boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

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?

Yesterday is Taking Over

This weekend I was able to enjoy some time with my family, including my mom and dad. It was her birthday weekend.

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A little back story here, my mom, a couple weeks ago, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. She had been fine up until about a month ago and then she went into the hospital because she was filling with fluid.  The doctors in the ER said that she was in the early stages of cirrhosis and not to worry about it but that they would send the fluid off to be tested.

The a few weeks ago she went back into the hospital because more fluid had collected and she got a call to go into the hospital.

The doctor came in and told her it was cancerous.

They did more testing.

After the testing they told her the cancer had spread throughout her body and was in her bones, her liver, her pancreas, her stomach, and other places. It was too much to operate and they gave her 3-6 months to live. We called in hospice, cancelled further testing, and went home.

That was a tough day. Very long as well. We would cry when we were awake and sleep when we could.

But this weekend was about celebrating, not regretting.

Mimi, myself, and the four kids packed into the car and headed north to her house. Along the way, we stopped at Cold Stone Creamery to get an impromptu ice cream cake (which was yummy, by the way!)

Mum decided that she wanted to make dinner for all of, thinking it might be the last time she could do it. She made ham, corn, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, steamed shrimp, macaroni and cheese, and multiple desserts that she made herself like butterscotch pie and pumpkin pie.

During it all she was in pain, but she hid it fairly well. She wanted to do this labor of love for those she loves and love her.

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After dinner we sat down to talk about the stories from the past and give her gifts. Mum was in tears because she knows this will probably be her final birthday. My kids got her a framed picture of themselves taken a month ago. Mimi and the boys wrote mum letters thanking her for all the love they have brought into their lives. And then we got her a Precious Moments piece for her mantle.

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Then mum brought out the tears.

She wanted to give up some of her jewelry to my kids. She has been promising them that they would receive these and she wanted to make sure they had them in case something happened and she wasn’t able to see them anymore. (typing that just brought a lump in my throat)

We ended the day by taking some pictures with mum.

We left early because she was in a lot of pain and very tired. She took some of her morphine and headed to bed for the night and we started down the road toward home.

I got misty a couple of times and had to excuse myself after she gave out her jewelry because I was in tears.

I love my mom. She is, and always has been, such a blessing to me. She lives a Proverbs 31 life. She loves anyone and everyone.

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She has been blessed.

And knowing some of her back story about being abused by her first husband, growing up in poverty just after the Great Depression, and having a tough time by watching her own mom die in her arms with the same Hospice nurse who is taking care of my mom makes it even more clear just how blessed she truly is.

And what do blessed people do?

They spend their lives blessing others.

And she has been a blessing to countless people in this life.

So we don’t know how long mum has to live. God only knows that. We will just take it one milestone at a time:

  • Easter on 4/16
  • Her 52nd Anniversary on 4/23
  • And any other milestones afterward

If she passes before then, she will truly be home and even more blessed than she is now.

So here’s to you, mum. Happy 83rd birthday. I love you. I am a lot like you.

And for that, I am thankful.

What do YOU Believe: Part 4, my view

I want to get back to my series on the SBC choice to support a mosque being built in a New Jersey town. The first post in this series explained the story. The second post gave the reasoning behind the support. The third post gave reasoning or those who don’t support. In this final post I want to give you my view.

Before I go forward, I want you to know that I have friends on both sides of the argument. The fact that someone disagrees with me will not change how I see them. To me, this is not a salvation issue. I understand the argument that people make that says it is, but it simply is not. And to say that religious liberty is at stake is very true, but that is also not Scriptural.

That said, I do NOT believe that supporting the building of the mosque is the appropriate thing to do.

I believe that Russell Moore and the SBC made a mistake in supporting it.

First, religious liberty is never promised in the Bible. Christians are not to focus on religious liberty, we are to focus on Christ alone. Political messages are only to be shared that will lead people to Christ. We should not be entering a political arena other than to spread the good news of the Gospel.

