boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Christians and Civil Disobedience

Can you imagine the anger?

Acts 5:29-32 – Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles tell the Sanhedrin that they have to obey God rather than man. The Sanhedrin believed they were appointed by God Himself to bring about God’s will on this planet.

Later in the Bible, however, Peter tells us that we are to submit ourselves to every earthly power.

1 Peter 2:13-14 –  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

Where is the balance?

Both statements were made by Peter.

It is very easy for someone to look at Peter and say that he is simply switching his view. I mean, here is the man who told Jesus he would not betray Him ever and then turned around and betrayed Him three times in one night.

But I don’t believe Peter is simply flip flopping here.

Both statements have been cause for great problems along the timeline of history. If taken out of context, Christianity can turn into an extremist religion blowing people up for a cause or it can turn into a Sanhedrin-like party that favors politics over Christ and believes that the two are interchangeable.

Neither translation can be helpful to the cause of Christ.

There has got to be a middle ground that maintains the identity of Christian, providing an uncomfortableness to the world around us without blatantly disobeying every authority that comes our way while not turning Christ into the next GOP candidate.

There are 2 very simple litmus tests to determine if your civil disobedience is Christ-honoring.

  • Is it Scripturally-based?

How many times have you “felt” like you were being oppressed? An African-American man is shot by a police officer or a homosexual is told they have to use the bathroom of their birth-gender or a Christian is told they must provide a wedding cake to a gay couple getting married. In all those cases, we find people who are standing up against the status quo in order to make their cases known. You feel angry, upset, sad, or hatred.

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

But if we look deeper, could there be more to the feeling?

What does Scripture say about it? We know what the laws and the constitution of the United States says about everything a person does or does not do in America. But what would Jesus have to say about it? What situations can you pull from Scripture to defend your feeling?

If you are simply angry because another Christian seemed to get the raw end of a deal because they wouldn’t make a wedding cake and you saw the entire story on Facebook, then you are missing the point of having Scripture.

Scripture is given to us, in this case, to determine if our feelings are justified.

The apostles were not following their feelings. They were following direct orders from Christ Himself.

  • Can you carry out your civil disobedience with humility?

If you are acting out in civil disobedience and expect the government to turn a blind eye to it, then you are following a spirit of entitlement, not the Holy Spirit. The apostles disobeyed many of the leaders of their day but fully expected to be punished for it. Many were jailed, beaten and even killed for their disobedience.

Romans 12:3 – For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Are you prepared to do the same?

Or do you simply want to be heard and have repercussions?

Whenever you see someone in Scripture disobeying the government for the higher power of Christ, you always see them do it without anger or violence or bitterness. They do so in humility to the One who is owed all glory.

So how about you?

What are you fighting against in this day and age?

Could it be liberals? How about Republicans? The church? The anti-church? TV, movies, video games, fashion, attitudes, laws, rules, authority?

Test yourself before you start trying to enrage others with you to determine if it really is Christ-honoring.

Thankful Heart

I was listening to Petra on the way to work today and their song “Thankful Heart” came on. Now keep in mind, as I am driving, I am dreading going to work. I’m not feeling too thankful to be heading into work.

Let me just tell you, conviction is painful.

Acts 8:23 – For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.

A few months ago I sold my company and went to work for the people who purchased it. I went to work for them under the auspices of helping them get off the ground. As an award-winning recruiter and business development manager, I thought it would be great to help.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening. I was told flat out that I didn’t know what I was doing. The new owner brought on a new partner to help him propel forward because he believed I hadn’t been doing well (even though I have already booked more than my targets). The amount of lies and four-letter language and downright verbal abuse from the partners has been difficult to stomach, especially on the rest of the team, some of which came from my former business.

It has led to cynicism breeding in my heart.

As the older and wiser one of the group of recruiters, I find myself doing what I can to be an example, but then I find it easy to slip into cynicism and speak poorly of the partners.

Thankful is not what I am for this opportunity.

So as I was driving to work today, this song comes on and I find myself singing it.

After it finished, I felt like such a hypocrite.

I wasn’t thankful. I didn’t have a thankful heart.

I was vindictive and had a bitter heart.

Ephesians 4:31 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

And then it gets even more convicting.

I speak to a person today who’s restaurant had closed down and he was out of work. He is young and his wife is about to have a baby in 3 weeks. He was laid off a few weeks ago.

In desperation, he calls me back and gives me his story.

Almost to the point of tears, he explains that he can’t afford to have a child right now. They have very little income and no one seems to want to hire him.

I started to think about my situation.

Yes, this employment is not ideal, but it is employment.

Then, as he is talking, the conviction digs deeper.

I learn he is a bivocational youth pastor.

And then he says those words that cut deep to my core, “I know that this is just a season, and I am thankful for the experiences I have had in the past so I just trust that God has led me to you to help me find that next opportunity.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ouch.

That hurt.

Here I am making a decent living and, yes, the people are flat out evil, but I am able to pay the bills and even save some money. All this while others out there are starting a family and have been laid off with no other opportunities for work or money to come in.

So now I sit in my more than comfortable home after eating a very filling meal. I am watching too many channels on the television while I write this post on a newer model laptop. I am laying in a comfortable bed which I am able to change the sheets on regularly, under a ceiling fan while the air conditioner runs. I have a lot of fun things planned for the weekend and am able to spend a great deal of time with my family.

