...on vacation! My family and Mitch's family are meeting at the Deckert's cabin on Boedigheimer lake in Ottertail county. It's 6:30 am now this friday morning. If I can get Lucas up going we'll be out of here by 7. Anita has been sick all week so Val and Genna will drive to Cambridge to help her and her family get organized while me and Lucas will get to the cabin well ahead of them and get settled in. Right now it's raining. Weather looks to be unsettled most of the time with temps in the mid-70s. Lot's of great fishing opportunities await!
November 21nd of 2009 Mitch my brother died of a heart attack. So last weekend my family and his family (Anita, Matthew, Aaron, Ryan) went to the St Croix river to spread his ashes on the river, which is what he wanted, and also do some camping way upriver in a very secluded area where Mitch loved to spend much of his time camping and fishing. For the spreading of the ashes, my mom and my brother Kurt met us at the landing before our departure to spread some ashes there. I think for the most part our acute mourning over Mitch is over, although I still have a difficult time knowing that Mitch is no longer with us. I miss him dearly!
Here's Mitch's ashes. It was very dense and kind of reminded me of dry concrete mix!
Here I am spreading Mitch's ashes...
And my brother Kurt...
After that we headed up the river several miles. Aaron was piloting Mitch's boat while towing a rubber raft with some camping gear on it, followed by my boat. That's Valerie looking on. Anita was taking handfuls of ashes and putting 'em in the river all along the way up...
Fishing-wise, it's unpressured up there so it's usually pretty good fishing. This time we didn't catch a single walleye though. We did some shore casting, but spent most of our time anchored up and casting out river rigs with a hunk of crawler on. Here's Lucas with a catfish...
Ryan and smallie...
Lucas and redhorse...
Here's Lucas during our catfish outing at night. He has a fish on here...
And this is what he caught...
Ryan had on a huge smallie. I'm guessing it was at least 20". He battled it for 10 minutes then lost it by the boat! Man o man, was he upset!
Lucas battles one too, though not as big...
Here's a sheephead I caught...
Aaron caught this 20" smallie right in front of out camp working the current seam on a river rig and crawler...
Genna even went out with us. but she was more interested in reading her book. She did manage a couple fish though...
And she broke one of my rods too...
Lucas was very proud of this catfish he caught on shore just below camp. It was delicious!
Now it's time for the Nygren family vacation! Friday morning my family and Mitch's family are meeting at the Deckert's (friends from church) lake cabin in Ottertail county for a whole week of relaxation and fishing, hours and hours and hours of fishing! We will return the following saturday. There are plenty of good lakes around the area and I have researched some of them for walleyes, bass, norhterns, and panfish. Weather looks to be unsettled with rain and thunderstorms possible so we'll have to deal with all that, but still, I'm sure we'll still get in lot's of fishing and good times with family.
It was a beautiful day, Memorial Day was, with sunny skies and low humidity, so me and my family visited the Minnesota Landscape arboretum. I injured my back earlier in the day and it proved to be quite tender while walking around. At the time of injury I wasn't doing anything too strenuous, just turned my torso a certain way while standing and POP! This same thing happens like every year, so it will probably take a week before it completely heals. So anyway,being early in the year yet the arboretum wasn't at peak color by any means, but there was enough color and texture there to make things interesting and did manage to take lots of pictures while I was there...
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
picture of the day
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY BROTHER MITCH
MITCH NYGREN June 3rd 1960-November 21st 2009. I cannot express the degree of pain and loss I am feeling just thinking about you. I am so grateful that the Lord had given you new life in Jesus Christ just eight months before your passing; God truly transformed you into a new creation and you died at peace with your Creator. I love you brother and will see you in glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ!
My name is Casey. I live in the twin cities metro area of Minnesota. I am a former atheist who, by God's sovereign grace, became a Christian in the year 2000. Read my testimony of how I became a christian; just scroll down until you find it. Mine is a life that is changed, and my testimony displays the transforming power of God through the Gospel. I orbit my life around Christ and am grateful for the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. There is but ONE Gospel, and He calls His people to defend the Gospel from false teachers who want to pervert it into another gospel. So serious is preaching a false gospel that the Apostle Paul warned that those who do so are dammned to Hell(Galatians 1:6-9) There are eternal consequences for believing a counterfeit gospel. No matter how sincere you are, if you die trusting in a false gospel you too will be dammned. If you are a visitor to this site who attends The Crossing or any other church you suspect preaches another gospel, stick around. I will expose the counterfeit gospels and provide materials from solid Christian pastors who preach the genuine Gospel. Please, take the time and get the Gospel right.