Whenever we heard about Christians in the first century, we heard about the persecution. Early persecution happened between Jews and Christians. Jews were scared of Christianity. They saw this religion spreading quickly and felt it needed to be ended as quickly. Beginning in AD 64, Rome joined in the persecution when Nero blamed the Christians for a large fire that engulfed the city of Rome.

When we hear the word “freedom” in the Bible, we hear about how we are set free through the truth (John 8:32), that we are to use our freedom to love one another through serving each other (Galatians 5:13), and that we are not to use our freedom to cover up evil but to live as a servant of God (1 Peter 2:16).

It is that last verse that gets me.

If we combine that with the 10 Commandments, then we realize that it is evil to have another god before God. If that is evil, then it stands to reason that it would be evil to support another god.

I am not talking about baking cookies for a gay wedding or joining with other religious organizations to stop a strip club from coming to town. I am talking about an outright watering down of the Gospel through claiming that all religions should be seen as equal.

We serve a jealous God.

He desires us.

I am talking about doing similar to what Israel did in Judges 2, which is support other religions.

This happened in Israel for a multitude of reasons. First, they kept trying to live in the past, before they had the blessings of the Lord.

Next, they kept forgetting God’s Word. How many times do we get angry before we study the Word when we hear something? Rather than acting out, it is important to understand God’s Word first.

Next, Israel kept following new trends. Israel was watching the religious ceremonies of their enemies and they found them exciting. They started incorporating them into their worship. How about us today? I believe that the SBC has fallen prey to a world’s definition of tolerance. Tolerance in the Bible is very different than tolerance in the world. We can’t just accept everybody’s beliefs as our own. We do need to accept that others will believe differently, and we cannot force them to believe our way of life, but we cannot allow their views to infiltrate our beliefs. We are to remain holy, or set apart.

Fourth, the Israelites got too busy. They allowed their success and personal lives take precedence over their worship.

Finally, they refused to drive evil out of their land. As Christians in America, we have no “land” per se. But we do have our churches and denominations. If we allow evil to live inside those holy walls then we will find that we will lose our status of being holy.

So, it is very easy to mask politics as Christianity.

They are not one and the same.

If we don’t take a lesson from the first century Christians and the early Jews, then we will lose our ability to truly be a church of the risen Christ.

Bad Things Don’t Always Happen in Threes

Job 1:6 – One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.

You’ve heard the phrase.

“Bad things come in threes.”

Well I am here to tell you that is crap.

The history of that phrase holds origins in Christianity, but a perverted and twisted sense of it. When I researched the origin of the phrase it was that if someone upset the Trinity, then the Father, Son and Spirit would take their revenge on you, thus bringing you bad tidings three separate times.

There is also a war analogy that was used by British soldiers during the Crimean War. In order to save matches, the soldiers would light as many cigarettes with a single match. Part of their training manual said to not light 3 cigarettes with a single match because it would give a sniper time to locate the position of the light and the third man would be killed. After time, it was found out that the creator of the matches they used spread that information to the command of the British troops so that he could sell them more matches.

But I am going to tell you that bad things DEFINITELY can come in more than threes.

This has been a very tough 4 months. Really a tough year. It started with me getting back surgery in May of last year. I needed a second back surgery in December. Then we had troubles with pets. Our diabetic, 15-year-old cat was given too much insulin by accident. Then our dog decided to eat a bag of coffee beans. Then Mimi’s car needed almost $4,000 in repairs. Then my mom went into the hospital. Then the sump pump stopped working and started filling the crawl space with water. And then yesterday, my mom went back into the hospital again, this time she is told she has cancer.

Job 1:21 – And said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

I write this as I sit at the hospital, eating cafeteria food, and thinking about my mom’s life.

By my count, we are now up to 8 pretty big things that have come our way. Seven of those items were in the past 3 months alone! (maybe bad things come in a period of three months?)

So I have come to realize that superstitions are crap.

So instead of superstitions, where should we look?

