Faith grows, One generation to the next.

“Preserving our Faith, one church, one family, one generation at a time” 

There are a variety of secular forces at work in our society that seek to undermine the Christian faith. Specifically, these voices criticize the authenticity and authority of Scripture as well as the incarnation / resurrection claims of Christ.

Educated voices are claiming the bible is full of antiquated teachings and inaccurate texts. Our biblical beliefs are being generally discarded as fables and myth instead of being respected and revered as actual historical and spiritual events.

These forces are effectively disrupting thousands of years of church history and orthodoxy in only a few generations. Those impacted most include the 2 latest named generations. (Millennial’s and GenZ) – the erosion of faith is becoming clearly evident in the habits and beliefs / values of families with young children. (*stats from Barna Research, Huffington post, and the Orange Group.)

50-75% of students raised in the “church” leave for college and never return.

Over 65% of families are either blended or single parent – there are very few traditional, same parent homes left.

Approximately 50% of Millennial’s raised in the church believe the Bible is a irrelevant, inaccurate, and an outdated text, no different than the Koran or any another religious historical text.

The stories of heroic faith and miraculous phenomena described in scripture are disregarded by today’s young adults as myth and exaggeration.

The deity of Christ is directly damaged by the erosion of scripture as the divinely inspired history of God and mankind. The virgin birth and resurrection tradition become invalidated if the scripture can be undermined as inaccurate and unreliable. Additionally, we see culture discarding the moral codes dictated to Moses (The 10 commandments) and St. Paul (Romans) as they transcribed Gods laws to hold mankind accountable to a higher standard of divine justice and holiness.

Photo by Emre Can from Pexels

When we as a society disregard scripture as a moral authority, we allow ourselves to become our own “gods” – which gives us the presumptive powers to re-write” the moral rules to fit our own preferences. That is EXACTLY what we are seeing today. The original – divine – blueprint for life and human purpose has been literally rejected, erased, and rewritten according to our own personal opinions and reinvented “truth”.

The overwhelming rejection of all things “Christ-ian” has permeated the public sphere and is directly affecting our laws and social behaviors. The church finds itself in full retreat and assuming a defensive posture. This is due in part because of the rapid social transformation external to us as well as the growing publicity of our own internal moral failures of our leaders.

The net – net is this, we face a time of growing hostility to the church and its closely guarded and previously sacred beliefs. The church is seen as a compromised and hypocritical voice with no moral authority to speak to our modern culture.

The light we were meant to bring to the darkness has been greatly diminished – the darkness is growing and gaining momentum and widespread influence in our time. (Romans 1-2) Not a new phenomenon, something Paul was facing in the first century church as it engaged with Pagan Greeks and Romans and later St. Augustine faced with the widespread corruption of the church in the 4-5th centuries as it sought to offset the ways of the pagan culture it existed in and among.

It is and always has been the role of the church and the faithful believer to endure and remain steadfast, immovable, always prepared to give a reason for the hope within us. We are not going to change the world in a decade, but over time the “testimony” of faithful men and women that speaks louder and stronger than any media messages or false claims of truth.

The world is searching harder than ever for answers. They desperately want to know why they exist, what life is all about, what comes next?

We actually have those answers available within the church and carefully secure within the history and stories of our past. Each generation of Christian families and their testimonies carry the gospel message forward. Millennial’s and GenZ adults are desperately seeking to discover more than the “moment” can offer them, “They long for meaning, for anchors to secure themselves and their lives to, something timeless and eternal”. (*Fr. Dan Scott Ph.D.)

This (current) aging generation of faithful Christians have carried their values and beliefs with them, and the treasure of those carefully preserved traditions and beliefs are not “outdated” or erroneous, they are in fact as valid as ever. The structure that has provided safe haven for those beliefs and values is the Church itself, just as Paul said it would be. 

In the church we see our orthodox beliefs secured inside the traditions, liturgy, and common prayers of our historical creeds. These have been passed down reverently from one generation to the next for hundreds and thousands of years irregardless of the rise and fall of society and culture.

When we celebrate and remember the perfect work of Christ on Calvary each week, we are carrying those truths and traditions forward. The essentials of our faith are wrapped up in those familiar phrases, prayers, and declarations, and are carefully positioned in  the history of our church liturgies to preserve and protect them from the whims of popular opinion and personal interpretation.

