Small Acts Done with Great Love

I found myself sitting in my hotel room watching Seinfeld as a distraction.  My wife was downstairs in the car.  I was angry.  She was angry.  Rarely do Paula and I get to the point where we don’t even want to be in the same room, but that is where we were.  The cause of our anger was plain and simple.

I was being a jerk.

I had been a jerk to her from the moment we had begun loading up the car to head to Tulsa to watch our oldest play basketball and all throughout the day.  We had both hoped for a nice getaway to Tulsa for just the two of us, and I had ruined any chance of such an evening.

We decided to go for a 5 mile walk and talk things out.  I didn’t want to talk at first.  Like I said, I was angry.  She was angry too.  The first mile of our walk was an awkward dance of conversation, but as the miles passed by the truth came out.

The truth was I was lonely.  The truth was, that outside of the people who had to love me (God, my wife, the boys), I felt completely alone.  Anyone who has been in ministry for any time at all can tell you that the ministry can be a lonely place.

Maybe I was tired from the constant decision making of a building program I didn’t sign up for.  For those of you who don’t know my story as of late, our church was set on fire by some young people in our community last October.  The entire building has been gutted to the studs and we are in the middle of rebuilding.  Honestly I don’t really care if the shingles on the roof are slate or charcoal, and I can’t tell the difference between “mysterious” grey and “hazy” grey.  It’s all grey to me.  Maybe the constant demands of a building project were wearing on me.

Maybe my melancholy mood was due to the fact that I had been wading through some tough issues with some people, and it seemed like I was always giving.  It seemed like people only wanted what they could get out of me- advice, encouragement, support.  It wasn’t like I had been a hermit and secluded myself.  Maybe I just wanted someone to sit with me over coffee and just let me be Nate.  Not a problem fixer or a means of support.  Maybe I just wanted someone to just let me be me for a change.

Or maybe I was missing my best friend.  Every June, I am reminded of the best friend I ever had, Simon.  From the third grade on, we were best buds.  He was the most magnetic person I have ever been around.  We were inseparable through grade school and middle school.  In high school we drifted apart a bit because of different interests.  I was in basketball and band, he was in choir, but we were those types of friends who always picked right back up where we left off.  When we were young he used to play the Disney record (I’m dating myself here) of The Fox and the Hound and make me say it with him: “And we’ll always be friends forever, won’t we?”  And I would respond, “Yeah forever.”

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In the last conversation I had with Simon, he told me that he still considered me his best friend, even though we hadn’t seen each other very often after high school.  I concurred.  Outside of my wife, he was the best friend I have ever had.  On June 6th, 1994, he disappeared while backpacking in Hawaii and has never been found to this day.  Maybe it was June again and I was missing the kind of friendship I had with Simon.

Whatever it was, I was hurting and I took it out on Paula.  I have often used the phrase “hurting people hurt people” to describe the actions of others, but this time it was me who was doing the hurting.  After walking a few more miles, I was finally able to verbalize the fact that I was taking my frustration out on my wife.  We celebrated by doing what we do best- eating Mexican food!  We settled into the patio at Los Cabos and enjoyed a live band and lots of chips and queso.  (We had earned eating that Mexican food with our 5 mile walk right?)

One week later (this past weekend) I celebrated my birthday.  Through Facebook posts, texts, and getting together with family and friends I was reminded of the wealth of relationships that God has given me.  On my saner days (the days when I am not singing songs about eating worms) I realize that I have been blessed with so many great relationships.  I have some pastor friends that I meet with on a regular basis to just “be Nate” and share life and ministry together.  I have friends who I have celebrated birthdays with like we were family for over 20 years now.  My relationship with my parents and my brother is as good as it has ever been in my lifetime.  My immediate family (Paula and the boys) are a constant source of joy.  The list could go on and on.

