I’m a Recovering Christian

Oct 05th 2009

My name is Dan Nold and I’m a recovering Christian.  That’s how we ended this weekend’s talk at Calvary.  It was apology #1 in our UnChristian series — sorry for our hypocrisy.  I felt a little odd saying that statement, “I’m a recovering Christian.”  It puts Christianity on par with AA — Christians Anonymous.  But in so many ways in the eyes of the next generation the word Christianity is on par with alcoholism.  We can say, That ain’t fair.”  But fair or not, our press isn’t too good at the moment.

And let’s be honest, there are reasons why our press isn’t good — take hypocrisy for example.

In a Barna study released in 2007, they found that most of the lifestyle activities of born-again Christians was statistically the equivalent of those who were not born-agains.  Christians were just as likely to gamble or visit a pornographic website, we were just as likely to take something that didn’t belong to us, just as likely to consult a pyschic or medium, and just as likely to get drunk.  We were just as likely to get in a fight, abuse someone or take drugs.  We were just as likely to have lied or said something mean behind someone else’s back.

Do you know where we were different?  We flip people off less often and we were less likely to have bought a lottery ticket in the last 30 days.

When I read that I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.  No wonder I get weird looks from Christians when I show them my lottery ticket.  I didn’t realize it was one of the two essential qualities that define a Christian.  I mean isn’t that what we teach our kids or tell our friends.  If you want to be a Christian, limit your lottery tickets and put away your middle finger.

Is it any wonder we are charged with hypocrisy?  Is this what Jesus wanted Christians to be marked by?    NO.  He said that we would be known as his followers by the quality of your love, by the size of your heart, by the depth of your passion for God and your capacity to love your neighbor.

Don’t miss this.  The reason we struggle with hypocrisy is that we have prioritized the wrong things.  We have prioritized sin avoidance, rather than prioritizing the expansion of the capacity of our hearts. I’m not saying that flipping people off is okay.  I’m simply saying that it doesn’t matter what we do with our middle finger if our hearts are small.

So this week, I’ll be holding my rag (if you want to understand the rag reference, you’ll have to listen to the talk

      1. Hypocrisy
) and saying to myself,  My name is Dan Nold and I’m a recovering Christian… but my deep desire is that I would be a heart-shaped, fully formed, passionately authentic follower of Jesus Christ. But it’s a process…and along the way…  we all have rags.

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Let It Burn

Jul 17th 2009

A couple of Thanksgivings ago, my mom and dad hosted a home burning.  The house I grew up in was old before I was born and after seeing five kids go from the terrible twos to the rambunctious eight’s all the way through the mind-blowing teens — it was ancient.  When my grandfather died, they inherited his house (he built on their property) so they no longer needed their old home.  So they hosted a home burning.  They let the grandkids spend a day wrecking the house — a kid’s dream — then they started a fire.

I have to tell you it was a somewhat unreal experience standing around watching the home you grew up in burn down.  But it was also a fascinating experience to watch the fire.  It almost seemed to be alive, they way it moved, rolled, snaked around beams and enveloped walls.  And then it was done, the house was gone.  It didn’t take days, it didn’t even take hours — and it was gone.

I have those pictures in my mind this week as I read James 3:5-6.

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. (NLT)

The destructive ability of words should cause us to be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to get angry.  The destructive ability of words should lead us to compliment more frequently, say thank you more often, and speak kind words every chance we get.  The destructive ability of words should cause us to think twice before we speak once — and never use e-mail to solve a conflict.  I have watched words burn marriages.  I have watched words scar kids.  I have watched words destroy friendships.  I have watched words corrupt someone’s image of Jesus.

I still remember words that hurt.  The burn can make a mark that lasts a long time.  The only thing that can heal this fire from hell is the cool water of grace.  The way you let that cool water flow is through forgiveness. Let it flow.

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First Staff Meeting

Oct 14th 2008

I was showered with coffee today — unbrewed.  I got a bushel basket full of coffee, more coffee than I’ve every received in a single setting, and some cool welcome back notes for Lynn and I.