The vitality of the worship we share with each other during each Sunday is more than for our own personal edification, those moments serve our children and grandchildren as protectors and incubators of faith, safekeeping and extending the influence of the gospel with continuity from one generation to the next.

I believe the churches finest hour is yet to come, as the hour approaches so will the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit to His people.

Blessings;

Fr. Brad.

Why Liturgical Church matters for Families

Raised in the evangelical world of Christianity, my background provided me with a firm set of what church should be like and more than a few dogmatic beliefs.

Worship was a time to exuberantly worship and praise the Lord, thus each Sunday I was treated to a live worship band with hi-tech imaging, super amped energy, and a series of increasingly intense worship songs.

I loved it until I didn’t. For many years this weekly injection of faith, excitement, and spiritual energy were an essential part of my spiritual life and perspective as a parent and a Christian.

There came a time when I was disillusioned with it.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing was out of place. The pastor was still dynamic, his sermons full of the latest social media and cultural references and as relevant as possible. The worship band was still top notch, full of precision players and nearly perfect vocals, like an awesome concert, it’s energy still revved me up. But it wasn’t penetrating very far and faded fast…

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Communion was overlooked most weeks, it seemed to be an afterthought. We celebrated the sacrament with a few moments of brief explanation, maybe once every four to six weeks with a mass passing of the plastic thimble cups and a wafer. The focus and attention for the Eucharist was far below that of the intense live worship, hip pastor, and dramatic presentations of the church to engage and entertain me.

I transitioned from the evangelical world to the Anglican in 2009. Not as a disgruntled and unhappy evangelical, but as a believer in search of something more than another awesome set of intense ‘goosebumps’. 

I was struggling to find meaning in the emotional explosion of positive faith and ‘victorious’ living that my evangelical church had pushed so regularly.  My life wasn’t growing in depth, I found myself stretched too thin, I felt ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’. Superficial in my overall understanding of who God really was, and why things were so difficult in my life.

Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels

I found my spiritual health tied to my emotional status.

If I was ‘up’ and full of joy and hope… so was my perspective of God. If my world was stark and dark, so was my perspective on God’s will and character. I couldn’t engage the ‘joy-rah-rah’ of the hyperactive faith folks at church when my world was shattering. I found myself disturbed that it seemed no-one else was struggling with their faith, I felt alone and isolated in my doubts and discouragement.

The transition from an ‘evangelical’ church experience to a liturgical one was difficult. The Anglican way was slow, way less impressive on the surface and full of methodical readings, prayers that were scripted, and a weekly solemn celebration of the Eucharist.  Very little excitement here, less spontaneity and personality showing in this service, but there was something deeper here. I could sense it.

The emphasis seemed to have shifted from the external to the internal, this was a more intimate act of worship. I wasn’t captivated by the amazing performances of the pastor and worship team, but I became more sensitive and aware of the words and meanings of the prayers, focused on the liturgical readings, and I was in awe of the reverence shown to the scripture.

I found myself longing to linger in this presence of Christ that I felt in the celebration of the Eucharist, a mystical and mysterious moment I hadn’t felt in my evangelical upbringing. 

Next week.. we’ll discuss some of the reasons why many evangelicals are looking for a more liturgical experience in their church life.

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

PS – Disclaimer: This is “NOT” meant to demean evangelicals at all!  I admire and appreciate my evangelical brothers and sisters, and I don’t believe any one denomination is superior to another, we are unique and different but not ‘better’. This post is meant to be a honest description of my own faith journey from the evangelical to liturgical, and how it has changed me forever.

 

 

 

Praying with Perspective

Do you struggle sometimes to pray. To sincerely trust God more than we do our-self? Do you wonder if He’s really going to ‘show’ up in our life when we need Him the most?  I mean the whole idea of God being engaged and concerned with my struggles and fears can seem laughable. I’m sure He has bigger ‘fish to fry’ than my petty little anxieties and circumstances.

If you’re like me, you might find yourself praying timidly around the edges of your life, asking for general things like favor, health, wisdom, etc. We’re  easily convinced He has better things to do than talk with us. 

