I Don’t Have The Right to Say Who I Am

The scariest question sometimes is “Who are you?”.

The reason this scares me is that my mind immediately leaps to what I do. I like ministry, I like fixing cars, i like being a husband (not necessarily in that order!).

But that doesn’t answer the question. It only shines light on what i like doing in my life, not who I am as a person.

The world seems to further this way of thinking. cadiz-189297_1920.jpgColleges tell us that we need to pick a career and then we inadvertently align our life’s meaning with that work. This creates a connection between who we are and what we do that doesn’t seem to get challenged much by the culture, even in the Church.

It becomes, “Nolan the Mechanic” rather than “Nolan, who does automotive side work”. One defines me as my vocation, the other separates the two.

This has been a challenging new way of thinking because I’ve always subconsciously aligned my identity with my day-to-day activities. If work goes rough, I feel down, if speaking at youth group went rough, I beat myself up.

But this isn’t how God wants us to live. He wants us to find our identity only in Him!

The only way to break the mold is to recognize that the only person or thing that has the jurisdiction to tell me what meaning i have is God Himself. A job can’t ascribe meaning, it didn’t create us! A family can’t ascribe meaning, they’re fallen sinners! Only the one who created us can tell us who we are.

And if we’re in Christ, we are “New creations” , “transferred into the kingdom of his
beloved son”
, “children of God”, “chosen, royal, holy”.

And as much as my heart argues and tries to find my identity in my job or my life circumstances, God reminds me that only He has the right to tell me who I am. I don’t have that right.

Just a little something God reminded me of today.

Teaching Teaches Me

I’ve had the privilege to teach in different capacities at my local church, both in Breakpoint (teens) and Trek (7-8th grade). This experience has taught (and is teaching me) many different things!

I think when us young guys are asked to speak (if we haven’t done it much) we have a burden on our heart, and we think in the back of our head (rather pridefully), “wow, this is going to be great!”. And then we start studying and realize that teaching and speaking takes work.

Whenever i listen to Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, John Piper, or any other great speaker, I admire their work. hand-977641_1280I admire how well they speak and how God uses their messages. Their gift comes so naturally.

But The Holy Spirit reminded me that comparison will only hinder me from being used effectively. When I think of a great sermon by Tim Keller i think of a biblical, thought-provoking message with a beautiful tie-in to the gospel that brings everything home at the end.

In comparison, my novice experience has led me to be nervous for the first two minutes, confidently inexperienced for the middle, and then roughly tying the gospel in at the end.

But as one of my pastors has reminded me: Don’t be Keller, Piper, or anyone else. Be Nolan. Preach how God’s leading Nolan today. That’s a great reminder for me. Comparison is a great thief of joy, and a joyless message is easily spotted from afar.

So now God’s just teaching me to be me when i speak. Stop comparing. Be faithful to the text, preach from the heart, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Motivation For Sharing the Truth

As a preface to this post I’d like to make note of my firm belief in God’s complete sovereignty over salvation and the means of drawing people to himself (Romans 9, Ephesians 1). In said means there are believers like you and I called to make disciples of all nations, which includes both preaching the gospel and discipling them after salvation. I’m delving into one of those means today: Motivation for our evangelism.

I’ve always felt that there needs to be a more complete motivation when we share the gospel. I don’t think it helps our confidence or our witness to share the gospel strictly because of guilt. Though guilt can spur us to go and do something, it can’t be our only motivation.

I think it goes back to what we’re sharing. We’re sharing the gospel, the call to man everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation. That’s huge! It’s the greatest possible thing to tell anyone. And I think that’s where we disconnect. We think this really is good news, but we’ll tell people because it makes our guilty consciences feel better.

And that’s how I feel a lot. I feel like sharing the gospel is a Christian chore rather than a glorious privilege. And i know that’s my flesh talking.meeting-1293980_1280.png

I see in my own life that when I feel guilt as my motivations for sharing the gospel, it feels superficial and uncaring. I want to tell people to make me feel better, not for the regeneration of someone’s soul. My own selfishness makes me blurt out some short incomplete gospel snippet and then walk away thinking I smugly met
some evangelism quota for that day.