I am cynical and bitter.

Meanwhile the person who called me said he wouldn’t be doing anything this weekend, hoping to even have enough to buy food for his family.

Yet he is thankful.

I pray to God that I will view my circumstance for what it is, a blessing.

Is it easy?

No.

Are the people decent and able to get along with others?

No.

But I am blessed.

And thankful.

And realize my hypocrisy and evil tendencies in myself.

Next week is another week. And it is for you too.

Are you bitter and cynical? Are you feeling like you are trapped in a dead end with no way out, yet are able to make ends meet? Are you allowing your first world problems to take control of your life?

Then listen to the wisdom I have learned and be thankful.

Look for the blessings in your life, not the negatives.

Celebrate those.

Meditate on them.

Allow God to do what He does best, convict those who are doing wrong, and you simply do what God wants us to do, be thankful for the grace we are given.

Psalm 106:1 – Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Award-Winning Nobody

It is amazing how pride works.

Humans love to have their ego stoked.

Why do you think Facebook is so popular? People love to have the spotlight on themselves, even if they say they don’t.

But, as the saying goes, being popular on Facebook is like being rich with Monopoly money.

The same can be said for being popular in real life or even at the top of your game.

It can all go away in an instant with a single choice or action.

Just look at all of the celebrities who have fallen from the limelight. Brett Butler, Ed McMahon, Burt Reynolds, and many others going from riches to rags. How about politicians? Political leaders such as Anthony Weiner, Gary Hart, Jack Abramoff, the “Keating Five,” or Jim Traficant, to name a few, were all removed from their positions.

Pastors and people in the ministry have to be immune, right?

Nope.

The first big American religious scandal to bring about a downfall happened to Aimee Semple McPherson. Others included Mark Driscoll, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker, Henry Lyons, Peter Popoff, Thomas Wesley Weeks Jr., Ted Haggard, and Bob Coy.

A single decision can destroy a person’s credibility.

The same can happen to any of us.

I remember when I worked for Whole Foods Market and received an award. I was on top of my game. My team had shown significant increases in sales and profits. Unfortunately, through a simple, yet subtle, shift in becoming prideful, my numbers went down the following year.

Pride causes a lot of problems.

Anyone anywhere can be at the top and lose it when their pride takes over.

But pride is so easy to fall victim to.

So how do we biblically fight the sin of pride?

  • Get a right view of God.

Job 25:4-6 – How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!”

God is both superior to us and has supreme authority over us. When our view of God is incorrect, we don’t give Him the reverence He is due. Pride comes from putting ourselves above God. Start by focusing on just how great God is. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you more and more.

Isaiah 29:16 – You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

  • Change your beliefs

1 Corinthians 4:7 – For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

God wants us to be an example of His love to others. When we are prideful, we find that our pride gets in the way of showing love. Think of some of the following questions:

  1. Do you believe you are better than everyone else?
  2. Do you think the world cannot be as good without you?
  3. Do you think that what you do or your role entitle you to special favors?

Romans 12:3 – For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

If you believe any of those questions pertain to you then you are self-serving. Having an identity in Christ is to be filled with self-denial, not self-appreciation. Scripture needs to be our guide to show us our views of ourselves.

Proverbs 25:27 – It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.

  • Repent

Pride is one of the hardest sins to repent of. Our pride will not allow us to see the need to do it. If you are ready to repent of it, then determine the type of pride you have (self-exaltation, self-proclamation, self-justification, etc…). Once you have determined the type of pride it is, pray specifically for forgiveness.

  • Defend against the enemy

After repenting, it is very easy to fall back into pride. It is even possible to become proud of your humility. This world will do everything it can to drag you back into the pit of pride. The world believes that pride is a good thing. Ask God to transform your thoughts so that you take a right view on humility.

As a human, our flesh craves the feelings we get when we seek attention from others. We need to constantly be reminded that our sinful nature is dead. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to provide us a view on God that would be aligned with what God deserves.

Put on the whole armor of God. The only way to be prepared for pitfalls of pride is to be ready for them. Ephesians 6:14 tells us to put on the belt of truth. This belt should remind us that God is the only on deserving of honor, not us.

Spiritual warfare will never end so be prepared. God is more powerful than any spiritual attacks we will ever go through. So ask the Holy Spirit to provide you the power to rebuff the attacks and place your armor on every day.

  • Flee temptation

It is going to be impossible for all the temptation to go away completely but it is possible to significantly reduce them. It is going to take specific steps:

  1. Focus on your relationship with God. Strengthen your devotional life. Prayer and meditation is extremely important. Focus on giving God glory and humble yourself before Him.
  2. Claim God’s promises. Go through Scripture and look for pride and humility and the truth that the Word has about them. Memorize the verses. When temptation come, repeat these verses to yourself. Here are a couple to start:

Matthew 18:4 – Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

1 Peter 5:6 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you

  1. Establish safeguards

Make changes in your life that will reduce the temptation. For example, if you look down on those who have a lower social class than yours, serve in a homeless shelter. If it is your looks that cause you pride, then get rid of the clothes and makeup that make you beautiful. If it is your car, trade in that car for something more modest.

Ask a friend to hold you accountable.

  1. Expect to beat the sin of pride

Don’t focus on the failures of the past but focus on God’s power over sin. Give God the praise He is due.