This weekend, I had the privilege of spending the weekend with my mom and her husband Bill.  We went to Top Golf, played cards, tried our hand at cornhole, grilled out, and just generally had a great time together.  My family surprised me with some awesome gifts including tickets to see Coldplay.  Then I opened up my Facebook to see that a couple hundred people had wished me a happy birthday.  What a testament to all the great relationships that God has blessed me with down through the years.

Then Saturday night, something caught me off guard.  I remember going to a haunted house as a kid and when we had finished walking through the haunted house, we walked out an open door into the night.  We began talking about how scary the house was as we walked back to the car.  All of a sudden, a guy jumps out from behind a tree with a chainsaw buzzing and we all shot out of there like a cannon.  It was easily the scariest part of the entire house because we had let our guard down.

That, in essence, is what happened to me on Saturday night.  My birthday was over and I was preparing to preach another Sunday.  Paula and I had gone to the church to straighten some things up for in the morning and our youngest son had asked us to bring his guitar by Cobey’s house.  You see, our youth have this habit of all getting together on Saturday night at Cobey’s and, at camp, they had talked about singing some worship songs together as part of the gathering.

So I walked up to the door with Tyler’s guitar in hand.  I made a joke to Paula about just barging in to make sure our boys were behaving themselves.  She knocked on the door anyway.  When the door opened, I was pelted with balloons, there were streamers hung up, and I was greeted with a big hearty SURPRISE!  Now I am a hard person to surprise, but I was completely blindsided like the time at that haunted house.  I was blindsided by their surprise, but more than that I was blindsided by the love that a group of teenagers had for their pastor.  They had put the whole party together by themselves.  Hot dogs, chips, drinks, balloons, streamers, the works!  It was a simple act, but a huge one to me personally.

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Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”  The youth of our church had no idea about the events of my week.  My own boys had no idea that I had treated their mom like a jerk a week earlier.  They had no idea of the loneliness I had felt.  They just did a small thing that was a huge thing to their pastor.

It served as a good reminder to me that we never know what a person is going through and what a small act of kindness might mean!

Just a thought,

n8

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There is No “I” in Pastor…

I have a problem.  It’s my ego…

I never really noticed the problem as a youth pastor.  I never considered myself to be much of a ladder climber.  I was content to be a youth pastor.  I never took attendance on Wednesday nights.  I just loved doing ministry.

Then I turned to the dark side.  That’s what we youth pastors would say to all our friends who became senior pastors.  We accused them of turning to the dark side.  I thought it was a joke, but in some ways maybe it wasn’t.

When I became a Sr. Pastor, all of a sudden I seemed to be constantly evaluated by the size of my congregation.  I had to turn in my numbers every month.  All of the sudden, I had to be concerned about the offerings.  We had to make sure the bills were paid.  Our denomination has an assembly every year where we report.  There is a book that contains the stats of all of the churches in it, including attendance and finances.  It seems like we are always being measured by a business model that measures success by numbers and revenue.  Honestly, it messed with me a little.

I began to realize that my ego was heavily tied to my ministry.  I was turning to the dark side, literally.  And I don’t think I am alone.

I’ll never forget when one of our members asked me the question, “How come God never seems to call pastors to smaller churches?”  I really didn’t have an answer for him.  It seems that many of us pastor types have bought into a business model that says we are more successful if we are pastoring a large congregation.

This week, we lost an amazing member of our church.  She battled cancer for 5 years valiantly and inspired my entire congregation along the way.  I was actually in Puerto Rico when I got the news.  We had to wait a day before we could fly home.  I didn’t want to be in Puerto Rico anymore.  I wanted to be home, mourning with the family and my church family.

I am beginning to realize that there is something special about being in ministry for the long haul.  It means something to celebrate with people when their kids graduate from high school, and to mourn with them when they lose a loved one.  There is something important about being there to marry people, dedicate their children, and bury their grandparent.  There’s something about walking the journey together, taking communion together, placing ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, baptizing them, and sending some of them out as ministers of the gospel.

The picture below is a picture of some kids from my church at Tyler’s 3rd birthday party.

