Why You Can’t Give Up Today

For the last two months I’ve been teaching my oldest son the piano. It’s been a great way for he and I to connect as father and son. While he’s enjoyed learning, I sometimes wonder if I might be getting even more out of it than he is.

Case in point: Last night during one of our lessons, I noticed Ethan was becoming frustrated and stressed upon reaching a certain measure of music that was proving problematic. He couldn’t seem to get through this portion of the music without messing up. Yet, all the while, keeping time in the background, the metronome clicked back and forth: click, click, click, click, click, click. It marched on not knowing or caring if he’d hit all the right notes or not. Finally, Ethan slumped forward in defeat as if to say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.’

Turning off the metronome, I said, “You are focused. You are showing up. You are bringing your best. As in the rest of life, don’t let your set backs become permanent. Let’s get back up and start playing again.”

He did and he conquered that troublesome measure.

Time is much like that metronome. It marches on regardless if we’re hitting all the right notes or not. It can be tempting when facing the waves of frustration to kick our bench back and walk away. But, remember…we’ve all been given the opportunity and the gift to play our life’s music. Isn’t resiliency the key; to keep coming back and facing the music as we find it?

Don’t allow your set backs to become permanent road blocks.

Even now, the Maestro Jesus is at your side: teaching, directing, and encouraging you, “Play on!”

Are Your Facebook Posts Killing Your Credibility?

As I took the stand to testify I could feel my heart begin to race. While it was merely a custody hearing, I felt like I had been  dropped in to an episode of Law and Order as the bailiff swore me in.

 

The attorney that had requested that I come before the court asked me a few brief questions that brought out my pastoral knowledge pertinent to the hearing. When she was finished, the judge turned to the other side of the room. There, tapping a pencil, wasn’t a lawyer, but the father of the children in question; representing himself. He immediately went on the attack; firing question after question, seeking to discredit my testimony by discrediting me. In the end, the judge saw through his tactics and it was he that lost all credibility.

Attacking someone’s credibility as a witness is a long time known strategy for courtroom attorneys because when someone loses credibility, they stop being listened to.

Have you lost your credibility?

Who can deny that the toxicity levels on Facebook have gone through the roof in the last two years? Every day there’s a new #hashtag trending telling us what we’re to be angry about today. Political articles and memes from the left and right decimate our feeds as they’re shared and re-shared; not for the sake of putting ideas out there, but for putting people in their place. But, here’s the truth:

We lose credibility when we never disagree with our own political party or leadership. No one is right all the time.

We lose credibility when we can never acknowledge someone else’s valid point from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.

We lose credibility when we lump people we disagree with behind the worst representative of their movement.

We must remember that people believe what they believe for a reason. Do we care enough to take the time to understand their reasoning? Mocking and berating them via the latest article or meme isn’t changing anyone’s mind. So, why add to the noise?

Lastly, If you’re a follower of Jesus, we lose credibility when we say we’ve been changed by the love of Jesus, but then that love is not displayed in our posts. We gave up our right to be condescending jerks when we knelt at the cross. Yes, let’s embrace free speech, but let it be free speech bathed in love.

Why Being a Sheep is a Good Thing

There’s some sort of temporary brain damage that takes place in your teenage years.  As hormones race through your body, you find yourself fixed in the center of your own galaxy that most certainly revolves around you. You also have no idea what it takes for a parent to deal with you, or have a clue to as how absolutely clueless you are.

Can I get a witness?

At some point in your early twenties you emerge from this adolescent coma, only to realize that your parents weren’t complete idiots after all and that they had more wisdom than you gave them credit for. It’s humbling.

Sheep on pasture

That same humility is going to be needed if we’re going to be able to recognize and follow the good shepherd. Let’s hear from Jesus himself.

John 10:1–18 (ESV)

10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus aptly calls himself “The Good Shepherd”; contrasting himself with the thief and robber.  The Shepherd comes in at the designed point of entry. This is his pen and these are his sheep. It’s not breaking and entering when it’s your house.

A thief has to find a corrupt way in. He has no key. The shepherd on the other hand has authoritative access from the father (the gatekeeper). When Jesus shows up in our lives he doesn’t need to kick down the door. He knows the way in; he has the key to our hearts.