Egypt, the desert and the Promised Land

The past few months I have been praying a lot.

A LOT.

There are days that I have been sitting at work, feeling as if I life could be so much better, feeling as if my gifts and talents are not being utilized and feeling persecuted. I have to dig deep just to maintain my Christian face during the day. It feels as if I am an Israelite in Egypt.

Then there have been days that I have felt so incredibly low, especially since my mom died. I do everything I can to put on the bravest face I can for my family, but there are times that it just isn’t enough. I’ll get in my car to go someplace and just sit in driver’s seat and give it all up to God. It feels as if I am the Israelites walking in the desert.

Then there are other days that I am sitting on a date with my beautiful wife, enjoying a meal and the love of a wonderful woman.  I feel a sense of amazement that God would bless me with such a person as her. It is as if I had crossed into the Promised Land and am enjoying the cities that I’ve been given.

It is crazy how life can change from one day to the next.

Every day I ask God what he wants me to learn.

Each of the three areas (Egypt, the desert, and the Promised Land) were used to teach Israel something they needed to know. And that can be a timeless truth that the Bible teaches us as well. During several stages of our lives, we might feel “stuck” somewhere, but God is preparing us for the next area of our life, an area that takes us to a better place, even if it isn’t the best place.

Egypt

Exodus 1:11 –  So the Egyptians put slave drivers over the people of Israel. The slave drivers treated them badly and made them work hard. The Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses so Pharaoh could store things there.

The Israelites needed to learn the importance of being in Egypt. God chose this to be a major place to show His glory to those who were not Israelites while at the same time, preserving the Israelites from dangers such as famine.

So what do we know?

First, we see Joseph preserving the Israelites through a severe famine. This could not have been done if it weren’t for Joseph’s placement in Egypt’s leadership. We all know the story of Joseph and the “technicolor dreamcoat.” Joseph’s brothers didn’t like him, they tried to kill him but ended up selling him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt where he was jailed at one point and eventually read the dreams of several people, including Egypt’s leadership.  Because of this, he is given a high position in Potipher’s house. Later, the same brothers who sold him into slavery came at their dad’s command to ask for help. If it weren’t for Joseph being in such a high position, the Israelites may never have been able to survive.

To go along with that, Moses was able to rise into leadership as well.

God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

If the Israelites had not had that time in Egypt, they may never have seen a leader rise up that could lead them to the Promised Land.

The Desert

Hebrews 3:8 – don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.

Next, the Israelites needed to learn the importance of being in the desert. Not only is God using this time to show His glory even more, but He is taking this time to refine the Israelites.

So what do we know?

The desert took them at least 40 years. Sometime between 1444 and 1288 BC, the Israelites left Egypt. They left the place they were being hurt, the place they were enslaved. But once on the road, they missed the comforts they had to their enslavement. It started with the spies. When the spies returned from scouting out the Promised Land, the majority of them gave negative reports. Because of their fear, the Israelites spent the next 40 years walking the desert.

When Moses took the Israelites to the desert, they were looking for instant gratification.

They want what we expect today as well.

If we leave a job or relationship or situation we expect the new job, relationship or situation to be immediately better than the one we just left. Most often, that is not the case. We need to learn to persevere when we follow God’s call.

This piece of information has been hitting me like a ton of bricks lately.

I know God has called me to vocational ministry. I am following the call. As I look to why I am not in vocational ministry right now, I can almost perfectly line up what the Israelites went through and what I have been going through.

It is the refining process.

It started with fear. I scouted out what vocational ministry would look like for my family and I. I did not receive a good report. It would be tough. I wouldn’t make enough money. The time that I work would be double what I was working at the time.

Fear set in.

“There is no way I can cross over into the Promised Land (vocational ministry), the people are giants and they have significant weapons!”

That was fear.

Along the way, like the Israelites, I would tell God I needed something else to help me. I need food or water or meat. I would try to take the lead in the relationship between God and I. Each time, my refining process would take a step back.

Then, along the way, I would question the leadership God has placed in my life. Just like in Numbers 16, a portion of me had to be destroyed to move forward. In the case of the Israelites, they had to lose the insurgent leaders by God showing them His power. The ground opened up and swallowed them.

The same is true with myself.

I left my position of power for a lower position. It is a position that reminds me of Egypt.

The Israelites felt that the desert was worse than what they had left in Egypt. Yes, the work was hard and they were persecuted, but they had stability. They would wake up each day and know exactly what they were going to do. In the desert, that stability was gone.

This meant they had to fully rely on God.

And they weren’t ready for the Promised Land until they did.

It took them 40 years to get ready.

Many times we can feel like we are in the desert for 40 years.

Are you fighting addiction? You were enslaved to your drug or alcohol. When you left, you had many days of feeling like your past life was better. You didn’t know how you would make it through. You didn’t know if the Promised Land was truly real.

But you persevere.

When you persevere you show up in the Promised Land.

The Promised Land

Exodus 6:8 – I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”

Eventually, the Israelites were allowed access to the Promised Land. That access, however, came with a requirement: the Israelites had to rely solely on God and obey Him. Not only that, but while the Promised Land was given to Israel upon entrance, it took them 7 years to conquer and 7 years to settle the land.

And even when they have received the Promised Land, God gave them a mandate to totally destroy the Canaanite people or else they would be corrupted by the remnant.

