of the basement, and told Kathy to keep the car running. She doesn’t know how long he was gone, but she was surprised when her head suddenly dropped to her chest. She shook the cobwebs out of her head, and continued to keep her foot on the gas pedal. Again, her head dropped to her chest. This time she heard a voice telling her to get out of there. Thankfully, she did.

I thought about that as I was considering these verses today. Kathy would tell you the carbon monoxide overtook her without her even knowing it was happening. Slowly, she began to fall asleep, and would have died had she not forced her body to take one intentional step at a time toward the door of the garage.

I think indifference is kind of like that. God is revealing Himself to all of us every minute of every day. Do you understand the danger of ignoring those attempts, or being unmoved by them? Indifference is a slow, steady killer of souls.

So my question is, are you in the process of freezing to death? Has indifference begun to lull you to sleep? You might not even be aware of it happening, but the danger is real, and deadly.

I hope you’ll read these chapters in Matthew and let God move you today. Let Him reveal Himself, show you how much He loves you. And I pray that you will be anything but indifferent.

Matthew 8-10; God Help Us

A middle-aged woman was grateful when her adult son moved back into their home after her husband died. She’d been so lonely in that empty house, and welcomed the company. He was a good boy. Clean cut. Had a good job. He was friendly, polite, and helpful. He was a son any mother would be proud of. Except for one thing.

Every once in a while her son would meet a nice young lady. They’d go out a few times, and eventually he’d invite her to the house. The mom would fix a meal, and welcome the girlfriend with a hug. They’d eat together, laugh together, and enjoy a relaxing evening together. Then the son would invite the girl to see the game room in the basement.

As the two young people would head downstairs, the mom would leave the dishes and head upstairs, to her bedroom. She’d turn on the TV as loud as it would go. She didn’t want to hear the sounds that would inevitably come from her son’s game room.

You see, he was a serial killer. He tortured and murdered the girls he took to the basement. But what was the mother to do? He was her son. She loved him. She couldn’t turn him in, or kick him out. She was his mother.

I totally made that up. But I hope you had some reaction to the mother’s response to her son’s actions. How could she let that happen in her own home?

I was part of a difficult conversation not too long ago. And, honestly, I wish I wasn’t thinking about it now. But it’s something God has laid on my heart. So here goes:

The subject of our conversation centered around a woman whose son had brought home his boyfriend and announced they were getting married. The question was: What would you do?

As we were talking, the verses from Matthew 10 came to mind. So when I read them today, I felt God nudging me to write about it. I’d really rather not, but I want to obey. I’m praying as I write. And I’m praying for you as you read.

First off, if you are tempted to be enraged because I seem to be putting serial killers and homosexuals in the same category (which means I must be homophobic) let me stop you right there. My story could have been about a thief, or a drug dealer, or a child molester, or a liar, a gossip, or a glutton. Would that have made you feel better? I could make this post about any number of sins.  Sin is sin, my friend. And enabling sin in any way is wrong. But God has laid the sin of homosexuality on my heart today.

And let’s get one thing straight. Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible. Unless you can show me a verse to the contrary, I’m going to proceed with that truth, because there is more than one verse that calls homosexuality sin, an abomination, unnatural.

Jesus, in Matthew 10:34-39, tells us His Presence will divide families. That’s hard to hear. He also said if keeping your family together is more important than following Him, you aren’t worthy of Him. If you put anything – including your children – above Him you are wrong.

I can’t imagine the pain of being forced to choose. Talk about a cross to bear. It has to be harder than losing a limb. God help us.

I’d like to say something to parents of young children. Sadly, the media has taken away your privilege of deciding the right time to have the “birds and bees” conversation with your children. The time is now. Don’t think that the subtle (and overt) messages that are imbedded in cartoons, kids programs and movies, video games, and commercials aren’t effecting your kids. They are impressionable. And once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it.

Your children spend hours every day in school. Do you know what they are being taught? Are you familiar with the curriculum? Most schools teach tolerance, some use books that promote homosexuality. Are you aware of any of that in your child’s classroom? What if your child’s teacher is homosexual? What do you say to your child about his friend’s two daddies, or the two women next door who just got married? How do you want your child to react when a boy in their second grade class starts wearing dresses to school?

How are you helping your children embrace their God-given sexuality, when Satan is telling them it’s not determined by DNA, that it’s “fluid.” When Satan is telling parents they should let their two-year-olds choose what sex they want to be, what are you telling yours?