It was my first official staff meeting in four months!  I was late.  Didn’t want the staff to think I had changed too much over the sabbatical. :)   Actually I had a day full of meetings.  Staff leadership, full staff, Jim & Dan, Kate & Lauren, and then a local pastor.  Nothing like jumping back in with both feet, but overall a good day, especially listening to the staff share God-stories.  I missed that.

I guess the main thing I have to shout out…is What a Great Staff Team We Have at Calvary! I left Calvary for four months and not only did Stac, Vic and all do a great job of preaching, but DanD did a great job of leading the staff.  Not only did everyone survive, they thrived.  Giving is up.  We’ve made major strides in our new multi-site initiative, ministry leaders are being developed, and people have made choices to start the journey of following Jesus.  Good stuff!  October is Pastor Appreciation month, and I’ve got to say I appreciate the pastors and the staff that God has drawn to Calvary.

It’s good to be missed, but there is something so very freeing in being reminded that ultimately when I get rid of this earth-suit I won’t leave that big a hole…but that’s okay because it’s not my show anyway. It’s God’s.  And what a show!

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Enjoy His Pleasures

Oct 09th 2008

There is an ancient rabbinical saying that goes something like this…  God will one day hold us accountable for all the things He created for us to enjoy, but we refused to do so. Wow! Did it ever occur to you that God wants us to enjoy His pleasures?  Could it be that our enjoyment of His pleasures is as important to Him as our accomplishment of his purposes?  Well I have to say that I have had many moments during my sabbatical to enjoy His pleasures…here are just a few of the joys I experienced during my sabbatical.

– Watching sunsets in Minnesota, the Black Hills, New York City, Estonia, and Hawaii.
– Riding in the front seat of an incredibly intense wooden roller coaster with Josh.
– Boating on a lake with my family.
– Time to read.
– Experiencing Discovery Cove with my family.
– A cabin on a lake in Minnesota.
– Rock climbing with Jake.
– Watching Legally Blonde with Katy and Sarah.
– Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Hana — I’m pretty sure that’s what OT manna was…
– Talking about leadership with Wayne Cordiero and Reggie McNeal.
– Swimming in the Oheo Gulch ponds below a waterfall.
– My first vacation alone with Lynn — the highlight of my sabbatical.
– Flatbread pizza in Paii, Hawaii.
– Eating fresh grilled steaks on a little lanai overlooking Hamoa Bay.
– Sitting around the campfire with Jake.
– Talking to Estonian pastors about building a church without walls.
– Hanging out with a Bill Ankerberg in Estonia — a pastor I deeply respect.
– Playing in the ocean with Lynn.
– Watching Josh play football.
– Doing a baptism in the ocean off Waikiki beach.
– Seeing the look on Sarah and Katy’s face when the limo drove up.
– Reading the Bible in big chunks at a time.
– Long talks with Lynn.
– Preaching in Estonia and watching people come forward.
– Hearing how well Calvary has done in my absence.

So what pleasures has God created for you to enjoy?  Are you missing them or grabbing them with both hands?  You don’t have to take a sabbatical to enjoy His pleasures, but you do have to take the time.

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The Road to Hana…

Oct 08th 2008

…is paved with good intentions.  Wait — wrong quote.  In fact out here the adjective “Heavenly” is most often associated with Hana.  Now the road to Hana, that’s an interesting journey.

It’s water-full.  There are so many waterfalls that after an hour, you go from — Wow would you look at that, that is amazing, cool, God really does good work!  — to — yep there’s another one.

It has that beautiful Eden-feel.  You go from rain forest to bamboo forest, from cliff-side views of the ocean hundreds of feet up to green mountain clad valleys, and all along the way you find the most colorful flowers, bright reds, yellows and orange.  Amazing.  It’s eye-candy for the soul.

It is secluded.  A handful of houses and two little villages from the airport to Hana.  In fact we were talking to a clerk in Lahaina (we drove there to see a Maui sunset) and when we told him that we were staying in Hana… He said, No way, no one every stays in Hana.  I’ve lived in Maui all my life and I’ve only been there once. (When we told him we were driving back that night, he said, Whoa not even the locals drive to Hana at night. Which made Lynn a little nervous!)