IMG_0803 Next summer, most of these kids will go to NYC in Louisville with our church.  Someday, I will watch them get married, and perhaps perform some of those ceremonies.  There is something very healthy about long-term pastorates.

I’ve decided that I am sticking with these people.  The church may grow, it may not.  I will preach the Word.  I will administer the sacraments.  I will laugh with these people.  I will cry with them.  But more than anything, we will go through it together.

You see, the ministry isn’t really about me.  It is about being willing to sweat and bleed for a group of people the way Christ was willing to sweat and bleed for me.  I believe our church will grow, but I will not allow a number on a page to define me.  I will be defined by the way I care for those I have been entrusted to serve!

Anything else isn’t ministry, it’s self-serving…

Just a thought,

n8

A Pastor’s Appreciation…

We are on the heels of a month of appreciation for we pastor-types.  It always feels good to be appreciated, and I am thankful to be serving a congregation that appreciates their pastor all throughout the year.  Sometimes when I peruse the internet, it seems like we pastors are a bit of a miserable lot.  Most of the posts about pastors talk about our depression, our struggles, and our inadequacies.  I’m not saying that this pastor is exempt from any of these.  I have my share of neuroses to be sure, but this post isn’t about any of that…

There are three other people who make this journey with me.  Unlike me, they didn’t choose this life for themselves.  My wife, Paula, married a chemist.  She had no idea what she was signing up for when we married.  The title of “pastor’s wife” never crossed her mind when she said “I do.”

And then there are these two young men that live in my house.  They had no choice in the matter at all.  They were born as YPK’s. (Youth Pastor’s Kids)  There has always been somewhat of an expectation on them to be “good boys.”  Almost five years ago, they became just PK’s.  Maybe there is more expectation tied to that, I’m not sure.  Everybody expects the youth pastor to be a little crazy, so maybe YPK’s get cut a little slack.  Either way, they are PK’s which comes with a whole list of expectations.

At the end of pastor appreciation month, I’d like to thank these three.  They are the ones who pick me up on the days when I am the epitome of those pastoral blog posts.  When I am hurt, frustrated, depressed, or just plain worn out from the duties of being a pastor, it is these three that keep me steady.  It is in these three that I find constant affirmation, acceptance, and love.  Their love is the closest thing to the love of God that I have experienced on this earth.  So I would be remiss if I didn’t share my appreciation for them…

To Paula: From the moment you said those three magical words, “What’s your name?”, I knew that there was something amazing about you.  You are much more than a pretty face, although you are that for sure.  You are the one I have laughed with and cried with for   20 years now.  I love that we still date.  I enjoy going to our kids ball games, or just sitting around the house hanging out with the boys.  You are my rock.  You prop me up when I question myself.  Your faith challenges me.  You make an amazing pastor’s wife even though you didn’t sign up for it.  You are the life of the party and bring joy to the people you are with.  You dive right in and work hard at the church right beside me, even though you aren’t paid like I am.  You always have.  You allow me to completely be myself.  I love you…

To Nathan: You came into the world in a dramatic fashion.  We weren’t sure if you were going to make it or not that first night.  I am so glad you did.  You were always my mini-me.  Nate Jr. is what we called you as baby.  You always were a practical joker and a bit sarcastic like your dad.  I’ll never forget the prank you played on me in kindergarten.  You really were a mini-me.  Not so much my mini-me anymore.  Now I look up to you.  I know that there are days that people put expectations on you because of my calling, but I couldn’t be prouder of you.  You ARE a good kid, not because your dad is a pastor, but because you have chosen to follow Christ yourself.  I love that you are really enjoying high school and that you have a great group of friends to share the experience with.  I am excited to watch you play basketball this year, but am more excited about being your dad.

To Tyler:  We’ve always had a bit of a special bond because you and I understand what it is like to be the youngest of two brothers.  Since you were a toddler, you have been able to make the entire family laugh.  You are always entertaining us.  You too ARE a good kid, not because you have to be, but because you have placed your life in Christ’s hands.  I’ve watched you bring your friends to church and watched them become part of our youth ministry.  I have had the privilege of baptizing some of them.  You jumped in and started playing the drums in 5th grade, much to the surprise of everyone on the stage and in the church.  I taught you everything I know about the guitar, which took like an hour, but still…  Someday you will be teaching me how to play things on guitar.  I am looking forward to watching you play ball in the next month or so.  I love being your dad.

