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Archive for the tag “Biblical”

What Does Dying Look Like?

No. I’m not. At least no more than anyone else, a little closer to the grave each day. But, as far as I am concerned, that is my prognosis.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

But the past couple of days have given me pause to reflect on death and dying. Not just in human terms, but also in the church.

My first story starts as I was waiting for a simple medical procedure to be done. I was in the waiting room, a well-lit place with gray and cream walls and these stupid molding squares every foot or so. I was in the waiting room thinking to myself as I was about to get a biopsy done on my esophagus, what if someone comes back with a terminal illness diagnosis? The place that would be seared into my mind would be an ugly waiting room with gray and cream walls and squares on the walls.

They called me back and took me into the next waiting room, a small procedural area with hospital beds surrounded by curtains and people in those curtains recovering from their procedures. I could hear almost every word that was said between the doctor and the patients.

The majority of the people going in there were getting colonoscopies. One person was in there for her very first one. She was nervous, especially about the farting afterward. But the other 3 beds were taken up by people who have had multiple ones this year. One bed had a girl who couldn’t be much older than a junior in high school. She was on her second colonoscopy this year. Another bed had an 80+ year-old woman in it and she has had 2 this year. The man who came in and sat next to me in the chairs until a bed was open was on his third for the year!

The man next to me and I struck up a conversation. It started with small talk and platitudes. He asked me what I was in for, I did the same. He asked me my age, I did the same.

But then it took a little deeper turn.

He said to me that he never believed he would have to be getting multiple colonoscopies in a year. He said on his first one they found multiple polyps. After testing them, they were cancerous. They realized that they missed one that couldn’t be removed with the equipment there and he had to have it done at the hospital so they sent him in again. During that one it had spread a little more and they removed several others. This third time he was in to see if any more had grown.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

He stared me in the face and told me that he never expected to be staring a potential life-threatening disease in the face.

Now he was upbeat about it. He said he has no regrets for how he lived his life and he was proud of the people his children and grand-children had become. But you could tell there was a tone in his voice that said he just didn’t want this life to end.

One could easily say that this man is being overdramatic. The doctors didn’t know if he had any further issues, so why would he be getting all bent out of shape?

It is because death is final.

At least here it is.

As a Christian I know that this life is simply a small vapor in the wind and then I move on to the next life. But all of the people we have come to know and love in this lifetime, we worry about how they will react to our absence.

Ever since birth, this life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. Some come for a few moments, but others come for a lifetime. It is those lifetime people that we worry about.

I went through with my procedure and he went through with his. After that moment in chairs together we never spoke. I wish I would have gotten his phone number or email or something. I would really like to be able to check in with him from time to time. But I didn’t. #Fredfail

I will always remember this man. He was stoic but scared. Peaceful but a little anxious.

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live

There are many stories like the man I spoke to while at the surgical center. Too many to count.

A lot of them are happening in our churches as well.

That leads me to story number 2.

Over the past year I have interviewed at a couple different churches with hopes of becoming a pastor. In every single instance I made it to the final round only to get beat out by someone else.

But each time that I interviewed at a church I would sign up for their email list. I like to keep in the know about other churches, I believe it makes me a better minister as I am not the smartest person on church leadership (I could have put the period after “person”, but I decided to qualify it a little more)

Many of the churches that I interviewed at were smaller with older congregations. That isn’t a problem as long as you constantly are replacing those who are dying out of your congregation.

In the past 3 weeks I have received 6 funeral notices for one of the churches I signed up for! That doesn’t even count the other couple of churches I get emails from.

The church is not an easy organization to manage. You have several demographics to hit upon and you are expected to hit them all equally as well. You are expected to be the 7-11 of biblical knowledge. Most churches don’t do that well. They are skewed to one demographic over another. They are either an old church or a young church. A white church or a black church. An English church or a Korean church.

The churches are focusing on being niche-based rather than all-encompassing.

And this leads to some churches dying while others find the right niche for the moment.

Unfortunately, the right niche is usually fad-based. Right now, the right niche is to have a great sounding worship band followed by a charismatic message and do it all in about an hour. But that is changing. We are starting to see the death of the charismatic, evangelical church now as this fad fades.

You also have a lot of other types of venues popping up like the tattoo parlor church, the movie theatre church, the cowboy church, and child-focused church.

The one thing I have noticed time and time again is that those churches need to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

Now I am probably going to get a lot of unhappy comments when I say this, but does the church need to be relevant with the fads of the day, or do we need to learn to be relevant in how to be approachable to the unbelieving public?

