boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Archive for the tag “love”

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.

The Churches of Revelation: Part 2 – Ephesus

Out of the seven churches in the Revelation, Ephesus makes the most sense. Prior to Christ’s birth, Ephesus went back and forth between being controlled by the Romans and the Bergamian kings. By 4 AD, Ephesus was known for its wealth and luxury. During Augustus’ rule, the population reached 225,000 and the city became the capital of the region. The city continued to thrive after becoming a port city on the Caystros river.

It was a major city in early Christianity. While John planted the church in Ephesus, it was Paul who put it on the map.  When Paul chose this city on his missionary journeys, the city gained in prestige to Christians. Paul worked to evangelize the Ephesians who were worshiping Artemis. The elderly of the city did not accept him, but, over time, Christianity took roots with the youth, who turned it into a major religion in the city. There are also some experts that place the Virgin Mary in Ephesus around 42 AD to settle down for the rest of her life. There is currently a shared Catholic/Muslim holy site that points out her house at the top of Bulbul mountain.

By 1307 Ephesus lost its significance as their port closed and other port cities rose.

The people of Ephesus had both Greek and Roman influence. Ephesians used both sundials and water clocks to be able to tell time. Owning one of those showed a person’s wealth. Typically people woke at sunrise, although the Roman influence with the festivals added a little more color. The Greek population had boys going to school and women most likely not while the Romans sent both boys and girls to school.

Ephesus had a temple dedicated to their goddess, Artemis. Every day there would be animal sacrifices to Artemis. In most Greek cities, Artemis was worshiped as a secondary deity, but in Asia Minor, she was a primary deity. In most Greek cities she is worshiped for her hunting abilities, but in Ephesus, she was worshiped solely for her fertility. This could be a sign of the Roman influence.

John planted the Ephesian church. The disciples believed the larger cities like Ephesus, Smyrna, and Laodicea would help Christianity spread. It is believed that John and Mary traveled together to Ephesus after Jesus entrusted her to John. Around 42 AD, John established the Ephesian church. When Paul came during his missionary journey, he took over the church until he was beheaded outside Rome in 64 AD. At that point, John took the church over again. John died in Ephesus.

During Paul’s journey to Ephesus, he stayed in the city for about three and half years. Under Paul’s leadership, the church in Ephesus became the head church in Asia Minor. The city was filled with magicians, pagans, and a government that was not friendly to Christians. Even with all of that, Ephesus became the third most important city in all of Christendom behind Jerusalem and Antioch. After three and half years, the statue makers, led by Demetrius, who made a living selling silver statues of Artemis, were upset and performed acts of civil disobedience. The city ran Paul out of Ephesus where he went to Macedonia.

So what does Revelation tell us about Ephesus?

The first chapter of Revelation explains that the book was written BY Him FOR Him. This entire book is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Each of the seven churches has unique strengths and weaknesses and there is a distinct message to each. The problems addressed in each of the churches are problems that have happened in the church throughout history. This is shown that it is the case when the Lord wants us to make sure we hear what He has to say.

Revelation 2:7 – “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.

There are multiple ways to analyze Revelation. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Preterist – The book was fulfilled in the early church. This would mean that the events have already occurred. The thing that is positive about this approach is that it is interpreted in relation to the historical significance in which it was written. Unfortunately, this view diminishes the prophetic nature of the book and turns it simply into a history book.
  • Futurist – This means that the book only deals with end times. If we look at this as an extreme dispensationalist, we would say that these churches are not the churches of the historical day they were in, but only of a future church and can only be applied to churches today. This makes all of chapters 4-22 of Revelation only prophecy and does not include history into it.
  • Continuous Historical – This is the view that says that Revelation is history of the world from the apostolic age until the end of times. While this does see the book as part of history, it opens the interpretation up to subjective views. Most people who fall into this group will view the book of Revelation in light of current events.
  • Idealist – The idealist sees no historical value in the book, but only a symbolic triumph of good over evil.

I am going to try and look at the historical context of the churches and then analyze them in light of future prophecy.

This means that it is appropriate that Ephesus is addressed first. As seen above, it was an amazing city!

Paul’s first visit was short (Acts 18:19-21) and then Apollos also ministered there (Acts 18:24-28). Paul returned and Christianity flourished throughout the city. Because of the passion that the church had to the gospel, the message spread to the region. To this, Demetrius took offense and had Paul removed from the city.

