Monthly Archives: November 2014

Opening Day of Deer Season, Orange Hats and Doing God’s Will

November 15th is Saturday. A Michigan holiday known as “the opening of firearm deer season,” and all the hunters in the crowd said, “Kaboom!” The roads heading north (where there are more deer than people) will soon be filled with men and women ready to locate a majestic, beautiful trophy buck and shoot it dead.

I have gone hunting a few times. Never shot a deer. My participation in the November 15th deer experience (Can I really call it “hunting” if I never planned on killing anything more than time?) was more about hanging out with my fellow hunters. I went more for the coffee before the “hunt” and the stories of “the one that got away” after the “hunt.” (Please note: My non-lethal deer “hunting” is not because I am a card caring member of PETA and think there are some moral issues with shooting a deer. Some of my best friends love hunting. Love eating venison. Love the thrill of being in the woods on the hunt. Love the camaraderie of deer camp. I have no problem with any of that—I’m just not a hunter and venison makes me puke.)

Usually a friend would loan me the necessary hunting items: a gun; a bullet to keep in my pocket like Barney Fife; and an orange hat. When I protested that orange is not my color, I was informed that state law required every human in the woods to wear orange. The thinking is that a deer would not be caught dead wearing orange; hence if a trigger-happy hunter saw something moving and it wasn’t wearing orange, it must be a deer or a fashion conscious raccoon.

There was one occasion when out in the woods, wearing my stylish orange stocking cap and singing a happy little tune in between bites of a snicker’s bar (I can only I assume), a deaf and blind deer walked within a few feet of me. I could hear her coming through the woods, so I sang a little louder (My singing has been known to send humans running for cover.), undeterred she kept rambling in my direction. With my heart beating as if I had just completed a marathon, I had a decision: Would I live and let live? Or would I do my best Uncle Si of Duck Dynasty impersonation and “Hey! Boom! Done! Over! Know what I mean, Jack?”

I put down my chocolate bar and Bible, located my gun (it was on the ground covered with candy wrappers), loaded my bullet, wrapped by finger around the trigger and…

I couldn’t do it.

Even though the whole purpose for me sitting in the woods while wearing a dopey orange hat was to shoot such animals, when the time came, I just couldn’t do it. Remember: venison makes me sick and I think it would have ruined the deer’s day to join me for dinner too. I just couldn’t do it. I took my finger off the trigger and let her continue on her oblivious stroll through the woods.

I think there are plenty of times we have the goal within our sight, our finger is on the trigger, but for whatever reason we can’t pull it. Unfortunately, this happens in things that matter a whole lot more than a freezer full of venison.

We know we need to start exercising or start attending church or start tithing or start eating better or start consistently reading the Bible or improve our marriage or ask forgiveness from a friend or offer encouragement to a lonely person, but we just can’t seem to “pull the trigger.”

In most cases, this is not a decision that we even have to pray: “Is this God’s will?”
Of course, it’s God’s will to live healthier;
Of course it’s God’s will to reconcile relationships;
Of course it’s God’s will to make improvements in our Christian disciplines.

The question isn’t “does God want me to do it?” but rather “am I willing to do it?”
Am I willing to step out and do what I know God wants me to do?
Am I willing to see the goal and move forward in faith?
Am I willing to “pull the trigger” and start doing what God wants me to do?

The Bible says: I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (Philippians 3:14-16. The Message). Like Paul let’s determine to stay focused on the goal and when opportunities to move forward and improve our walk with God arise, pray that we will “pull the trigger” and do what we know is God’s best!

More Good News: Doing God’s best choice does not require the wearing of an orange hat! Kaboom!

The Church of the Nazarene (USA/Canada): A Big Tent or Little Camps

I’ve heard it (even taught it) that the Church of the Nazarene is a Big Tent. Historically I think the idea that the Church of the Nazarene is a Big Tent came from our earliest days when in a big tent at Pilot Point, Texas three groups laid aside some minor differences they may have had and joined together so that the message of holiness might be proclaimed throughout the U.S.A. and world. The Big Tent mentality was illustrated in a quote of P.F. Bresee (but St. Augustine said it first): “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; and in all things charity.” So differences over the second coming of Jesus and the minutia of holiness were laid aside for the greater good of reaching our world and making Christ-like disciples.

Fast forward 106 years and the question is: Is the Church of the Nazarene still a Big Tent or have we become little campsites on the same campground (some might say, “Forget being on the same campground are we even in the same universe)?

It appears that it’s the latter. We have gone to our own camps. We still want to talk about “holiness” (we are still on the same campgrounds– although what exactly “holiness” is and how ”holiness” is expressed is vastly different among our people). Our differences over essentials and non-essentials have seemly caused the Nazarenes to circle around their particular issues in their own little camps. It would seem that Augustine’s (sorry Dr. Bresee) quote to be accurate for today’s Nazarenes should be modified as: In essentials unity; in non-essentials—there are no non-essentials; and in all things (if you agree with me about the essentials and non-existent non-essentials) charity. The quote doesn’t have the same beautiful simplicity; nor does have the heart of holiness, but that’s where the Church of the Nazarene finds herself.

There are several reasons for the disintegration into our differing camps. American politics, the ease of disseminating differing viewpoints via the Internet, the angst in the American culture, the lack of Nazarene based (or even Wesleyan based) education in the majority of Nazarene clergy, an influx of fundamentalism, an ecclesiastical identity crisis over several theological and social issues, and the recent Nazarene Publishing House debacle are only some of the factors. These and other influences have sent Nazarenes to their own little camps, circling the wagons around their ideas and notions and looking with a suspicious eye at anyone who disagrees with them. The Big Tent has been un-pitched.

Here’s the problem: When we had laid aside our differences; when we were concerned about proclaiming holiness; when our focus was on reaching the world and making Christ-like disciples; when we were a Big Tent (in other words) the Church of the Nazarene was growing. People were finding Jesus and holiness was being proclaimed. It doesn’t take a statistical genius to look at the flattened and now declining membership numbers in USA/Canada to conclude that when we started heading to our own little camps and casting stones at those in other camps that’s when our decline began. We may have a mission statement that reads: “To make Christ-like Disciples in the nations” but in the USA/Canada it seems our mission statement has become: “To make the rest of the church think like we think and if they don’t think like we think to make them out to be friends with the devil.” Again, its not a catchy slogan but that seems to be where we are and why we have lost our way.

So what is the solution? We’ve got to leave our individual camps and join the Big Tent again. Let’s get back to Augustine (and Bresee). Refocus on the essentials; quit making non-essentials essential; and remember charity. Holiness is all about love. Love presumably includes loving individuals and leaders with whom you may have a disagreement. Love includes loving those in society who disagree and loving those in the church with whom we disagree. Love is the door to the Big Tent.

Big Tent people love one another.
Big Tent people don’t get caught up in the minutia.
Big Tent people recognize that if we aren’t together we will never win the world for Christ.
Big Tent people understand that the message of holiness in this unholy culture is vital.
Big Tent people are holiness people.
Let’s get back in the Big Tent.