boyradd

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Archive for the tag “life”

The Sinner’s Songbook

I love music. Not the music all you people like, but music that speaks to me. Sometimes that will be hymns. Sometimes that will be punk. Sometimes that will be rap. Sometimes that will be swing.

Tonight I was listening to a band that I used to listen to when I was growing up. The band is the Insyder’z. They consider themselves ska-core. Basically punk music with a lot of horns. Their newest album is The Sinner’s Songbook.

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

As I was listening to the title track, I started to really relate with what they were singing. I got to remembering people I have come in contact with during my short life in ministry. I’d like to share some of those stories here. Please know the names have been changed to protect people.

First, there is Harvey. I met Harvey in 2013 when I led young adults at my former church. Harvey approached me one night afterward and said he was exploring his bisexual side. I didn’t know what to say. I simply asked him to explain to me what he was feeling and why he was feeling that way. We spoke for a very long time that night. Over time, I noticed that he started coming less and less. Eventually he stopped coming altogether.  When I saw him at work a few months later we started talking again. He said that he really loved our conversations but others in the church weren’t accepting him because of his lifestyle. I explained that he, as a person made in God’s image is always accepted, but his lifestyle is not. Even to this day, we talk when I see him at work and he thanks me for being approachable.

Next, there is Cassidy. Another young adult, she has had a troubled life. She has been abused by her “loved ones.” This led to her having a low self-worth and eventually ended up in her making poor life choices. She had an unhealthy addiction to sex and has had several abortions. Immediately I connected her with women in the church that could walk alongside her. She wouldn’t go to church that often because she felt as if the people in the pews were judging her, but she continued to come to young adult group and built great relationships with the women there. As those women moved on in their lives, she eventually dropped off. I haven’t seen her in a long while, even before I changed churches.

The next person is John. I met John as he was mid-divorce and dealing with an addiction to porn. As someone who has been through a divorce and had those same feelings that John had, I started meeting with him along with one other man. The three of us would hold each other accountable. Then John started pulling away and I didn’t chase after him to find out what was going on. Then it happened. I got a call from one of his family members that he isn’t answering his phone and one has seen him. I called the other guy that we were meeting with and he and I searched everywhere from his apartment to his hang outs to his work. That’s where we found John. He was hanging from a tree. Dead.

The last story is Fred. Fred led a great life. He had a wife, 2 kids, 5 acres with a large house and a 6-figure job. Fred spent his whole life focused on a great career so that his family would never have to worry. Unfortunately because of the focus on the career, the marriage ended. Having it all and then losing it brings with it a ton of baggage. Fred has turned his life around, but still struggles with the sins of the past. Sometimes that past creeps into his new marriage. Sometimes his past creeps into his job at the church. Sometimes it leads to Fred withdrawing from people, focusing on tasks rather than relationships. The fear of another broken relationship is sometimes overpowering. His relationship with Christ gives him the strength and ability to bring about change in his life. A lot of that had to do with the people God put in his way. He had people to talk to and to build him up.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

If you haven’t guessed, that last story is me. The other 3 were people that I have come across in my time in ministry since 2013. There is one thing that is a common thread between all of these people. They all have a strong desire to change their lives. Something else that is common among all these people is that they all cried out to the church to help.

All four of the stories were affected by sin. Every single person was singing from the same Sinner’s Songbook. It didn’t matter if you were homosexual or have had several abortions or was suicidal or had an unhealthy focus on career. The tune might be different for each person, but the lyrics are the same.

“My life was affected by sin. I let the enemy win. I cried out in my distress. Depending on my difficulty, God’s people could do more but usually do less.”

Ok, so I am a terrible songwriter.

But the interesting part of the story is that there is a God who created all these people. All these sinful people. He created us all in His image. We all struggle. We are all afflicted. Any one of us, left alone in our sin, will be separated from God for eternity.

But God….

(any of you who read this blog regularly know that I love that phrase)

Romans 5:8 – But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

But God….

God can change your trajectory.

I know that for sure because, as I said, I was that fourth story.

The same God has called to each of us in His still, small voice.

But I listened.