It’s easy to feel that way. It’s not true of course, but it can ‘feel’ that way. We keep our conversations with Him short and superficial, we avoid asking what we’re in true need of, uncertain of our status with Him.  Sometimes it’s because of the fear we have about His true ‘answer’ to our deepest concerns, but I think its also because we don’t feel worthy of much blessing. We are keenly aware of our own shortcomings, inconsistencies, and hypocrisy.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

In the opposite extreme, sometimes we can totally take prayer for granted, rushing into things we go through our ‘check-list’ of needs, heedless of who and how we’re talking to the one who saved our very souls. We charge ahead in our demands, wanting answers to our ever present emergencies, approaching God without the reverence and awe He deserves.

If we’re being totally honest… often the ‘real’ reason we’re visiting with Him in prayer at all is to ask for stuff or to ask Him to affirm our wishes as His will. He becomes sort of a cosmic cookie jar rather than the Creator and Lord of all.  

In an effort to find some balance its important that we approach Him with the proper levels of both familiarity and respect. It’s vital that we find a healthy balance and perspective for the amazing opportunity that Prayer provides the Christian. In the end, prayer is all about relationship. It’s not about ‘getting’ but growing.

For those who feel unworthy, we don’t need to be afraid to approach Him and for those who are simply spiritual consumers, we shouldn’t over assume on His blessings. Thankfully, we’re offered grace for either imbalance and scripture grants us insights into how to access His faith and power despite our inconsistent and often messy spirituality.

I’ve been struggling with being too timid, too conscious of my shortcomings. Recently I was reminded to pray with more courage and a clearer purpose, to ask with less hesitation and more hope. 

Quick couple of thoughts for you to consider if you’re in a similar state.

  1. Instead of asking God for generic things, I’m learning to ask for specific issues. To be bold and ask for more, not less.  (for example – instead of just asking for His favor or blessing over those who are ill or struggling in their health. I’m asking instead for Him to “heal’ them completely.) I’m getting bolder, asking for the miracle and not just comfort, to see God bring wholeness from the brink of death or despair. (understanding that despite my boldness, His will isn’t always to fix things)
  2. I’m also learning to pray with an understanding that God’s strength and power are already ‘mine’ to access. I’m learning to pray with more confidence, trusting Him for the strength I need when I’m weak, trusting that those scriptural provisions of the Holy Spirit already exist, and I only need to ‘come under’ them or walk ‘into’ them in my day.

This isn’t word of faith stuff or positive thinking, it’s a firmer grip on the work of Christ on Calvary and my status as ‘His’ adopted son.

According to the scriptures, I’ve inherited His strength and wisdom and insight, I simply need to ‘remember’ that and step into it with the confidence of His work on my behalf. I’m not a beat up, worthless piece of poo in my redemptive life, I’m a son of royalty, a prince and heir to the King.

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Rather than giving me hubris and overconfidence, these insights give me the courage to engage my life head on.

I don’t have to slide around the scary things in my day or week, I can confront them directly when required. I don’t have to live waiting for the next crisis to crush me, I have every thing the day will require in Christ.

So do you.

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

 

 

Fighting for our Lives

I was reminded recently that God takes ‘sin’ very seriously. Seems obvious, the entire landscape of the bible is rooted around this reality… but our culture seems to be overlooking the obvious.

I was sparked by a recent Instagram post of a Francis Chan quote. He mentions the two biggest lies of our culture, that God won’t punish sin because of His loving nature and the belief that we’re essential all ‘good’ people.

Image – Pinterest (Jacob Roberts)

Our modern Christian world has pushed back the old school ‘hell and brimstone’ approach and instead has embraced the ‘grace and space’ approach to our personal faith. I admit, I love that ‘new’ approach as it gives me the flexibility to approach God on  my own terms. I like this more familiar territory with an emphasis on Grace and dismissal of the seriousness of sin, but does it hold water?

