The Creative Creator

We just got back from vacation. While we were in North Carolina, I was up early enough every morning to head out to the beach and have some time in the Word and in prayer and watch the sunrise.

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It was just breathtaking.

One day in particular I started to just really ponder the grandeur of it all.

I watched the sunrise and considered the beautiful sunrise. The light was brilliant — so much so that you can’t watch it for more than a few seconds. The colors it cast across the sky can’t be described, nor can they be duplicated. But the sun’s beauty barely shed a light on its overall greatness; the sheer size of the Sun and how far away we really are from it left me speechless. Zoom out to the size of the galaxy, the size of the universe, and we are really…really…small.

Then I turned my attention to the waves coming in on the surf. Over and over, they just kept coming in. Water is the most powerful force on the planet. It cannot be reckoned with. You cannot compress it. Water wins every time.

It would be really easy to see the vastness of the universe or the brilliance of the sun’s light and walk away thinking about the greatness of the sun. It would be very easy to see the waves and the energy they possess and just be left speechless, driven to only speak of the sea if I can do it justice.

But even as great as the waves and the sea are, they are only created things. Which means there is a creator even bigger, and even greater than these things. And while we create things by toiling and laboring, by making countless revisions and continually perfecting, this Creator, the God of the Bible —

spoke.

And all these things just became. That. Is. Power.

And it is tempting, because of what we can easily see, to marvel at the grandness of the Grand Canyon, or the greatness of the Great Barrier Reef, or the height of the highest mountains. It is easy to praise what we see and neglect worship for the one who is unseen and yet created it all.

Paul writes the following to the Romans:

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.

God has painted his image all through nature. The reason he gave us the spectacle of the sunrise is to see it and worship him for creating it! The reason he gave us the oceans is to observe his omnipotence!

We have to be sure that when we stand before breathtaking scenery, we don’t stop at worshiping created things, but go beyond to worshiping the creator himself.

It’s the difference of “Wow, that sunrise is great!” and “Wow, the God that created that sunrise is great!”

What is the most beautiful thing that you’ve ever seen?

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Back From Vacation (Sabbath?)

Today is our first day back from vacation. It was a great week in the Cape Fear area of North Carolina.

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We got to take our little guy to the beach for the first time, and it was just a great opportunity to regroup as a family. We had no wifi and phone reception was very spotty. So we spent time together. We rested when we were tired. We went out and found something to do when we were bored. We played, sang, swam and snuggled (the little guy’s expiration on snuggles will come all too soon, we hear). It was incredibly relaxing and refreshing.

I noticed two things about taking a week away.

First, When you think about it, times like this week were designed by our creator. That was the original intent behind the Sabbath. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was created for man.” (Mark 2:27). Every week we would take a day out to rest and recreate. In Old Testament Israel, there was even a Sabbath year every seven years, where no planting or harvesting was done (hence, our word, “sabbatical”). And every seventh Sabbath year was a Jubilee (or a real shindig). We need times to rest, recreate and recharge, even if it’s not out-of-town.

Second, by the time we left, we were ready to get back. I was itching to write again, and just dying for a new book to read. Mallorie was ready to be home, too, and to get back into a more normal routine. That’s the funny thing about good, Sabbath rest. It gives you a renewed appreciation and excitement for the work you were made to do (yes, we were made to work!). 

So it is good to be back. I’m excited to be posting more often. And I’m starting to think that the Big Guy upstairs knows more about work flow than I do.

Happy Father’s Day!

It is Father’s Day weekend, and what a great time to honor our dads! (You know though, that whole “honor your father and mother” thing was probably not intended to be for just Mother’s Day and Father’s day)

All kidding aside, My dad is a great man. He taught me about morality and integrity. Never once have I had to question whether he was really the man in private that he let people see in person. I never felt like there was a “work” and “home” version of my Dad. He is a man of great integrity. He made it to all my sporting events and was incredibly supportive (even though I stunk) and he supported me in following something I love when I finally went off to study music.

I’ve been blessed with a great dad.

But not everyone has. Here are some thoughts on Father’s Day that can hopefully reach everyone.

God is the Perfect Father

This day is really about honoring those men who are physically here with us, in person, guiding us through life. But even those who had great fathers had imperfect fathers. Those who had bad fathers, or are themselves imperfect fathers can rest easy. We have a perfect Father in Heaven.