Think of it this way.

You have lived a life of partying, doing drugs, and alcohol. You’ve grown addictions to at least one, or possibly several, poor life choices. You are a slave to the addictions. You are in Egypt.

But then you begin to take back your life from the addiction. You start the long journey to completely separate the addiction from yourself. During this journey you are on there are many times you want to go back to the addiction. You are going through life, learning how to live without the comfort of the addiction. It is a long journey, but eventually you overcome it. This is the desert. You finally made it. The Promised Land. A land free of the slavery of addiction. You know you need to separate yourself completely from the past, but you don’t want to. This remnant stays and keeps us constantly needing God.

Graduation

Yesterday, our oldest son graduated high school.

This is a scary time for anyone who is graduating school because they have a lot of decisions they need to make.

Do I go to college or in the military or do I just keep working?

Do I want to move away or stay near home?

Will I want to maintain my old friends and life or start completely new?

For me, graduation was almost 30 years ago. By the time I graduated, I had a plan in place for where I wanted to go to college and even how I wanted my life to go. I knew I didn’t want to go into the military and that I did want to go to college. I knew that I wanted to stay close enough to home for the support from my parents but far enough away that I could start my life over.

Our oldest son is nothing like me when I was graduating. Jake is a little aimless. He is perfectly content washing dishes at the local café and coming home to play games on the computer while taking a class here and a class there.

For someone like myself, I find this frustrating.

But it is Jake. He is a really good young man. He’s just aimless.

I keep suggesting to his mom that he join the military. They have great programs that will help the aimless take aim. I don’t think she is as excited about that option as I am.

As I think about him joining the military, I remember how I felt when I was faced with that option. I hated the thought of it.

I was a pacifist. You would never find me holding a gun at anyone, much less joining an organization that focuses on just that. But now I actually wish I would have taken that route. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone into the service for a few years and taken the training they provide and be more prepared for everything I have endured thus far in life.

You see, Jake is actually a lot more like me at that age than I want to admit. I was somewhat aimless. I knew I was going to college, but so does he. He actually wants to go to Northwestern so that he can get back to Minnesota, the place he left his heart. He just doesn’t know how to make it happen.

How many young men and women graduating high school see the amount of opportunities ahead of them and get overwhelmed? I bet it is a lot more than we realize.

So what is a parent to do when their kid is about to graduate?

I haven’t a fat clue.

You thought I was going to give a list of items that parents should and should not do. You thought I would espouse some sort of wisdom that would help you along the way.

I’m clueless.

Much like Jake, right now I am aimless.

I know the destination I would like to get him, I just don’t know how to help get him there.

Mimi and I are feeling this out as we go along.

I’ve read a lot of posts lately about how to help a child who is graduating to find their dreams but for almost all of those pieces I read, they were a vision given by God to a specific person for a specific time. If I were to put some of the advice I read into action with Jake, I think it would do more harm than good.

So where do Mimi and I (and Jake) go from here?

The Psalms.

Psalm 91:4 – He will cover you with His wings; you will be safe in His care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.

Psalm 68:19 – Praise the Lord, who carries our burdens day after day; He is the God who saves us.

Psalm 138:3 – You answered me when I call to You; with Your strength you strengthened me.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

A lot of times parents want to help their kids to prevent trouble. I will be the first to tell you, parents, that is impossible. “Kid” in the original Greek is translated “Him who seeks trouble.” Ok, I am joking. But seriously, it should be.

Our job isn’t to teach our children how to avoid trouble. It is to teach them where to go when trouble comes knocking.

Our job isn’t to preserve children in our homes so that they grow weak in understanding and wisdom, it is to let them soar into the world, knowing where they receive their strength.

Our job isn’t to shelter our children, it is to show them that they have a much larger and more protective shelter in the Lord.

So where do Mimi and I go from here with Jake?

We hope the lessons we have taught him will stay in his mind and we will continue to educate him on the strength and grace of our Lord until the day comes when he is pushed out of the nest.

Congratulations, Jake. You earned you right to adult. You have shown society, and us, that you know about responsibility and how to seek out the opportunities. Jake, your mom and I will always be available to you to help you along your way, but we won’t be doing it for you. Because of that, I expect, and long for, some amazing things to come from you. Whether those amazing things include changing the world or simply living out your life in a mundane job somewhere, it is all amazing. It is amazing because God provided us the opportunity to see you grow and He provided you with the opportunity to live. He makes no mistakes. He loves you more than Mimi and I ever could.

Just learn what it means to lean on His understanding more and more and there is no end to what amazing things you will do in this life.

The Rain and the Rainbow

Genesis 6:14 – Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.

Life gets hard.

There is no way around it.

Sometimes we go through a lot of stuff and it just brings us to our knees.

I am not the kind of guy that easily gets sent to his knees when things get tough. Usually I complain a little but then I work to figure out a way to get through it.

Did you catch something there?

Something was missing in there.

God.

If you read my last post 2 weeks ago you will have found that I reached one of those moments in my life that brought me to my knees.

But it wasn’t the event itself.

It was a culmination of events.

I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I reached a point that I could not handle life anymore.

I figured I could either continue down the path I was going, which was going to result in me alienating those who love me, or I could take action.

Again, if you read my last post, you will know that the action I took was getting away from it all for a couple days.