“WHO IS IT?” You wonder…
PERHAPS you don’t think of yourself as a criminal, but the Bible says otherwise. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) will prove the Truth of your lawlessness. Let’s look at some of the Ten Commandments and see how you do. Have you ever told a lie, even one? Ever stolen anything, irrespective of value? Have you ever taken God’s name in vain, or used it as a curse word? If you have, then you have broken the 9th, 8th, and 4th commandments respectively; by your own admission you are a liar, a thief, and a blasphemer. Keep in mind if you have broken any of those commandments, then you have dishonored your mother and father, thus breaking the 5th commandment. It gets worse. Have you ever murdered anyone? If not, that’s good. But have you ever called anyone an idiot, a moron, a jerk, or something worse? Jesus said if you are angry at a person without just cause, then you are a murderer at heart; that’s because God not only demands absolute perfection in everything you do, but He also demands a perfect thought life (Matthew 5:21-22). If you are a murderer at heart, then you have broken the 6th commandment. Have you committed adultery? If not, that’s good. But have you ever looked at someone other than your spouse with lust? Jesus said if you have looked with lust, then you are an adulterer at heart, and a breaker of the 7th commandment (Matthew 5:27-27). Have you ever desired that which belongs to someone else? If you have, then you have coveted, and broken the 10th commandment. [Notice the last three commandments prohibit impure thoughts, motives, desires, and attitudes.] Now add murder, adultery, and coveting to your list of crimes. I’m not done yet. The Bible says you are supposed to love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Have you loved God, the Biblical God, absolutely perfectly at all times, without exception? Or, have you loved other things more than God…yourself, family, money, a career, sex, various activities and material possessions? If you have broken the 1st commandment, then you are an idolater, because you have loved other things more than the God who has given you life and everything that is precious to you. If you are honest, you will see that you are indeed a lawbreaker; you are a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, a coveter, a murderer and adulterer at heart, and an idolater. Friend, maybe you have always thought of yourself a good person, but I think you will agree that good people don’t break the law (Romans 3:20, Romans 3:23, Romans 7:7).
THE BAD NEWS-This is some very bad news for you, because if you have broken the law, then one day you will have to face the Almighty Law Giver. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible describes God as, “a just Judge” (Psalm 7:11a), and that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 89:14a). That means God will not give you any special consideration on Judgment Day. None (Romans 2:11). Nor will He miss a single detail of your life; every word, every thought, every motive, every desire, every neglect of duty, and every action will be thoroughly examined by the perfect Judge (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Will you be innocent or guilty on that day? If you are judged by the Ten Commandments which is God’s absolute standard of goodness, then I have no doubt you will be found guilty. Any plea of “innocent” will only ring hollow under the flawless examination of an omniscient God (Romans 19-20). If you are found guilty of breaking God’s laws, then you will go to a place of punishment. Hell (1Corinthians 6:9-10). “Surely God wouldn’t send me to Hell.” If that is your line of thinking, then you have broken the 2nd commandment, which prohibits making up a god to suit yourself. Idolatry. Of course your god wouldn’t send you to Hell, because your god doesn’t exist; you fabricated a god that you are comfortable with. “Well, I don’t believe the Bible!” Keep in mind that just because a person doesn’t believe something, that doesn’t mean that it’s not true. You can “not” believe the Bible, and still end up in Hell. The Bible warns that even unbelief is a sin (Revelation 21:8).
“BUT…” If you think God is going to pardon you because He is a loving God, and a good God, think again. The purpose of court is to present evidence for determining innocence or guilt; love is never a factor in the courtroom. For example, let’s say a man is guilty of rape and murder, and his father is the judge. Should the judge set his son free simply because he is a loving father? Maybe that judge does love his son dearly, but he is also sworn to uphold justice and punish criminals according to the crimes committed, so he must punish his son. God will not ignore your lawlessness. In fact, because He is a good God, He must punish all liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, fornicators, idolaters, and blasphemers, etc. Saying “I’m sorry” won’t help either, even if you really mean it, and here’s why. If anyone stands before a judge for breaking ten traffic laws, that person will still get penalized, even if they express sorrow and remorse at their crimes. Convicted criminals should feel sorrow and remorse; after all, they have broken the law. But a just judge would never let a convicted criminal go free. A penalty must be paid. “But what about all of the “good” things I have done, won’t God consider that?” No. Here’s why. You are back in traffic court, guilty of breaking ten traffic laws, and you tell the judge, “But I have been driving that same stretch of road for twenty years, and have always obeyed the laws before.” Try that in court, it won’t work, and you know it.
