When Pain is the Answer

We are hard-wired to avoid pain. From the half second after we’ve touched a hot oven as a child, we live a life doing everything we can do to keep physical and emotional pain at a distance. The problem is, sometimes pain is the answer.

Pain is the great smelling salt of life when it comes to bringing us back to our senses. It snaps us out of the cruise control comas we tend to live in. Whether its physical or emotional, that blood on your lip can truly be a wake up call to center back on what we really matters:

back to depending on the Lord instead of yourself

back to relationships being the priority

back to being proactive rather than reactive.

The pain is coming; will you let it speak?

A Gift For You: The Crimson Thread

Hello Friends!

The day is finally here. I’m thrilled to announce the release of my new book, The Crimson Thread. As my faithful readers I wanted to reach out to you first. This new book is a collection of twelve sermons that came together over the course of this past year while working on a larger project called The Story Lectionary in my doctoral program. As you read these stories that come alive from both the Old and New Testament, you’ll be encouraged as you’re reminded of the work that Jesus has done and longs to do in your life. Along with each message comes creatively designed memes that can be used as great take away’s from each sermon.

As a gift to you, my readers, I’m giving away a 20% discount coupon code that can be applied only in the next 48 hours when purchased securely on my new online bookstore. Here it is!

Coupon Code: Crimson20

You can purchase the book here -> The Crimson Thread

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share this post with friends and family you think might be interested in this book!

Nathan

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!”

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?

Your Highest Calling Revealed

Prayer Focus: Day 2

I am going to share with you a scripture that while well known by many, stands in absolute contrast to our current culture. It is a beckoning from God; calling us to break away from our “screen scrolling, wifi searching, always plugged in” lives.

Here it is.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Immediately we might think of literally “stopping all movement” here, but there’s more to this. The translation for the hebrew words here “be still” paint a picture of “hands putting down work”. God is calling us to put down the busyness for what purpose? To remember who God is. To remember that we cannot out work God.  That we cannot busy our way into knowing God intimately. That our lives here are temperary and finite, and He is eternal.

While we all have pressing obligations to attend to and stuff to get done, our highest calling is to first know God. Setting time aside for prayer and meditating on His Word keeps us reminded of who He is.

Take a moment to be still. Turn off your phone, step away from your computer, close the door. Open your Bible and read Psalm 63 a few times slowly. Reflect on the psalmist’s words and ask the Lord to remind you of who He is in your life. Then take some time to respond to Him in worship and thanksgiving. I’m praying with you.

(Feel free to share this post if you feel it would be a help to others.)

There Are No Ordinary People

Your goals have been written. Your resolutions have been declared. You’ve got areas of your life that you want to take to another level.

Don’t miss this one thing: Invest in others.

Make a resolution to invest in the most precious gift God has created, people. Every person is a fantastic piece of art, featuring God’s handy work.

Think about this week who you can invest in. Dream about what that would look like.

We can’t get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget to pour in to the lives others. Who will you encourage, mentor, challenge, pray for?

Those people are waiting for you and they don’t even know it.

I’ll leave you with this enlightening quote from C.S. Lewis.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” – C.S. Lewis

Please Take My 2013 Reader Survey

I’m always looking for ways to provide the most helpful content for you on my blog. To continue to do that, it would be helpful to know more about you. That’s why I’ve created my 2013 Reader Survey.

2013 Reader Survey

Would you take a few minutes and answer the survey?  By doing so you will help me provide you with laser focused content. Your input is important to me. The survey is easy to fill out. The survey results are completely anonymous. I can’t tell who said what. And it will only take three minutes of your time.

Thanks in advance for your help.

>He’s Already Been There….

>Have you ever felt like your life was two steps away from greatness as well as two steps away from all of the wheels coming off the train at the same time? I tend to feel this way often. Before you diagnose me as being “Manic Depressive” let me explain.

Depending on the circumstances in my marriage, family, friendships and ministry; I really can end up feeling a wide range of emotions. As the victories and losses of our lives ebb and flow we can all find ourselves overcome with the feelings of excitement and euphoria to the depths of anxiety and grief. It is vital that we make the truth of God’s word our compass; a fixed “True North” for our souls. Without it our emotions can spin out of control and it can lead us to make erratic decisions as well allow us to go to some very dark places in our hearts and minds.

Quick Question: Did you know that God is not restricted by time?

“He is the Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and The End”. He sees and knows all things. He knows our thoughts and words even before we speak them. He has already been to the end of your situation. He’s seen the outcome. There are no surprises for God. Bottom Line: We can take comfort in knowing that our ‘future’ that seems at times so scary and daunting for us; is already God’s present. He’s already been there and got the t-shirt.

Trust Him,

Nathan

>When Today isn’t Enough…..

Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with an pastor friend of mine. He shared with me that he was going to make another huge leap in furthering his academic studies. When I asked him why, he said, “I need an external mental and emotional push. It’s either this or have an affair. I chose the least expensive option.”

I can resonate with my friend’s feeling of always wanting the “next big thing”. I can become so forward thinking that I forget about today. The next big thing is always elusive. It seems just as I arrive and accomplish that project, event or attain that “next ring”, I find that the satisfaction evaporates on my souls like cotton candy on the tongue.

This constant striving left unchecked can cause us to live life like a bull in a china closet. Because of this mindset many churches watch their pastors leave because they feel “called” else where. That “calling” more often than not is the desire for the new, the better and just change in general. These walk out on church’s like the dead beat dad that stumbles out the front door in the snow to get a drink. Imagine if we treated our spouses and children this way. This addiction to “new” is breaking churches and ruining the credibility of those that minister in the pulpit.

Not every pastor is the Apostle Paul called to from city to city planting churches. Yet, many seem to see themselves as just that: itinerate pastors. Two to three years and they’re out. When all of their best sermons have dried up, the ideas stop flowing, or obstacles come their way they hit the door. That’s not Spirit led, that’s dysfunctional.

I don’t foresee this issue becoming any more stable unless a drastic movement in the hearts of pastors takes place. Think about this. We have the millennial generation now entering the ministry who are already noted as having the proclivity to move  from job to job when anything new or better comes around. This idea of making a long-term commitment to a church must be mentored and modeled by those that are ahead of them.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t lead us as pastors else where. I’m saying it should be the exception, not the rule. We need pastors that won’t leave, we need pastors that will cleave. Cleave to their calling and their commitment to their church family.

I, myself, know what it is to be on this roller coaster of emotions and it’s horrendous. With God’s help, over time I’ve slowly grown in my ability to manage my emotions instead of my emotions managing me. For the sake of my marriage, my family and my ministry it is crucial I get this right. Bottom line: I must remind myself daily that my life’s pursuit is not to attain greatness, comfort and ease for myself, but to point to Christ’s greatness.

Let me encourage you to stay in the ring. Don’t give up or walk out because your ministry has gotten hard or stale. Take a deep breath and dive in again to the work you’ve been called to.

Talk to me. What are your thoughts on the state of the pastoral commitment of our times? What’s been your personal experience?