No matter what after all of this turmoil, it has an effect on people. I have noticed a pretty big effect on myself. I can no longer look at people and give the church morning answer:

Person: How are you brother?

Me: Blessed like the rest brother!

Person: Amen!

I can’t be fake happy anymore.

I find solace in the Bible.

Specifically the book of Job. But not for the reason you might think.

I know everyone says that they read the book of Job and it fills them with comfort. But it shouldn’t.

Job 1:20 – At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.

Job shows how tragedies in our lives change us permanently.

Here is the timeline:

  • Job had it all. Tens of thousands of animals, a large family, a lot of servants. He lost them all at once.
  • This caused Job to fall to his knees in worship to God.
  • After that, Job got sores all over his body.
  • Job praised God.
  • Job is visited by potentially well-meaning friends.
  • He said that even though he is blameless, he hates his life. (Job 9:21-22)
  • Even though he hated his life, he understood that God was still on the throne and in control (Job 12:13-14)
  • Job feels broken by what his friends said about him.
  • God has a discussion with Job. In the end of this conversation, Job understands that there are things in this world that are greater than Job and he would never understand them.
  • Job’s family came to his aid and he ended up with more than he lost before.

But one thing is interesting in chapter 6: Job asks God to kill him.

Job was broken.

He reached such a low point that he asked for death.

Now, just so you know I have known that feeling before. When I got divorced I went through a time where I believed that life would be better if I weren’t in it.

But then I had my “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment and came to grips as to what life would look like without Fred in it.

So today, I sit here numb. I’ve cried some. I’ve felt anger. I’ve even laughed a little.

But, in the end, numb.

The book of Job doesn’t tell us about the emotional impact that his trial had on his life. The last verse says, “And Job died, an old man, and full of days.” I take that to mean that he lived his life and enjoyed it. But still there is nothing there about how this trial affected him.

Job 28:28 – And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord – the is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

I am definitely not as focused on God as Job was. But I know how much these minor (in relation to Job’s afflictions) inconveniences have affected me.

It takes everything I can do just to not be cynical.

Pain is part of this life. If you don’t believe me, read the Psalms.  I believe there is a reason Proverbs comes after Psalms. The Psalms show God’s glory in the pain of this world. The Proverbs give us wisdom, most likely acquired through years of pain.

I know that when this season is over, the wisdom that will be gained, if I can stay true to God’s Word, will be used to help others going through adversity.

In the meantime, I feel numb.

In the meantime, don’t expect me to give you too many nice answers.

In the meantime, even if I make you so angry that you want to punch me, just flash me a smile.

This is a season that everyone goes through. It isn’t easy, but it is part of this broken world.

But even though this world is broken, God is still sovereign. He is on the throne. And one day soon, and even sooner for my mom, there will be no pain, no disease, no tears of sadness, no cancer, no bitterness, and no one but God.

And for that, I will wait.

Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

What do YOU believe? Part 3 – Against

The past couple of weeks I have been writing about the Russell Moore’s decision to allow the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC to support, through amicus brief, the building of a mosque in a New Jersey town.

A lot has happened since then.

There have been calls among the SBC for Moore’s resignation. The calls have fallen among racial lines with the majority Caucasian churches calling for his resignation and the majority African-American churches calling for there to be grace shown to him.  This is leading to even bigger divides inside the SBC, and will have some long-term repercussions.

Last week I looked at Russell Moore’s side, trying to understand his viewpoint. Many of my Facebook friends showed their approval when I posted the question asking about whether they supported his choice or not.

But just like any controversial question, when you have people who support it, you have people who don’t.

While some told me that everyone should have the right to practice their religion and that we should not discriminate against others, other people said that a leader in a church should not advocate for another religion and some brought up remembering 9/11 as a reason for us to not allow the mosque.

This week I want to show the side that is against Russell Moore and explain what I’ve seen people say about as well as what the Bible says. Next week, when I finish this series, I will share my viewpoint.