YOUR CONSCIENCE-Whether you admit it or not, you know right from wrong, that is, you have a conscience. You see, your “sins” are not just casual little mistakes done in ignorance. You know you have done wrong things because your conscience tells you so. You may try to suppress your conscience, but you cannot get rid of it; try it, it doesn’t work. You also have a sense of justice, that sense inside that any crime committed must be punished. You see, your “conscience” and your “sense of justice” were put in place by the God who created you (Romans 2:14-15). Deep in your heart you know that all crimes must be punished because justice demands it. And you know that you are guilty of breaking God’s laws.
REBELLION-Ultimately, your sins point to the stark reality of your defiance of God’s authority (1John 3:4). That means rebellion. There is a very bad relationship between you and God. The Bible says, “If you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you.” (1Samuel 12:15) And, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11b). In other words, you are an enemy of God. Why? Because each sin you commit is an act of cosmic treason against the Creator and Ruler of the universe. Each time you willfully do something wrong you are essentially saying to God, “I don’t care about your laws, I choose to ignore the conscience you have given me, I will do exactly what I want to do.” Many people think God is going to open up the pearly gates of Heaven and allow criminals into His home. But do you really think God wants Heaven filled with rebels who have the attitude that they can trample His laws and live as they please? That would be foolish for God to do that! Let me ask this: Would you ever open your own home to a scoundrel who has no respect for you and your house rules? So, if you are hostile toward God and His authority, the why should He open His home to you? God would never allow sin into Heaven because sin is a moral pollution; you would have a corrupting and defiling influence on everyone and everything that is pure and holy. If you are God’s enemy, then He will not allow you into Heaven (Revelation 21:27). Hell is what you deserve.
HELL-The Bible describes Hell as a place of unimaginable torment. Jesus called Hell a place of “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41), and a “furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:42). Jesus described Hell as a place of “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). He said it is better for you to rip out your own eye or cut off your own hand than for you whole body to be cast into Hell (Matthew 5:29-30). Other places in the Bible describe Hell as a place of “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2Thessalonians 1:8-9), “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), and a “lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 14:10).
JUSTICE-If you are doomed to Hell for your crimes, you will receive the perfect amount of justice from the perfect Judge. Not too little, not too much, but just right. But if I were you I wouldn’t take any comfort in that fact. Hell is a frightening place, and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. Please, think about this, will you? Every good thing that you experience in this life and all that is precious to you comes from the power and wisdom of God. But those things don’t exist in the “outer darkness” of Hell. Every blessing from God you take for granted in this life (e.g. the beauty and grandeur of nature, a breath of fresh air, the touch of another human being, the food that you eat) will be stripped away from you. Your eternal address will be a place where the grace of God is completely absent. You will stumble around in darkness and intense, non-stop pain and suffering. And after you have been in Hell for ten billion years, you will be no closer to the end of your punishment than the day you arrived. The primary torment in Hell will be rendered by your conscience, which will turn on you with a vengeance. Your conscience will never be silent in Hell. It will relentlessly gnaw upon your indestructible soul, forever reminding you that you alone are responsible for the agonies you suffer. As pastor John Macarthur puts it so succinctly, you will suffer from, “an accusing conscience fed by undying memories of lost opportunities and permanent, irreversible separation from God and everything good”. All these things about Hell are too horrible to imagine, yet the Bible is clear that Hell is a real place. Friend, if you have broken God’s laws, then Hell is exactly what you deserve, and that is some very bad news!
SPITITUAL REALITY CHECK-I want to be very clear about the dire situation that you are in, whether you believe it or not...
