Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for December 2014 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Is your God too Small?

One of my favorite writers tells a story about when he was a chaplain at a university in England. Every year, he would meet the new freshman and introduce himself. Many of the students would say upon hearing he was the chaplain, “You won’t see much of me, I don’t believe in god.”

He developed a standard answer to this statement. “Oh, that’s interesting; which god is it you don’t believe in?”

You see, most people think the term ‘god’ means the same thing. He writes, “…they would stumble out a few phrases about the god they said they did not believe in: a being who lived up the in the sky, looking down disapprovingly at the world, occasionally ‘intervening’ to do miracles, sending bad people to hell while allowing good people to share his heaven.”

To this answer, he would reply, “Well, I’m not surprised you don’t believe in that god. I don’t believe in that god either. I believe in the God I see revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.”

In John 14, we read about a conversation between Jesus and his apostles. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.’” –John 14:8-10 ESV

I think we fall into the same trap that snared those college freshmen. Our picture of God is too small. When we boil down what we believe, it doesn’t sound that different than their spy-in-the-sky.

We are six days away from our celebration of Christ’s birth.
We are six days away from our celebration of the Word becoming flesh.
We are six days away from our celebration of our Savior’s arrival.

We are six days away from our celebration that the world will never be the same because of a child born in Bethlehem.

We are six days away from our celebration of our God sending His Son and in doing so, we get a glimpse into the very heart of God.

We are six days away from our celebration of a God who yearns for His people to be free from sin and alive in Him.

Merry Christmas from the Parrish home to your home. We pray that your celebration this Christmas is filled with the hope and wonder of a God who is too big to describe, yet is completely fulfilled in the cries of a child that holy morning.

Pastor John

Obedience is Christlikeness

In the Church of the Nazarene, we have a rich history centered around holiness. Through the years, our language has changed. We have used terms like Christian perfection, holiness, and Christlikeness. These terms try to vocalize the Christian life with understandable language.

I have been reflecting this week on the passages we looked at last week. We looked at three passages from three chapters in Mark. The passages are:

  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34b ESV)
  • “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b ESV)
  • “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)
These verses are powerful standing alone, yet in their context, they strike at the heart of the human condition. Let’s briefly look at their context:

  • This verse follows Jesus’ first prediction of His death. Following the prediction, Peter protests this prediction. Why would Peter do this? Perhaps, Jesus’ revelation did not fit into Peter’s vision for who the Messiah was.
  • The next verse follows the second prediction of Jesus’ death. Following the prediction, Jesus asks the apostles what they had been discussing. The apostles remained silent. Jesus knew what they were discussing– they were discussing who was the greatest.
  • The final reference follows Jesus’ third prediction. This time, it is James and John who are discussing the possibility of sitting at the right and left of Jesus when He comes into His glory.
Let me ask you a question, “What keeps you from living a life modeled after that of our Lord?” Another way, “What keeps you from the pursuit of holiness?”

Can I give you something to consider? I believe Mark’s gospel is laying out the heart of our struggle. Three times Jesus lays out what is about to happen to Him. The road ahead of Him is not one that He is looking forward to, yet He is headed down that road because He is being obedient to His Father.

This obedience is Christlikeness. The Christian struggle lies in looking past our selfishness and looking to God’s plan– the heart of holiness is moving our sight from ourselves to God.

This Advent season, may we focus our sight on the One who’s vision for our lives is far greater than anything we can imagine!


The Adventure

Last night, NBC continued a new holiday tradition. Last year, they began this tradition with a live performance of The Sound of Music. This year, millions watched Peter Pan.

A couple nights ago, Heather and I watched some clips of the cast learning to fly for last night’s performance. It was amusing to see the first time they strapped on a harness and the cables hoisted them off the floor.

In the midst of these clips, one the directors spoke about the role of flying in the story of Peter Pan. Peter was calling the children to an adventure and their ability to follow him out of the window was an act of trust. This was a wild adventure and they had to trust in order to follow. Flying was the symbol of that trust and their 'childlike faith' helped them follow.

The life of faith is an adventure that calls us follow with a great amount trust. Stanley Hauerwas writes, “When we are baptized, we (like the first disciples) jump on a moving train. As disciples, we do not so much accept a creed, or come to a clear sense of self-understanding by which we know this or that with utter certitude. We become part of a journey that began long before we got here and shall continue long after we are gone.”

This Sunday, we will be looking at Mary’s song (The Magnificat). In this great passage, Mary sees the adventure that lays ahead of creation. How does she approach this new adventure? She approaches what is going on in her womb with a great amount of faith! God is working in a new way- and she invites us to jump on the moving train with her! Come and join the adventure!


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