How important is it for you to follow Jesus according to Scripture? How important is it that your children choose to follow Him, too? Please start talking to them today about how they can know the truth. I pray that none of you will ever have to choose between your children and God.

But I’ll tell you right now, if you are forced to make that impossible choice, I pray you choose God.

I’m praying for you.

Matthew 5-7; That Sums It Up

How do you define the Golden Rule? Do you, like many of the middle schoolers I worked with as a school counselor, believe it means you treat people the same way they treat you? If they’re nice to you, you’re nice to them. If they cross you, watch out! Pay-back ain’t pretty.

People, very often, use the behavior of others to rationalize their own bad behavior. Scroll through FB if you don’t believe me. Or watch the evening news. There is this unhealthy push to try to even the score in our modern society, whether the offense is real or imagined. I think it’s destroying us from the inside.

Jesus said the Golden Rule sums up the Law and the Prophets. The Law which God gave Moses to show us how we need to live our lives, how we are to consider others and revere God. The word “respect” comes to mind.

The Prophets told us about how God relates to it all. The words “holy,” and “fear,” and “awe” come to mind. And Jesus said the Golden Rule wraps it all up in a neat little package.

In these three chapters in the book of Matthew, Jesus spells out the practical side of life as His followers. If you want to know what the Golden Rule looks like…

Jesus said we are to be salt. A preservative, a flavor enhancer which needs to be applied to be useful. He said we are to be light, not hidden. A light which reveals sin by dispelling the darkness, then leads people to the Savior by lighting their way. (5:13-16)

He tells us we are to have a righteousness that is note-worthy. We who know the Savior know we have no righteousness of our own. But when Jesus clothes us with His righteousness, people can’t help but notice! (5:17-20)

Jesus tells us, in essence, if we want to live the Golden Rule, we can’t hate, or damage someone’s reputation, or get caught up in the name-calling. He says we need to settle disputes quickly, not sit around and seethe, or post a rant on FB, or spout off to a friend. (5:21-26)

He tells us to guard our hearts and minds, to look the other way instead of giving in to lust. I can’t help but think of the access to porn that is so readily available to people, including our children. Even the “soft porn” seen in many TV shows and commercials all day long. Jesus tells us we don’t have to do the deed in order to commit adultery. (5:27-32)

Jesus tells us to be honest, to keep our word without some grandiose gesture. A simple “yes” or “no” should be enough. Didn’t people used to say, “A man is as good as his word?” Hmmmm… (5:32-37)

Then Jesus gives us some hard to manage, not all that popular, words concerning people who do us wrong: Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Be generous even if you might not be reimbursed. Love your enemies. Do good things for them. (5:38-48)

He tells us that, whether we are serving, giving, or praying, let it be between us and God. Face it, people who brag are usually ones to avoid anyway. (6:1-13)

Then Jesus says we need to forgive. Forgive. He doesn’t put the “if they deserve it” disclaimer in there. In fact, He says we are to forgive like we are forgiven by Him. (vs 12) None of us deserve that. (6:14-18)

Jesus tells us not to get caught up in the pursuit of material wealth. Again, people with that as a priority are boring, too. I don’t see how we can be salt and light if we are boring people to distraction by our constant talk of money, or worry about having our needs met. Know that God is able to meet all of our needs, and leave it at that. (6:19-34)

Jesus also tells us not be judgmental. We need to first recognize sin in our own lives, and repent of it. Then we need to reach out and encourage others to recognize their own sin so that they can repent of theirs as well. (7:1-6)

That about sums it up. Life would be so much better if we really did treat each other with respect, gentleness, generosity, honesty, purity, love, if we would think of others more highly than we think of ourselves. I mean, wouldn’t you like to be treated like that? Jesus would tell you, do for others exactly the way you would like to be treated yourself.

Don’t wait for someone else to start truly living by the Golden Rule. Why shouldn’t it start with you?

 

 

 

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes Are Not About Happiness

I have read these beatitudes more times than I can count. Even today, as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I blew past these verses without giving them much thought. “Yeah, yeah. People who are “poor in spirit” are happy. People who “mourn” are happy. People who are “meek” are happy. And so on, and so on…”

I pulled out my commentaries, fully intending to write a post about the whole sermon Jesus shared, when God threw a wrench into my plans through William Barclay. This is just too important not to slow down and feast on Jesus’ own words.