*God is Holy and demands absolute moral perfection from creatures made in His image, without the tiniest exception. (Matthew 5:48)
*You, I, and everyone else have failed to meet God’s standard of absolute moral perfection. ((Romans 3:23)
*Because God is Holy and just, He must punish all sin. (Romans 3:21-26)
THE GOOD NEWS-If you would like to know what God has done so you don’t have to go to Hell, please read on! He has graciously provided a way for you to be forgiven. Remember, God must punish your sins because He is a God of perfect justice. That’s where Jesus Christ enters the picture of redemption. The Bible teaches that God is three “Persons” (Matthew 3:16-17), and these three Persons are fully God (Many Bible verses combine to prove the deity of each Person in the “Godhead”), yet there is only one God (Isaiah 44:6). God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This “trinity” is not a contradiction; it breaks no rules of logic. Jesus Christ is the second Person that is God. Many years ago God spoke through special people called “prophets”. These prophets made predictions concerning a “Messiah” who would enter into the world to save sinners. Jesus was the Messiah of whom the prophets spoke (John 1:45). Every single prophesy about the Messiah came true in the Person of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago Jesus, the “Son”, took the form of a human being (John 1:14) and was born of a virgin (Luke 1:26-28). Jesus was sent on a mission in perfect submission to His Father’s will. His mission was basically two parts. The first part was to live a perfect, sinless life and fulfill all requirements of the law (Matthew 3:13-15).
CHRIST:THE SUBSTITUTE-The second part of Jesus’ mission was to die (Philippians 2:5-8); His death on the cross was all part of God’s amazing plan to forgive sinners. You see, Jesus’ took upon Himself the punishment that sinners rightfully deserve; this satisfied God’s legal requirement for sin, and also satisfied God’s wrath against sin. Jesus’ death was no ordinary death: it was a supernatural event (Mark 15:33). It was bad enough that Jesus, the most perfect and beautiful Being ever, was falsely accused of blasphemy, beaten, kicked, whipped, spat upon, mocked, and then nailed to a cross. But what happened to Jesus on that cross was much, much worse. Jesus paid the sin debt of every person who would ever believe in the history of the world. On the cross all of that sin was transferred to the “account” of Jesus Christ (2Corinthians 5:21a). Then, through a supernatural act of God that we cannot begin to fathom, the Father treated His Son as if He were the most wicked, ugly, vile, obscene, loathsome, and corrupt creature on the face of the earth (Galatians 3:13). And Jesus, the sinless, spotless Son of God experienced all of it! Just think about it. In some supernaturally compressed time frame or supernaturally amplified degree of pain and torment, Jesus transcended the space-time boundary of the universe and experienced the separation from God and the outpouring of divine wrath that criminals like you and I would experience in Hell. When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) He was absorbing the full measure of God’s justice against sin. Wow! Jesus then died on the cross because, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
THE CROSS-The cross is the most important event in human history, for without it, there would be no hope for any sinner. Please reflect upon this incredible historical event…
*Jesus’ death on the cross was simultaneously the most heinous and barbaric act of human injustice, and the greatest demonstration of love that the world will ever know.
*The cross demonstrates the shocking truth of how sinners hate God and despise His authority, and God’s mercy toward sinners who deserve nothing less than Hell.
*The cross is God’s perfect answer to man’s sin problem because it provides redemption for sinners without violating His righteousness and justice; it demonstrates that God is both supremely just and supremely gracious.
*The cross demonstrates the intensity of God’s wrath against sin, and the great love of God in paying such a high price for our redemption.
HE IS RISEN-Although Jesus died and was put in a tomb, He didn’t stay there: He is risen! Three days after Jesus’ death, He rose from the dead (1Corinthians 15:3-4). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical fact. In the Bible there were many eyewitnesses that attested to the post-resurrection appearances of Christ (1Corinthians 15:5-8). The apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ dearest friends, was a witness to the many miracles Jesus did, including His resurrection. He said, “And we are witnesses of all things He did in both the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed himself openly, not to all people, but to witnesses chosen by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:39-41) Jesus Christ faithfully fulfilled His Father’s mission (Hebrews 12:2) and has since ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
REPENTANCE-I have told you what God has done so you can be forgiven. But now there is something you must do to receive that forgiveness. You must repent (Acts 17:30), and you must respond to God’s offer of salvation in faith (Romans 1:17). Repentance means starting to live a new life. You must recognize that you are guilty before Almighty God, a wicked, rebellious, Hell-bound sinner. Acknowledge that forgiveness is possible only through Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to rescue sinners from Hell (Acts 4:12). You must hate sin with all your heart because it offends the Lord, and you must hunger and thirst for righteousness. Meet God in prayer, confess everything to Him, and ask Him to forgive you. Don’t put this off another moment: humble yourself sinner! (James 4:6-10)
FAITH-After you have done that, turn toward God in faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). What is faith? Faith is one’s response to the gospel message with a commitment to submit to the supreme authority of Jesus Christ and follow His teachings found only in the Bible. Christian faith itself does not save you, but it is the channel by which Christians obtain the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Here’s an analogy. Think of a locomotive engine that is pulling railroad cars behind it. Now think of Christ as the locomotive engine, and all the cars behind it are “followers of Jesus Christ”. Faith is like the coupling that connects all the railroad cars to the engine. The coupling itself does nothing to pull the railroad cars-the engine does all the work. But the coupling is absolutely critical in order that the railroad cars receive the benefit of the engine. The railroad cars receive the benefit of the locomotive engine by virtue of the coupling, and all true Christians receive the benefit of Christ sacrifice on the cross through faith.