Revelation 3:1 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead

Let me explain.

Relevance can be seen as adding a high-powered worship band and skinny jeans and fauxhawks on the ministry team. Those will bring in people who are searching to be entertained and don’t have to worry about making personal changes to their lives so long as they get their weekly dose of entertainment.

Or…

Relevance can look like the body of believers going to church and enjoying each other’s company before a pastor gets up in front and teaches from the Bible on how to interact with the world outside of the 4 walls of the church.

That was kind of painful for me to say. I enjoy my latte-infused, Bethel Music Group energized, skinny-jean with a fauxhawk preaching churches. Unfortunately, many times they are simply places to hide ourselves away as Christians even though we say we are being a light set on a hill, all too often, because we don’t teach people how to interact with unbelievers, when the unbelievers come to our churches they simply get burned by those who proclaim to be the light.

And that is why the church is dying. Well, that’s my take at least.

If we spent a lot more time teaching people how to interact with the unbeliever rather than being safe houses for the marginal Christians, we would find that we may have smaller congregations, but they would be a lot more fruit-bearing.

So whether you are alone in a gray and cream room with ugly squares on the walls or in the most beautiful high-tech church in America, there is something in common.

Death.

Psalm 115:17 – The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence.

And many times that death is slow and painful. And even if you do survive, whether it is a life-threatening disease or a church focused on doing church in the church, you will never be the same afterward. The light goes away. It is the equivalence of losing the lamp stand in Revelation.

I’ll end with this example that I got from Louie Giglio. The last 2 letters of the word “SIN” are “IN.” Churches who are “in sin” are “in church.” The first 2 letters of the word “GOSPEL” is “GO.” Churches that are being relevant at the individual level and going to places outside of the church are gospel churches.

And that is the church that Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against.

The Theology of the Future

Isaiah 44:6 – This is what the LORD says– Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

When I was young (and even today when I am not so young), I loved to watch shows like Star Trek, Star Wars and seaquest DSV. Those shows spoke my geeky side and, at the same time, kept me compelled with what I thought could be a very plausible future.

In some ways, it is quite plausible. In others, not so much.

For example, in Star Trek, there are quite a few technologies that exist today that people thought were crazy. One is the transparent aluminum armor, also called aluminum oxynitride. We first learned of this in Star Trek IV when Scotty trades the secret for transparent aluminum for a few sheets of plexiglass.

And what about those hyposprays that the doctors used to give injections? Turns out that the technology for those actually pre-date Star Trek. It has been around for a long time and called Jet Injections. But another medical device, Geordi’s visor, was an inspiration for the bionic eyes that exist today.

Even more than all the tech, though, I was always jealous of Captain Kirk, Han Solo, and Nathan Bridger for being able to travel all over the world, and to other worlds, just by making the decision to do so. Now that I am much older and have spent a considerable portion of my life traveling all over the world, I find that I am more content just waking up next to Mimi every morning and saying “Good morning. I love you.” Reminds me a lot of George Clooney’s character in the movie Up In the Air when he realizes that it is a very shallow and hollow life to lead when you live on the road.

But what about the theology of those kinds of movies and those shows in particular?

Science fiction and theology have always been somewhat diametrically opposed in their views. Science fiction is a literary exploration of the universe in which we require a self-conscious suspension of belief. Theology is the body of beliefs that help link a familiar world to the mysterious. Religion deals with sets of beliefs about a particular world.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth

But for years, the 20th century creation of science fiction has led to authors and film writers providing hefty doses of theology along the way.

Star Trek has been studied by theologians and philosophers for ages. There are many people who trace, for example, the Bajoran religion to Kabala. There are others who feel that the Next Generation series was about secular postmillennialism. Still others see Spock as a Christ figure.

At the end of the day, it is someone’s imagination.

And I, for one, enjoy the imaginative worlds that are created.

Gene Roddenberry, however, was a member of the American Humanist Association. In the end, Roddenberry was more pantheistic than humanistic. He believed that the cosmos itself was divine and that there is a cosmic soul.

Acts 17:24 – The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands

What about Star Wars? I am pretty excited about Episode VII coming out this year and Episode VIII starting to film a few days ago. If you haven’t guessed, I am also a Star Wars fan.

But the basic argument of Christians and Star Wars goes something like this: Christians have God, Star Wars has the force. The force does not translate to the doctrine of God. Therefore Star Wars teaches a non-Christian worldview and is, therefore, evil.

