“What If” questions tend to get me in trouble…

Here’s one I thought of when I was in church last Sunday.

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What if…

What if the concept of a “Christian Nation” which America has claimed for itself (I have my doubts about this) and God moved in the people of…

Iraq…

And this concept of a Christian Nation became true but in Iraq, how would people respond? Gone with the rhetoric of “God bless America” but rather “God bless Iraq” and “Iraq blesses God”. Wouldn’t that be an interesting “What If” scenario, eh?

Here’s the thing, why not?

God is fully capable of doing that, and yet we sometimes limit Him and what he is fully capable of doing, after all He is God. I think I am going to start praying for the nation and the people of Iraq, that God moves in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, that they will come to know God and have hope and assurance in Him despite the wake the war has taken upon that country as a whole.
This is bold of me, but I am sure that it has the capacity to pray for Iraq, that some how they’re our “enemies” – really? Our enemies? Are you aligning yourself with being a follower of Christ or being an American? Check your priorities and then get back to me and pray along side me.
Even though I am outspoken in regards to how me being a follower of Christ conflicts with me being American, but despite that I’m not one to pray for the demise of this nation, God might still change the hearts and minds of the people of this country…but He might also be doing that for the Iraqi people.

We who are followers of Christ shouldn’t live in a world of fear and of borders that we set up to keep certain people out. God has made this world, upon creation he looked at what he made with a smile (this I am quite certain) and said “it is good” and even though we fell away and said to God we don’t want you, we don’t want the best you intended for us for we want our own way…God, in His love for us, provided a way out by way of Jesus.
Jesus isn’t a Republican, a Democrat, and He certainly isn’t an American citizen. We need to keep the latter in mind, because I see division between believers because we impose our political/country viewpoints on God, and the God I know and worship and serve and love is so much bigger and better than that. May God do what He will and if He calls us to partake in making Iraq our mission field, His will be done in all things.

God bless America!

God bless Iraq!

~Nathanael~

I’m dying/God is calling me to deeper waters

In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:



In turn, I am dying.

I am dying to the Nathanael of 10 years ago, I am dying to the Nathanael of yesterday…

***

On Monday of this week I was playing with my college friend and her family and her son Ezekiel at a local water park, obligatory cute picture of Zeke:


This sweet little boy of 2, this boy prior to Monday only knew me…for 1 day! Sure I played with him in my friend’s backyard, I had lunch with him and I even chased after him when he decided to go streaking nekkid to the front yard…I love this little kid.
So Zeke, his mom, her family, a few friends and I went swimming at the local water park. One of the first things Zeke wanted to do was go in the wave pool, so he dashed for it and I dashed after him. For a while he was content with just running up to his little ankles and back to dry ground, back and forth, back and forth…and then the waves started kicking in. I took Zeke, this little boy of 2, out to where it was shoulder deep on me. The wave formations were predictable so I just stayed put as they crashed into me and Zeke, well Zeke just loved it! The artificial surf knocking me about, splashing him every now and then…this is how 30 minutes goes by like seconds and this is also how like Zeke I aim to trust in God.

I’m dying, I’m dying to my old way of being and allowing God to move in and take over. I’m clinging to God as he takes me into deeper waters that seem lonesome. I’m holding on to him as it seems I get resistance from significant portions of Christian comm(unity) whose words crash down upon me at times…

I recognize that maybe I am going to start a legacy of engaging the LGBT comm(unity) in a way that right now isn’t really the norm. I don’t puff myself up with pride in regards to this, but I recognize that the change I want to see begins with me. While I want to do this, become a pastor, continue youth ministry and bring about change to my family as well as others…it begins with me dying so that Christ can live through me.
My life’s story is worn and thin in the pages, but God isn’t done with me. God alone knows how many days I have upon this earth, and I intend to use my days to bring Him glory and honor, that people see HIM rather than they see me, that what I have I pour out on others and what I have because of who He is and what He’s capable of, it won’t run out!

God is in the business of reconciliation and restoration, I aim to be a part of that, do you?

~Nathanael~

Theological insights from St. Arbucks/Laurence the Barista

This is the drink that is only purchasable at my local St. Arbucks

It is known by those who know Laurence the Barista as “Satisfaction” but once St. Arbucks Corporate heard about this and requested him to write out the recipe it became “Tropical Breeze” – to which I think it came down to people saying “give me Satisfaction” to Laurence with a wink in their eye, heck if I were a barista I’d come up with a drink called “Guilty pleasure” or even just “Pleasure”…but anyway.

Us who know Laurence know him as a kind man, who on a whim will make you a drink and not charge you for it. He’s an active listener and retains what he hears so as to ask you later on how _______ is doing or something else.

