About Nathanael

Nathanael has written 16 articles so far, you can find them below.

Remembering Goodness

The value of something is in what it costs you to get it, but the trick is to guard your heart so that you do not despise what you have purchased for the sacrifice it cost.

I once read a story* of a boy who was drawn into a jewelry store by curiosity. Once inside, he perused the engagement rings, marveling at their beauty. One ring above all others caught his eye, for when he saw it, it was as though he saw in a vision the image of his future wife.

Immediately, he spoke with the doubtful owner to arrange layaway payments until the ring was paid for in full. The owner hesitantly agreed—but only with the understanding that one missed payment would forfeit all previous payments and break the deal.

This boy then tirelessly worked, sometimes taking more than one job, forsaking time with friends, all for the sake of this ring and what it meant to him. No matter how weary he became, the vision of his future wife carried him on.

Years later, the day came when the boy made his last payment, and the owner threw him a party to celebrate the accomplishment. Not long after, he met the woman he had seen in that vision so many times throughout those years. At the right time, he gave her this precious ring—bought with  money, yes, but also with patience, tears, and sacrifice.

He could have become discouraged during the long years of making payments, even growing to despise the ring for what it cost him, but he didn’t.

God teaches us this lesson through Israel in the wilderness, in that He commanded that a jar of manna be kept in the Ark of the Covenant. The manna was a testimony of God’s provision and faithfulness, even though the testimony was bought with toilsome monotony.

The point is that Israel could look at the manna and have two responses—they could either be repulsed by the memory of the wilderness and the difficulty of those years, or they could remember it as the testimony it truly was.

What are you facing right now? Is there a journey on which God has been taking you? What is the dream God has placed in your heart and what have you sacrificed to accomplish it?

God wants to help you fulfill your dreams and lead you into your Promised Land. And if we will choose to guard our hearts, then the testimonies of His faithfulness will deeply knit our hearts to His and our memories will be of His goodness, rather than of the difficulties of life.

*story adapted from Purity: The New Moral Revolution by Kris Vallotton.


My Hope

Recently I was asked, “Twenty years from now, what do you hope you’ll think about your life now?”

I thought for a moment and answered, “Hopefully, twenty years from now I will see that I was faithful with the my seeds. Because I know that what I have now is a little, but that when I’ve been faithful with it, God will make it become much.”

As I thought about my answer in the days following this exchange, I realized that the biggest reason I gave this as my answer is because of how I think about eternity. I know that while my place in heaven is based on the grace of Jesus, my reward in heaven is based on my faithfulness on earth. For that reason, I am highly motivated to be a wise steward of all my little things on earth that they might become much, so that one day I will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

But I realized that this also led to a fear about heaven because eventually in leaving earth I will leave things undone. This feels like a measure of unfaithfulness for which I would be unable to account before God, and my reward might suffer simply because I had died with things unfinished.

The first alternative to this is to try to pace yourself as you see the end coming (assuming you do see it coming), so that you can leave earth with no loose ends. The problem here is that you might end up accomplishing less because you’re sort of coasting to the finish line and be counted as less faithful because of it.

Finally, I realized the solution, and it’s as simple as fatherhood. If I do my job as a father, then my work will be passed on to others who will carry on after I’m gone, tying up my loose ends for me without me needing to coast to the end.

While this is a wonderful solution to my fears about the everlasting implications of my earthly faithfulness, there’s something deeper that I see here, and that’s that the real measure of my faithfulness is not in my ability to accomplish much, but in my ability to father well.

I think maybe this is part of what Jesus meant when He said, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” The servant wasn’t rewarded just because he was faithful, but also because he was good.

My hope, twenty years from now and in eternity, is that I will have been faithful with my first charge – my family – and that beyond that, I will have grown much from what God has entrusted to me, so that through me He may entrust it to my children for them to continue in a legacy of being both faithful and good.

Reactionary Theology

They say you can always learn from history, and recently, I learned something new.

In the process of studying for a class on Church history, it’s interesting to see how many times movements have been shaped as people react to one another. In the vacuum of fathers in the faith who can say, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,”  it left theological orphans to establish themselves according to whatever made the most sense to them.

And oftentimes, what made the most sense to people was an overreaction (or underreaction) to something someone else was doing.

For example, not meaning to step on any toes here, but in reaction to the Roman Catholic Church’s overemphasis on works, as seen through  a series of requirements by which a believer could obtain grace, John Calvin formulated the various doctrines of predestination. The pendulum swung from many works that merited grace to grace belonging only in the hand of a sovereign God.