So what happened when God was missing from the world? When the people of Earth decided to turn their backs on God?

God made Himself known.

Genesis 7:17 – Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.

He sent the rain.

He sent the flood

Many people see the flood as a vengeful God eradicating people from the planet. I don’t see it that way.

God needs to get our attention sometimes. He is due all glory and honor.

The flood that I went through destroyed my world. It reminded me that God is sovereign and on the throne.

Eventually, as we begin to understand that He alone is in control, then the rain begins to subside.

Out comes the rainbow.

The rainbow was the promise of God to Noah that He would never destroy humanity again through the flood.

And that is where God brought me to.

Genesis 7:5 – Noah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him.

Once I started focusing on His sovereignty, I noticed that life started turning around. My problems started to be removed and the desires started aligning with God’s and, therefore, coming to pass.

The future is bright. I have a newfound energy in my step because of the flood that I went through and the fact that God brought me through it. Many could see my God as vengeful. But He was leading me.

So let me give you an idea of what I changed to turn my focus toward God. I am not going to say this is a model, but this is simply what I have found helpful.

  • Get away. I went away for a weekend and unplugged completely. I had no phone or computer. There was no TV. I took some books with me and studied. I read the Bible. I prayed. I fasted. I thought. I was able to focus on Christ and His redeeming work for me. Me. That is amazing when you put that in perspective. It would be as if you go to an ant hill of millions of ants and find the one with the hurt leg and pull him out of the millions of ants and nurse him back to health.
  • I found an oasis. Literally. When I went away for the weekend I went to North Carolina and hung out at Bethesda Oasis. http://www.lifeimpactministries.net/project/north-carolina/
  • I started asking for God to remove my pride. One of the biggest issues with humanity is that we are a proud people. When a problem comes along, it takes intentional thinking for me to give it to God first. As a typical guy, I want to try and figure it out on my own.
  • The Bible. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety before. Multiple times actually. But it has been a long long while. I started last year reading the Bible, starting with Matthew and reading chapter by chapter of the new Testament. At the beginning of this year I started the Old Testament. So far this year I have made it through Joshua. I will tell you that my least favorite books of the Bible to read are the first 6 of the Old Testament. But they are also some of my favorite to quote. They are filled with so much amazing information and they are filled with a lot of painful numbers and locations and genealogies that require a lot of work to truly understand.
  • Trust your accountability and the Word of God. Spending time with the pastors at my church and putting into practice God’s Word has been very helpful. It is also very hard to do. We get into a comfort zone. Trying to change is never easy, especially when you are married to someone who despises change (I love you Mimi, but you and I both know it is true).
  • Listen to my wife more. God provides our spouses to help us. A man can’t lead a family without the help of his wife. If he tries to lead alone then he becomes a tyrant. If he stops leading and allows his wife to lead, then the family becomes weak. Leadership is not about doing what everyone wants. It is about doing the right thing and helping everyone to understand how it fits within the Word and will of God. My wife has helped me to become a leader.

So after the rain happened in the Bible and the changes were made in humanity, then the rainbow came out and humanity continued. It was a speed bump in the timeline of humanity. And my rainy season is a speedbump in my life as well.

But now I see the rainbow.

And God’s promises are clear.

I look forward to seeing this next chapter in my life, just as Noah’s family was looking forward to the next chapter in humanity.

 

Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Life has been crazy for me lately.

Job instabilities.

My mom died.

All of life has seemed turned upside down.

In the middle of everything going on, my awesome wife, the beautiful Mimi, suggested after everything settled that I should get away. I have enough flight miles, hotel points, and rental car points to get away for about a week or so.

I like the idea a lot. I just didn’t like the idea of taking another normal trip away.

If it were up to me, I would head to Ocean City MD, get a room on the ocean, walk the beach nightly. I could watch TV as much as I want. I could eat amazing food (I would, of course, have to spend money on all you can eat crabs at the Crab Bag)

But that is precisely what I didn’t want.

Normal.

Isaiah 30:15 – For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

I had no desire to spend time doing what I could do any other day.

While I was up with my dad after my mom’s death, I decided to do a search to find if there were retreats for ministry professionals that are low or no cost. Surprisingly, I found a lot of them.

There are a couple that I thought were really cool.

The first is a place called Missionary Retreat Fellowship (www.missionaryretreat.org). Back in the 60s, a couple returning from full-time overseas missions realized that coming back to the USA was not as easy as they thought. They had no place to live, no furniture, and no possessions whatsoever. A farmer decided to build this place for missionaries returning to the states. It is fully furnished low cost, private housing. The monthly rent is $650 and it is available for up to a year. They also allow daily rates for those who are trying to recharge.

When I emailed them they were very gracious and immediately gave me some dates that I could come and relax. They are up near the Poconos in Pennsylvania, a place I have been to a few times and find it absolutely gorgeous.

But I did not choose their place.

I went with the other place that returned my email, Life Impact Ministries (www.lifeimpactministries.net).

When you go to their website, you will find that they have a lot of places available. Each one is led by an individual family. The one I chose is led by Mark and Pam Taft. Their individual place is called Bethesda House Oasis (www.pastorretreats.org). They use their extremely large home and significant land to provide a relaxing experience for those in ministry. Whether it is for a couples retreat or for pastors to refresh, their home is available. Their rates are $40/day and include meals. I told them that I wouldn’t be eating that weekend as I was planning to fast.