Across my Facebook friends, there were a variety of Scripture to support their views:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
  • Exodus 20:5
  • 1 Corinthians 10
  • Exodus 23:30-32

These are all very valid points. Just like last week, I would like to remind everyone that it was a Christian king, Negus, who allowed the continuation of Islam when others would have seen them destroyed.

So what is the purpose behind Christians not supporting the building of a mosque?

Well, the arguments seem to be twofold, and much of it because of what has been happening with Islamic extremists. The other reason is the Scriptural one.

According to Islamic belief, the Qu’ran was “revealed” to Muhammad as he spoke with The Divine. Some parts of the Qu’ran are given to specific instances while others speak to spiritual principles. In looking at the main verse in the Qu’ran that people use to show they are to kill infidels, Sura 9:5, we find that Muhammad tells the believers (in Islam) to “slay” the infidels “wherever you find them.” The only way someone could avoid this was to convert to Islam and pay a tax. This is generally called the “Sword Verse.” It is the one most people use when they say Islam is a violent religion. But that specific verse was given for a specific time.  It was given to the believers who had fled away from persecution. The idolaters are those who waged war against Muhammad and his crew. If we look at that verse in complete context, Muhammad tells his believers to protect those who had made treaties with them and to attack those infidels who broke their treaties. This verse was never about killing all non-Muslims. If that were the case, then every year after the holy months in Islam, we would have seen an increase in fighting.

Now this is not say that I am going against what I am writing about here.

I am specifically writing about the reasons Christians are to not support the building of a mosque.

But when we do so, we MUST take everything in context.  If we do not, then we are being led by Satan, not God.

So before I go any further, you need to know that if we are using the argument of “them versus us” then we are wrong. We CANNOT allow our emotions of 3,000 people killed to get in the way of what the Word of God says.

The Bible is specific:

Proverbs 30:5-6 – Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Galatians 1:6-9 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

So, in this post we are ONLY going to look at it from a Scriptural standpoint. It is very easy to go eisegesic versus exegetic. If we look at the emotion first and the Scripture last (eisegesis), then we run the risk of translating the Scripture to our emotion. If we begin with Scripture (exegesis), then we allow God’s Word to change how we think and believe.

Then what does God’s Word say about this?

To begin, we start with John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If we start with that alone, then we need to know that in the Christian worldview, Jesus is the only way to heaven. There are no other choices. While Christians can live side by side with people of other faiths, we cannot condone of those faiths for any reason because doing so would water down the message that Christ alone is the Way.

The next verses we need to look at deals with the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-3, “And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

So, as of now, we have that Jesus is the only way to the Father and that we shall have no other gods before Him. The argument is getting pretty clear.

If we look at those 2 sets of verses alone, then we can presume that anything that runs counter to knowing Jesus as the only Way and that puts another god above is against Christianity as a whole.

As a matter of fact, John 6:44 states, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

So you need to be drawn by the Father in heaven in order to come to Jesus.

And, as last week, we need to discuss Christian love. Why was Jesus sent?

John 3:16-18 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

It is love that brought Jesus into the world. It is love that gives us the saving blood of Christ. It is love that gives us a way to communicate, and be in fellowship, with God.

Love does not cause confusion. If there is confusion, then that love is not of God but of the world.

If we were to support another religion that runs counter to the deity of Christ, then we are supporting a gospel of confusion.

Galatians 1:8-9 specifically calls this out. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

We cannot preach another gospel.

Supporting another god supports another gospel.

Ad you can say to me that you aren’t supporting the god, but the people to have freedom to believe as they will. And to that I say to you, “nice try, but you are wrong.”

Supporting another religion is always about serving another god. You can mask it in religious liberty or supporting people, but it is about supporting that other god and their beliefs.

Mark 13:22 says that there will be false christs and false prophets that will rise up to lead people, including the elect, away from the Gospel of Christ.

We cannot support another religion over ours. If we do then we are just as worthless as the religion we are supporting.

James 1:26 – If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Russell Moore, and the SBC, should have not taken pride in their religion. According to many, they should have held their tongues in something they knew was against God’s Word.