So with nice Baristas like Laurence, it got me thinking; why am I sometimes hesitant to share the Gospel message with others? I am comfortable with talking to others about this great Barista and yet not about God and how great he is…time for a shift in my thinking.
While I do preach the Gospel message by my lifestyle I recognize that I can only take my peers and students as far as I will go, that is, if I’m not rooted in the Bible and connecting/praying to God I certainly limit myself as a follower of Christ and one who aims to do youth ministry as a lifelong career. I’ll be honest there was a time where I didn’t pick up my Bible apart from finding verses that the pastor was talking about on Sunday mornings, I rationalized that if I were going to read the Bible everyday it would eventually become something of a checklist item.
I think it’s been in the wake of going to a university that caters to a Christian audience that I’ve been reading the Bible more than prior to, and I think I know why.
Apart from sometimes wondering to myself if I’m doing this to just do this, I have a hungering and a thirsting for God like I haven’t had in a while; anyone can say that they’re hungry or they’re thirsty, but you know those times where you really are and your whole body aches for not being fed or having one’s thirst quenched? That’s me in a spiritual sense.
Prayer was never a problem, but I do recognize, transparency was a part of the problem. Apart from God knowing me COMPLETELY there were times I prayed bullshitty prayers, or I’d tell people “I’ll pray for you” and yet I did not…it sucks, and I am sorry for my past wrongdoings…but I have to move forward and focus on what’s ahead and not what is in my life’s rear view mirror…

As I do youth ministry I am more and more aware of my discipleship skills, as in teaching a handful (so far I have 5) teen guys whom I’m investing more time in. I’m not aiming to play favorites, I just recognize those who are in my radius of influence, and I’m good with these students where some others might not necessarily be – another good reason to have a youth group with plenty of leaders if there ever was one!

***

In order for me to grow as a follower of Christ and as someone who intends to do youth ministry for life, a calling not a death sentence, I need to study up on the Bible because I want to and because I have a hungering to do so as well. If I claim to know-it-all I’m fooling myself as well as those I’m ministering unto, if I aim to do all this just to make it the Nathanael show…I might as well not do youth ministry. Because living out the Gospel message is well and good, and definitely should be the way followers of Christ should live, but you also have to know what you believe which so often comes from reading the Bible.

~Nathanael~

“It gets better” campaign and me; being counter-church-cultural

Not too long from now I aim to shoot a video for the “It gets better” campaign, to which if you haven’t heard about it it’s a campaign that is aimed at (primarily) the LGBT community youth who are being bullied and perhaps treated badly due to misunderstanding of others or dare I say homophobia.
I aim to do this because there’s a tug on my heart to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community, but I also recognize that as a youth minister I want to do better than the church has done.

Here’s the thing, I recognize the church has kind of sat on its haunches and observed the LGBT community and has said “we’re here and will remain here till you get here.” Note the language I used? Here, as in a position fixed, a position that doesn’t reach out but “waits” for whomever… I aim to do things different, as I recognize I’m not counter-cultural, but counter-church-cultural.
Here’s my reasoning…
If you recall the parable of The Prodigal Son, get this imagery Jesus provides (bold words are of my own doing) in verse Luke 15:20; “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son

The father left and made the first move! He had every right to say “I’m here and will remain here till my son gets here!” But he ran, with compassion and love when his son was a mere speck in the distance…

I aim to run to the LGBT community full of compassion and love and share with them the love of Jesus Christ. Yes there might be some who eagerly come forward but I want to be like the Prodigal Son’s father, leaving my comfort zone (and expanding it) and going where not a lot of followers of Christ have gone before!
It certainly puts me in a place where I’m disliked by followers of Christ, who pander me and say what I’m saying now is a phase, or that “when you get older you’ll understand” and it kinda breaks by heart when those who criticize what I’m doing now and what I intend to do are coming from, I’m learning to put up guardrails on my critics and criticism, because in a way it strikes me as amusing when haters invest time in writing something or expending some energy AGAINST me, I’m honored and thrilled that someone takes the time. It doesn’t fuel me or get me in a more counter-church-cultural position, but it doesn’t leave me as miffed as it used to.

I like what Billy Graham said; “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love” and as followers of Christ that needs to be our stance. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, then why are we trying to be His mouthpiece? We need to step out in faith and love sincerely, if we start defining how we’re loving we’re not really loving but picking-and-choosing whom we are going to love.

So it is with these intentions in mind that I’m going to shoot a “It Gets Better” video, because I aim to change things and mix things up to the glory of God. I could tell the church to clean up its act, but my words wouldn’t be coming from a place of love and it would be like shooting myself in the foot, the change I want to see and be a part of begins with me.

~Nathanael~

The [self] proclaimed pious man (short story)

He came home from church on a Sunday afternoon, he walked into his large house and then into his office. He sat in his comfortable red leather chair, a favorite, cracked with age and use, he began.

“Oh God whom I worship, hear my prayers; you know that I love you and so that is why I give 15% of my income to you on a monthly basis. You know I care for the unsaved and so out of that 15% I give what I have to various missionaries serving you far and abroad. There are times I have not been gracious or loving God, but I know you will make my gay son know that he is living in sin with his boyfriend of 7 years.
As you know God, My daughter doesn’t come around much since her mother and I divorced, but you know that it’s up to her to make the first step back to this place and I know you will guide her accordingly. God you know my wealth has been made off the defenseless; while my company won’t acknowledge that our products are made in third world countries I know they are, and I pray that those who make our clothing find you by way of missionaries.
God be with my family and friends at this time, give them comfortable lives and may they always get that when I say I love them by way of phone call and email, I truly mean it. I might not love my ex-wife as I should, but, God but that’s her fault and help her to realize it, because until she does I won’t ever forgive her for getting a divorce, and for what? She always knew I was a womanizer, so what’s her excuse for not letting it slide?
Hear my prayers oh God, you know I love you and I know you forgive me for what I have done wrong, help those who have wronged me seek your forgiveness as well as mine. Amen.”

He got up, content with his time of prayer. He walked into his bathroom and try as he could, the blood would not come off his hands.

~Nathanael~