Not only did they email me, but Mark called me and prayed with me. I do believe he evaluated me as well to see how my mental state was. He sounded like a professional Christian counselor.

So on the weekend of May 5th, I am getting my car and driving 7 hours to North Carolina. I will stop for lunch that day, arrive at their house, and proceed to lock my phone into my car for the weekend, not opening it up or turning on the phone until Sunday afternoon when I get in my car to head 7 hours home.

The entire weekend will be spent in rest, study, fasting, and prayer.

So how about others in ministry?

When I spoke to many about doing this, I was told that they wish they had the time to make this happen.

How many ministers don’t truly get away with God?

How many just get away on vacation with the family or with friends.

But how many seclude themselves away with God alone?

I believe there is a need for pastors to get away with God alone. Many say they do a morning time with the Lord, which I believe is important, but I also believe we need that go away into the wilderness moment or seclude ourselves into a cave.

So during the weekend of May 5th, don’t look for a blog post from me. Don’t look for anything from me. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. No blog posts.

Nothing.

I am going to spend the weekend falling deeper in love with my Lord and Savior.

See you in a couple weeks.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Frame Without a Photograph

A few weeks ago when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and it was pretty clear that I would soon have to live without her daily phone calls, I told Mimi that I felt like a frame without a photograph.

Then, after mum had passed on Easter, I was putting together a photo collage for the viewing and there was one picture that mum absolutely loved. It was a picture of her and pap on a cruise. I pulled that picture out of the frame to make it the centerpiece of the collage.

Mum a legacy

And then it hit me, in front of me was a frame without a photograph.

I started to cry, realizing that my words had come true. Was that to be the future? A frame without a photograph? Would that be how each of us will feel as time goes on?

I decided to press onward and get the collage together.

As I put the collage together, I realized that the picture had to come out of the frame; not because of making space for new memories, but because the frame was now too small.

As the collage started to come together piece by piece, picture by picture, the full screenshot of mum became more evident.

Mum burst out of the frame and became a much larger word than picture.

She became a legacy.

If you will allow me to, I would like to go section by section and give to you a little bit of the legacy of my mum.

Mum Younger years

In the upper left corner is mum as a young woman. She was beautiful. We see her high school yearbook picture, graduation photo, and blocked by glare, we see her at the place she loved the most, the bowling alley.

Mum loved bowling and she was really good! She taught me how to bowl. I used to bowl in leagues and she would come to every game. After each game she would give me tips on becoming better. It wasn’t unheard of for her to bowl well into the 200s.

Mum and Pap

Moving into the lower left corner of the collage, we find the history of mum and pap. There are a couple different wedding photos. She is in her original wedding dress in one of the photos. On the far right of this section is when mum and pap reaffirmed their vows. Then there are other photos. We see a pic of pap smoking his pipe, holding on to mum. We see them dancing. We see them at the Westinghouse/Northrop Grumman retirement dinner when my dad retired with over 30 years of service to the same company. They had a picture of them taken that night.

Mum loved pap. A few days before she died, we were talking on the phone and she said that she doesn’t know how she ended up with the best man in the world. You see, mum had a tough past. She was married before my dad. It was a physically abusive relationship that led her to take my brother in the middle of night and hop a bus away. Then she found my dad.

The way my dad explained it to me last night was that she was managing the bowling alley. He would go in there with the guys and bowl on league night. After time, they started talking and hit it off.  They would meet up before league night and bowl a few games together. She would always win. Not because my dad would let her, but because she was crazy good! He would bowl in the mid 100s and she would bowl in the low to mid 200s.

Then it happened.

He won a game.

So, right before the league night started, she got on the loudspeaker and proclaimed over the entire bowling alley that “If Fred Noble’s team wins tonight, he will wear a skirt.” Well, that was it, every team tried their hardest to lose.

After dad told me that story, I realized just how much he loved my mom. In a couple days would have been their 52nd wedding anniversary. As he and I sat and reminisced about mum last night, he would spend almost the entire time smiling.

He was remembering all the good times.

Not once since the death of my mom have I seen him without a smile.

He knows he was a very lucky man. He had an amazing wife.

Mum and gramma

In the upper center of the collage is two of mom’s favorite things: her mother and her jobs. My mom had an amazing mother, which is probably where she learned her skills to be an amazing mom. I know for a fact it is where she learned to be an amazing cook and baker!

When my grandma, her mom, was diagnosed with cancer, she came to live with my parents who took care of her along with hospice. One of the really cool things about that is that the same hospice nurse that took care of my mom’s mom is the same one who took care of my mom. Over 20 years ago, a fairly new hospice nurse named Michelle came to the house to take care of grandma. She was there until the end. My mom would rave about how great she did.

20 some years later, that same nurse walked in the door of my mom’s house. My dad explained it as “an old homecoming.” He said they held on to each other for what seemed like forever and just cried until they could cry no more.

Then there are pictures of her at work. When I was in school, she would work in the cafeteria. Not only was I not really the smartest kid out there (2.2 GPA in high school and 2.6 GPA in college, thankfully I got a 3.5 in seminary), but I was also a little trickster. I liked to have fun. My mom worked in every school so she could keep an eye on me.

Honestly, it didn’t work that well. I still was a trickster.

