Last Week’s Message

We are now video recording our services.  Last Week’s Message:
“A New Realm of Possibilities” can be seen here…

Sunday February 23rd 2014.

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Why I am a Nazarene…

I was recently asked to give an answer to the question, “Why am I a Nazarene?”

If I am honest, part of why I am a Nazarene is my pedigree.  Both my grandparents were Nazarene ministers at some point in their life. My dad was a Nazarene youth pastor.  In other words, if I would have ended up as something else, someone had failed miserably…

But there comes a point in a person’s life when he has to own his faith.  I was in my 20s when I fell in love with Nazarene theology.  It was because of our “Theology of Love” that I fell in love with the church that I was born into.

We believe that God is a God of Love and God extends that love to EVERYONE.  We aren’t predetermined, we have a choice.  Real love always includes a choice to love and be loved.

But more than that, we believe the love God does more than just cover up our sin, we believe this Love of God transforms us into the image of Christ.

What that says to me is that NO ONE is beyond the transforming Love of God.  Even the person who is most hostile to religion.  The gospel is good news to everyone.  There is hope for all of us.  None of us is too far gone.  Jesus modeled this when he walked upon the earth.  He went to people that others had given up on.  He was accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners.  Everywhere Jesus went, his transforming love changed people.  From religious leaders like Nicodemus to tax collectors, adulterers, and lepers.

What I love about my church is that even in its inception the goal was to make “outsiders” into “insiders”.  The buildings were plain because we wanted to poorest of the poor to feel at home.  In choosing the name Nazarene, we were identifying with those who have been given up on.  Nathaniel asked Jesus, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)  To be a Nazarene was to be an outcast.  We are the church for the outcasts.

When we are honest with ourselves, we are all outcasts at some point.  We all are the woman caught in the act of adultery.  We all are the tax collector. We all are the Pharisee.  In short, we all long for and need an encounter with the transforming Love of God that is found in Christ Jesus and born in our heart by the Holy Spirit.

Honestly, at times our church has gotten away from our identity.  But what organization hasn’t?  What I am encouraged by is the fact that all across the North American Church I see churches that are getting back to our roots.

Why am I a Nazarene?

Because I believe in the transforming Love of God, that brings hope to places that are hopeless.  There is no place that is too far gone. God specializes in making something beautiful out of “Nazarenes” like you and me.

Just a thought,

Nate

A Case of the Mondays…

I know that most people hate Mondays.  It is the day when the bliss of the weekend that was collides into the rat-race of the week that will be.  It proves for a difficult transition for most of us.

As a pastor, Mondays are different.  There have been times that I have had Mondays off.  You might think that being off on Monday would be easier.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not.

You see Monday can be an awesome day for those of us in the ministry, or it can be an awful day.  (There are jokes pastors make about driving by the church on a Monday morning and throwing a brick through the window of the church with a resignation letter attached to it… No lie!)

I think the reason our Mondays seem to be bi-polar is because you never know what a Sunday will bring.  One week, it will feel like God is moving, the seats are filled, the music goes off without a hitch, and the sermon really resonates with people.  The next week, the projector goes out,  the pastor gets approached with an “issue” just before walking on stage, and the pastor isn’t sure if anyone is even awake during the service.

On the weeks when nothing goes right, Sunday night and Monday can be some of the darkest days in ministry.  Over the years I have spoken to other pastors and it seems to be a shared phenomenon, as the joke about throwing the brick the window seems to validate.

Yesterday I had a case of the Mondays…

I have found that for me, there are only a couple ways to deal with them.  First, I always remember the day I had a real sense that God was calling me to preach.  That is the bedrock that keeps me doing what I do in the “Mondays” of my life.

The second, and I think this one applies to all of us, I try to turn my focus away from WHO I AM, and back to WHO GOD IS…  It is amazing to me that when I focus on God and WHO HE IS, I begin to realize that he is more than enough.  If I am held in God’s hand, I am secure.  I have all that I need.  The result of this realization is peace.

So on this Tuesday I pick up my text for next week and find these words from Matthew 6:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Every day has enough trouble, especially Mondays, but when we learn to seek the Kingdom and rest in God’s goodness, we find God to even be enough for the “Mondays” we all walk through.

Just a thought,

Nate

The Problem with Fundamentalism…

I have always had a problem with fundamentalism.  I am not sure that I have ever thought out WHY I have a problem with a fundamental understanding of scripture in depth.  I read this quote today from Dr. Tim Crutcher, one of our theology professors at Southern Nazarene University.  It is the best explanation of why a fundamentalist understanding of scripture becomes problematic I have personally ever read.

Enjoy…

“The problem with fundamentalism is not that its interpretation of Scripture is wrong. It may be, but as Wesley recognized, “there are a thousand mistakes that are compatible with true religion.” No, the problem with fundamentalism is that it prioritizes the selfish human desire for secure knowledge over an encounter with God that might actually make us feel very insecure. Certainty obviates the need for faith–which the Bible itself offers as the only possible foundation for a relationship with God. By confining God’s word to only those categories we can easily and comfortably grasp, fundamentalism trades the amazing–and sometimes terrifying–dynamic of interpersonal trust for the safe but selfish and static ideal of certain knowledge. A safely domesticated deity, however, is not one worth relating to. Any god who fits in our box is too small to have any hope of filling our heart.”

More than just great plans…

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a million times…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…”

Jeremiah 29:11…  It is a great verse.  It does tell us something about God.  But it is part of something bigger.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

The first thing I notice is that Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t written to me specifically.  It was a message for Israel.  It was a message of hope that exile would not be the end for Israel.  Even after their time in Babylon, God had good plans.

I think there is definitely something that transfers to our day from this scripture.  Namely, God has our best interest in mind.  He loves us.  His plans for our lives are good.

In fact, his plans are better than the American Dream.  Sometimes it seems like the things that we want from God are eerily similar to the aforementioned American Dream.  We use this verse to assure ourselves that God will bring all those good things into our lives.

But what if God is wanting to give us more than just good things?

It seems that very few people continue on to verse 12- 14 – “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…”

What if the better thing than good plans and blessings is to find God Himself?

I know it can make us antsy when we talk about finding God when we are seeking God with all our heart.  It can almost feel like OUR effort is what is making the difference.  We know that life in God is a life of grace.  We know that God seeks us, we don’t seek him.

But I wonder if there is a principle of seeking and finding here.  Could it be that when we seek God, we put ourselves in a position to hear and respond to God?  Could it be that God has been seeking us all along, but we were just oblivious?

I have been to 25 years worth of youth camps.  One thing that amazes me is that God always seems to show up at youth camp.  Could it be that when we set aside a week dedicated to hearing God, when we put away the cell phones and PS4’s and all the other distractions, we actually are able to hear and respond to the God who has been seeking us all along?

But when we seek God half-heartedly, when we live distracted and running from one place to the next, God seems strangely absent.  I think this is what it means to seek God and find God when we seek with all our hearts.

So the next time you hear someone quote Jeremiah 29:11, remember God has something much better than plans for you…

God wants to give you Himself!

Just a thought,

Nate