Paul did pass by Ephesus later because he wanted to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. He called for the Ephesian leaders to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:16). He explained to them the danger about him returning to Jerusalem.  Paul warned the elders that wolves would come among them and drive people away from the church.

Later, when Paul was writing Timothy, he asked him to stay in Ephesus to deal with those who were teaching false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-7).  He focused on the qualities of church leadership with Timothy as those who were leading were driving people away from the church.

1 Timothy 1:3-7 –  As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

As we know John lived in Ephesus in his later years of life, John was instructed to write to the angel of the church in Ephesus. There are a lot of different theories about who the “angel” is that is being admonished, but regardless, the topic is the church at Ephesus.

In opening with the verse that explains Jesus as the One who holds the 7 stars and walks among the 7 lampstands, He shows that He walks among His churches. He is in fellowship with them. He is involved in them.

Jesus points out the good and the bad to the church in Ephesus. He points out that the church in Ephesus cannot tolerate wicked people and that they have persevered. They work hard and have good deeds. They have found the false prophets. They have endured and have not gotten tired of persevering.

BUT…

Jesus tells us that they have forgotten their first love; the love of God and the love of people.

Revelation 2:4 – But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.

How many times have you gone to your church, sat there, and pointed out all the things that are good and bad in your church? Many times we allow our feelings to guide us in what we like and don’t like. Do you like the music? Then it must be a good church. Do you dislike the lack of small groups? It must be a bad church. But that isn’t the case.

I believe God is telling us, by pointing out so many positive points in this, and the other churches, and only a limited number of negative points, that there is really only a few critical things when it comes to being a church community.

In Ephesus, one of those points is remembering your love of God and people.

What does Jesus mean by “your first love?”

It must mean that they had previously had a love that they have left behind. It is easy to say that the primary love they had left behind was for both God and people. And that is partially right.

But I believe that the love Jesus is referring to in this passage is primarily for the people of the church and community.

Why?

First, In Ephesians 4:15-5:2, Paul tells the Ephesians to love one another. The context is an emphasis on the relationship between the community of believers.  Second, in Ephesians 1:15-16, Paul praised the church for their love of one another. Third, in Scripture, we are told that in the last days the love that will be lost is the love for one another (Matthew 24:9-12).

Matthew 24:9-12 – “Then they will hand you over for persecution,and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.

The Ephesian church worked very hard to maintain their doctrinal purity but in doing so, they have passively neglected the love for one another. I could do a word study here that would show the passive nature of the neglect the Ephesians had for brotherly love, but I will leave that for more others who are more well versed with original language.

The consequence for the church continuing to neglect their love of one another would be for the Lord to remove their lampstand. The lampstand is the church’s ability to function as a testimony to the world. Just as Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), the church is a lampstand.  Removing the lampstand could mean that the church’s ability to witness is lost. Please note that this Scripture has absolutely nothing to do with losing your salvation. It is simply the testimony of the church in the world that would be lost.

This is shown in John 13:34-35 when Jesus says:

John 13:34-35 – “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Christian’s love for one another is a very powerful witness to the presence and power of Christ. If that is taken away, then our power to witness and evangelize is hurt.

The way the church in Ephesus, and consequently the church today, can fix this issue is through the 3 R’s:

  • Remember

Through passive neglect they had forgotten to love one another.  They are called to remember when they had that love.

  • Repent

This goes beyond just grieving. This is a genuine change of heart and mind that results in a change in behavior and overall lifestyle.

  • Renewed Response

Begin to put love into practice once again.

The Ephesian church shows a problem that is common for every church and every Christian. We allow Satan to take advantage of our strengths thereby turning them into weaknesses. The truth of doctrine is important, but doctrine can never be the end in itself. Truth and love should never be separated. Truth needs to be proclaimed in love.

Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.

And love must be proclaimed with truth.

Philippians 1:9-10 – And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,

We need to remember the church in Ephesus and maintain doctrinal purity, but not at the expense of love.

A New Place

Psalm 127:1 – Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

My beautiful wife and I are moving into a new house tomorrow. This has been a crazy year! We got engaged, married, built a house, went on mission to Peru, she started a ministry at church, I have had my first full year under my belt with the company I started, and life keeps rolling on. To say that this year has been stressful is an understatement.

The money has been coming in just a little above where we need it to be every month, so we are truly blessed in that way.

But, from time to time, I don’t feel very blessed.