Some people may bristle at that thought because their conception of “Father” is one of negativity and bad memories. But imagine all those things in reverse and that is your Heavenly Father.

He is loving, kind, “long-suffering” (which means he has a long fuse), just, patient and caring. He is personable and tells us we can come to him with everything. So honor your dad this weekend — however imperfect he might be — because you have a Father in Heaven who loves you perfectly!

God is our Model Father

Not only is God the perfect Father, we can make him the Model Father. This is for those dads that are out there. At some point we have to decide how we are going to raise our kids. What values will we instill in them? That can only be answered by the set of values we hold dear ourselves.

Me personally? More than anything else, I want Cade to look at me and understand God more fully. I’m not perfect, but more than a certain morality, more than a certain set of ethics, more than religion or hard work or a love for reading (all of which I hope to instill in him) I want him to learn that “Father” is someone who lovingly and patiently guides, who is approachable and will love unconditionally. I want him to see that in me so that he can learn to see that in God.

It’s Not Too Late

I just finished a ministry at a church with several older folks in the congregation. One of the things I saw over and over was that in the later stages of life, the down-the-road reality doesn’t always match the ideal (like the one this young father expressed above). That can be the source of much emotional pain and suffering, and that angst is not part of God’s will.

God is a God of reconciliation. He desires healed relationships and restored order between people. He is continually sanctifying us (making us Holy) from day one to our last breath. We shouldn’t think, “well now it’s too late.” If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it is the power of a Father’s life being changed and the ripple that causes in a family.

Humility and obedience before God speaks volumes when a father lets his family see that, especially if he never had before. It is never too late to show your kids the love your Father has for you.

I hope this father’s day is a day of rejoicing for you. God bless all you father’s and [someday] fathers out there!

A Bowl Full of Lemons…

When life gives you lemons. . . well, you know the rest.

This week, my wife and I were served up a whole bowl of lemons. The original plan for us to leave Muncie was to have until the end of the month to find a place and move out.

Now, obviously, the church was anxious to find a new pastor. And they were more than gracious to have given us a couple of extra weeks to leave after closing out my responsibilities with the church.

But then they found a pastor. And the transition was more time sensitive.

On June 11, we got a call saying that the church had found a new pastor and that we needed to be out a week earlier than planned.

Now it was only a week. And I entirely understand the rationale based on a number of variables. This isn’t a post about the church board’s handling of the situation.

This is about being dealt a curveball. What they couldn’t have known was that we had plans to leave town for a week starting the coming weekend, returning on the very day they wanted us out. That gave us precisely 72 hours to move.

Curveball.

Lemon.

Potential emotional meltdown causer.

The question is how were we going to handle a curveball? Without hesitation, Mal’s suggestion is that we shift into overdrive and get moved out before the weekend. And that’s exactly what we did.

That choice — that single choice — took a situation that we could have stewed over and turned it into an exciting catalyst for momentum. We could have held a grudge; instead we held a packing tape-gun. The devil could have gained a foothold and instead, Christ’s grace reigned in our hearts and a joy overtook our attitudes.

This week has been insanely busy, but it has been a blessing. And in the end, it several details worked out better for us and the church even got the parsonage empty with more time than we expected.

Sometimes life gives you lemons. Praise God.

And sometimes it will result in more lemons. Praise God then too.

But once in a while, you will have everything you need to make lemonade. Praise God all the more!

It’s good to be back in Kentucky ahead of schedule!

Have you died today?

No one likes conceding defeat in an argument. And no one likes to be the first to say “I’m sorry.”

For me, I am the master of “I’m sorry, but….”

Today’s post stems from one of those passages that just cuts to the heart. I have read and re-read 2 Corinthians 4 & 5 for about the past week and every single day I get hung up on the following couple of verses:

2 Cor 4:10 – We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the “eternal life” part of our faith that we forget about the “daily death” insinuations that come in Scripture.

We get caught up in the “God is love” and act as if calls to obedience don’t exist.

We write “John 3:16” on posters at football games, but never “Luke 9:23.” Even though Jesus repeatedly tells potential believers to “count the cost” of being a disciple.

Christ led by serving and wants us to serve.

