Looking for an Excuse

All of my coworkers are extremely saddened and distraught over the death of my sister Nicole. As co-owner of the business we work in she was our boss. One coworker in particular pulled the old problem of evil card. He—a believer in the existence of God and a nominal non-practicing Catholic—asked how it was just for God to take her and leave her young 5 year old son without a mother. I explained that there are things we just can’t know. It looks one way to us because our perspective is limited but God stands above everything, seeing exactly how all the pieces fit together.

But the bottom line is that my coworker is the type of person that Paul refers to as having a carnal mind, or a mind governed by the flesh, which is to say that he’s hostile to God, or put more strongly, he hates God. He’s looking for a way to feel justified in his rebellion. Had Nicole not had a young son he would have asked how it was just for God to take her so young. Had she been old he would have asked how it would have been just for God to take her so unexpectedly. Had she had a long drawn out illness that resulted in her death he would have asked how it would have been just for God to allow her to suffer for so long.

No matter the details, the unbeliever wants to feel justified in their rebellion. They’re looking for an excuse to hate God. The irony is that evil is only a problem if a good God exists and is Lord over all. Complaining about injustice only has force in a world where there is a universal standard of justice in place. Without a just God who is Lord and judge over all that exists we have no such standard. But if God raises her from death today, tomorrow, or in a thousand years, I wonder what his excuse will be.

The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them about the awfulness of Hades. Abraham replied that they had Moses and the prophets and that if they didn’t believe them then one rising from the dead wouldn’t make a difference. The scriptures contain the antidote to his complaints, but also the medicine for his soul. They contain the message of God’s love. It’s the love of God that changes his enemies into his friends. It’s God’s love for the very people who hate him that makes the difference; that’s the real miracle. God’s love nullifies every excuse.

B”H

The Most Difficult Post I’ve Ever Written

My pastor, friend, and sister, Nicole Rosato has gone on to be with the Lord. That’s a Christian euphemism for death. She’s dead. And my eyes are welling up with tears as I write this. If you know me then you know I don’t condone crying but for three reasons: a broken bone; the presence of the Holy Spirit; and the loss of a loved one. I’ve lost a loved one, although in reality she’s not lost since I know exactly where she is: in the presence of the Lord.

I’ll spare everyone the details of her passing other than to say that her brain ceased functioning this past Sunday night, a few hours after I left her and her husband to go down to Delaware with our friend and brother. We shared a nice meal together, went back to their house, joked for a while, and then we left. I didn’t get the news about what happened until Monday night because my other pastor, her husband, didn’t want to bother us on our sabbatical. It wouldn’t have been a bother. The next morning we drove home and went immediately to the hospital to pray for a miracle.

We prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. We laughed and joked and praised God, confident that he’d raise her to life. Even as I type this, saddened by her passing, I haven’t lost hope that she could get up. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. We held a prayer meeting at the church and people showed up in force. On the one hand it was a wonderful sight to see so many gathered to pray for the recovery of my pastor, friend, and sister. On the other hand righteous indignation stirred within my bones as I half considered rebuking the crowd for showing up to pray for a woman of God while hardly every darkening the doorways of the church to worship God himself.

It wasn’t the time though. It was a time to petition, give thanksgiving, and rejoice in the hope that we have as believers in a resurrected Lord. President Obama wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope. I haven’t read it. Probably never will. But the title speaks to me. In a world marred by sin and inundated with evil, we have the audacity of hope; the audacity to hope. Audacity could mean a willingness to take bold risks or it could refer to rude behavior. We’re bold enough to believe a story that the world deems foolishness. We risk all in the service of Jesus, or at least we should. We’re rude to the prevailing powers of the world; willing to spit in the face of despair in order to say, along with Job, that we know our Redeemer lives, and in the end he will take his stand on the earth!

I had the opportunity to minister to more people today at work than I probably have in the last two years combined. People were calling my phone, the barbershop phone, and showing up in droves to ask what happened. The sadness they all shared was combatted by the joy I exuded. I explained that the same God who raised Christ from the dead was able to raise my pastor, friend, and sister Nicole if he saw fit. I haven’t lost hope that he will. But even if he doesn’t do it now, he will some day, because the Christian has the hope of resurrection. The resurrected Christ is the firstborn of many brethren. As he is, so shall we be. So I miss my sister at the moment but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I will see her again.