In the midst of all of the stress (all of it was self-inflicted stress, by the way), I lose sight of what is really important.

God.

The Bible says that…

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Unfortunately, many times, our definition of good and God’s definition are askew. In our human terms, we think that “good” is defined as easy, stress-free, and happy. God’s definition is very different. He sees “good” in terms of spiritual growth. With all growth comes hard, stressful, filled-with-pain moments which, in the end, leads to maturity in faith.

So we are moving into the new place tomorrow. And with that we will see a whole bunch of bills hitting us. As a matter of fact, I am not exactly sure where all the money will be coming for these bills. But I know one thing: the God of the universe knows about it and will, as in times past, supply all our needs.

But I write this to please keep my family in prayer for the following:

  • That we may never lose sight of God’s blessings upon us or take for granted all that He has provided for us.
  • That we may maintain our joy throughout the craziness of this life. Satan cannot take my soul. That is with God in heaven. But he can steal my joy and my ability to share my story. May that never be the case. Please pray that my whole family will constantly be joyful in God’s gifts of love, mercy, and grace and that we will never cower from sharing our testimonies.
  • That we strengthen in bond to each other as we continue in this life.
  • Pray that our ministries are fruitful and continue to multiply. That they will do the work that God has given us to do. That we will follow His vision of church and of reaching the lost and equipping the saints.

So I thank you for any prayers you will do for us. And the next time I write, I will be doing so from the new place.

What the American Church can Learn from HersheyPark

Mark 12:31 – The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

I Love You

I mean that. No, really.

Just don’t make me mad. I might not love you very much.

Oh, and just don’t speak against topics I support politically and morally. I don’t have to love you then.

And you better never hurt me or my loved ones because I not only will not love you, but I may hurt you.

I am the American church (and, honestly, society as a whole).

I had a couple things happen over the past few days that got me thinking about love, getting along, and the Bible. First, I went to HersheyPark. Yes, it truly IS the sweetest place on earth. Beyond that, it is also a mash up of most likely every race, culture, and nationality in one small area. The next thing that happened was that I went to church this morning. One of my favorite modern preachers, Brit Fletcher (FYI, I only have about 8-10 modern preachers that I truly listen to), was preaching. His topic today was a very nice exegesis of one of the Beatitudes with 1 John 4. It tied very nicely with what I wanted to say in this blog this week, so I am pretty much going to steal what he wrote, put my own spin on it, and publish it to the interwebs because he said it much better than I ever could.

While at HersheyPark, the first ride we got on was the Comet. It is a wooden roller coaster built in 1946. Not only has it had a very long life, but the line to get on it was extremely long. About an hour and fifteen minutes we waited to ride it. As we stood in line, there were a LOT of different cultures surrounding us. About 20 people in front of us was a woman with her daughter that was in full dress, including a complete facial covering. The only time I saw any of her body was when she went to put her drink to her mouth and her chin was exposed. She did everything in her power to keep herself separate from other people. She held on to her daughter tightly and wouldn’t let anyone get too close to them.

Directly behind us was a group of people that sounded like they were from either Jamaica or Trinidad. They had absolutely no concept of personal space. If I took a step forward, you could almost guarantee that one of the group would not only be stepping on my feet but also rubbing up against me in some way. I should mention that even though they were all standing on top of each other (and me), that they had to speak to each other very loudly, sometimes yelling directly in my ear. But, when I said “bless you” to one of the ladies who sneezed, her face lit up with the biggest smile as she said, “thank you.”

Right in front of us were the PSL (pumpkin spice latte) white ladies. The each had a child and were talking to each other. One had asked the other how long the wait was going to be. When she replied with “I have no idea,” I figured since I had the app for the park that I would be kind enough to tell her. After I responded, they looked at me like I had 3 eyes, said a valley girl “thanks” and went on with their conversation.

After we rode the Comet (which, after going to HersheyPark since 1979, it is still my favorite coaster they have there), we went to get lunch. In line in front of us were two Hispanic women. One knew some English, but the other did not, so the one girl translated her order to the cashier. The Hispanic translator kept running back and forth to the table they were sitting at to ask everyone there what they wanted, leaving the Hispanic-only speaking woman to stare uncomfortably at the English-only speaking cashier. After about 5 separate orders, they had everything and were on their way. They method of speaking was very expressive. If a translation seemed lost, they used their hands. It was quite the spectacle.

Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Then there were the 20-somethings who immediately cut right in front of us in a long line. Being gentler than the average Fred, I was apt to let this go. Mimi, on the other hand, not so much. At the end of the day, those young adults were simply people who had bad manners, foul mouths, and no respect for anyone around them.

I could go on and on about the stories there at the park, but you get the idea. It was a collection of people from nice to rude, black to white, refined to down-home.

But everyone seemed to get along. The park was crowded, and even late at night, as we were on one of our last rides and the operators were having troubles getting the ride turned on in a timely manner, no one really complained. Everyone simply waited, seemingly patiently.

The collection of people couldn’t understand each other linguistically, couldn’t comprehend their cultural ticks, and in many cases looked and acted very differently, but they made the best of their time together.

There are a couple more HersheyPark stories, these are sweeter. Like the one kid I saw fall down and a perfect stranger picked him up. No, this wasn’t anyone from the park staff. This was just a random stranger. A black woman who wasn’t speaking English went over to pick up a lilly white kid who had fallen to the ground. She smiled at him, dusted him off, and sent him back to his parents. Then there was an elderly man who was having trouble navigating the traffic in a motorized wheelchair. A Hispanic man reached down, touched the man’s arm, and helped guide him through the onslaught of people. They didn’t speak each other’s languages, but they knew how to communicate in love.

Matthew 5:46-47 – If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

And that leads me to today. Pastor Brit (pB) preached about love. Do you realize that love is what proves we are a Christian? Jesus, in Matthew 5, teaches us that we are not only love those who love us. That would be too easy. We are to love everyone.

At the park yesterday, the love shown was not just an absence of hate, but a deliberate choice to make the lives better of those around us.

According to pB’s sermon this morning, love is not only one of God’s divine attributes, but it is a deliberate decision of His. In God’s perfect love, he sent His Son as propitiation for our sins. Jesus was the mercy seat that contained the offering for the remission of sin.

You might be asking yourself, “but what has God done for me lately?”

How vile of a question!

It isn’t what God has done for you lately! It is what God has done eternally!

Christ died on the cross FOR your sin. Even if He did nothing else in this world, THAT would be more than enough.

1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4 gives us a couple of truths about love (and these are taken both from Scripture and from pB’s sermon this morning). First, with perfect love, we can come in boldness in the day of judgment. This means that we KNOW we are saved. There is no question in our minds.

Second, love knows no fear. If you are in a relationship that scares you, then that is not love. Is it due to abuse? Is it due to mistreatment? Is it due to a past that leads to not knowing how to love? Then that is not love.

The terrorist, the racist, the bigot, the hatemonger, the gossip, the slanderer, the cheater, and the people who bash others do so out of fear. Since perfect love knows no fear, those people cannot know a perfect love and those people cannot call themselves Christian.

On the other side of the coin, are you afraid to engage in a friendship or conversation with the terrorist, racist, bigot, hatemonger, gossip, slanderer, or cheater? Then, perhaps, you need to review whether you know a perfect love.

Finally, love cannot hate. In America, and especially the church, it is allowed to hate the terrorist. It is allowed to hate those of a different political party. It is allowed to hate those even in other denominations simply because of that denomination’s political tilt.

That is not love.

That is not Christianity.

I would question whether those people truly know Christ.

1 John 4:8 – Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Ferguson 2.0 – Baltimore

The nation has once again broken out into a frenzy over what looks to be a police brutality case. But there are many key differences between Ferguson and Baltimore.

Both cities have primarily a black population, but in Ferguson, the powers in charge of investigating the incident were white while in Baltimore those powers are black. And in Baltimore, both the Mayor and the police commissioner immediately started an investigation into the conduct by the officers on the scene.

One more piece of information is that the protests in Baltimore, except for the night of 4/25, have been primarily peaceful. Police have given a wide berth to the protestors to allow them to vocalize their outrage. The only time we see a significant police presence is during the night of 4/25 where 3 dozen police in riot gear were required to protect both the general population and the peaceful protestors alike. During that time, one officer was injured a dozen other people sustained minor injuries.

The main difference between the two cases is that the police department in Baltimore seems to be much more open and communicative with the general public than that of Ferguson.

The city is at a tipping point, though. With the violence we saw last night, it is concerning that, even if the police department is fully open about each and every action, that the general population will not allow them to do the job as due process requires.