Christ laid down his life and calls us to lay down ours for others.

Christ died for us to die.

So what does it mean to “carry the DEATH of Jesus so that the LIFE of Jesus may be revealed in our body?

Dying to self means doing what is in the best interest of the Kingdom, not what is in your own best interest. And yes, that can get really uncomfortable.

Here are just a few practical ways you can carry Christ’s death in your body today:

  • Choose to not get the last word in an argument.
  • Pay for the person behind you in the drive through.
  • Take time to buy someone in need a meal, and sit and chat with them.
  • Ask yourself “What would really be a blessing to (fill in name here)?” Then do whatever that is.
  • When someone asks for a favor, do it without grumbling or asking for anything in return.
  • Be ready to talk about Jesus when someone asks about the hope you have.
  • Say “I’m sorry.”
  • Not “I’m sorry, but. . . .”
  • Mow someone else’s lawn.
  • Give someone a ride.
  • Give up a night a week to have someone over for dinner and serve them.
  • Volunteer at your church, a charity or similar organization.
  • Volunteer to do the job no one wants to do.

Many of these things could make life uncomfortable. You might be late somewhere you need to be. You might lose 20 bucks that you planned on using on something else. You might be inconvenienced. You might not get to relax

But if you’ve died to yourself, it’s not about you.

Our goal is to reveal Jesus’ life to others, not show off our own.

And when we “carry around the DEATH of Christ in our bodies,” reminding ourselves of what he did for us MANY times EVERY day, we will, in turn, “reveal the LIFE of Christ in our bodies.”

The Churchless Pastor is, well, Churchless

“What does ‘Churchless Pastor’ mean, exactly?”

The question has been asked of me several times. The question mostly stems from the fact that this churchless pastor has been, for the last year, churched. A year ago my wife, son and I packed up and moved to Muncie, Indiana, to take my first full-time pastorate. During that year, the idea of the “churchless pastor” was born. As of a week ago, it became a reality.

On June 1, 2012 we moved here, and on June 2, 2013 I preached my last sermon.

While I’ve been writing in this blog for months, I’m now officially churchless. Mallorie, Cade and I will be moving back to Louisville, KY (which always felt like home, even while we were in Indiana) and taking steps toward a slower less busy life.

So what happened?

The short answer is that we bit off more than we could chew. Many people have done great things while in grad school, and I’m not the first trying to tackle ministry and graduate school at the same time. However, the last 366 days have reinforced some truths that I have held for a long time but was not wise enough to listen to:

  1. Life is not supposed to be as high-octane as American culture has made it. We need time to think, time to talk, time to invest in relationships and time for God in our daily and weekly rhythms.
  2. My first and most important ministry is my family. Therefore life must be structured in a way that they are my first investment.
  3. I don’t know what “ministry” looks like for me yet.

School was not getting the attention it deserves, Mallorie felt she & Cade were getting the short end of the stick 5+ nights a week, and certain responsibilities at the church were not getting done. In short, a lot of people can manage that; I didn’t feel it was wise to keep trying.

So what is the “churchless pastor” about?

Here’s the deal: while a lot of people “get out of ministry” because of burnout, that’s not my deal. I’m not burnt out. In fact, even if I were, I believe whole-heartedly that we are disciples called to make disciples who make disciples. We are all in ministry, even when we “get out.” There’s a false dichotomy saying that you are either “in ministry” or a “volunteer/lay person/bystander” to ministry.

We’ve got to fight that false separation.

So I’ve left the church and am pursuing a passion. I want to equip those “volunteers/lay persons/bystanders” to engage in their faith. If that is you, YOU ARE A MINISTER! You are called to go make disciples, to live life abandoned to God. You are called to think about why you are a Christian, to read the word and see the AMAZING story that God is telling about you, me and everyone who has ever – or will ever – live. 

I have left a “church” so that I could be a pastor, but maybe a pastor without a “church.” A pastor whose church is a little more scattered, a pastor whose “church” is united despite being comprised of strangers.

Hence, I am a “churchless” pastor.

And I hope that the ideas I share here are, first of all, faithful to the Word, but second of all helpful. I am excited about this stage in life and the opportunity to write, and I am excited to share the discipleship journey with all of you.

Let’s jump in together!

-Nick