The only remedy I’ve seen in my life is to have complete satisfaction in God himself. To be so wrapped up in a longing to serve and please him that you can’t help but overflow your greatest passion into your conversations. Which I think is what Paul did. He was so completely sold out for Christ that he couldn’t help but share his greatest love with everyone he met!

When’s the last time you mentioned something you enjoy to a non-believer? Maybe your love for cars, music, or a sports team. C.S. Lewis has said (paraphrased), you complete your enjoyment by sharing it with someone. So in the same way that you “evangelize” your favorite sports team or your favorite artist by telling people about them, we complete our love for Christ by overflowing it into everyone around us. And that’s when genuine gospel presentation is found. We want others to experience the beauty of God too!


A March For Life

This morning marked the annual Comfort Care Women’s Health stride for life. This remarkable ministry provides crisis pregnancy help for women and girls in need. 13174153_10157009208940096_6174230335830541353_n.jpgMany of the local churches in our area raised money and marched around Waynesboro as a way to support Comfort Care.

Because of the continued support of people and local churches, they’ve reported that the abortion rate in our area has gone down, praise the Lord!

I see Comfort Care as an answer to the question of how to help women and girls who don’t know what to do when they find out their pregnant. Just letting them know that there are options and that there are people who care for them provides a beautiful stage to present the gospel to a soul desperately needing hope.

As I looked around and saw pregnant women and little babies involved in the march (or some “strolling” in their strollers) my heart was deeply saddened thinking of how many have been lost in this great unborn holocaust.

Though public opinion will most likely continue to devolve, I’m encouraged knowing that at least one life (and many more!) have been saved by God’s grace through this ministry. My wife and I will continue to find ways to serve and hope to see God continue to work!

My Trophies

Ever gone to that conference and got a ton of free books? Or perhaps your friends have some fantastic new titles that you really want to read. 20160430_120023.jpgI can relate to both. A couple of years ago my wife (then girlfriend) and I went to a counseling conference in Lafayette Indiana (read about here!). Of course I purchased many great books that are still sitting on my shelf collecting dust (besides one I’m currently reading).

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a slow reader, or perhaps I just don’t take the time to read each day, but I walked into my apartment and realized I’d only read about 10% of them. I had turned my Christian books into trophies, not tools. They had become pseudo status symbols of my walk with Christ, hoping people would assume that I’m an avid reader who devours great Christian authors.

God really convicted me on this and I’ve begun to be more diligent to read more. Self-discipline is something I need more of. Whether it be to stop watching Netflix and read, or take my work break to open the scriptures, I’m trying to commit to use my time in a more profitable way.

And I’m not saying owning books you don’t read is bad, I’m just saying for me, I found that I had become lazy and just bought them for a sub-conscience (now conscious) want to feel more spiritual or godly. But God’s shown me (quite obviously) that the only way they can help me grow in godliness is if I actually sit down and open the pages.



Work and Ministry Update (April 2016)

As of now, I’m currently working full time for an. animal feed company by the name of New Country Organics. I mentioned in another post about it, but now it’s in full swing.

My responsibilities include delivering feed all around Virginia from tuesday-thursday and on the other days I’m either packing orders or packaging feed. All in all, I do enjoy it. It’s not my dream job by any stretch but it’s certainly not a bad one! The people I work with are generally nice and hard working, save maybe a couple.

I’m definitely looking forward to being alone on the road as a time of prayer (eyes open!) and sermon listening!

On the ministry end of things my wife and I are quite busy! Wednesday nights are “breakpoint”, otherwise knows as youth group. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the youth and have found it to be quite a growing experience to build relationships from scratch. As Christians I think we get far too comfortable in our cliques, so this has been a generally positive experience for the both of us.