Just like any other investigation, you don’t go straight from seeing something on amateur video to putting a person directly in jail. Much more needs to happen. There needs to be a full investigation. For example, the police commissioner said that he knows that Gray was not buckled into the wagon as he should have been and that it is possible that he was hurt during a “rough ride,” where officers hit the brakes and take sharp turns to injure suspects in the back of the van. But during his meeting with reporters, he claimed that is unacceptable, which means some sort of punishment will be doled out.

The question remains to be seen, what kind of punishment is coming?

If it were up to the protestors, that would include the death of the officers. Many of the protestors shouted for the officers to be killed, and took their aggression out on innocent citizens. In one video I saw a man look behind his shoulder and see a man and woman walking behind him. He slowed down and picked up a trash can and threw it directly at the couple, striking the woman.

That would be like me seeing an altercation between a cop and accused criminal and then going to a random area and hitting the wife of random guy. It doesn’t make any sense.

This isn’t war.

Treaties have not been broken.

Trust has.

When trust has been broken you give the offending person the opportunity to rebuild the trust by repenting and doing the right thing in the end.

So as a Christian, how should we move forward?

Should I side with the protestors? Should I side with the government?

Neither.

As a Christian, we need to side for those who are affected most by this tragedy.

First, there is the family of the man who died. They deserve privacy and understanding. While the man may or may not have had a criminal past, the family is not Freddie Gray. The only thing we should be showering on them is food for the grieving family, love for them and the privacy they deserve.

Next, we need to remember the police officers. When I looked up the average training for police officers nationwide, it looks to be about 400 hours of training time in various areas. That is about 50 days worth of training. But, of that, only 8 hours are spent in ethics and integrity, 6 hours in stress management, and 8 hours in conflict resolution. It is not my place to critique the police training program, but I bring that up to put yourself in their place.

Did you ever have a friend who was going through problems? In the ministry, that is the majority of what I hear, people’s problems. But after a mere 8 hours in training on drug and alcohol addiction, I am nowhere near qualified to prescribe a treatment program to anyone. But that is precisely what we are doing with officers, we give them a significant amount of firearm training and limited training in other ways and we expect them to be perfect on the streets. No one will get it right all the time, and when it involves firearms and choke holds and fighting, there is little room for error. Those police officers did not go out that day expecting to kill a man.

Third, we need to remember the people who are affected in the communities because of the protests. The people whose cars are getting vandalized, the people who are getting hurt, the shops that are losing sales and may need to lay off workers. They are the ones who are the innocent victims.

So we need to show justice.

Sometimes that comes in keeping our mouths shut. Other times it comes in speaking out. But our speaking out should ONLY lead to Christ. If it merely seeks to affect change, then we are missing the reason for being salt and light as the Bible calls us to be.

Read John 4:1-26.

So let’s show some dignity to the people of Baltimore. Let’s show some dignity to the people of all of the cities who are facing injustice. Show them the Christ that was the same Christ at the well when the Samaritan woman was there in the heat of day because she was ashamed to be near the other women because of her sins. We need to be the Christian who shows grace. Who shows love. Who cares for those who are affected by injustice.

Being a Dad

Proverbs 4:1-5 – Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

As I lay in my bed writing this Father’s Day is coming up this weekend.  But even more importantly, my children are growing older by the minute.  I just left my ex’s house where my daughter was getting ready for her 8th grade formal.  I remember growing up and going to middle school dances, but they were nothing formal and it was never an event to behold.  Today, I was almost in tears as she emerged from the bathroom a beautiful young woman.

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I looked at her and was so excited, saddened, joyous, scared, young and old all at the same time.  My little girl.  How did she get so big?

So I though I would run through a pictoral look at my kids as they have grown.  I’m sorry this is more a sappy post about my family rather than something theologically poignant, but, hey, it’s Father’s Day weekend.  I’m allowed to go down memory lane. 😉

3 John 1:4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I love some of the old pictures of my kids.  When they were little, we could dress them up in so many different ways or take pictures of them in embarrassing moments and they wouldn’t care.  It was like having a dog that you dress up in those ugly sweaters.  I could pose my kids any way I wanted and it came out cute.

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As they got older, they got into sports.  When they were young we would take them on hikes when on vacation or have them take swimming lessons.  As they got older, the sport of choice was soccer.  Matt has been on the same team since he was 5.  Kenzi has been on a different team almost every year.  Their skills are amazing.  As a dad, I have to believe they will both turn into Lionel Messi some day.  That is my job.

