Friday, May 28, 2010

That's How I Ended Up Here- Part 5

Let's wrap this thing up. During this time of me being frustrated there were two major events in my life that impacted me. I remember a Sunday morning service, don’t remember what it was about but I remember hitting the altar and praying “God I’m frustrated. I don’t know why I am where I am currently but want You to know that I’m willing to do WHATEVER You want me to do”. In essence I was saying “God I completely surrender to Your will whether that is me staying here forever or doing something I never dreamed of”. Then about a year later we went to a concert of the “Glory Revealed” tour. This was a project by David Nasser and Mac Powell where an album was made of songs that are completely written from scripture. The book to go along shows how God is revealed in scriptures, even in ways we don’t necessarily think. This was a definite milestone in my life as I for the first time in my life understood the necessity of growing closer to God through His Word and I actually developed a love for it!

A short while later I became the “interim” youth worker while the church was seeking a replacement. After a while I kind of wondered if this might be what God was calling me to. But after a job opening opened at a local university to work in their Financial Aid office, I jumped on it and decided He wasn’t leading me to ministry. After a few months there I knew what God was calling me to- Youth Ministry and to be the Youth Pastor at Clearwater. I remember where I was sitting in the office the day that I knew for sure this was God’s plan for me. So after much prayer, many talks with Belinda, even many tears and some heartache I applied for the job. Then would be probably the longest 6 months of my life. Too many details to list here but it was definitely a process. But during this process I learned to become even more dependent on God. Then when I doubted my calling, God would do something to confirm His calling. One thing He did that I plan to post in the future was confirm this through a dream, which in seminary they would call that a type of “special revelation” (ha ha I couldn’t resist). So finally the day came when He blessed me with the position I currently am in. It’s definitely a huge blessing and honor to serve God this way. Then two weeks after I began at Clearwater full-time, Belinda got a new job in the Financial Aid Office (lots of irony here) at TWC where we went to school. She had been in misery in her job as well for 3 years.

So where does the road lead now? I certainly don’t know. I never expected to be in full-time ministry and certainly never expected to be in seminary. Just goes to show I don’t always know what’s best for me but God certainly does. I try not to focus on what God will have for us in the future but more so on the present. I know that I must remain willing to do whatever and go wherever He needs me. One thing my professor said today that encouraged me is that everything we are dealing with and going through today is preparing us for next year, 5 years from now, 10 years down the road and so on. This is a comfort to me. Especially when there are tough days and believe me there are definitely plenty of those. But I’m so thankful for God’s calling and the support system He has placed around me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

That's How I Ended Up Here- Part 4

As I mentioned yesterday I declared my major- Computer Programming. I worked landscaping that summer and at the end was offered a permanent job and after so many years become partners in the business. After much thought about quitting school, I decided to go back and turned down the offer. A year into the programming classes I realized it wasn’t me. I started sensing that God was calling me to finance so I changed my major. I thought that someday God would use me as a financial planner. Over the next couple years I still desired to quit school and do something else. I remember even sharing with my dad about how I wished I could play the guitar and could do that. I took classes to earn an Art Minor, which you can do absolutely nothing with. I kind of wanted to do something with computer graphics but never pursued that. I actually have enough art credits that it probably wouldn’t take much to get certified to teach Art. Anyway I finally graduated with my degree in Finance. And with the help of my boss (I did the workstudy program in the Financial Aid Office on campus) I got a job at a student loan company.

I had this job lined up before I even graduated so I was very grateful. I would have to drive about 45 minutes to work each day. I knew it was a starter job and so I intended to be there about 3 months, 6 at the most. Well that 3-6 months ended up turning into over 3 years. I was pretty miserable everyday there. I wasn’t happy about certain aspects of the company, I despised the drive and felt out of connection with my family. I knew this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, but was again unsure of what it was. I remember talking to my good friend Vanessa Hardaway (the lady who I claim can pray grass to grow through concrete) and her asking me “Nathan what is God calling you to do?” I replied through tears “I have no idea” and I remember being so frustrated because I felt that God was silent during this time. However I know that it was during this time that God was drawing me to Him and requiring me to lean on Him in preparation for what He was calling me to. I do look back on this time with one regret and that is this and I don’t remember who I heard say it: “We don’t need to focus so much on what is calling us to do overall but instead focus on what his purpose is for us today”. Tomorrow I’ll wrap things up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