Jesus doesn’t just have access; he has the authentic voice we’ve been waiting for.

I use to spend my summers on my grandpa’s farm. He raised cattle and I’d join him each day as his “hired hand.” I was amazed as I watched him lean out of his beat up blue Ford truck and call in the cattle from the field when it was feeding time yelling, “HiiiiiOOOO Cattle!” and they’d come running.

Finally, after watching this day after day I asked my grandfather, if I could try it. I began to wave my cowboy hat and yell “HiiiiiOOOO Cattle!” in my high pitched grade school voice only to watch the cattle barely acknowledge my existence; then go back to chewing their grass. They knew his voice and his alone.

Jesus eludes to religious robbers that try to lure the sheep away with religious sounding truths, but the sheep recognize the authentic voice of the shepherd when they hear it. Just like the voice of my grandfather to those cattle. To the sheep, the shepherd’s voice is the sound of food, safety, and life!

Time and time again it’s referenced in scripture that many that heard Jesus speak recognized that they were hearing something different than they’d heard from other religious leaders. Jesus spoke with a love and authority they hadn’t experienced. That’s because up to this point they’d been dealt with harshly by these “hired hands” that “laid burdens on them.”

Jesus doesn’t stop there. He not only has authority and authenticity; he sees himself as accountable for the sheep. Jesus makes the case that he alone can be trusted unlike the others. It’s with him alone that they’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

The hired hand has no skin in the game, he’s simply out for himself. The shepherd has a vested life interest in his flock. So much so that he lays down his life for them unlike the hired hands that cut and run when danger strikes. Jesus became the lamb of God that took away the sins of the world by way of the cross so that He might be our good chief shepherd!

Until we see ourselves as sheep, we’ll never realize our need for a shepherd.

Everyone talks about the importance of good leadership, but no one wants to talk about followership.

The term follower has gotten a bad rap in our nation. In a country that prides itself on independence, making it on your own, pulling yourself up by your boot straps, the idea of being a follower is seen as beneath us.

In fact, I tell my kids every morning, “Be a leader.”

Yet, I’ve come to realize that until my sons first become great followers of Jesus, sheep being led by the good shepherd; they’ll never know how to lead other sheep toward Jesus.

Humility is the first step toward life changing followership.

Before we lead we must learn to follow.

The good shepherd stands at the door and waits. Will we turn and follow or go back to eating our grass?

Don’t Miss Out On This Opportunity

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What a fantastic day we had yesterday as we kicked off Non-Stop. Thank you so much for all those that took the time to go and download the free book on Amazon! Over 570 people have downloaded the free Kindle eBook version of the book.

As of right now the book sits on the Free Best Seller’s List at #1 in Christian Living > Personal Growth

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There’s only ten hours left for the eBook to be free on Amazon and I don’t want you to miss it!

If you missed yesterday’s initial launch it’s not to late to get in on the fun!

Options:

  1. Download the book here if you haven’t already.
  2. Give the book an honest review. I can’t stress this enough. This helps with how much Amazon promotes a book.
  3. Share this post or one similar with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, or by email:  Only a few hours left to download the book #NonStopTheBook while it’s still free: http://amzn.com/B015QA13OK

I’ve been receiving some encouraging notes from people that have already been helped by the book. That’s an answer to prayer! I’m praying that will be the case for everyone that gets a hold of it.

Thanks again for making this launch a success!

Get the Free eBook of Non-Stop to Celebrate Launch Week!

 

The day has finally arrived. My book Non-Stop has officially launched!  To celebrate I’m giving the eBook version away for free for the first few days and as one of my readers I’d love you to have one. Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement along the way!

What’s Next?

If you want to get the book and help spread the word, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Pick up a free copy. You can download it here.
  2. Tell your friends. Here’s a message you can post to Twitter, Facebook, or wherever: Grab a FREE copy of @NathanRouse ’ s new eBook #NonStopTheBook — for a limited time only! http://amzn.com/B015QA13OK
  3. Leave a review. Or you can email me with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Don’t own a Kindle? No problem. You can download one of the free Kindle apps for your web browser, desktop computer, or any mobile device you have. I’ve read lots of books on my phone, so let me know if you have any questions. Or you can get a paperback copy here.