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This weekend, as I watched my family set up for our “Monster Mash” trunk or treat, I realized how much I appreciate these three.  There is kind of this unspoken understanding that they will be there, but I love that they genuinely want to be there.  Tyler was over at the table sawing 2×4’s and building games, which he does much better than his old man.  Nathan was carrying sheets of plywood and reaching things that no one else could.  Paula was scurrying around completing 10 tasks to every one of mine as usual.  And I thought to myself, no matter where ministry may take me, no matter the ups and downs, I will have these three people.  Definitely three people this pastor appreciates…

Active Waiting: Recovering the Passion of John Wesley

“Set yourself on fire with passion & people will come for miles to watch you burn. -John Wesley.” You may have seen a quote like this floating around the twittersphere. The only problem with this quote is that there is no evidence that John Wesley actually said any such thing. Why then is this quote so often attributed to Wesley? I think the reason the quote keeps getting attributed to Wesley is that it seems to be a good summary of his life. As a graduate student at Nazarene Theological Seminary, I was asked to study the life and thought of John Wesley including his sermons and journal entries. I was immediately struck with the passion with which Wesley pursued God. If there is one thing that I think the Church of the Nazarene could stand to recapture from Wesley’s legacy, it would be this passionate pursuit of God.

When Wesley was at Oxford, he joined a group his brother Charles had formed called “the holy club.” Although the main focus of this group was studying the scriptures, the members of the holy club were determined to live out their understanding of the text in daily life. John Wesley had little use for theological thoughts that were not lived out in a believer’s life.[1] A simple quote illustrates the passion with which this group pursued their Savior:

At first the friends met every Sunday evening; then two evenings in every week were passed together, and at last every evening from six to nine. They began their meetings with prayer, studied the Greek Testament and the classics, reviewed the work of the past day, and talked over their plans for the morrow, closing all with a frugal supper. They received the Lord’s Supper weekly, fasted twice a week, and instituted a searching system of self-examination, aiming in all things to do the will of God and be zealous of good works.[2]

There seems to be a natural pushback in the Church today against this kind of discipline. After all, any kind of spiritual practice that requires discipline has the potential to lead to putrid self-righteousness. Even Wesley, as he reflected on his Aldersgate experience, may have later considered his “holy club” days to be a type of self-righteous striving. His journal seems to imply that Aldersgate was the place where he first genuinely trusted the Love of God. However, it seems that this passionate pursuit of God was a quality in Wesley that made events like Aldersgate possible. By allowing himself to be constantly shaped by scripture, fasting, communion and the like, Wesley was making space in his life for grace. In other words, he was able to seek and find God as he sought God with all his heart.

A quick look into Wesley’s journal reveals that he continued to live with this same passion after leaving Oxford. Wesley’s daily routine during his trip across the Atlantic illustrates his dedication to the pursuit of Christ and to ministry. Beginning with prayer at 4 AM, Wesley’s days at sea were inundated with personal spiritual formation as well as ministry to others. After that initial hour of prayer, Wesley and his companions spent two hours in the bible together, reading the scripture in community. They also read the early church fathers’ comments on the passages and compared the two understandings. Wesley then set aside an hour for breakfast. After breakfast was an hour for public prayer, followed by a three-hour study of German. This was to enable John to minister to the German immigrants onboard. At noon, the Wesley brothers and their companions gathered for accountability and then ate lunch together. After lunch, the group spent time reading to other passengers on the ship that were in their care. The early evenings consisted of a public prayers and catechism, private prayers, and reading to men who were in their cabin. The Germans hosted a public service at 7 PM, which Wesley attended. The Wesley brothers and their companions then met together one more time to “exhort and teach one another” about an hour before they went to bed.[3] In looking at Wesley’s daily schedule, it becomes painfully obvious that the driving force in Wesley’s life was to “Love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to love his neighbor as himself.” His passion to know God permeated every hour of his days at sea.