That's How I Ended Up Here- Part 3

Continuing along, I entered the Fall ’99 semester as a freshmen at Tennessee Wesleyan College. I had no idea what to major in so I began “undeclared”, and would be until the very last day of my sophomore year. I had worked hard all summer saving every penny I could, along with my graduation money and during my freshmen year I bought a diamond ring. Not for myself of course because that would be odd but for me to ask Belinda to marry me. I was so excited and the day came when I proposed. It was plain and simple, but special nonetheless. It was an awesome time for us and I couldn’t wait to be married. Then something happened. The wind got knocked out of me again. Just 15 days later and 3 weeks after my parents 25th wedding anniversary my dad didn’t come home. I’m not going to go into all details or to even try to dissect what happened in my parents marriage because it doesn’t matter. The truth was that their marriage was over. How could this be? I was the kid who was always proud of having my parents still married. Now I became a statistic. So I did what I felt I had to do, I had to grow up overnight when I wasn’t quite ready. I know, I was 19 years old and was engaged, but I wasn’t ready for this type of thing to happen. I wasn’t ready to be the man of the house just yet. But I had to anyway. And with that role I also took on anger. I took on more confusion. Still trying to figure out God’s purpose for my life, what I was supposed to do, how to try to hold things together for my family. I had no answers but pushed on anyway.

During my sophomore year, despite everything with my family, Belinda and I got married anyway. How were two college students going to survive financially? Only be the grace of God is how I can describe it. We bought our house from my parents and stayed there, along with mom. People think we’re all crazy but it worked for us helping each other get on our feet. Us as newlyweds and mom as a woman in her 40’s essentially starting over. People even compliment Belinda for doing that but the truth is she and my mom were closer during that time than I was with mom and it looked like she was her actual daughter. I declared Computer Programming as my major the end of my sophomore year, but wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted to do. I started to really question my education path at this point, which I will continue on with tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's How I Ended Up Here- Part 2

Today I want to pick up with my teenage years. As I mentioned yesterday baseball became my god. The first few years of me playing baseball I was absolutely terrible. Terrible doesn’t even describe how bad I was. But something clicked around the age 11 or 12 and it changed. Not sure how I remember some of these stats but my 12 year old year of Little League my pitching record was 6-0 and I had 91 strikeouts. Not too bad for only throwing a fastball at this point! I hit several homeruns as well. Then when I turned 13 and advanced to the next stage my pitching progressed even more. I threw a no-hitter and was clocked at 73 one game. I hate sharing this part because I figure that most people won’t believe me but at this point there was actually an Atlanta Braves scout tracking me through my coach as they were good friends. I felt that baseball was God’s plan for me and can remember my prayer life consisting mainly of asking God to allow me to be a major league pitcher. I thought that God was going to use me in this area, and can even remember someone telling me that they thought that was God’s plan for me. How awesome getting to be play baseball and be used by God at the same time!

I moved on to high school making the tough choice to attend the school I did as I was offered by another high school to come there and play and they would give me “perks” such as pay my out of county tuition and pick me up everyday until I could drive. I went to the high school I did thinking I would get more exposure. Well my freshmen year I encountered a small elbow injury that I recovered from, no big deal but it did get me thinking if it was what I was supposed to do. Then as I continued to progress as a pitcher the unthinkable happened. I injured my rotator cuff my junior year. I actually hid it a bit at first because I didn’t want it to effect my playing time so I pitched through pain. When I finally couldn’t do it anymore I had to come clean with my coaches and let them know I was hurt. After trying to take time off and doing many things to try to heal it, there was no relief. The fact was I couldn’t throw without being in pain anymore so I had to go see the orthopedic doctor. No surgery was required but about 3 months or so of rehab and then another couple of months before I would be 100% again. It wasn’t the same anymore. For my junior year baseball had become a chore and what had been easy now was painful. I entered my senior year with a dilemma: do I continue and finish up this year or go ahead and quit. I had never quit anything in my life. I had lost my love for baseball and decided I wasn’t even interested in playing in college. After great advice from my parents I decided to push through and finish my senior year out. I ended up 4-0 my senior year with 5 starts but the majority of my pitching was out of the bullpen. I actually never lost a varsity game in high school. But I remember the relief I felt when that season ended and I knew it was all over as far as baseball stood. What was I going to do now? I had an academic scholarship to Tennessee Wesleyan College which was in my hometown, but what would I study? There was much confusion at the end of highschool for me. There were two things I knew for certain. The one thing I had loved the most had been taken away from me, and probably because it had been what I loved most instead of God. The second was that I did have a new love and her name was Belinda. We had met the middle of my senior year and already knew that God had brought us together to spend our life together. Tomorrow I’ll share about college, marriage, and other tragedies that came about.