Next week I will end my series by giving you my viewpoint. I believe you might be a little surprised as to what I believe. And I will try to give you as much detail around it as possible so that there is no confusion as to my stance.

What do YOU Believe? Part 2 – Pro

Last week I started writing about the SBC’s decision to support the Islamic Society in a New Jersey town  through writing a brief on religious liberty. Over the next few weeks I will look at both sides of the argument, for and against, and end with a post about my view.

This week, I will look at the SBC’s view and why they supported the mosque.

This process was led by Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC. While Moore led the charge, it was supported by others in leadership, including David Platt, President of the International Mission Board. Not only did other SBC members join this brief, but so did other religions: The American Association of Jewish Lawyers, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, National Association of Evangelicals, and Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry among many others.

So what is the rationale behind the support?

Moore is quoted as saying “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.” His rationale is that when one religion is persecuted, it is only a matter of time until all religions are persecuted.

At the end of the day, the question that Moore feels is of utmost importance is whether one religion can be subject to a different land-use approval than another. Those who don’t support Moore’s views believe the question that is most important is whether Christians and non-Christians can be unequally yoked.

I posed the question to my Facebook friends: Can a Christian in all integrity to Christianity support the building of a mosque?

To say that it was a lively conversation is an understatement.

Some of the comments for supporting the mosque are:

  • I believe that every religion has a right to be able to have a sanctuary in their city/town
  • If we are able to discriminate…then it is just a matter of time before the tables are turned
  • It would boost my trust in the leaders (who support it) that they are following Christ’s example
  • Many Christians want religious liberty…as long as it is theirs alone
  • Not allowing the mosque in the area hurts evangelism in that city
  • There is no theological conflict with civic religious freedom and being a biblical Christian
  • In Christ, we are to love all people, even those who want to harm us

Before I get into the scriptural evidences that others use to show it is ok to support the mosque being built, I want to share a quick story. This is the story about the first Muslims and how a Christian king allowed them sanctuary and the ability to grow and survive.

When Islam was first started to be proclaimed publically, the pagans in Makkan started persecuting the young Muslims severely. Many died. Many more were tortured. Eleven of the Muslims fled to Absynnia, a city that was led by a Christian king, Negus. They were offered sanctuary. Once the Muslims realized that they were in a peaceful area, they sent for more of their people.  The king continued to welcome the Muslims and offered them safety.

The Christian king asked the Muslims a simple question: “What do you say concerning Jesus?”

The Muslims said, “…we can only say what our Prophet has taught us: Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, the spirit and the word of God, whom God entrusted to the virgin Mary.”

When King Negus heard this, he picked up a twig from the ground and said, “I swear, the difference between what we believe about Jesus, the Son of Mary, and what you have said is not greater than the width of this twig.”

After the Makkan’s heard about the Muslims in Absynnia, they sent a delegation to request that they be deported back to Makkan. The king refused.

This is the first instance of Christians supporting Muslims.

While that is a great testament to Christians supporting others, the next question is: Is it Scriptural?

When I posed the Scripture question to my Facebook friends, I received a TON of verses and theologies as to why we should support the Islamic Society.

  • “The 10 commandments in Exodus 20 all point towards loving others unconditionally.”
  • The Good Samaritan story
  • 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
  • Matthew 25:35-40
  • Luke 6:27-36

All of those are very interesting views. the majority of those point toward one word, “love.”

But, as Haddaway sang in 1993, “What is love?” (admit it, now you are singing that song)

This is not the kind of post that is going to dig into the Christian definition of love. But I would be missing something if I didn’t at least touch upon it.

Christian love is not simply allowing everything. In Christian love, the idea of emotion, although part of our image of God, is not what the concept of Christian love, agape love, is about. Agape loves so deeply that we aren’t afraid to tell the truth and hold accountable. Agape bases love on the image of God, regardless of anything. And, since God is holy, we cannot allow evil to be part of the church.

But is this evil?