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Sometimes, injuries happen.  Almost for the past 10 months, Matt has been tending to a knee injury that he received during soccer.  2 MRIs and a couple X-Rays later, we have no definitive answer to the problem.  It continues to hurt him from time to time, but he just presses on and continues to play the game he loves until the doctors say he can’t.

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Matthew 7:9-11 – Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Next, I just want to give you a few pictures that shows you how my kids have grown up.

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kids 80s dance

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Proverbs 20:7 – The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!

Every Christian dad wants their kids to grow up loving, fearing and worshiping the Lord.  Now I am not naïve enough to think that my kids are ready to preach, but I do see them growing in the Lord almost every day that I have them.  No, they are not perfect.  Far from it.  But then again, so is their dad.  But they are covered by the blood of Jesus, and that is truly what matters.

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Matt praying

At the end of the day, it is because this earthly dad has a Father in heaven that I can know that they are going to grow up just fine.  It is never easy.  I had a LOT of hair before these kids were born and now I am bald.  You do the math.  But I know that God is taking care of these little ones.  They are growing up to be such beautiful men and women of God.  I truly am blessed to call these two my own.

 Psalm 127:3-5 – Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Celebrating Christmas

Luke 2:13 –  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God

Each year since my divorce, I would celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve with my kids and my parents.  The same happened this year.  My parents came down about 11AM and we started cooking.  My mom makes enough ham for a thousand people, and we have mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, and a lot of various appetizer type things such as vegetable pizza and taco dip.  After dinner we enjoy mom’s homemade angel food cake and 6 dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Once dinner is done, we clean up and then head downstairs to open to presents.

By the time the presents get opened, we have about an hour before having to get ready for church and then we head off to church to enjoy a beautiful service.  After the service, it all ends.  My kids go to my ex.  My parents go home.

I’m left at the house alone.

1 Corinthians 13:7 –  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This year was a little different, however.

This year I enjoyed the company of my girlfriend, Mimi, and her boys on Christmas Eve.

We had 8 people in my house.  Four of them under the age of 15.

The family

We ate dinner about 3 pm on Christmas Eve.  It was great!  I realized I do not have enough plates or silverware to entertain more than 6 people.  We prayed and dug in.

I think I can safely speak for all of us that we all overate.

Then we headed downstairs for opening presents.  Every year, my parents overdo it on the presents and this year was no different.  But what was different was putting 8 people in the basement for presents.

Mimi Bubba Kenzi

I remember an old tobyMac song in which he sings, “when love is in the house, the house is packed.”  Now I am not a huge tobyMac fan (unless it is from his DC Talk days…now THAT was a band!) but he does sing a truth there.

My house never felt so warm.

It never felt so happy.

It never felt so….packed.

We enjoyed a lot of laughs, opened way too many presents, and basically had a good, old-fashioned, family Christmas.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

After the house was cleaned up, we headed to church where we had another great, old-fashioned family Christmas.  We arrived at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship (www.4theLord.org) almost 45 minutes early and I am glad we did!  By the time we got there, there were already about a hundred people at the church.  One a fully packed day, we can seat about 800.  We set chairs down the side aisles and the back of the church that gave us about 120 more seats.  Even after all of that, it was standing room only in the back of the church.

When love is in the house, the house is packed Skit time A Christmas Celebration!

“When love is in the house, the house is packed!”

The choir sang beautiful carols and hymns.  The children’s choir sang “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”  The sermon was powerful and timely.

And people got the message of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

And then it was over.

I went back to my house alone, thinking that the beautiful day of family, friends, and love was done for another year.

But it wasn’t.

You see, in years past, I would spend Christmas day alone.  I’d get a pint of oysters and some canned corn and cook for myself.  I’d spend the day in prayer and fasting until the sun went down and then feast on the oysters and corn.

This year was different.

Waking up at 8, I left for Mimi’s where her boys, she and I piled into her car and headed to her mom’s in VA.

Really?  The Falcons?  This family is Steeler's country! Wow.  Just....wow.

Time for Christmas number 2.

When we got there, there were nine people there!

“When love is in the house, the house is packed!”

For the second day, we ate too much food and enjoyed too many presents.

And it was beautiful.

We stayed there for almost 12 hours.  By the time I got home it was after 11.