When I graduated high school, I told my mom that she was not allowed to work at the college that I was attending.

Mum fun

Moving into the upper right of the collage there are a lot of pictures of mum having fun, usually with someone else.

You see, mum loved people more than she loved herself. She always treated others better than herself and lived a servant’s life. But she knew how to cut loose from time to time.

She absolutely loved to go to Ocean City, Maryland. It was her absolute happy place. I can understand why it is probably one of my favorite places in the world as well. Every year we would go down and stay at the Santa Maria, which I don’t believe exists anymore. She would never go down in the summer. She always said it was too crowded. Her favorite time, and mine as well, is early October. She and pap would sit on the deck of the hotel and just watch people.

That was her favorite pastime. She loved people-watching.

She said she would make up stories in her mind as to what those people were doing and why they were doing it. I really think it is because of her that I get my creativity.

I know the picture doesn’t do it justice, but in the top right of the above picture my mom has my dad on a dog leash. I really have no clue what is going on here. If anyone has the story to that, please share. My dad seems clueless (perhaps intentionally) about it.

Then there is the picture of my two kids with them when they were young. My mom loved both Matt and Kenzi. When Kenzi was born, she was the daughter that my mom never had. The first few years of her life, Kenzi spent a lot of time with mum and they bonded tightly. Those two were inseparable.

When Matt came along, even through all of the problems that Matt has had with being lovable, mum never gave up on him. Matt was always the strong-willed and stubborn child. If it wasn’t his way, he would shut you out. He still does to this day. But mum never gave up on him. She continued to love him and pray for him to turn around and have his heart feel again. She always knew how to make him smile, even when he didn’t want to.

Mu and family

The final corner shows what mum loved best, family. On her birthday, April 1st, this year she cooked a full dinner for us even though she was in intense pain. She would have it no other way. She told us it was the last meal she would ever make us, as if she knew.

She loved having everyone around the table.

And she absolutely loved the big family we had become. As a divorced dad with 2 kids of my own and adding a wife and 2 other full time kids and 2 other grown kids to the mix, she loved being able to love on people again. She loved being surrounded by those she loved. She loved my dad, me, my wife Mimi, Ryan, Matthew, Kenzi and Jacob.

Right before the viewing, my dad met with each person in the family individually to tell them words that mum wanted told to them. I have no clue what was said to each person. I just know what was said to me.

And it fills my heart to know it.

Mum collage

So now we are back to the original photo that got me thinking about this. My mom’s favorite picture.

But notice something, it is not a frame without a photograph. It is a photograph without a frame. The picture is framed by other pictures. And each of those pictures are framed by others. And all those photos together are framed by memories that we have of mum.

And what that leaves us is not a single snapshot of a person who died of cancer, it leaves us a description of the legacy of great woman. A woman who deserves to be celebrated and called blessed.

#TheGraveIsEmpty

I am writing this on Easter evening, or, as Christians like to call it, Resurrection Sunday.

Today we had a plan in place. I planned on waking up, going to a sunrise service of a new church in my area and then gathering the entire family together and heading up to PA to spend the day with my parents. If you read a previous blog post of mine, you will know that my mom has stage IV cancer and we don’t really have a lot of time with her.

Well, this morning the call came.

“Fred, get up here. Leave the kids home, come to PA. Your mom doesn’t have long left.”

My heart sank. I immediately changed all the plans and started driving north.

The plan was to move her to a hospice facility where she could finish up her final hours without pain. She was breathing very shallow and, in between each breath, was moaning in pain. When I got here, I was told by my dad that the ambulance to transport her was about an hour out.

I sat down at mum’s bedside and prayed with her. I told her to simply let God have control and stop trying to take that control away from Him. Let Him heal her, whether that be through a miraculous healing of the cancer or through ending her pain through taking her home.

I went to the place we were ordering Easter meal from to pay for it and have them donate it to a local church. After I returned I went back in to check on mum. I told her I loved her.

When I walked in the door I heard the moaning and breaths, but a few moments after walking out of the room, I didn’t hear it anymore. I asked pap and he said that she occasionally does that. This time I went back in and noticed her eyes partially opened. She wasn’t breathing.

I called to pap and he checked her. We were pretty sure she had gone home to her Creator.

We called the hospice nurse. She cancelled the ambulance and came right over and pronounced her dead at 11:45 AM.

My mom knew. She didn’t want to end her days in the hospice facility. She told us that a few weeks ago when she was in the hospital. She wanted to end her days surrounded by me and pap in her own home.

And that is how she died.

The rest of the day has been a blur. We spent time with the funeral home getting her moved and planning the viewing. We went to eat a local diner that was open today (that was such a blessing!). Then back home to go through all the old pictures and reminisce about mum and how much she meant to us.

We are having a viewing on Wednesday and then immediate cremation.

Why no funeral?

Because the grave is empty!

When mum passed through the wildwood into the place where dreams come true, she ceased to be mum and simply became a body. The essence of mum is found in the Spirit that inhabited her.

Mum loved God and people. She had a servant’s heart. As a matter of fact, she had the Servant’s heart. She had the heart of God.

So now it is Easter eve. Pap finally fell asleep. The house is quiet. The only noise I hear is the droning of the ceiling fan above and the tapping of the keys on my keyboard.