In reality, scripture requires both of these to exist in tension. Our faith moves the grace of Christ into our lives, yet our faith also is proved through genuine works.

That example is interesting to me, but it doesn’t move me. What grabs at my heart are several examples from the 1800s, during which time several revivals flourished. The first Great Awakening was past and a new Great Awakening had come, leading to famous names of revival like Andrew Murray, Otto Stockmayer, D.L. Moody, John Alexander Dowie, and many others.

What truly hit home is the testimony of D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey, two of the founders of what is now Moody Church and Moody Bible Institute, my beloved Alma Mater. These two men both experienced and practiced the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in particular believed for miraculous healing, in their personal ministry. Torry even preached on the subject in his earlier years, or at least he did until something happened.

That something was John Alexander Dowie, who was flamboyant in his ministry style. He created some measure of controversy in Chicago and, in order to avoid the controversy, Moody and Torrey distanced themselves from Dowie by neglecting to preach about God’s power to heal.*

Now, the point of my writing here is not to provide commentary on either side of this theological debate, but rather make us question how we came up with our theology. If Dowie was unscriptural in his teachings or practice, that is one thing. However, it is equally erroneous to react the other direction and leave out important biblical truth simply because someone else is making it controversial.

In other words, if Moody and Torrey believed and practiced healing by the power of God in their personal ministry, then they should have preached it from the pulpit and lectern without regard to the controversy Dowie created. Or, if healing ministry is unscriptural, then they shouldn’t have believed or practiced it personally.

The point is that what we believe about God should be established by scripture alone and not in reaction to another person (or in reaction to society’s general opinion about a person).

God reveals Himself through people, yet people are still fallible. That’s why scripture is our constant. If a person errs, don’t overreact, but rather let the magnet of scripture pull your pendulum back to center, back to the balance where truths must be held in tension and mysteries cannot be explained by reason, but only by the person of God.

Only then will theology become deeper than intellect, for then we will cease to see mere people. Instead, we will see the Spirit of God at work within people and be able to honor them for what He has done in them, receiving the grace He has given them, and become a body united in Christ rather than divided by doctrine.


* Biographical details taken from Heritage of Healing, Kevin Dedmon, copyright 2009

Loving Myself

Over the past several days, there has been one thing on my mind more than anything else. That thing is love.

I have been praying, asking God to increase my capacity to love others, but in praying this I have also been trying to figure out how to partner with God in that process. How can I help increase my capacity to love?

In meditating on this one thing, I have come to a conclusion: In order for my love capacity to increase, I must love myself more. If I do not love myself more, then I will not love others more.

To understand this, we must start at the beginning. We love because God first loved us. Our account of love is bankrupt until God makes a deposit from His heart into ours, and only then do we have the capacity to love. Curiously, this love most often does not come directly from Him, as He chooses to use couriers like you and me, parents, friends, family members, and even nature to express His love (why do you think we love our pets?).

Once we have received His love, then the most normal thing to do is to love others. If we were raised by caring parents, then chances are we will be caring as well. Or, conversely, if we were raised by abusive parents, then without loving help from another source, we will likely be abusive as well. The point is that we will repeat what we have received.

Eventually, though, love gets hard. Not everyone is lovable, after all, and even the closest of relationships can be trying. Here is where the question of self-sacrificing love comes into the picture. Religious duty would have us bite the bullet, humble ourselves, and serve the other person no matter how difficult, painful, or costly it might be. And let me be clear, nothing is wrong with these kinds of actions! It is the example Jesus gave us to follow.

However, the question is the condition of our heart when we take these actions. If we only repeat actions that were demonstrated towards us, or go beyond them in self-sacrifice out of religious duty, then we will bankrupt ourselves internally. Loving out of duty means loving because you know you are supposed to (the Bible or the pastor told you to), but not necessarily because the love is actually inside you of to give. And when you love others in this way, out of religious obligation yet without love in your heart, then you will begin to despise the sacrifices you feel forced to make.

On the other hand, if the first step you take when others love you is to recognize that you are loved, then you can’t help but feel good about yourself. This is not in an unhealthy way – the opposite of self-loathing and depression is not pride – rather it is in a way that actually fills the desire for love in your heart. Then, when you know that you are loved, and when you are able to love yourself because you now see yourself as lovable, then you will be able to love others out of the fullness of your heart. Then your love will be genuine. Then your love will be unselfish, expecting no return. Then you will know that you are accepted already, and you will not fear the rejection of those difficult people whom you are called to love.

Loving others begins with loving ourselves. After all, Jesus said, “Love others as you love yourselves,” and somehow, I don’t think He told us to do something that He wasn’t already doing Himself.