It was a beautiful couple of days that focused on faith, family and food, something that even Christ enjoyed.

We pray that you had a beautiful Christmas as well.

1 Corinthians 13:13 – So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Merry Christmas!

Product of Society

John 15:19 – If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

I am going to admit it.  I’m a jerk.  But guess what.  So are you.

The society we live in helps us to create unhealthy relationships.  How often do we come home from a busy day at work and get on the computer or Xbox or Playstation?  On the those gaming consoles, we play games online with people who send us “friend” requests and think they are our friends.  On Facebook or Twitter, we find people whom we have not had a relationship with for years and send a few direct messages back and forth and think we have a relationship.  When asked how many friends people have, most add in people on Facebook or Twitter even though they may never have seen those people for years…or even ever.

And that causes our live relationships to break down.

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that lack on intentional devotion to my previous marriage helped to break down the marriage which eventually led to the circumstances that brought my marriage to an end.

Just recently, my girlfriend and I had a break down in our relationship that was caused by both of us not viewing each other in a loving way.  Thankfully, through the grace of God, we were able to discuss our problems and begin healing the relationship again.

That kind of break down is permeated through our culture.  And it has permeated itself throughout the church.

We, as Christians, really do relationships wrong.  We simply think that because we have God in our lives that everything will be great.

But that just is not true.  If anything, the opposite is true.

John 16:33 – I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

As a Christian, your trials and tribulations will still continue.  That is the problem with the world.  Look at John 16:33 above.  It says IN THE WORLD you will have tribulation.  Match this up against John 15:19 where it says we are to be in the world but not of the world.  When we are actively in and of the world, we find that trials and tribulations are going to affect us.  It means that the issue of living a life of broken relationships will continue….

UNTIL

We make the choice to be in this world but not of it.  God has overcome the world.  We will have those worldly problems while we are here, but if we keep our focus and faith in the One true God, then we will benefit from His overcoming of the world.  We will benefit from the grace that He provides us to be able to handle the situation.

In the issue of broken relationships, it means that we will have the ability, through our faith in the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, to rebuild those relationships.

This does not mean we simply sit by, pray to God for healing to the relationships, and do nothing on our end to heal the relationship.  It DOES mean that we do everything, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, to follow Biblical guidance on rebuilding the relationship.

So let me begin to close this blog post.  My biggest opportunity in my Christian walk is the struggle to build strong, lasting relationships.  I am great at starting them, but it is the continuing of the relationships that is tough for me.

Relationships are messy.  They take time.  They take struggle.  We can’t just be in the same location and call that a relationship.  We can’t just find people on Facebook and message them and call that a relationship.

We need to get together.  We need to dig into the Bible together.  We need to face our demons head on with our closest friends and advisors in the name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit to tackle those issues together.  We need to comfort one another.  We need to cry together.  We need to get angry at each other.  We need to laugh together.

That is the crux of TRUE relationships.  That is what discipleship is about.  It is God working through a few very close friends to build a stronger presence of God’s Word in the hearts of those gathered.  Through this discipleship, God becomes real to everyone in the group.

So stop calling your Facebook “friends” your friends.  Get together with people in the church and begin meeting with a couple of them regularly.  If you do not, you will not grow in your relationships.

And to my future pastoral employers, this is an area of struggle for me.  Keep me developing those relationships and building discipleship groups.  And do the same with everyone in the church.

We are a product of our society if we don’t.

Romans 12:12 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Loving Until it Hurts

Matthew 22:36-4036 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We are the church.  We know right from wrong.  And, regrettably, we like to prove right from wrong more often than not.  That is unfortunately the way we live our lives, like we are on a mission with something to prove to a world that is dying in sin….that they are sinners.

When Jesus went around teaching, did he spend the majority of His time punishing people for their sins?  No, He simply loved them until they saw their sins.  The ultimate expression of that is shown in 1 John 3:16 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

There are people in our lives who are simply difficult to love.  And there are people in our lives that we have no desire to be near.

You want to be an evangelist?  You want to go on a mission trip?  Take a trip to your own back yard and look at the people we come in contact with daily.  The boss who spends her free time thinking up ways to make your life at work difficult, your ex-wife, your kids, the people in your church.  This is where the command to love becomes so clearly evident because these are the people we are called to disciple.