Thanks again for joining me for this special launch week! AND please consider sharing this with your friends and family.

 

Are You Blind to These Gifts?

There is no doubt I’m the most “unhandy” guy on the planet. Wives, if your husband is handy around the house and great with DIY projects, count yourself doubly blessed and thank the Lord above. My wife does not count herself among you. She knows I’m drastically limited in my handy man skills.

I’ve always been amazed at those that could seem to fix anything or craft something of beauty with their bare hands. It’s a gift I just don’t have. Yet, it’s a joy to watch others that have such a gift shine.

Are you able to do that? Can you enjoy someone else’s talent or gift without envy?

Most of us can easily do this when it comes to the arts: theater, music, art, etc. We can admire talent that’s meant to be enjoyed without any problem.

However, we can tend to overlook the talents and gifts of those closest to us out of familiarity. We overlook and in doing so take for granted those gifts that are shining in our face day after day. This robs us of being able to appreciate the wide spectrum giftedness in the family, friends, and strangers around us.

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul tells us that “creation declares the glory of God”. Mankind’s talents and gifts fall into this category. They point to the ultimate glory of the Gift Giver.

Our gratitude toward God and others will rise to the brim if we’ll look with fresh eyes on the God-given talents and gifts of those around us. As you thank God for those glimpses of his creativity, take a moment and point out to those around you how much you appreciate their God-given gift. In doing so you give God glory and bring encouragement.

As Christ followers let’s be the quickest to acknowledge and point out the handy work of God in others. That alone is a gift.

Have You Given Your Family Permission to Fail

Look upon the most intimate verse found in scripture.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Is there any verse in the Bible that commands us to be more vulnerable than this?

For most of us we’re OK with the idea of talking to God about our sin. We already know he knows and we count on him not telling anyone.

However, it is James (as always) that gets in our face to point out that there’s power in the confession of sin. Not only can it lead us toward turning our hearts back toward God, it breaks the stronghold of hidden sin that keeps us withdrawn and hidden in isolation.

And that’s the problem.

There will always be the temptation for us to keep silent out of shame and fear of consequences.

However, strategic confession is where freedom is found! I say strategic because not everyone needs to know your junk. We need those seasoned, trusted, lovers of Christ that we can go to and share our tangled soul with.

At our church we’ve  committed to being a church where we love people right where they are. We’ve said for years that it’s OK to not be OK, but by God’s grace we don’t have to stay that way. This is our church saying, that God’s love and grace is found here! While our churches must be a safe place to land, so must our homes.

I was talking with a gentleman in our church a while back and he wanted to confess to his wife that he was struggling with pornography, but he said he couldn’t open up because he had heard his wife remark, that if he ever “did something like that”, she’d leave him. He wanted to come clean, but didn’t feel it was an option. Yet, if I asked his wife if she wanted her husband to be bound up in secret sin, to suffer alone, she’d say no!

Spouses have you extended the freedom of grace toward your spouse openly and said, “I will love you through anything, no matter the pain, no matter if we have to rebuild. You need to know I want you always walking in open freedom from sin!”

Have you said the same to your children? Do they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can come to you with their brokenness and find love and a heart for restoration.

Don’t assume your loved ones know this life line is available. Have the conversation and leave the door wide open for when it’s needed.

Jesus and the Little Things

I continue to be amazed at what Christ has to say about what I consider “the little things” in life.

We so often only focus on the “big do’s and don’ts” of Christianity that we stop allowing Jesus to humbly lead us in the small inner workings of our lives.

Here’s a few things He’s been nudging me on recently:

what I day dream about (I still do.)

what and how I  spend my money

how I use food for comfort and reward

what I’m reading and watching

how I view and think about the people I lead

We can easily fall into the trap of following only the beliefs and methods of “Christianity” without ever being led by Jesus.

Jesus has so much more for us. Let’s open our hearts again to hear his loving voice in every area of our lives and follow him with joy! I’m listening with you.

The Question You Must Ask Yourself About Your Pastor

There’s a powerful question about your pastor that you must ask yourself if you’re going to truly thrive in your church.