Qohelet tells us that to everything there’s a season. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted. My dear pastor, friend, and sister has experienced the first three of these seasons and she will experience the fourth, as will we all in the resurrection. Right now it’s a time to weep/mourn and a time to laugh/dance. We weep because the death of a loved one reminds us that the world we live in is the result of the fall. Death wasn’t on the menu until Adam and Eve started ordering off the menu. But that tree of life that they were denied access to will be made available to those in God’s kingdom at some point in the future. I look forward to enjoying that fruit with my pastor, friend, and sister.

It’s a time to laugh and dance because we can remember all the good times we’ve had with our departed loved ones. And the believer can laugh because we know that death is an enemy who has already been defeated. O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? Under Jesus’ foot, that’s where! We laugh, and dance, and rejoice in the presence of our God because we have the audacity to hope; the hope of resurrection!

Now as you read this you might be wondering why I’ve consistently referred to Nicole Rosato as my pastor, friend, and sister. The short answer is because she was/is! It’s that simple. But it’s more premeditated than that. She’s been one of my pastors for a few years. She’s been my friend for more than a dozen. But above all, she’s my sister; as much my sister as the one my mother gave birth to. My entire life I grew up with a sister who was close in age and who I’ve known well and have been extremely close with. I can honestly say the same of Nicole, who is the same age as my biological sister (35), and has been with me my entire Christian life.

We’ve laughed and argued and done just about everything in between, just like me and my biological sister. We have always been painfully honest with one another and have never been afraid to offer a sharp rebuke when needed. In fact, the day before her death, we got into an argument over something stupid but made up immediately after it happened. We were both exhausted from operating on little to no sleep and cooking a ton of food (which neither of us was completely satisfied with if I’m honest). But in the hours before her death I stood in her kitchen and ribbed her with a smile. She ribbed me back and we parted company laughing.

Even as I stood in her hospital room I joked that I might punch her in the face in a fit of Wigglesworth inspired faith. I took selfies with her as she laid hooked up to a breathing machine. Some might see my behavior as insensitive; others may think it crass; but that’s the kind of relationship we had. I know she would have laughed if she woke up and saw the pictures. I have no idea if pictures will be allowed in the new earth, but if I can manage to get my S5 into the kingdom we’ll have a laugh about it then.

I miss my pastor. I miss my friend. But most of all I miss my sister. I love her and await the day when I’ll see her again in glory, whenever that may be. May her memory be for a blessing! Requiescat in pace!

B”H

In the Mail

An embarrassment of riches today. First, I came home from work to discover that Wipf & Stock sent along a copy of Daniel Castelo’s Confessing the Triune God, which is a part of the Wesleyan Doctrine Series, for review. Eerdmans sent a copy of the Study Guide for Jack Levinson’s Inspired. Then I went about my business and after some last minute school shopping with my daughter, I arrived home to find that UPS had left a copy of the Zondervan published Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity edited by Jason Sexton. 

I plan to start the Zondervan title immediately! 

B”H

The Logos Mobile App Strikes Again

I’ve been a fan of Logos’ mobile app for as long as I’ve been using it (roughly two years now). It’s incredibly helpful to have my entire Logos library in hand for any number of reasons. Today, for example, a coworker had a question about biblical geography, or more specifically, why the Bible focuses so much on the Middle East and doesn’t say anything about people from other parts of the world. I assured him that it did mention folks from other parts of the world and I used Acts 2 as an example since it mentions Jews gathered for Pentecost from all over the world.

Then I pulled up the Holman Book of Biblical Charts, Maps, and Reconstructions. We thumbed through some of the maps and looked at where all the nations mentioned in Acts 2 were. It was really helpful to have the visual aid ready and waiting at the press of a button. Here’s one of the maps we looked at:

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So just to reiterate: the Logos mobile app is AWESOME!!! If you don’t have it then get it. The app honestly makes buying one of their base library packages worth the money. And they’re not even paying me to say this!

B”H