On Thursday nights we spend the evening fellowshipping over dinner. We sing and pray with a few other people from our church. This has been very challenging in a lot of ways because, as I said before, building brand new relationships (especially praying with new friends!) can be uncomfortable. But there really is nothing like singing ” good good father” in a living room amongst other believers. It can’t be beat.

And lastly on Sunday mornings we spend on the worship team and my wife sings in the choir. I’ve found I enjoy playing bass more than guitar, but it’s still fun either way. My wife also plays the flute quite wonderfully and many people have been edified by her talent.

Sunday evening is student lifegroup. It’s sort of a more intense youth group, with added small groups at the end for accountability and encouragement.

As of now, that’s what we’ve been up to for the most part, be praying for us as we move forward in life and marriage and seek what God may have for us!

Where Am I Called?

The question of calling is something i wrestle with on a daily basis. Though I’m still quite young, I find myself stressing over where and what God is calling me to. For instance, am I called to where I am now, or am I called to somewhere else?  Or should I ditch that line of thinking entirely and just do something, hoping something will come out of it? Either way, this deep uncertainty is something that’s been heavy upon my soul.roadway-1081736.jpg

The first two things I know God has for us is to pay off debt and serve our Church (the latter will be a never-ending calling according to scripture!). What happens after gets a little foggier. For instance I’m considering doing online schooling for ministry training, but my only reservation is I don’t know in what capacity of ministry I would be best to serve in. All I know is I want to faithfully serve a local Church until the day I die, whether vocationally or layperson.

Along with uncertainties about my lifelong vocation, I’m uncertain about where that will be fleshed out. Will it be where I am now? Somewhere else? I do feel a certain pull towards somewhere in this moment, but discerning whether it’s the “right” way is the difficult part.

Amidst uncertainties, my greatest comfort is God’s perfect sovereignty. He does have me right where I am for a reason, I may never know that reason, but according to Romans 8, there is one. Whether I make the “right” or “wrong” decision, God will be working in it for my good and His Glory.


Faithful at Work, Faithful in Ministry

Work and Ministry are much more connected than they appear. Colossians 3:23 tells us that when we work, we should work heartily not for men, but for God.

I’ve been thinking on this topic a lot. I have this temptation in my head to think that somehow my working a “normal” job is somehow less worshipful than being say, a pastor. According to 1st tools-498202.jpgCorinthians 10:31, this thinking is wrong. If you can eat or drink (within biblical guidelines) to God’s glory, then you can certainly be a driver, an auto mechanic, graphic designer, etc. to the Glory of God! This should come as a deep peace to us who work “secular jobs”.

Though I may pursue a ministry vocation in the future, I’m reminded that if I don’t glorify God in the daily grind of secular work, then I will certainly struggle to glorify him in a ministry setting. I know this first hand. There were times when I would have a rotten attitude about work, and then that evening during youth ministry, I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t serve the teens in the way that I should’ve.

Sometimes I imagine myself serving in a vocational ministry position, but in a lot of ways my view of it is wrong. There will be struggle, there will be temptation, there will be hurt. This is a fallen world, and Christ has called both “secular” and “sacred” workers to be “in the world and not of it”.

Of course, based on the aforementioned verses, jobs are neither sacred nor secular. This means God can and should be glorified in your normal job just as if you were directly working for your local church.

For me this is fleshed out in a few practical ways. Firstly, I try to work at work. Get there on time, work hard, pay attention. God is glorified when you are a valuable member of a team. If you’re working hard, you are valuable. Another way is being open about what I believe. This is a bit harder because of the more secular environment (though there are two believers I work with which im very grateful for). This means sharing the gospel (which i certainly struggle with), answering questions, steering conversations to spiritual things, etc.

So as you go back to work this week, be encouraged that God is glorified in your hard work. He sees it, He appreciates it even when your boss won’t. And who knows, you might be the only light shining to all the unbelievers there!