But getting to Hana is not your easy, jump on 80 journey.  In State College we like to say that we are 3 hours from everywhere, but in Hana it’s really true.  Lynn and I got Hana Survivor t-shirts.  Lynn’s says “617 curves, 56 bridges (one lane), 52 miles, 3 hours — Hana Survivor”  Mine says, “Our Winding Road Motto, There will be absolutely NO:  WHINING, CRYING, EATING, SLEEPING, READING, RESTROOM STOPS, COMPLAINING, MOANING, HORSING AROUND, BLACKMAILING, SICKNESS OR TURNING BACK!”

So here are a few Hana-road life-lessons.

1) When you are hundreds of feet up a cliff on a narrow road overlooking the ocean, the driver doesn’t get to say, Wow look at that… In life, sometimes the journey is more beautiful if we let someone else drive.

2) On the Hana-road driving faster won’t get you there faster…it won’t get you there at all…  In life, sometimes the prize goes to those who know how to slow down.

3) The road to Hana is beautiful, but a week in Hana on Hamoa beach is better by a factor of 10… In life, every truly good journey has a good destination.  The journey of life is good when we know that our destination is God…but God is better than the journey by more than a factor of 10.

4) If you eat pizza before you start, by the 617th curve it won’t taste so good anymore…  no spiritual lesson there…just personal experience, if you ever go to Hana, don’t eat too much before the journey!  :)

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A Missing Rhythm

Oct 06th 2008

One of the rhythms of life that many (most?) of us are missing is the rhythm of silence… listening, waiting upon God.  This rhythm is found throughout the Bible.  For example, Psalm 46:10  Be still and know that I am God; Isaiah 40:31  Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; and John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

The problem is that we have so many voices in our ears; friends, celebrities, authors, singers, political pundits and ____________ (fill in the blank).  And it’s not just voices, it’s word noise; tv, facebook, ipod, text messaging and ________________ (fill in the blank).  Now honestly, everything I’ve listed, I enjoy — even texting.  That’s why silence is so rare and listening to God is so hard to do.

And yet it is so vital to our life.  You know in the gospel of John, Jesus is called The Word.  This might mean that the most important rhythm of life for the follower of Jesus is the rhythm of listening.  What time do we take to listen?  When do we spend time listening?  What can we do on a daily basis to find the silence which will enhance the rhythm of listening. 

As I come back from my sabbatical, perhaps one of my strongest convictions is that I need to develop a better rhythm of listening to the WORD of God.  How about you?

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The Rhythms of a Leader

Oct 06th 2008

I spent last week in a leadership practicum with Wayne Cordiero and the New Hope leadership team.  This picture reveals a significant part of the practicum!  New Hope has grown in the last 15 years from a handful to over 10,000.  About 50 pastors from all over the world joined together for six days to rub shoulders and listen to Wayne share about leadership in the local church… a good experience and a great way to wind down my sabbatical.

What was the leadership practicum about?  It wasn’t about how to grow a church to 10,000 people.  It wasn’t about how to lead a staff of 100.  It wasn’t about how to lead a volunteer team of 5000 plus.  It was more about the rhythms of a leader.  In other words, when we look at a leader, we see what they do — up front, but not behind the scenes.  In other words we see the game, we don’t see the training.  We see the concert, we don’t see the rehearsals or the hours of individual lessons.  We see/hear what comes out of the pastor on the weekend, but we don’t see what goes into the sermon during the week.

Every leader — in fact everyone who excels in their calling — has a rythm to their life that brings the fruit that others see.  What are the rhythms of your life?  What are the disciplines you practice behind the scenes — day to day — that will bear fruit?  They should include things like prayer, time to hear God, planning, and exercise.  So every day of the practicum we participated in the rhythms of Wayne Cordiero’s life.  Up at 5:30am, prayer, calisthenics and 2 mile run from 6-7am, (they called me Krispy), breakfast at 8am, and devotions from 8:30am.  After that the day started.