Again we see pantheism, but this time in George Lucas. Lucas said, himself, that he “wants to make young people think about the mystery and ask, ‘Is there a God?’”

The major thing that comes up time and time again not only in sci-fi but in many different genres of movies and book is pantheism, the belief that the universe is God and everything composes a universal God. It comes from two Greek words, “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.”

It teaches that everything, all the planets, the stars, the wind, the rain, the oceans, the trees, and us are all part of what makes up God. It teaches that God and nature share the same nature and essence.

But Biblical Christianity teaches that God is separate from His Creation.

Christians believe that pantheists are believing in an uncaring god. Actually the reverse is true. pantheists are very “in tune” with their god as they have a significant reverence toward the totality of their life in relation to god the universe.

They feel that everlasting life devalues it. There is a simple cause and effect to their decisions. Some might call it karma, but even that is too devaluing for the pantheist. There is no eternal life, only life here, so enjoy what you are given.

The difficulty in pantheism is that there is little to no true responsibility taken. There are no moral absolutes. It is about feeling more than about understanding. If I believe that murder is acceptable, I can go ahead and do it.

Romans 1:21-23 – For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures

Pantheism is basically a “get to become god quick” scheme. If everything is god, then you are part of the greater existence of god.

In Christianity, God is completely separate from us (that is His transcendence) but He has chosen to become one with us through the incarnation and live among His believers (His immanence). It is impossible to confuse who God truly is in the Christian worldview. We are both finite and fallen while God is both infinite and holy.

So am I going to stop watching movies and TV shows like Star Trek and Star Wars?

No.

But I will go into them with the knowledge and wisdom that neither reflect a worldview that is similar to my Christian one.

And, honestly, that makes it a little easier for me to simply enjoy the movie rather than pick it apart theologically.

Colossians 1:16-17 – For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together

Fred Noble for President

After writing about each of the candidates in a very, well, candid way, I decided that I better at least state what I believe and what I would run on if I were going for the Presidential nod.

Issue 1: Abortion

I believe that conception begins the life cycle of a human being and, since what is in the womb is a human being, it deserves rights as any other human being deserves. I will never understand what a woman goes through when she contemplates abortion. I will never understand what goes through her head as she comes to the conclusion that abortion is her final choice. But I also know that God formed us in the womb. If we read Psalm 139:13-16, we get that understanding. Those verses alone are even more amazing when we realize that the author didn’t have the medical understanding we do today. He didn’t really understand eggs and sperm, he didn’t understand how only a few weeks after the woman is pregnant that a human heart starts to beat, and he didn’t know that before the 3rd month of pregnancy is up, that fingers are forming and brain waves are detectable.

So that said, I would vote against stem cell research from aborted fetuses and from causes of infanticide. I oppose federal abortion funding. I support giving legal status and rights to the unborn.

Issue 2: The Economy

We need to stimulate this economy. As a small business owner, I know how much harder the government has made it for small businesses to succeed. Whether that would be the tax shelters that the Republicans have provided for large businesses or the increased taxes on small businesses that the Democrats have created, we need to improve what made this country great, the small business owner. I do believe that women deserve equal pay to men, but that if we are going to provide that, we need to also provide the same leave options for men after their family has had a baby.

I wholeheartedly support mandating Spanish classes in our schools. This will give us more of a competitive edge as those students enter the job market.

We need to lower the corporate tax rate, but that lowering also needs to be extended to sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and small corporations. The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. If we lower that, it will stimulate productivity among our corporations and will improve our unemployment rate. Lowering that rate will be felt by companies that are helping to fix the transportation and internet infrastructures throughout the country. We will see increased hiring by those companies as those projects ramp up more and more.

I propose no funding or tax breaks for companies that openly peddle vice addictions. Those would be pornography, gambling, smoking, alcohol, and food. I realize this statement may get me in trouble, especially with my career in the food industry, but removing the shelters for those companies will cause them to be more careful of what they distribute.

I am for increasing the minimum wage, but not to the level that the Democrats are proposing. I do believe that $10 is not out of the question, but the simple fact remains that the amount of training and education required for a dishwasher or cashier is significantly less than one of the apprenticeship trades. So if we are going to require that foodservice workers are paid equal or more than them, we need to raise the bar on everyone from senior leadership on down to dishwashers.

We need to modify Obamacare. The burden on small business is just way too great. When I, as a small business owner, had to go onto the exchange, my healthcare benefit costs skyrocketed from $60/month to $274/month. My prescriptions went from $10/prescription to over $100 for a single asthma inhaler and $399 for a maintenance asthma inhaler. I will explain Obamacare later.