Monday, May 24, 2010

That's How I Ended Up Here- Part 1

Have you ever driven somewhere and when you got there you were like, wow how did I end up here? My mind wandered the whole time I was driving. Or have you ever been at a point in your life and your ask the same question, “How did I end up here?” I’ve taught the students that you’re bound to think this at some point and hopefully it won’t be in a sin related way. I’ve told them that a serial killer who is in prison serving a life sentence may ask the question “How did I end up here?” but the truth is it didn’t happen overnight. There is always a road that leads there. Jason Gray even has a song called “That’s How I Ended Up Here” talking about this.

Well today I began a seminary class on campus. I am actually posting this from my dorm room that I am staying in this week. I’m taking “Systematic Theology” in what is called a “module course”, which is an entire semester in one week. So yeah please pray for me. My friend Jason even tells me I’m crazy for doing this and maybe so. I’m not asking myself the question of how I ended up here as a question of regret by no means. However this is something in my life that I never planned for. But I thought it might be cool this week to kind of give a summary of my life and the progression that led me to be a Youth Pastor and seminary student. I’ll try to be brief each day, but lay out some of the main details of my life and defininig moments that have led me here.

Today I want to briefly share of my salvation and life up to about my teen years. I was in church from birth, or at least I think so. If not from birth shortly after. My parents are both Christians and taught me the importance of church, and a relationship with Jesus. I accepted Jesus at the early age of 5. Not that I fully understood everything about being a Christian but understood the fact that my sin separated me from God and that I needed Jesus to save me and become Lord of my life. I remember being baptized in the small country church we attended.

I was at church any time the doors were opened as my parents were very involved in church life as leaders. My father was a deacon and the youth leader/director of the church. My mother wore many hats as well serving in many different areas as Sunday School teacher, VBS director and who knows what else.

We attended this small country church until I was about 12 years old when God moved us on to join another church body. I was about to head into my teen years, loved Jesus and fully knew that He was my Savior, but that was about it at this point. It was at this point that baseball became increasingly important in my life and would be for the next several years. Which is where I’ll pick-up tomorrow with how baseball became the god of my teenage years.

Friday, May 21, 2010

All That Matters

This is the second post this week driven by how God has spoken to me through song lyrics. I'm pretty passionate about music and so I believe that music is one of the great avenues that God speaks to us through, but certainly not the main. We recently purchased the debut album by Addison Road. Belinda has been reading lead singer Jenny's blog for quite a while and it's been cool hearing the stories behind songs and the things that this band has been involved in. They are known mainly for their songs "Hope Now" and "What Do I Know of Holy", but there is a song on this album that has really stood out to me called "All That Matters". Its kind of different than most music I have been listening to lately although its definitely catchy, but the lyrics really grabbed me on this one.

The song starts out pretty much saying that I may be different than the world, but that's ok. The pre-chorus and chorus state the following lyrics.

This world is like a trampoline
High and low no in between
Jumping at the chance to please
Everyone but that's not me

Cause all that matters is
All that matters is
I know Your love has set me free
And that's all that matters to me

Wow these lyrics really impacted me. With all the pressures in the world to be something that maybe I'm not called or supposed to be, we can rejoice in the fact that Jesus sets us free. The love of Jesus is all that matters. Even though this is one of the main focuses I feel led to speak to our teens today, the truth is I need to hear it myself as well. I'll be honest, I've failed some this year trying to conform to what others thought I needed to be. All that has done is wore me out more, caused me to be frustrated, and has brought no positive results. So I challenge you as I challenge myself that whenever we're tempted to be something we're not to avoid it. Embrace the love of Jesus. He has set us free and called us to be who He called us to be.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Respect/Listening

We continued this week of the "Don't Speak" series with a tough topic and that is respect and listening. We actually began the night getting student feedback on how the complaint bracelets. I also encouraged them to keep it up and not act as if they can return to complaining.

I am sure we have all at one point been somewhere whether it is a church service, movie, classroom, or something where someone is speaking, but there is another person(s) being disrespectful and talking at the same time. How annoying is that? Not only is it annoying but is distracting and disrespectful. A couple verses on listening are Proverbs 18:13 and Proverbs 19:27. These verses tells us to listen because if we don't it's foolish and can even cause us to stray. We broke down the night by looking at the problem, why it is a problem, and the solution.