Jesus loved Himself, and so He loved us. We are merely doing the same.

My story begins…

I was on my knees, praying at the side of my bed.

At the time, this was not uncommon for me. I would often fall asleep on my knees, waking up sometime in the night with my light still on and my legs fast asleep.

On this particular night, sometime in the latter years of junior high, God changed my heart. I don’t remember what I was praying about or what else was going on in that moment. All I remember is that suddenly I loved a wife whom I did not yet know and children who were not yet born.

Many people have compared our hearts to a home where Jesus comes to live. It was as though He spoke into my heart home and instantly an addition was built for the distinct purpose of housing a family.

Before that moment a baby’s cry aggravated me; after that moment I felt compassion for them. Before that moment children younger than me were an annoyance, but after that moment I enjoyed time with them. Before that moment I looked at girls with the same interest other boys had in them, but after that time any interest I had in girls that went beyond friendship knew only one purpose – to find my wife.

This isn’t to say that I was deluded enough to think I was ready for all of these things at such a young age. Of course I knew I couldn’t be married or have children for many years. However, I was deluded enough to think that I could meet someone in junior or senior high school and stay in a godly relationship with them long enough to marry them someday (not saying this couldn’t happen, but I will counsel my children to not look for a spouse until they are ready to be married).

The point is that my heart was changed in a moment. God did a divine work in me and I was wrecked forever. He created the inner wiring for a family and it began my pursuit to find and help create the people whom I already loved.

My pursuit continued through college, where the Lord told me to begin praying every day that He would give me my wife, to not leave Him alone on the issue until He fulfilled His promise. I did this, praying faithfully for my wife every day for about two years. And then, finally, somewhere around ten years after God changed my heart, I married my wife Amy on December 16, 2006.

We now have three children and are expecting our fourth, who will be born shortly before our fifth anniversary. There are five people living in the addition God built within my heart, and the love He deposited then beats stronger for them now than it did then.

As I reflect on the story of my fatherhood, one thing stands out to me above everything else. It is that God deposited love in my heart, and from that love fatherhood was born. This fatherhood continues to grow, not merely because I have so many children, but because I keep learning more of what fatherhood really means.

Where are you in your journey toward fatherhood – or motherhood, for that matter? Wherever you are, I challenge you to continue to grow, to keep searching, to keep approaching our Heavenly Father and learning from Him until our fatherhood can be described the same way as His –


What is a father?

What is a father?

Is a father merely someone who has biological or adopted children? Is he someone who provides for children under his roof or pays their way through college? Or is a father someone who teaches us how to skip stones, tie fishing knots, and ride a bike?

The truth is that all of these may describe things a father does, but they do not define what a father is. Fatherhood is defined by two essential elements – Nature and Inheritance.

I will describe inheritance first, so that I can immediately clear up any misunderstanding about what I mean. What I do not mean is that fathers are only good for their money. There is much more to fatherhood than simply amassing a small treasure to bequeath to our children so that they can have an easier life.

What I do mean is that a true father wants his children to go farther than he can, and consequently lives in such a way as to make that happen. This requires fathers to gain something of value to leave as an inheritance – not necessarily finances, though that is a possibility – just something of value to pass on to their children. My father labored to gain an incredible knowledge of the scriptures, and my inheritance from that is a depth of faith in God and knowledge of the Word that continually surpassed my peers as a child. It means that today I am teaching God’s Word instead of merely trying to grasp basic concepts.

The things of value that we gain for our children can be from any area of life – including finances – but the heart of a father is expressed in the intentional growth and passing on of these things so that our children can surpass us. Our ceiling must be their floor.

Inheritance does little good, however, if a father does not pass on his nature. This requires him to invest in his children so that they have his heart and are going the same direction he is. If our children do not go the same direction we are going, then how can they go farther than us? This means that we must train our children regarding what is important to us and work with them to develop the character and responsibility to remain strong on our path.

In the past we have thought ourselves to be successful fathers and parents if our children can graduate college, hold down a good job, have a nice family, pay their mortgage, and save up enough to retire by age 65. We need to realize now that successful fatherhood goes beyond teaching the actions of building a life to teaching the heart we should have in life. It is the difference between only teaching my children how to shoot a gun and also teaching them when and why to shoot it.

The definition of fatherhood is not limited to fatherly actions, finding its ultimate fulfillment in the heart behind those actions. It is not simply to produce offspring, but to impart a nature and release a destiny by endowing provision, protection, and identity.

This is who a father is. This is a father’s heart.

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