Reading Scripture Feels Like Life

I wish i could say I’m always exceedingly excited each morning to read my Bible. But I’m not. I’m excited that God will somehow use it, but sometimes I don’t see God’s purpose behind it. Reading the Bible doesn’t always feel as clear and personal as it should.

When David didn’t understand what he was going through, He literally had to tell himself to hope in God. Trust in God. Rely on God. He didn’t see God in his suffering in Psalm 43:5 and in turn lost his hope. He had to cry out to his own soul to hope in God, for he would praise him again. But in that moment, he felt distant and without hope. bible-1021657_1920.jpgHe didn’t see what God was doing.

In the same way there are seasons in each of our lives where we may be reading through a book that we particularly resonate with, for me it’s Romans. Many other times we may be reading elsewhere and it becomes more difficult (though not impossible) to see God’s purpose and how it relates to ourselves as a believers. In my chronological trek through scripture I just read near the end of Genesis 19 where some pretty terrible things occurred. How can God have a purpose through such terrible things?

As i reflected on this it made me think of our lives as a whole.
There are ups and downs, mountains and valleys, times where we have a clear purpose and times where we feel that we’re getting nowhere. It’s a lot like our daily time with God. We’re building a relationship.

Relationships require work, and for example as a husband, I do genuinely want to love and cherish my wife. But many times it doesn’t come easily, so I have to remind myself of my commitment and devotion and pray for guidance and a
new-found desire to serve her.

In the same way when we spend time with God in his word we have to remind ourselves during those valley moments that God is at work in even the most obscure and seemingly unclear passages. We need to be praying that the Holy Spirit ignite a desire for His word even through those more boring or difficult moments.

Sometimes it’s a self-inflicted season of discouragement. We may be giving in to a particular sin and the Holy Spirit is grieved and as such we don’t get as much clarity and depth as we usually do in our devotions. I’ve personally seen this manifested in many ways.

2nd Timothy 3:16 reminds us that all scripture is God-breathed. Literally directly from God. All of it is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. God has a purpose for every word in scripture. So when we read something that doesn’t seem very meaningful, we must remind ourselves that God is at work in this text. So take heart, If God can work through an unclear verse, He can work in your life’s seemingly “meaningless” moments too!


Providence In Motion

In life we look back and wonder why some things happened. Sometimes it’s a bad decision, sometimes an unsure one, and sometimes it’s something completely out of our control.

When I decided to drop out of college due to financial and personal reasons, it was hard. I knew it was the right decision, but what reason did God have for bringing us there in the first place? I had my heart set on a four-year degree in ministry. trail-984198.jpgI was looking forward to graduating and being used by God in some new ways through this education. But this isn’t how it turned out.

I still struggle with the “why” of the whole situation, but God has shown me a small glimpse of His purpose through it.

Some of said purpose was found when chatting with one of my co-workers. The traditional “where are you from” conversation ensued casually and we began building an acquaintance with each other.

Then the big question of “what brought you here” comes up and I have to explain about going to college for a semester and then dropping out and moving closer to my wife’s family. Then the response is always “what were you studying?”.

The first glimpse of purpose.

“Pastoral ministry”, I always respond. This specific gentleman was interested after I said that and our conversations went from casual pleasantries to deeper things. He explained about his checkered past and how he wants to live for the Lord but he struggles with many different things. One thing I noticed through our conversations was his trust in himself for goodness. Ephesians reminds us that we can’t earn our salvation, it’s by grace through faith in Christ alone. I’m prayerfully considering how to explain these things to him.

Providence is an interesting aspect of God, His perfect sovereignty doesn’t lead me to want to dwell on past situations, but rather to ask “What’s your purpose in this?”. So when I think about the thousands that were spent on schooling for knowledge I already knew, I try to remind myself that God is still working it out for good as Romans 8:28 tells me.

And now I see a small piece of that sovereignty through something as simple as a conversation starter. I encourage you to see the sovereign in the simple.