MORE GOOD NEWS-“But what if I still sin as a Christian? Can I lose my salvation?” Thankfully, the answer is no (Romans 8:38-39). Each Christian is covered by a foreign righteousness that is not their own; when a sinner repents and puts their trust in Christ, they are “declared” righteous, not “made” righteous. Remember that Jesus’ mission was two parts. The first part of His mission was to live a perfect, sinless life and fulfill the requirements of the law. There is a reason for that. The righteousness that “accrued” during His life and ministry here on earth is transferred to the “account” of the sinner the moment they repent and put their trust in Christ (2Corinthians 5:21b). Think of a Christian as a pile of dung covered by pure white snow. If you are a follower of Christ who falls into sin, God can legally overlook your sin because you are covered by the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 1:18). Conversely, if you are not covered by the pure white snow of Christ’s righteousness through repentance and faith, then you are still filthy, and cannot be in God’s Holy presence.
NO BOASTING ALLOWED-Ultimately, a Christian contributes nothing to their salvation; they are rescued solely by the meritorious work of Christ on the cross. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Thankfully, God has blessed each true Christian with an enduring faith that will never fail, even under the most challenging circumstances. The Holy Spirit, the third Person that is God, through the power of God’s Holy Bible, will faithfully teach you, strengthen you, and preserve your faith (John 14:15-17). Yes, even your faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:1).
BEARING FRUIT-If you repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ, you will exhibit genuine Christian character. Pray unceasingly to your Lord, with reverence and adoration. Demonstrate selfless love in your life. Separate yourself from that which is offensive to God. When you stumble, confess your sins to God and ask for His forgiveness. Bring the gospel message of salvation to unsaved family, friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers. Pledge your undying allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. Be obedient, submit to Him, and live a life that will honor Him. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life, and serves to authenticate genuine saving faith. Understand this doesn’t all happen overnight; it takes time, but God is patient. The point is to grow over time…grow in your relationship with Christ (John 15:14), grow in holiness (1Peter 1:15-16), grow in knowledge of the Word (2Timothy3:16-17), be fruitful (Galatians 5:22-23), and become more “Christ-like” (Romans 8:29). Trust that God will clean you up and give you a new heart with new affections that are focused on Him and His purpose in your life. If you don’t have a Bible, get one and start reading it (Psalm 51 is a good place to start). Find a solid, Bible-believing, church home under the loving care of capable leaders, where you can fellowship with other Christians (be very careful here! Contact me if you need help finding a church home).
A CHILD OF GOD-When you entrust yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, God not only pardons you from the everlasting torments of Hell, but you become a blessed part of His special family. The apostle John wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1John 3:1). Jesus said, “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). After you die, God promises He will remove every stain of sin from you (Romans 8:30), and you will be fit to enter your new home: Heaven. In Heaven all pain, anxiety, and suffering will be eradicated, and you will experience supreme joy and peace. “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3b-4).
THE ROAD AHEAD-I wish I could tell you that your life as a Christian will be easy, but it is not. Your decision to follow Christ could certainly destabilize and destroy precious relationships (Luke 12:51-53). When you tell your unsaved loved ones that you are a Christian, they may look upon you suspiciously, ridicule you, and persecute you for your faith in Christ (Matthew 5:10-12). You will encounter countless trials and temptations that will test your faith (1Peter 1:6-9). You will mourn over your intense desire to sin (Romans 7:19-20), and when you do fall into sin you will cry out in anguish (Romans 7:24-25). You will deeply hunger for that moment when you will be thoroughly cleansed of your corrupt sin nature, glorified in Heaven, united with the One who died for your sins (Philippians 1:21).