Although Wesley’s daily pursuit of God demonstrates the passion with which he approached his faith, it may be in his lack of faith that we see this characteristic most distinctly. On his voyage to America, Wesley had a “near death” experience. It bothered Wesley that in the midst of the storm, he lacked a sense of assurance about his faith. What was even more troubling was the fact that a group of German Christians known as Moravians seemed to have a peace when faced with their own mortality that Wesley did not possess. They literally continued to worship by singing the evening’s Psalm as the storm raged on. When Wesley realized his faith to be lacking assurance, he began to seek this assurance with his usual vigor. He was introduced to a Moravian named Peter Bohler. Bohler continued to converse with Wesley about the “assurance of faith” and encouraged Wesley to continue to preach, even as he sought the assurance of salvation.[4] On May 24th, 1738, Wesley received the assurance of salvation he had been seeking:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.[5]

Even though Wesley admits that he went “unwillingly” to the meeting at Aldersgate Street, that evening was a culmination of a Wesley’s search for the assurance of salvation. The search began on a boat in the Atlantic where Wesley realized his faith to be lacking. It was this lack that led him to “actively wait” for the assurance that he witnessed in the Moravians. Wesley’s friendship with Peter Bohler was another form of this “active waiting.” In short, Wesley made himself available to God so that he was willing and able to recognize the grace of God at Aldersgate.

It seems that Wesley’s life was characterized by this “active waiting” upon God. Wesley’s life was saturated with prayer, scripture, and participation in Christian community, which was characterized by receiving communion together. Wesley called these activities the “means of grace.” He instructed those who desired the grace of God to wait for it, not passively, but by actively pursuing the means of grace.[6]

The Church desperately needs to recapture the passion that led John Wesley to actively pursue God. We are victims of the dreaded pendulum swing. We have seen discipline turn into legalism, and therefore, our natural reaction has been to forego discipline altogether. Grace is free. It seems to us to be something we passively receive. Wesley’s daily schedule is almost laughable to us. Even the pastors among us can hardly imagine having every hour of the day accounted for in study, prayer, or ministry. We enjoy our lazy boys and Netflix binges. It is difficult for us to get our people to commit to an hour-long service every week. Wesley’s words from his sermon entitled “On Grieving the Holy Spirit”, sound all too familiar to us:

Men are generally lost in the hurry of life, in the business or pleasures of it, and seem to think that their regeneration, their new nature, will spring and grow up within them, with as little care and thought of their own as their bodies were conceived and have attained their full strength and stature; whereas, there is nothing more certain than that the Holy Spirit will not purify our nature, unless we carefully attend to his motions, which are lost upon us while, in the Prophet’s language, we “scatter away our time,” — while we squander away our thoughts upon unnecessary things, and leave our spiritual improvement, the one thing needful, quite unthought of and neglected.[7]

Once again, we see that Wesley refutes the understanding that holiness somehow happens to us. Rather, Wesley affirms that our response to the sanctifying grace of God is to “attend to His motions.”   With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like, we are given a multitude of opportunities to “scatter away our time.” We are easily distracted by the myriad of choices placed in front of us each day. We cart our children to soccer practice, vocal lessons, and swim team. Could it be that we have been guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit by allowing our lives to become so disjointed and distracted?

Over the years, we have had lots of theological conversations about holiness. We have talked about two trips to an altar. We have talked about growth in grace. We have argued over which is correct. Some of us have said, “This is a both/and thing, not an either/or.” Although Wesley understood sanctification to be a crisis event, he acknowledged that scripture is somewhat ambiguous on the subject. Perhaps it’s time to stop having discussions on the mechanisms of sanctification and to, instead, begin passionately pursuing a Holy God, trusting God to give us all the experiences we need. It seems that Wesley’s pursuit was a pursuit of God that led him to experiences, rather than a pursuit of experiences that led him to God.