So what are the rythms of your life?  What do you do on a consistent basis that helps you train for the Kingdom race?  What disciplines shape your heart so that you are ready for God’s calling?  It’s got me thinking about mine…

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Loving Being a Dad

Sep 27th 2008

Today is one of those days when I’m just loving being a dad…and I’m not even home!  Some of you might be thinking — well of course — it’s easy loving being a dad when you’re in Hawaii — with your wife — without your kids — and feasting your eyes on God’s creation of beauty (that includes Lynn!).  Well okay…that might be the case.  But let me tell you why I’m really loving being a dad today.  I’ll go in order, oldest first.

Sarah: Sarah loves her sister Katy.  So this weekend she sacrificed a little of her money (and a little of mine) and a lot of her time (none of mine) to drive to Minnesota to surprise Katy with her presence (and Lauren’s presence too).  Katy cried.  Today they are at the Mall of America.  I cried.  (Sarah has my credit card.)  Every father loves seeing his kids love each other.

Katy: Katy is the first one of our family to take the big leap and leave home.  Some of you know that’s not exactly an easy thing to do.  She moved to Minnesota to go to college at Bethel University.  Last week she got her first A on a test…psychology.  She’s learning psychology, but she’s also learning about life.  She’s experienced a little bit of homesickness but she’s doing great.  Every father loves seeing his kids gain wisdom.

Jake:  Jake went kayaking this week…on the Youghigany (I know I probably didn’t spell that right, but I’m in a hurry and it’ got a lot of vowels) in the rapids.  You gotta face your fears and be willing to take a risk to do something like that.  He rolled the kayak a few times, banged his head on the rocks a few times, but he made it.  He took the risk, pushed his capacities and came out on the other side with a deeper sense of courage.  Every  father loves seeing his kids grow in courage.

Josh: I was on the phone with Josh this morning at 1:30am (Hawaii time) wishing him well for his football game in the Assemblies of God league.  I hate missing games and this week they played the vaunted silver team.  Two weeks ago silver beat us by 28 points.  Josh called me at half-time (4am Hawaii time).  They were ahead.  Then I talked to him again at 5:30am (Hawaii time) and we had beaten silver.  Josh even threw a couple of touchdown passes.  It made my morning!  And you know what every father loves to see his kids persevere.  Get back up when you fail and go for it again.

Every father — think about this, God is our father — loves to see his kids grow in love, wisdom, courage and perseverance.  And right now, at this moment, I’m loving being a dad.  And it makes me want to give God the same kind of moment.

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More Estonian Pastors

Sep 15th 2008

We started our second conference with Estonian pastors last night — another great group.  In this group is Leho who leads a church in Tartu and is excited about a missionary couple from our network, coming to help them with youth work.  I’m also getting a chance to know Meego, who is the president of the Baptist Union in Estonian — about 80 congregations throughout the nation.  Thomas is a quite man with 10 children and a strong heart for prayer — I think the one leads to the other!  Tovio is the director of the Estonian seminary, and a leader in Crossroads church in Tartu.  Crossroads average age is 23.  Then there is Pater and Urmas, they have a great heart for young people…tonight as we prayed at the prayer house, revival amongst the youth of Estonia was something that was very much in our hearts.

I spoke on the church without walls today…what an incredible privilege!  Well we got home from the prayer time at about midnight…so I’m off to bed.

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I Preached Today

Sep 14th 2008

I even wore a sweater vest!  We were at the Siion (Zion) Church in Kuressarre, Estonia, one of the largest Baptist congregations in Estonia.  We have some cool connections to this congregation.  For example, they sent four people to our Leadership Advance event; Herb McKinstry has played his trumpet in this church; folks from Calvary have painted a building that they use for a children’s camp; and it’s also the first place from which my sermon was both live over the radio and internet.  If you would like to check it out click here:  siion1

But before you click here are two very important pieces of information:  1)  It’s mostly in Estonian and I don’t come on till about 30 minutes in.  2)  The video perspective squashes me, so it makes me look larger than I really am… no really…it’s true.

So I wore a sweater vest.  I preached.  Not more than one…maybe two people fell asleep.  It felt pretty good.  Anytime we are connecting with God’s call on our lives, it should feel pretty good.  I’m looking forward to doing it at Calvary again.  My first weekend back preaching will be October 18 & 19th.  See you then if not before…

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