We need to mandate a “loser pays” mentality for lawsuits. This would discourage frivolous lawsuits and hopefully lower insurance costs, especially for companies.

Issue 3: Civil Rights

Gay marriage is not a civil right. Being homosexual is a choice. Being black or white is determined at birth. Homosexuality is not determined at birth, it is a conscious choice one makes. We need to be a country that stands for a belief we were founded on, and that would include the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Providing right for partners is important, however. The union of those couples cannot be withheld, as our freedom of expression is at stake. But redefining the definition of marriage is unacceptable.

I support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

We need to eliminate all vestiges of racism in America. We also need to eliminate all vestiges of religious intolerance in America. As for racism, the laws for hate crimes (for any reason) need to include the death penalty and have much more harsh penalties for those who are included in a hate crime (to include bullying). With religious tolerance, we need to be prepared to allow those who start companies that are based on religious principles the ability to manage their company as they wish. Only the basics of fair wage needs to be mandated. The consumer will vote with their money whether that company should continue to be in business. That is not for litigators to determine.

Issue 4: Crime, Drugs, Gun Control

We need to control how a person gets a gun. Yes we are required to allow people the ability to get a gun for those who are to protect the United States. We are not required to make it easy for them. We are not required to subsidize them. We are not required to provide weapons to those who can’t pass a basic test about our government or even understand what our government is based on.

On the other side, we need to improve the salaries of officers, provide them a better quality of life, and arm them better against a new generation of criminal.

We need to mandate life in prison for all repeat sex offenders and strengthen the laws against trafficking and prostitution.

I would remove the legal status for marijuana and increase the strength of the penalty for possessing and/or distributing any drugs to anyone. This is not a state choice, it needs to be a federal mandate.

Issue 5: Education

We need to provide parents the options and subsidies to be able to send their kids to the school of their choice, not necessarily a federally public school. This would include private and faith-based schools.

We need to prepare children for the global marketplace by mandating 2 languages to be learned throughout their educational time.

Issue 6: Environment, Energy and Oil

We need to become a leader in renewable energy. Wind, solar, and other alternative energy choices need to be vetted and converted to in places where it is cost efficient to do so. We need to fix the environment through both a free market and government mandate. We should improve our mass transit infrastructure. This will come through reducing taxes on smaller, privately held companies and corporations.

I do believe that the EPA needs to have a bigger bite when it comes to protecting our environment. Right now they don’t have enough employees and they also don’t have the ability to hold people accountable. They must be granted the manpower and the ability.

Issue 7: Foreign Policy, Free Trade

Our country needs to be impressive when it comes to international trade and foreign policy. Countries that risk destruction of the free world need to be dealt with whether we have ally support or not. North Korea is a criminal syndicate, not a foreign government. ISIS is killing people and not being dealt with.

We should improve relations and trade with Mexico and partner with them it improve their economy, which will reduce the amount of immigrants coming to our country from there. We need to embrace the reality of globalization and international trade. We need to lead the way on that, not fall behind other countries.

Issue 8: Government Reform

Elections should be capped to a mandatory of $100,000 in funds for every candidate and any evidence of lobbyist funding will result in immediate legal action up to and including life in prison.

Issue 9: Health Care

Modify Obamacare. We DO need to provide healthcare to ALL American citizens. But we cannot destroy the system for everyone else. For those in the middle class, the current Obamacare has caused significant cost increases. The insurance companies boasted the highest profits ever since Obamacare became law.

But we will need to provide health care to all. Those who fall below the poverty line (which needs to be updated) will receive free healthcare. Those in the middle class will be required to accept their employer’s plan or be provided 3 options for government insurance: Low, Middle and High.

Issue 10: Immigration

We need to increase the amount of people who are legally allowed into the country each year. Right now we sit at 750,000. That total should go to between 1-1.5 million. Those who are already in the country, if they do not have a criminal background or history, we will offer them citizenship. For those with a dangerous background, we will deport them.

There will be no wall built, but we will increase the number of agents at the border and arm them better.

Those are simply 10 of the issues. I have many other views on how I would handle welfare, poverty, war, technology, tax reform and social security. But this gives you an idea about me.

You should now realize that I do not attribute myself to the Republican party. I also do not attribute myself to the Democratic party. I am also not Socialist, Communist, or any other “-ist.”

I hold Christian values.

Biblical principles.

I vote how my Bible guides me to vote. And I will stand up for what my Bible tells me to stand up for.

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