TIME TO ACT-If you have finished reading this tract, then congratulations are in order. But now comes the tough part. Will you receive God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ, or will you say, “No thanks”? If you walk away unmoved by the gospel message presented here, your hard heart will only harden more, and it will be worse for you on Judgment Day (Matthew 11:20-24). The Bible says this about those who refuse to repent, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5-6a). In other words, each day you resist God’s Truth is like adding another log to the fire of Hell that will make it burn all the hotter. Repent, and do not delay. Your death is certain, but your life is not. God holds your life in His hand, and it is His patience and mercy that stays His sword of justice from falling upon you. Please, make today the day of your salvation.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU-I would encourage you to get a Bible in the New King James version, New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, or the English Standard Bible, and study the passages I put in parenthesis. If you are curious and want to further explorer the Truth claims of the Bible, or if you have any questions, comments, or if you need help, please contact me, Casey at 952-237-3358
MY CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY By Casey Nygren
Christian testimony of Casey Nygren 6/13/06
By God’s grace and mercy I am forty seven years old. I grew up in a non-Christian home in Lino Lakes, Mn. I had three brothers and a sister. Collette, Mark, Kurt, Mitch, and me. My dad died of lung cancer when I was only six years old. That left my mom to raise us kids. My sister Collette who was a Christian, died in the late eighties of lung cancer, she was 40 years old. Mitch died just last November of a heart attack at the age of 49. He became a Christian just 10 months prior to his death.
As a young teen, I had heard the Christian message from Collette, but was repulsed by the gospel message and all thoughts of God. Soon, I outright rejected any notion of a God. I came to believe that the universe and all life was without purpose or design, but rather completely random and accidental. This view on ultimate reality drove me to the brink of despair, because if the universe is some sort of cosmic accident, then I am nothing but a cosmic accident, the product of a fortuitous arrangement of atoms. And when I finally died, I would cease to exist, and my atoms would scatter throughout a universe that was destined to become cold and lifeless. Yet I always wondered, “Why is there something, rather than nothing?”
I can remember my intense desire to disobey and do wrong, even at a very early age. I started smoking cigarettes at seven years of age, drinking at about ten, smoking dope at twelve; speed, PCP, LSD, cocaine, and anything else soon after. Drugs soon turned me into a living vegetable, and at times I was not even able to hold a conversation with anyone. My lifestyle left me ignorant about many basics of life. I was unable to relate to people in a coherent manner and was outwardly anxious and bizarre. Even with the very few friends I had I felt alienated and alone. I always wanted to attract attention to myself, so I would act, talk, and dress in ways that would get the attention I hungered for. I lied to my mom and everyone else in authority in order to cover up my evil deeds. Growing up and into my twenties and well into my thirties I had practiced much wickedness including stealing, vandalism, drunken rages, insane behavior, unspeakable profanity and cursing, fits of rage and hostility, premarital sex, pornography, and violent fantasies, including thoughts of murder and serial killings. Dwelling in my wicked heart was a palpable, malignant potential for some great unspeakable evil. I was a powder keg ready to explode, and I thought that one day I might “go out with a bang”. In the mid-eighties I lived in Texas for two years where my life spiraled out of control even more. At one point I ended up in jail for aggravated assault on a police officer. I came home to Minnesota because I felt that if I were to stay down there much longer, I would die.
Six months after my return from Texas I entered outpatient treatment and quit doing drugs and alcohol. Even though I quit drinking and drugs, my thought life and behaviors were still filthy and depraved. I was filled with guilt and shame for all the wicked things I had done, and for all the evil thoughts and intentions that still dwelled in my heart. I hated myself and life in general, yet was depressed and anxious that I was going to some day die. Some time after I got married to Valerie in 1995, I had thoughts of committing adultery. I hated myself all the more because I knew there was something morally “wrong” with me. I was so miserable and so depressed I had contemplated suicide to escape the pain of everyday life. Throughout my twenties to my mid-late thirties, I was paralyzed by the meaninglessness and futility of life. Day in and day out, I would wonder if that day would be the day of my death. The only thing I anticipated, it seemed, was death. It would come. The only thing I didn’t know was when, where, and how….