Recapturing this passion from Wesley will mean that we will have to say “no’ to some things. Many of those things will be “good” things, but not necessarily “the best” thing. It means that we will have to learn to make space in our lives for grace. It might mean that we turn off the Netflix marathon. It might mean that our churches say “no” to traditional weekly events to create new environments for hearing scripture in community. Some of us might be able to leverage the power of our technology by listening to scripture on our morning walk. Others of us may want to put the technology away for large portions of our day. We might give up sleep, or food, or even sex. We might have to learn to say “no” to some things to make ourselves available to receive the grace that God desires to pour into our lives.

If we are to take our cues from Wesley, a passionate pursuit of God will most certainly include attending to the means of grace. Rather than living by one verse bible promises, (which may or may not be completely ripped out of context) we will have to become a people who devour scripture. We will need to learn to hear scripture in community, both with the people in our local congregation and in the historical voices of the church. We will need to be a people of prayer who call on God both individually and as a congregation all throughout the week. Finally, we will need to be a people of communion, a living embodiment of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. I pray that the people called Nazarenes would once again learn what it means to “actively wait” on the grace and mercy of God by attending to the means of grace. I believe that, as we are willing to attend to the means of grace, we will be set on fire, and the world will come to watch us burn!

            [1]. Timothy J Crutcher, John Wesley: His Life and Thought (Publication Pending), 95.

            [2]. “John Wesley the Methodist”, Wesley Center Online, Internet, available from http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/john-wesley-the-methodist/ accessed October 16, 2014; Chapter V.

            [3]. John Wesley, “The Journal of John Wesley”, Christian Classics Ethereal Library Internet, available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/journal.html, accessed October 16, 2014; 16.

[4]. Ibid, 34-35.

[5]. Ibid, 36.

[6]. John Wesley, “The Means of Grace”, Wesley Center Online, Internet, available from http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-16-the-means-of-grace/, accessed October 16, 2014; Section V.1.

            [7]. John Wesley, “On Grieving the Holy Spirit”, Wesley Center Online, Internet, available from http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-138-on-grieving-the-holy-spirit/, accessed October 16, 2014; Section II.

When God Doesn’t Seem Fair…

We have been going through the first 11 chapters of Genesis on Wednesday nights at our church.  Tonight we were in Genesis chapter 4.  The story of Cain and Abel.

I was reading through Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Genesis, and something caught my attention.  The story of Cain and Abel never gives a reason for God rejecting Cain’s offering…

I’ve heard lots of sermons that made assumptions.  Cain’s offering wasn’t the best that he had.  Abel’s was.  The text never says anything like that.  It simply states the fact that God looked favorably on Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.

We wonder why God would do such a thing?  It’s not fair.  Why would God look favorably on one person’s offering and not look favorably on another’s?  We can hardly imagine such a scenario.

Or maybe we see scenario’s like this all of the time.  God heals one person, and not another.  Why does God seem to look favorably on one person and not another?   The truth is that we will probably never know the answer to questions such as these, but the reality of life is that God sometimes acts in ways that seem unfair to us…

But what is interesting is that the scripture never tries to answer the question…

Instead the question becomes, “What will Cain do with this unjust treatment?”  Will he become angry and bitter, or will he do what is right.  The word of the Lord comes to Cain in the seventh verse:

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

So now the focus of the text shifts from Cain’s offering to how Cain chooses to respond.

We all know what Cain chooses to do.  Cain chooses to allow anger to fester until it becomes murder.  Cain doesn’t master the sin that is crouching at his door…

What about us?  We all live in a world that is not fair.  Sometimes, it even feels like God is not fair.  Will we choose to become angry, bitter, and cynical?  Will we injure others with our words, and kill relationships with our response to our “unfair treatment”?

Or will we hear the Word of the Lord saying to us:  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? Will we place our trust in a God who, at times, seems unfair?

Just a thought,

N8

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