Here it is:

Do I see my pastor as “the” pastor or “my” Pastor?

How you answer this question will determine how effective your pastor’s ministry will be in your life.

If you see your pastor as merely “the” pastor that just happens to hold the position, their ministry to you will always be limited. You’ll push back against their teaching and leadership because you don’t see them as vital and helpful to your life.

I’ve seen this too often over the years in pastoral ministry. I’ve seen it countless times in a congregant’s eyes when I’m trying to speak into their life and can see it going through one ear and out the other.

While time and faithfulness is needed in both directions to cultivate this loving relationship between pastor and congregant, many seem content to liveas if they’re above needing a pastor in their life.

But, consider this: Jesus wouldn’t have given pastors as a gift to The Church if we didn’t need them.

If you see the pastor of your church and say, “That’s my pastor….This is the pastor God has put in my life”, you’ll look to them as such. You’ll hear their preaching and teaching as a gift in your life. You’ll gladly submit to their leadership because you’ll see them as God given to your church rather than merely filling a position at a distance on Sundays.

The stories that seem to stick in our culture regarding pastors aren’t usually good ones. But, I can tell you that every pastor I know that’s been worth their salt deeply loves their people and are an enduring gift to all those that call them “my pastor.”

I know I’ve been blessed by wonderful pastors in my life. What about you?

If you’ve been blessed to be able say, “that’s my pastor”, let me encourage you to reach out to them and let them hear those encouraging words.

If not, can I encourage you to begin to invest in this much needed relationship that God’s given The Church in these last days?

How to Unleash Life Giving Power With Your Words

In May of 1889 on Lake Conemaugh in Pennsylvania, people were enjoying the warmth of Summer as they lounged  near their cottages.

Many swam with their children and paddled in their canoes and boats. The waters here were a welcomed retreat for rich steel and oil tycoons that would come from surrounding cities.

But then came the rain. It rained day and night for days. Finally, on May 31 the poorly built South Fork Dam that once held the lake back, broke. As the water raged down the Conemaugh valley at one point it reached the flow rate of the Mississippi river. It was at this peak that the water slammed into the small town of Johnstown, PA; where it’s residents were just sitting down for an evening meal.

johnstown_main_street_1889_floodThe water that once soothed and comforted, now killed over two thousand people and destroyed 425 million dollars in property. In the same way our words can be either refreshing to those we encounter or a tool of utter destruction.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21)

Question: Do you want your words to be known as a wrecking ball or as a God ordained builder?

We use to say as kids, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But as Adults we know that’s not true. Have you ever considered why negative words hurt? I mean they’re just articulated sounds coming from our mouths!

The destructive words we use toward one another hurt because it is through them we see a devalued version of ourselves.  Words are the lens by which we see ourselves.

James, the brother of Jesus, gives us some physical examples to illustrate that there’s a problem when a Christian’s words our tainted:

10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.  James 3:10 (ESV)

James is making the point that if we find that on a regular basis we’re producing toxic words: angry, mean spirited words, cutting sarcasm and humor, inappropriate sexual innuendos and humor….something is wrong with the source.

When we blow up or speak as we should not we say, “That wasn’t me”, but it was. That’s why Jesus teaches us that,

45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45 (ESV)

When we get bumped by the stresses, pressures and inconveniences of life, what spills out through our words, is what’s in our heart. I know when I find myself short or irritable with Erin or the boys, there’s a heart issue that needs to be dealt with in prayer. My wife is the first one to add an “Amen” when I tell her I need to go be alone and pray!

It can feel overwhelming as James writes of the tongue that “no human can tame it.” No human might be able to tame the tongue, but God can. We need a Spirit given bridle in our mouths to direct our tongue and in doing so direct our lives.

Yet, Christ can help us turn words of blessing onto our family, friends, co-workers, and strangers! Such as:

“You’re a gift to me. I’m thankful for you. You are loved by God. There’s hope for you. God is faithful to deliver you, I believe in you, You matter, You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

This inverse principle of how our words impact others is also true: The words of blessing we use toward one another give life because it is through them we see a valued version of ourselves.

A verse referenced in our home often that has served us well has been Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Would you pray that prayer with me?