After sobering up in the mid-eighties, I began to have this interest in the universe. The more I delved into the realities of the universe, the more intricate and precise I knew everything had to be for life to exist. The myriad of contingencies that must fall into place for me to be alive and contemplating philosophically was mind boggling. Hardly a day went by without pondering the amazing universe and life on a small speck of dust called Earth. Six months before I became a Christian, it got to the point that I began to wonder if there really was a God. It just seemed impossible for things to get the so advanced by sheer accident. My whole life, I hated any thought of God. I detested hearing the name “Jesus Christ” or any talk of the Bible by stupid “born-again” Christians.
But the more I thought about it, the more things didn’t make sense from my Naturalistic worldview. The Big Bang beginning of the universe was especially perplexing to me. It started as an infinitesimal point then exploded. I often pondered this infinitely small point just sitting there and then going off. Why? What caused it to explode? Inside the voice of reason kept telling me that something must have caused it to explode. Ex nihilo nihil fit is a Latin phrase that means, “Out of nothing, nothing comes”. It means if there was ever a “time” (even time is something), when there was nothing, absolutely nothing, there would be nothing now. You can’t get “something” out of “nothing”. Impossible! My nagging suspicion was that something must have always been.
In the fall of 1999 I remember Mark (my Christian brother) giving me an essay he wrote titled, “Is There a God”. It was a rather lengthy essay dealing with classical ontological and cosmological arguments for the existence of the Christian God. In light of the struggles I had been having lately on this very issue, I discovered the essay to be very interesting and helpful in sorting things out. It was a rational approach to the question of the existence of God that required no scientific evidence. All one had to affirm was the fact that there was something rather than nothing (I exist) and proceed with a line of reasoning from there. At the end of the argument portion of the essay was the “Concluding Exhortation”. This was a very thorough presentation of the Christian Gospel message. Needless to say, when I read through this, I was totally sickened. All this talk about Jesus made me cringe! But I did find the argument part so convincing that I thought that by necessity there must be a God.
At the 1999 Nygren Thanksgiving, I told Mark I had read his essay and found it very intriguing. He could tell I was curious about Christianity. Mark responded by buying a few books for me and later gave them to me. One book that I found absolutely amazing was, “Creator and the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross. Dr. Ross is an “Old-Earth” creationist, whose view I found very credible; he believes the universe is several billion years old.
Anyway, that book deals specifically with scientific evidence that supports the God of the Bible. It has many Bible verses that support his thesis that the God who created the universe is the God described in the Bible. I found the chapters on the Big Bang theory especially fascinating. I read that book a couple times and found it more and more difficult to refute the Bible as a special revelation from God to His creatures. It was strange: up until that point in my life, Christianity was absolutely nauseating to me, but now I was drawn to it. I had to find out more.
So now I was curious about the Bible. I had tried to read the Bible before, but gave up. I didn’t know much about it at all. I didn’t know anything about Jesus, except that He was the “Son Of God”. How could God have a Son? And why did Jesus die on a cross? I always thought Christianity was weird, and morbid…I was very confused. I thought the Bible was full of myths and contradictions, and could not be trusted to convey any information faithfully. Soon I found myself in a Christian bookstore where I found a book titled, Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Parts I & II”, by a Christian apologist named Josh McDowell. This dealt specifically with the credibility and trustworthiness of the Bible. I read through some of that, and I was further amazed at the Bible, and how it seemed there was something special and supernatural about it. After sifting through different reading materials and doing a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusion that the Bible must be the very Word of God. I just didn’t understand anything about Jesus. Who was this mysterious Jesus? I didn’t know, but whoever Jesus was, He was a real, historical Person.
So I went back to the bookstore again, and found another book by Hugh Ross titled, “Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God”. Using Bible verses and the latest scientific findings, this book describes God as a Being who exists outside the boundaries of the time/space manifold of the universe. According to the book God creates dimensions of space and time, and is not subject to His created order. This book attempts to explain some difficult concepts in the realm of Christian theology. For example, how can God listen to and answer millions of prayers at the same time? How can God be a Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How can God know what will happen in the future? These questions can be answered when one understands that God is “extra-dimensional”.