I am sitting her thanking God for taking her so quickly so she didn’t suffer too long. I am thanking Him for the opportunity to tell her I loved her before she passed from somewhere into elsewhere.

The truth about Easter is just what happened today.

The grave is empty.

Mum will not be in a grave because there is no reason for it.

Christ burst from the grave. He proclaimed to the world His return.

He gave the disciples a mission to accomplish.

Jesus’ final 40 days on earth, after exiting the grave, dealt with sharing the Kingdom of God with everyone.

There is a reason to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Just like there is a reason to celebrate my mum’s life with my pap through the old pictures.

The reason is simple.

Power.

The power of the Holy Spirit is freely given after bursting from the grave. The power for my mum to live on through my actions and words is amplified after her death. How much more will I look at how I deal with people after seeing my mom live it.

How much more do I want to proclaim the Kingdom of God now that Christ has given us this mandate after leaving the grave.

So, what will I proclaim on the day after Easter?

I will proclaim the Servant’s heart of my mom. She embedded that in me through her gracious living. And I will take that lesson and translate it to my Christian theology and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God places Jesus on the throne. Entrance to the kingdom requires new birth (John 3:5), repentance (Matthew 3:2), and the divine call (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Jesus calls us to seek the Kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33) and pray for it to come (Matthew 6:10). It is joy in the Holy Spirit, righteousness, and peace (Romans 14:7).

So again, I sit here in the quiet of the night.

Thinking about how to live out my mom’s servant heart and how to proclaim the Kingdom of God through all I do.

Tomorrow is a new day. A new day to celebrate the two people I love dearly who have burst from the grave, Jesus and my mom.

Respecting my Wife does NOT Hurt all Women

I am really taken aback by the amount of negative press about VP Pence refusing to dine alone with women.

To me, it is a no-brainer.

It has nothing to do with holding women back. It has EVERYTHING to do with two points:

  • There is an off chance, albeit a small one, that I will begin to “feel” something for the person or vice versa.
  • It is simply showing my wife that I love her so much that I won’t risk anything that could damage that.

But the negative words about his, and my, choice to not be alone with a woman is surprising.

As a Christian, I am used to world have a negative view on my beliefs. Sometimes, I get surprised.

For example, I was surprised by a culture that says they want everyone to be free, but when you claim to have a belief that is different than them, they shout bigot. But this one even surprised me more than that.

The world makes a very good argument.

Title VII claims that it is unacceptable to discriminate in the workplace. By law, a working dinner with the boss can be considered an opportunity in which both genders must have equal access.

And in 2010 a Harvard Business Review article says that men avoid sponsoring women from key advancement opportunities because that sponsorship can be “misconstrued as sexual interest.”

This shows that women do have a barrier placed on them because of personal rules like Pence’s and mine. And because of that, it is potentially illegal to “discriminate” in that way.

So…

How does a Christian follow a traditional belief to not be in the same room alone with a woman and follow the world’s rules?

We need to change the rules.

The way I see it, we have 2 choices. We can either choose what the Amish have done and completely separate ourselves from the world. Or, we can choose to maintain a traditional value in a world that doesn’t believe in our values through changing how we meet with all people together.

I will tell you that I will never betray the trust my wife has given me by meeting alone with a woman in any circumstance. In ministry, there are many times I have had a woman come to me for spiritual guidance. In some of them, the woman wanted to go somewhere private to talk. I wouldn’t do it. I would tell her that we would need to meet in a place that has an open door and I would tell someone else in the church to sit outside the door for me.

In business, the same thing. The other day I was training a woman on making cold calls. We were in the conference room. I left the door open as we did the training.

Now, can I say I did that when I trained a guy the week before?

No, I didn’t.

And therein lies the problem.

I should treat all the situations equally.

I am NOT going to change my traditional value. I will never be alone in a room with a woman. I will never eat one on one with a woman who is not a relative. But now, I find I need to change how I deal with men as well.

What would have happened if the man I was training a few weeks ago was gay? What would have happened if he started having desires or feelings for me? I am pretty good looking (I couldn’t even say that with a straight face) (oh the puns).

If he was gay and started to desire me, then I have just committed a sin. I am enabling that other person to sin. We need only look to 1 Timothy 5:22 for the answer to that.

I Timothy 5:22 – Do not participate in the sins of others.

If the Bible commands us to do something, then we have the responsibility to set a boundary to honor God. Learning to set those boundaries is imperative to living a life of victory in Christ. Boundaries show us our responsibilities. The Bible is literally a book of boundaries for people. And every boundary, according to the Bible, has a consequence for disobeying it. Participating in sin, of any kind, including enabling, is not an option for a Christian.

Avoiding sin is tough. Thankfully we have James 1:5 to teach us.

James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

When God provides wisdom, we have a responsibility to move forward on the basis of that wisdom.

Everyone has the choice to make their own decisions as to whether to sin or not. We, too, have the choice whether to enable the sin of another person or not. Too many times we have allowed the fear of losing a relationship or job take precedence over not sinning or enabling another’s sin. When we do that, we allow something else to take the place of God on the throne. When the desire for someone else, or their views, supersedes the desire of God, then we have moved into idolatry.

If we want to avoid the ridiculousness of this conversation, then we need to show an equal view on this and make the decision on who directs our lives. If we have given our lives to Christ, then that person is the final authority.

Jesus wouldn’t make it easier for someone to sin. Why should we?

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