I didn’t fear the change that comes with listening to the One True God.

Because of listening, my life has changed course. I was headed to hell with a full tank of gas and I listened to God as He intervened in my life and made a complete U-turn.

My salvation is sure.

My future is bright.

I went from a 6-figure salary and a focus on myself to less than half that salary and filled with joy. Am I always happy? Of course not. But I am assured that the God of all creation has secured a place for me in His Kingdom.

I don’t have to fear when my life is up ended. It just means that I am either being attacked by an enemy who desires to steal my testimony or my God is trying to get my attention back on Him.

Either way, I win.

So I implore you, reader. If you are a Christian, then live like one. Live like you have the God of all creation in your corner. Live like He has nothing but your best interest and His glory at heart. Live like you belong to the family of God.

If you are not a Christian, then I will ask you to sincerely seek the God of all creation. If, at the end of your search you can still tell me you don’t believe, then we can still be friends but not family. If, however, you decide to make the decision to follow Christ, then welcome to the family and please tell me about it.

Your life will never be the same.

You are still a sinner singing from the Sinner’s Songbook, but you are a sinner that is redeemed by the blood of Christ and being sanctified each day.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast

 

Change of Plans

Psalm 90:12 – So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

This week I turned 45.

I planned on sharing tidbits about what I have learned over the course of 45 years. It had all the ear-markings of my shortest post ever.

But then reality hit home and I was reminded on one thing that I have learned…we all have a change of plans.

As a single guy (for the next 36 days), my birthday started as pretty much any other single guy’s birthday. You wake up.

But I was reminded of something today.

A good friend of mine didn’t wake up. At least not in the human sense of the word.

A good friend of mine, and an elder in the church I attend, went home to be with the Lord a few days ago.

Tonight, I attended his viewing. Tomorrow I will attend his funeral.

I haven’t known him for too long, maybe a couple years at most. But Eric had a vibrancy to him and a calm demeanor that was infectious. He was quick with a smile and filled with wise words.I am blessed to be able to call him friend.

But tonight as I was entering the church and everyone I knew was wishing me happy birthday, I was reminded that we don’t have an eternity to make the choice.

If you believe much of humanity, you believe that there is no afterlife, and, that once you are in the dirt, that is the end of you.

Matthew 25:46 – And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

To me, that simplifies life way too much when I know that there must be a billion things that go right in our universe every day just so you can take your next breath. There must be something more.

This week is a great example of that.

I don’t believe in coincidences. And this week was filled with what the world would call coincidences.

At the beginning of the week, I was blessed by my church to be able to attend a conference for pastors and church and leaders. In it, there were back to back presentations on the eternal aspect of our lives.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The first presentation, by Charles Nieman, explained something that I knew from studying my Bible, but never really grasped until he discussed it in further detail. He explained that this life is simply a continuation of the John 3:16 life. We think of death here in terms of ending and eternal life in terms of beginning. But that isn’t it at all. This life is simply part of the greater whole. Death is not the end of this life or the beginning of the next. It is, if can be so crass to use worldly terms here, the evolution of man into the eternal. It is our next step in our humanity. Not the end of it. Not the beginning of something else. It is the continuation of it.

Jeremiah 1:5 – Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations

Jesus knew us before we were even born. This means we existed even before we were in the womb. This short life here is simply part of the greater plan.

The next presentation was by a man named Dale A. O’Shields. He shared a visual that showed the three aspects of our humanity: Spirit, Soul and Body. The spirit is that inner core of your being that is sensitive to God. This is what we humans like to call our conscience. The body is the physical shell that covers the soul.

It is the soul that defines us. This is made up of our mind, our will, and our emotions.

When put together with the first presentation, the eternality of the soul (past, present, and future) combined with the second presentation, the definition of the soul (as what defines our character), shows us a more complete picture of this humanity.

Fast forward to Wednesday when I learned that an outreach we did through the young adult group I help lead touched the lives of 500-600 people over a 4-day period. Those were souls, at very similar points in their eternal timelines, who were provided physical needs in order to have their souls refreshed. And hopefully it will reap spiritual rewards in their lives.