If the way you love others does not have you asking yourself, “why does this love thing require so much work and time?” then you are doing it wrong.  It should hurt to love someone.  We are opening ourselves up to being taken advantage of.  And when we truly love someone, then we get less in the deal physically than the person receiving the love.

Kids are a great test to this.  A few days ago I was out with my kids and my son started in with a poor attitude.  He was simply done enjoying the night out and wanted to go home and go home at that moment.  He got a chip on his shoulder.  I immediately defused him by basically getting done what needed to get done (even if that included untying his shoes, which it did) and then got him on the road quickly back home.

The entire time I was simply showing love to him, I was thinking to myself that I was being taken advantage of.  And I was.  I started to get angry.  But then I realized something.  The story continues….

We were in the car and needed to stop and get some bottles of water.  As we pulled over, I noticed that he opened the door for his sister, he insisted on carrying the waters so we didn’t have to, and he even shared the choice of the music in the car with everyone even though it was his turn to choose.

Could it be that my simple acts of kindness, of not getting alarmed when he pulled his attitude, defused him enough to show him what it means to love?

There are entire parenting books out there that would say I am wrong.  But I believe that is just it.  The world is trying to give us answers on how it should operate in love.  For the world, love is quick, easy, and flamboyant.  For years in the church it has been long-suffering, painful, and quiet.

This is not to say that we should simply tolerate improper behavior.  My son and I had a discussion about what he did that I was disappointed in.  And God has those discussions with us all the time.  I love God dearly, but that doesn’t mean I am going to be perfect in the way that I behave day in and day out.  I am human, I am going to sin.  But God gently brings me back by expressing His disappointment in me at my sin, not calling me out in front of everyone.  It is because I disappoint my Father in heaven that I want to change my behavior.  I love God!  If I make Him sad, I want to change that.

It is no different with those who love us.  If it makes us sad, those who truly love us will change their behaviors and they will become better people for it.  You may feel like a doormat, but you aren’t.  You are a discipler.  You are changing someone else’s life by showing your love to them.

From a Stage in the Dark

Luke 7: 38-50

A few days ago I was looking through all of my Twitter followers and came across one that really piqued my interest.  A woman had on her profile “from a stage in the dark….”  She runs Unconditional Love Ministries, a ministry that works with women in sexually oriented businesses to come to Christ.

Now I am wondering.

How many other stories are out there that people just don’t know?  All who are Christians have a ministry calling.  Some are simply understood, such as children’s ministry, women’s ministry, prison ministry, etc….  Others are harder to come by and can actually cause a lot of people to cringe.

I must admit, when I am walking down the street and see the strip club on the corner my first thought is not about evangelizing.  My first thought is not about what Christ would do.  My first thought isn’t even, if I have to be honest, a pure one all the time.

More often than not, my first thought is one of judgment.

Now my mind is racing.

Did Jesus ever in His ministry show a lack of love to any cultural people group?  Did He ever exclude anyone from loving Him?

NO!

The God I serve cleansed a thief on the cross just prior to his death!  The God I serve allowed the harlot to wipe His feet with her hair, a symbol of sexual intimacy.  The God I serve was single, broke, homeless, and spent time with lepers, harlots, and sinners.  The God I serve came to show me how to love.

It is tough to love unconditionally someone when we know they are fighting with sin.  But we fight against Satan daily.  If we simply hold out, in Christ’s name, we will be victorious and able to resist the devil.

James 4:7 – “resist the devil and he must flee.”

I think back on those women in the sex trade and how is my life any different from theirs?  I don’t always have the purest mind so I can’t claim that I am any better in that way than them.  I sin in other ways that maybe they do not.

Ultimately, and at the end of the day, it is about whether we have Jesus in our life that will give us solidarity.  Our walk with Christ brings each and every one of us closer to Him, which, in turn, brings us closer to each other.

So whether you are a stripper, a hooker, a grocer, a social media guru, a pastor, an elder, or simply someone who is standing on the street not really knowing where you belong, Christ is calling your name.  He wants to bring you closer to Him from wherever you are in your life walk.

You don’t have to change in order to come to Christ.  But once you come to Christ, you will WANT to change because of your love for Him.  This is not legalism.  There are no requirements for changing your behavior to know Christ.  But once you know Him, there is no way you can stay the same anymore because of your love for Him.

It is the greatest feeling ever to be unconditionally loved by Someone.

I’d love to hear where you are in your walk.  If you would, please drop me an email at frednoble11@comcast.net.

Amen.

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