It was enlightening to read what Barclay revealed about the word Jesus used for “blessed.” It’s not about happiness at all! In a nutshell, the Greek and Hebrew translation boils down to this: “Oh the blessedness of…” (The Daily Study Bible Series; the Gospel of Matthew volume 1, Revised Edition; William Barclay; 1975; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA; page 88)

Jesus wasn’t saying that if you experience these things, He would give something to you. He was saying:

“O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Savior and Lord!” (Barclay, p. 89)

It’s not about what God gives as much as who I am in Him. So, using Barclay’s insight, here is what God spoke to me today through His Word:

  1. O the bliss of knowing I am lost without God, that I am utterly helpless in and of myself, that I am totally dependent on the One who is totally capable!
  2. O the bliss of being broken over sin, of realizing what my sin cost Jesus, of repenting, of laying my sins at His feet and being totally forgiven. O the blessedness of mourning the sins of the world, and wanting others to know His forgiveness, too.
  3. O the bliss of turning my emotions, my actions, my very being over to God and allowing Him to control those things in me. O the bliss of recognizing my ignorance and weakness, and allow Him to be my knowledge and strength.
  4. O the bliss of being totally, completely filled by God Himself, and understanding that every longing, every need, every hope and dream are perfectly satisfied in Him. O the bliss of being to the point of desperation, empty, barren, and then filled to overflowing by the Presence of my Savior and God.
  5. O the bliss of setting myself aside, and really seeing other people, really getting into their skin, really feeling their emotions, and really being what they need me to be – not what I need to be for them, or what I think they need. O the bliss of putting others above myself for Jesus’ sake.
  6. O the bliss of pure motives, the ability to see God in every situation, in every breath I take. O the bliss of not always seeing the seedy side of things, or getting a chuckle out of the filth that exists in the world, because my eyes are on a holy, pure, and perfect God alone. (Barclay says its the bliss of a clean heart, (p. 105) and reminds me we “see what we are able to see” (p. 107). I can see the filth of things if that is what I’m looking at. I don’t see the filth if I’m looking at God. O the bliss!)
  7. O the bliss of making peace, not by tolerating, condoning, or ignoring sin, but by facing it, calling sin sin, then leading sinners to repentance. O the bliss of making peace between myself and God, and by making peace between my lost friends and family with God through the blood of His Son.
  8. O the bliss of being singled out for being a follower of Jesus. O the bliss of losing a job, a relationship, worldly comforts or freedom for Jesus’ sake. O the bliss of sharing in His suffering if it will lead one soul to the Savior.

You’ve probably heard it said that this portion of Jesus’ important sermon are “attitudes” the we should “BE.” After spending a few hours thinking about these verses, I’m inclined to agree.

Reading these beatitudes challenges me to be the person Jesus died for me to be. And it helps me know that there is a joy that comes from being that person, a joy the world can’t understand or manufacture. O the bliss of knowing Jesus.

 

Matthew 4; The Most Precious Thing

He loved her. He wanted to marry her. They’d been dating for over a year, but he knew she deserved better. She was from a good home, educated, smart, and beautiful. His mom had never married. He’d graduated from high school with marginal grades and, with no money for college, had gotten a job as a welder in a bodyshop in town. He was still a welder in that bodyshop in town.

But today, he’d picked up the diamond he’d been making payments on for several months. He was going to do it.

She took his hand and gave it a squeeze as they slowly walked on the beach at sunset. He knew his hands were sweaty, his heart was in his throat. He stopped, and turned to look deep into her green eyes. Then, he dropped to one knee and pulled the velvet box from his pocket.

“I know people look at us and wonder what you are doing with a guy like me. I’m not rich. I don’t have an impressive career. No one has ever said I’m handsome. But I love you. I’m down here, looking up at you, knowing I have nothing to offer you but myself. But I promise, if you say yes, I will be yours forever. Will you marry me?”

She knelt in front of him and took his face in both her hands. “Don’t you understand? When you give yourself, you are giving me the most precious thing of all. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

______________

On the surface, when you look at the men Jesus called to be his disciples, you’d wonder what he was doing with those guys. They were ordinary men. No impressive pedigrees. Uneducated. But when Jesus called, they dropped everything and followed Him.

They had nothing to offer Jesus but themselves. And Jesus saw that as the most precious thing of all.

God’s not looking for perfect people to follow Him. He’s not interested in bank accounts or public speaking abilities or even Bible knowledge. God wants people who understand that all we have to offer Him is ourselves, broken, sinful, worthless people that we are.

God wants you! He wants me! He wants us to empty ourselves, fall at His feet, and give ourselves with all our imperfections to Him just as we are.

Dear one, in God’s eyes YOU are the most precious thing.