And then today happened, where I was able to see my friend one final time. Where I learned that this beautiful man of God had finished his race strong and was simply moving on to the next stage in eternity.

2 Corinthians 5:1 – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

But it put my past 45 years in perspective. What would have happened if I would not have waited until I was almost 40 to surrender complete control of my life to God? How many more souls could have been affected? What would it look like to Christ if my eternal pace was quickened 20 years ago and not 5.

None of us know what kind of time we have left on this planet in this physical form but one thing is for sure: we need to spend our time trying to figure it out.

That is called discipleship.

If you are not a Christian, I would like to urge you to reach out to me at fnoble777@gmail.com. If you are a Christian but feel weighed down by the world and don’t know what your next step should be to get closer to God, use that same email address. I would like to speak with you.

As long as you take that first step, Christ will run toward you the rest of the way.

1 John 3:18 – Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Life is…

I went through a week of tracking my prayers to God and found that I use the phrase, “Life is…” a lot. Here are just a few I have said in my prayers.

Life is hard. Yea. I have said this one quite a bit. Nothing in this life is easy. For those who have it easy, I am a little bit jealous and a little bit scared for you. For God told us that this life isn’t going to be easy. Look at the following verse:

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.”

Life is a gift. I found myself saying that a couple time last week. I heard some news stories about people dying. I heard my fiancé tell me about how bad the drivers are in Maryland and I feared for her and her kids. I thought about my age and just how much longer do I have on this earth. Look at

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Life is unfair. This goes along with the life is hard thing. I think to myself, “I have Christ. I should be rocking the lambo, living in a mansion, have the best of health, and have everyone want my life.” But honestly, in a human sense of fairness, this life has seemed very unfair. I have Christ. Why did I have to get divorced? Why is the ministry messy? Why do I need to live wondering if I will have enough money at the end of the month to pay the bills? Look at

Ecclesiastes 8:11-12- Because the sentence against a criminal act is not carried out quickly, the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit crime.  Although a sinner commits crime a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I also know that it will go well with God-fearing people, for they are reverent before Him.

I could go on and on with more phrases I said this week about life. But one phrase kept coming back over and over again and again.

Life is Christ. You see, the wicked do not have Christ. There are those who would try to convince me that there is nothing at the end of this life. That the only time we have is what is here on earth right now. I vehemently disagree. I have seen the power of Christ in people. As a person who is in ministry, I have seen lives turned around by the power of Christ. I have seen Christ give life-altering change to a person that was on the path to destruction. One only needs to look at any church and realize that t is made up of broken, sinful people. Not all will change. Because not all will truly seek. But those who seek with all their heart, mind, soul, and body will find the life-changing Christ at the end of their journey. And, as they breathe their final breath, they will wake up in glory. Look at this:

John 11:25-26 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Once we realize that life is Christ, we can view the day a little more humbly, a little more confidently, and a little more filled with love.

The day is still going to be terrible, but with Christ it is terribly beautiful.

The day will still be filled with darkness all around. But with Christ, it turns into twilight, both dark and bright.

So I leave you with one more “life is.”

Life is worth seeking out the true Giver of Life.

1 John 5:20 – And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Kiss the Train

Ephesians 4:11-13 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

Being in ministry is not always an easy thing. Each and every week I am approached by people who have lost their families, lost loved ones, are depressed, on drugs or alcohol, feel like they are failing or have just come to a point in their lives when they just realize there MUST be more. There is no human way possible for anyone in the ministry to be fully prepared for every situation that can come your way. All you can do is know your Bible, know the grace and peace of God, and be there to listen to those hurting and comfort those in need.

One of these tough situations happened to me this week. I was one of the first on the scene for a suicide. When I was growing up, I remember talking to some of my power technology classmates in high school and one of them joking about suicide. At the time, he mentioned he was going to go “kiss the train.” While he was just joking, this week’s suicide was no joke.

This was not just a random person. This was someone I had spent time with, poured into, and ministered to. I felt honored to call him friend. He had just recently made the choice to follow Christ and got baptized only a mere 10 days ago.