There was one chapter in that book titled, “The Incarnation and the Atonement”. It was after reading this chapter that I finally understood the heart of the Gospel message. Like a blind man receiving sight for the first time it finally dawned on me that Jesus was God. Jesus was the eternal, self-existent Creator of the magnificent, mind-boggling universe. Jesus was one of the three Persons who are one God. Jesus condescended from His glory and took the form of a Man. That fact alone totally blew me away. Jesus came for one purpose in obedience to His Father…to fulfill the Law and then die on the cross for sinners. I had wondered how that worked. I have always heard, “Jesus died for your sins”, but what exactly did that mean? Many people died on a cross at that time in history. How could His death on a cross take away sin?
Well, after reading that chapter I finally knew the answer to that question. Jesus death was some sort of supernatural event. Sure, Jesus was mocked, beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross, and I am sure it was horrible and painful. But on the cross Jesus became a substitute who took the punishment for sinners. In some sort of compressed time frame or amplified degree of pain and suffering, Jesus experienced what every sinner deserves-the wrath of God against sin and separation from God. In other words, what might seem like a second for us here on earth might have seemed a lot longer for Jesus on the cross. Or, what might seem like the most agonizing pain and suffering one could fathom here on earth would seem like a bad case of hiccups when compared to the full blown wrath of God against sin that Jesus experienced. On the cross the Father treated His Son as if He were a sinner, yet He was without sin. Then Jesus died on the cross and three days later Jesus rose from the dead.
Once I understood the Truth of the cross, I was completely stunned. I knew that God was perfect and righteous, that He was a God of perfect justice. He cannot let lawbreakers go unpunished otherwise he would be unjust. So in order for God to demonstrate His mercy toward sinners who deserve Hell, someone had to take the punishment. Jesus Christ. It all started to make sense now. And when I looked back over my evil and lawless life, I knew I deserved nothing but Hell forever because I had done so many horrible things against a Holy and just God. It was shocking to discover that all my life I hated and despised the most perfect Being ever. My heart was absolutely corrupt beyond measure. Why would Jesus, the Creator and sustainer of the universe suffer and die for me? I was so ugly and vile, and so undeserving of any good thing.
I hated the idea of becoming a Christian…I really did, yet that idea kept creeping into my thoughts no matter how hard I tried to suppress it. As a Christian I would be mocked and hated for my association with Jesus. If fact, it was unbearable right then to even utter His name. Worse, I would have to relinquish my autonomy and become a submissive sheep. Yet, I felt the omniscient eyes of a Holy God bearing down upon me, and I knew I would be consumed by His fierce wrath forever if I didn’t become a Christian. After agonizing over this for a couple days, I finally surrendered my life to God. My eyes welled up with tears and I had a lump in my throat. I prayed, confessed my sins to God, and asked for His forgiveness. This act went against the very grain of my wicked, selfish, prideful, autonomous, and self-exalting nature. God had His way with me, and that was traumatic and humbling to the extreme. When it was over, I was “born-again”. This freaked me out a bit, to say the least! I didn’t understand much about Christianity, far from it. But I knew that Christianity was true, and that Jesus was the only way I could ever be saved from the torments of Hell for all eternity.
Everything changed from that moment forward. First of all, the weight of guilt and shame that had accumulated over my life of evil thoughts and deeds had vanished. I mean gone! I felt liberated. I was filled with joy and peace, because there was a God who saved me by taking the punishment for me. There was no longer any fear of death…God would preserve me beyond the grave. And as a Christian I actually cared about right and wrong. Whereas I used to love sin and wickedness with all my heart and took great pleasure in evil, now it was my nature to hate sin and love righteousness. As a new Christian it was painful to confess Christ to my unbelieving family, as I was one who formerly scorned and ridiculed Christians, yet that is what God compelled me to do. God was having His way with me and there was nothing I could do about it.
As of January 2010 I had been a Christian for 10 years. I cannot express in words what I have come to know about God’s holiness, justice, love, and mercy. Every day I must go to the cross because my thoughts, words, and deeds are corrupt and wayward; I have vast deposits of selfishness, hatred, anger, coveting, envy, lust, pride, idolatry, and the list goes on. But my Father in Heaven continually supplies me with His gifts of faith, sanctification, and perseverance, the greatest gift being God Himself. The contrast between the “old” Casey and the “new” is a testament of the reality of the Christian God who unilaterally rescues sinners. Undeserving as I am, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Thank you Jesus!
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.