Problem
Talking when someone else is speaking, leading worship, or during prayer is a problem. I encouraged the teenagers to understand that they are not alone. I think that this can be an issue of all ages. I also believe that everyone should have the opportunity to speak at some point in front of a group, but especially lead worship. Sometimes leading worship can be such a sweet experience when people are engaged in singing praises to God. There have also been times when I wanted to stop singing during a song to tell someone to hush. Not only this but talking during a Sunday School lesson, while a preacher is preaching, and even talking during the offertory are disrespectful. These are times when reverence and respect should be observed.

Why is this a Problem?
First of all it is a distraction. You might distract someone from hearing a word from God. Also if a person is preaching/teaching then they have spent time preparing and seeking what God would have them to say to His people. God is speaking through the preacher/teacher and so by talking during it you are not only disrespecting that person but also disrespecting God.

Solution
-Put yourself in their shoes. It can be very frustrating when speaking and someone else is disrespectful.
-Talk before/after. A student told me this a couple weeks ago. They said- "You know we have time to talk before and after and so I don't understand why the talking can't wait." I totally agree. If you think it needs to be said then because you will forget later, then it wasn't important enough to say anyway.
-You may need to separate yourself from someone if you talk with them a lot. Just like I had to tell a kid at Afterschool a few weeks ago to move away from the sticks if the temptation to play with them was too much. If you find that you want to talk to someone during a worship service, then don't sit with them.
-Realize that when you are talking that you can't listen/hear what is being said. You can't hear what God is saying. You will then miss out on what God wants to say to you. I heard a lady say the other day "God is speaking but people are not listening". That is a scary phrase to hear. I know that personally I always want to be listening to God.

Here is the next video in the series.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Heart Beats For You

I was recently listening to a song called “Abba Father” by Michael W. Smith. When we refer to God as Abba Father it’s a term of endearment equivalent to calling Him our daddy. I know when I talk about this in sermons from time to time that some students and anyone for that matter may tend to put the qualities of their earthly father on God. Its just the natural thing to do sometimes so I know I have to be careful because some students may come from broken homes, or when their fathers may have never had anything to do with them as they grow up. But we must know that God, our Heavenly Father is not like that and will never let us down. But as I listened to this song some lyrics impacted me. The chorus says “My heart beats for you precious Jesus.” This is similar to many worship songs we sing today but I find today more now than ever I try to pay attention to what I sing in worship. Hopefully everyone does but I’m afraid we sing out of habit many times. “My heart beats for you precious Jesus.” Say that sentence out loud “My heart beats for you precious Jesus.” I want every detail of my life to be a reflection of that, but if I’m honest then I know it isn’t always. When I complain, when I serve God half-heartedly, and when I sin my life doesn’t reflect that my heart beats for Jesus. I want it to though. I encourage you to read these lyrics not just to read what they say but I want you to praise God through them. If you’re heart doesn’t always beat for Jesus, which if we’re all honest it doesn’t always, then make the conscious effort for it to. Take the time today to worship you’re Heavenly Father, call Him daddy and love Him the way we are intended to.

Sitting at Your feet is where I want to be
I'm home when I am here with You
Ruined by Your grace, enamored by Your gaze
I can't resist the tenderness in You

I'm deep in love with You Abba Father
I'm deep in love with You Lord
My heart it beats for You Precious Jesus
I'm deep in love with You

Lord, my redeemer, Your blood runs through my veins
My love for You is deeper than it was yesterday
I enter through the curtain, parted by Your grace
Oh You're the lover of my soul

I'm deep in love with You Abba Father
I'm deep in love with You Lord
My heart it beats for You Precious Jesus
I'm deep in love with You Lord

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Don't Speak- Part 1 Complaining


We began a new series this week called "Don't Speak: Taking Control of Your Deadliest Weapon". Over the course of this series we will look at different subjects relating to the tongue, our speech, words we use, and what the Bible says about each. I believe that many times we don't realize how powerful a weapon we carry with our tongue. Words can build up or tear down, praise or reject, show love or show hate. Our words can either do great things or terrible things. Some famous sayings about words are: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names/words will never hurt me" (which we know is totally inaccurate); "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all"; "Think before you speak".

Matthew 12:36 speaks of the importance of every word we say. It should scare us all and make us aware of what we say knowing the fact that we will be held accountable for every careless word on the day of judgment. I know that over my life there are many words I have spoken that I wish I could take back, but the truth is I can't. What I can do is seek to not fall in this area.