We could go on and on all month asking these philosophical kind of questions.

But I won’t.

So, getting back to the question at hand, is it ok for a Christian to support another religion?

According to Russell Moore, who spearheaded this entire debate, “One thing we need to be very clear about is that religious liberty is not a government ‘benefit,’ but a natural and inalienable right granted by God.”

He goes on to say, “When we say—as Baptists and many other Christians always have—that freedom of religion applies to all people, whether Christian or not, we are not suggesting that there are many paths to God, or that truth claims are relative. We are fighting for the opposite. We are saying that religion should be free from state control because we believe that every person must give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ.”

He uses Romans 13:1-7 and John 12:42-43 to support his view. He says that government can only rule by the sword. The sword of government cannot save a soul. This means that it becomes a religion of external conformity. It comes from state mandate or peer pressure. This happened with those who heard Jesus’ words. They understood His truth, but they loved the glory that came from man more than that which comes through God.

He continues by saying forcing someone to Christianity will make a state of pretend Christians. He says that if you want to see people come to Christ, you do it through boldly proclaiming the saving power of Christ, not by forcing them into hiding through shutting down their personal journey to Christ.

For those who say that non-violent Muslims are inconsistent Muslims (similar to “cafeteria Christians”, then he has a rebuttal to that. He says that the government’s job is to punish evil-doers. not to decide who is most theologically sound and consistent with their religious books.

He believes that there are limits to our freedom, and government has an obligation to protect the people inside its borders from harm and violence. But, he continues, government has an obligation to protect the citizens from the government itself. It is an act of aggression to strip a religious community of its civil liberties.

This line of thinking believes that to believe in Jesus’ Gospel message means that we do not need the power of the government to carry it out. The precedent in the Bible comes from Revelation 13. This is the example of a church that is forced on its people. That is not the church of Christ.

Next week I will look at the opposing view to this.

What do YOU believe?

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 – For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

The next few weeks I want to discuss something that is pretty interesting, and important. Before I start writing about it, I want to explain this series. First, this is going to be a very polarizing topic. It crosses both political and religious lines, especially among Christians. Next, I am not going to give you my “opinion” until the final post in the series.

This series is going to span 4 posts. The first week I am going to discuss the event that brought about this series. Next week I will discuss the pro side of the argument followed by the con side the third week. In the final week I will discuss what I believe and why.

So, Fred, what is the story?

Back in May 2016 the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention joined an amicus brief to help protect the religious liberties of an Islamic group who was attempting to build a mosque.

An amicus brief is a legal document that is filed in an appellate court by people not associated with the case but who have strong interests in the subject.

The amicus brief was to help the Islamic Society in Basking Ridge NJ get approval to build a mosque. In December 2016, the court ruled in favor of the Islamic Society. The court found that the planning commission of the town violated the law when it required “more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.”

Along with the ERLC, the International Mission Board (IMB) also joined the amicus brief. Because of that, one of the IMB’s trustees resigned because of the amicus brief.

Because of this, some Southern Baptist churches are withholding financial support of the Convention, including Prestonwood Baptist, a 41,000-member megachurch, who is withholding $1 million in support from the Convention’s state and national initiatives.

So after reading this, I decided to post on Facebook a simple question:

“How would you feel/react if your pastor or leader stood up against religious discrimination and signed a petition to allow a mosque to come into your town after the government intentionally made it extra hard for them to come in?”

I followed it up with asking everyone to give scriptural evidence for their views. There were over 70 comments and replies on the post, the most I have ever had on a post. The comments were by many people I consider strong Christians.

And the comments were all across the spectrum.

These comments were all by people I respect and admire

And they were all different.

I go to church with many of those who commented.

So over the next couple weeks I will look at the varying positions my friends took as well as those taken by others I admire as well. I will look at those who say that supporting the Islamic Society is an example of Christ’s love as well as those who say that we cannot support  Christianity and other religions.

So next week I will tackle those who say we can, and should, support the Islamic Society.

Deuteronomy 10:17 – For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

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