When I was on the scene, someone approached me and asked me how does suicide fit into salvation? Can the person go to heaven?

Judges 16:30 – Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Still in shell shock myself, I probably gave the worst answer ever. It was probably so bad, because I don’t even remember what I said.

Later that afternoon, I headed out to the Chesapeake Bay armed with my Bible and Google to do a little research on suicide. I knew what I believed, but I had never been in the foxhole before when the questions were asked.

Ask me anything about needing Christ in your life or the importance of baptism or communion and I will give you a text book answer that also models my heart. Put me in front of people who want me to deny Christ and I won’t.

Ask me a question about suicide and salvation…and I fail.

So the question that I was given today, “If a Christian commits suicide, can he get into heaven?”

Before I give you the theology behind the answer, let me give you the short answer.

Yes.

Psalm 111:9 – He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!

A Christian who commits suicide is forgiven.

But to understand why I believe this, I need you to understand the theology of salvation.

Put simply, salvation is being saved from God’s judgment. There is only one way to obtain salvation, and that is through putting your complete trust in Christ Jesus.   Look at John 14:6 or Acts 4:12.

Romans 5:1 tells us that it is by grace THROUGH FAITH that we are forgiven.   That grace comes through Jesus alone. Nothing we can do will ever get us a ticket to heaven. It is only because of God’s grace, death on the cross, and resurrection to life that we have the potential to be saved.

When Jesus forgives someone, He forgives ALL their sins and gives them eternal life. John 10:28 is very clear in that.

Salvation is not based on what you do. Keeping God’s laws do not save you anymore than owning a surfboard makes you a world-class surfer. No one is saved by keeping the Law of God. Check out Galatians 2:21 or Romans 3:24-28 if you have questions about that.

Now, let me emphasize though, that this does NOT mean you can continue to live in sin. Check out Romans 6:1-3 if you are wondering about that. Sorry, this is not a “get out of jail free” card. We are saved with the purpose of purity of heart (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

Our salvation is strictly from God. Other than acting out in faith and trusting and accepting what Jesus did on the cross, you did not do ANYTHING to deserve that saving grace. Since you did not gain your salvation by what you did, you cannot lose it by what you do.

In the Bible there is only ONE unforgivable sin. That sin is NOT suicide. That sin is explained in Matthew 12:22-32 and is basically denying the deity of Christ and His work on the cross. Denying that earns you a ticket to hell.

Now let’s look at repentance. Repentance is the necessary result of the saving work of God – NOT THE CAUSE OF SALVATION. If repentance brought salvation, then salvation would be works-based and not faith-based.

God grants repentance to the Christian! (2 Timothy 2:25)

Once God grants us repentance, then the Christian turns from their sin.

The Christian is able to repent because he is saved, he is not saved because he repented.

But Fred, what about 1 John 1:9? Don’t we have to confess our sins to be saved? Confession and repentance are natural results of repentance.

But what about sins you didn’t even know you committed?

You can’t tell me you remember EVERY sin you have ever done. Especially because many times, we humans act out of what we think are best intentions only to realize later that it led someone into sin.

If we are forced to confess and repent of every little sin we’ve ever committed we would be back under the bondage of the Law, not the freedom of Christ. Jesus even told us that His yoke was light (Matthew 11:27-30).

So, repentance is not the cause of salvation, but it is the result of salvation.

So, suicide, being, in essence, self-murder, is not something you can repent of. There were plenty of murderers in the Bible (Moses, David, Saul) but they each had opportunities to confess and repent. In suicide, the person does not have the option of repenting and confessing.

Jesus bore EVERY Christian’s sins – including suicide. If Jesus bore that person’s sins on the cross 2000 years ago and if suicide was not covered, then the Christian was never saved in the first place;   If the one sin of suicide is not covered, then the ENTIRE work of Christ on the cross is undone.

Jesus either saves completely or He doesn’t.

At the end of the day, I choose to believe my Bible in knowing that each of my sins are covered upon the cross of Christ: past, present, and future.

So is the Christian forgiven for suicide?

Yes.

But suicide is NOT an option. We do not have the right to take a life that belongs to God.

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