James 3:3-10 tells us that the tongue is a fire that can spread. Just as a ship is steered by a small rudder, our tongue is a small part of the body but can do great things. Both blessings and curses come from the same mouth. James says that this should not be so! We alone can not tame our tongue but with God we know that all things are possible!

The specified focus of the night was complaining. I'm not sure we realize how often we complain. I'm not sure if we even believe that some of the things we say are an actual complaint. I definitely feel this way by working with students where they think they are just making a statement but instead it is a complaint. Philippians 2:14-15 tells us to do everything without complaining, not just some things. This is one of the best ways to be a witness and light in this dark world.

We ended the night with a challenge. I gave everyone a rubber band, just like ones we have used in the past to designate prayer partners. We each put the rubber band on our left wrist. When we make a complaint we move it to the right wrist, then back, and so on. The first goal was to go the rest of the evening without complaining. Then over the next week to be conscious of everything we say, attempting to complain as little as possible. Hopefully until the point of no complaining! I know that for myself I did not make the entire evening. I made a total of 4 complaints, 2 of which came from playing a game of HORSE.

One final note, there will be a video to go with each of the message. After requests and finding a way to bring them back, here is another series with Superman & Batman. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Francis Chan- The Middle Road

I know I haven't been blogging as much as I intended to the past few days but my wife sure has. You can check her blog out here. However I did want to share with you a great video of Francis Chan talking about the middle road.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Non-Mothers Day

Please don't take the title in any weird way and get offended. Yesterday we celebrated Mother's Day. It was a great weekend altogether as our whole family went to Dollywood (which we actually got to see Dolly Parton), then last night we made a fire in our fire pit and enjoyed the nice weather. I'm thankful for moms, especially godly mom's like mine who not only taught me by word but also by living out her Christian faith.

I have to be honest about something I did yesterday. Yesterday our church gave every mother a copy of the book "12 Extraordinary Women" by John MacArthur. They had all the moms stand up and we gave them a hand clap and prayed over them. After church I went to get a book for my mom because she was serving in the child-care area during the service and wasn't able to get one for herself. However I grabbed a copy for my wife Belinda also. Belinda and I have been married for 9 years but we still don't have any children of our own. We're just still uncertain if God is leading us to be parents. Some people might gasp at that statement. I have even heard the phrase that "the highest calling in life is being a parent". I don't agree because I believe the highest calling in life is to follow Jesus. Voddie Baucham would really be mad at me for saying that we might not ever have children as well. There was once even a person in our life who would constantly preach at us about this saying that we were disobedient to God if we didn't have children. I don't believe that's true at all, especially when you don't always know all the circumstances.

We may not have our own children that we raise and financially support, but many people have said that we have many children considering our role in youth ministry. We do consider these students our children. We rejoice when they rejoice, we hurt when they hurt, and we shed tears when we see them fall away from God. So I don't mean this in any way to take away from mother's day, because I believe it's important to honor our mothers. However I want to honor those ladies today that are not actual birth mother's, but make it a part of their life to minister to others.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Disciple Now Video

I made a short review video about Disciple Now to show at Wednesday Night Worship Last night. It's pretty simple just showing clips from Thursday night's kickoff, parts of the Amazing Race, and of Jason Gray. I showed it last night and gave the students the opportunity to share some things that God spoke to them about through the weekend, or anything in general. It's always good to hear students share scripture and thoughts that God has placed on their hearts. It's a huge encouragement for me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Disciple Now Review

Well after many hours of preparation, and many hours of sleep deprivation the 2010 Disciple Now has officially come and gone. What a weekend it was! I totally believe that God was in every detail and I believe some great things took place. The students seemed to have really enjoyed the weekend. I had some incredible leaders doing the Bible study. Now it is up to the students to take what was discussed throughout the weekend and apply it in their everyday lives. Please pray for our students that they will do this.

Saturday's Amazing Race was great. As soon as I said "GO" it started pouring rain. The competition was intense and very close but the boys team pulled out the victory. The boys arrived 1st and was about 5 minutes ahead of the high school girls team. The boys decided to hide and let them think they won. Here is the video of the girls thinking they have won, then being devastated with the loss.




Saturday night's concert with Jason Gray was incredible. His heart is what amazes me the most about him. I plan to write a little more in depth about the concert later this week. He wowed us with his musical ability as well as the messages he spoke. I'm so thankful for his ministry. Here are a couple of clips from the concert.







I'll be working on a wrap-up video of the weekend and will post it later this week as well.