January 2021

Am I Called?

In the spring of 1999, I was pursuing what I thought was merely an interest. I was taking classes through Nazarene Bible College (NBC) at the extension campus known as the Virginia District School of Ministry. They recruited me at a district layman’s retreat. Learning all the things pastors know had always intrigued me. My wife would often ask when we were going to pack up and move to Colorado so I could attend NBC full time. My standard response was that I was not fighting it but simply did not feel called. God smiled.

Delighting in the Lord

God has blessed me with a long journey. I became a follower of Christ at age 14, so my story is really His story—I take no credit for anything good I have accomplished. I have lived keenly aware of Jesus’ statement, “… apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As a kid, I was so bashful that I would rather fail an English class than give an oral book report before my fellow students. A call to teach and preach was at the very bottom of my list of future careers. However, God calls all of us to follow Him on a journey.

Unassuming Beginnings

We were back row Sunday morning people, arriving late each time my family attended church. At nine years old, a friend invited me to a Harvest Festival in a barn. I wasn’t used to doing much outside of our family, so this was a huge thing to do. I remember not knowing many people, sitting down, and hearing about Christ. My life changed that night as I accepted Christ into my heart—my purpose changed.

Intentional Parenting

Jewish tradition refers to Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as the Shema. Shema is a Hebrew word that means “hear” and is the first word in this Jewish text: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus, of course, quoted the Shema when He was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Adding the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), Jesus revealed that all of the other commandments flow from these two—love God and love others.

Growing in Grace

Last spring, as I walked through our garden, I was thrilled to see the fast-growing tomato plants and the size of the fruit they produced. After several weeks of tending, weeding, and watering, the day came when the tomatoes were ripe and ready to pick. Walking carefully through the tomato vines, I picked several plump, red tomatoes; I thought back to my childhood and the big, lush gardens my parents grew. They always enjoyed gardening, and the fruit from their efforts was a blessing to our family as we sat down to enjoy meals together.

Consecration: Knowledge and Trust, Devotion and Passion, Surrender and Service

Coram Deo is a Latin expression that means one is before the face of God. What happens when we are in the presence of God? In Isaiah chapter 6, we see the prophet before God: Coram Deo. This experience incites despair in him. As he faced the Lord, he was so aware of his impurity that he thought he would not be able to continue living. “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). This is no ordinary event.

The Grace of God in Regenerating Those Dead in Sin

Regeneration is an act of God who, by grace, gives new life to those who are dead in sin. The worldwide body of faith identified as the Church of the Nazarene accepts that God graciously livens those who have been spiritually dead in sin. Essentially, regeneration addresses the idea that a person is given new life through the love of the Father, the complete and finished work of Christ on the cross, and the resurrection work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11).

Holy Formation

James K.A. Smith opens his wonderful and ground-breaking book on worship and formation, Desiring the Kingdom, by inviting readers to imagine that alien anthropologists from Mars come to earth to study every aspect of humanity. Because they are especially interested in what humanity worships and venerates, they follow a large group of people into what they believe to be a sanctuary.

Transformation of a Family Tree

My great grandfather was a sharecropper in Southeastern Alabama, near the Georgia state line. He rented a small piece of land to work, and in return, he would give a portion of his crop to the landowner at the end of each year. My great grandfather decided he wanted a better life for his family than the poverty-stricken fields in the deep South, so he found a job in the cotton mill. Later, my grandfather began working there as well. After one shift, my grandfather realized that was not where he wanted to spend his life—he wanted to continue the pattern of making life better for his family.

Sanctification and Original Sin

Reinhold Niebuhr once stated that original sin “is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”By this he meant that we only need to look at human history to believe in the reality of original sin. This doctrine goes all the way back to the garden of Eden where we encounter our first parents—Adam and Eve. In Romans 3:23, Paul made clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul described sin as “missing the mark.” According to Paul, this is the state of all of humanity.