The turbulent world of the Christian evangelical has shared it’s conflicting views between the progressive and orthodox schools of thought. They have vented their sharp disagreements in various books and beliefs, but in the end ‘sin’ is a reality that needs to be defined for each and every believer. We after all will need to ‘account’ for our sins individually, no author or outspoken pastor will be on the judgement seat of God with us when our day comes… 

IF sin is a big deal, and I believe it IS. (thus the radical rescue operation of Jesus and the Cross) We can’t permit ourselves to simply dismiss our personal sins as the unavoidable by-product of our old nature.  There needs to be an urgency in us, we should be aggressively fighting back and pushing forward in the arena of personal holiness.

God is calling us to be like His son. We’re tasked with being ‘Holy like He is Holy”. An impossibility for us accomplish by sheer will and effort for sure, but the pursuit of holiness should be the heartbeat of the believer.

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Are we ‘fighting’ back in our resistance to old habits and temptations? Are we battling the personal attacks on our moral character or are we allowing our old sins to exist and persist? God’s calling us to overcome. He wants our old self to become less and less, and for each of us to become fully ‘alive’ as we give up our old identities and embrace the new.

Today let”s agree to not settle for simply repenting all the time, let’s commit to fighting for our freedom from sin, not in our own strength but in His.

Our lives can be transformed from the inside out, we can be different than we were and God is working out His perfect will in our imperfect lives.

Fight for Holiness.

Pastor B.

Slow Down. Please.

I can’t help but push a little more, I can’t stop the need to check one more item off the ‘to-do’ list of my life. It’s my nature to stay busy, to distract myself from tomorrow by filling my ‘today’.

Maybe you can relate? 

The world we live in doesn’t help. Our instant communication and remarkable technologies have opened up worlds of discovery and detail that compel us to discover and ‘do’ more with each day.

Parenting is easily the hardest and best work of your life. Of any life. Our immediate desire is to protect and provide, to make sure our offspring are safe from harm and well cared for. Later we engage with our kids, teaching and mentoring them into the ways of life and the wiles of our world. We have dreams and desires for them, we have hopes that they will go where we couldn’t, do what we didn’t dare to try. (parenting doesn’t require a biological child, many parent those in need around us)

The struggle to find ‘rest’ in the world of parenthood is real. It seems the days are so slow… yet the years fly by. Our work as a parent never seems to end, we just shift gears as our kids get older, always busy, always engaged with the work of life and family. 

I have been told by almost every older parent or pastor I’ve ever known to ‘slow down’. I’ve known intellectually that life is more than a series of goals to be accomplished, but in the nitty – gritty of day to day living, it really didn’t sink in.

I imagine that many of you could say the same.

So what can we do to realign ourselves and reconnect with our deeper purpose and meaning beyond parenthood…? Isn’t there a purpose to life beyond raising our children?

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Here’s what I’m learning as a newly minted 50 year old grandfather of two little ones. ‘Slow down’ was/ is wise advice.  I’m learning to accept and apply it over all my natural instincts to the contrary. 

Slowing down is a spiritual discipline for those who are ‘wired’ to keep moving. (not so much for those who like to stay still) It’s difficult to do without extenuating circumstances, we don’t ‘choose’ to slow down, we are ‘forced’ to slow down. God in his infinite mercy works in His mysterious ways to push us back into a proverbial corner. We may find ourselves stuck in a situation of His creation that forces us to stop thrashing and simply ‘be still’.

On first glance we feel like we’re being punished. God must be ‘angry’ with us. But as we slowly unclench our hearts and open ourselves up to His voice we soon begin to sense the exact opposite.

God is pleased with us. He wants to reveal something new and essential to our identity. We are now more than just parents or spouses, we are created children of a heavenly father. More than pawns in a cosmic struggle for power, we are invited to be a part of this divine story of redemption and love.

Not to drift too far into the theology, but we generally won’t stay ‘still’ for long without a deeper understanding of the presence of God. We need to learn to seek Him out for more than a few minutes each day. He is inviting us to bring Him along ‘all’ day. This shift from accomplishing things to ‘being’ is essential.

photo courtesy of Pixabay

The presence of God in our lives is where we find true meaning, purpose, and thus ‘Satisfaction’. Yes, the elusive sense of peace and contentment that is promised in scripture is truly out there. It just takes time to discover. 

So, be encouraged if you find yourself ‘hemmed in’ by life. God is in it. He is conspiring to bless you, to force you to rest and be ‘still’. It’s the only way forward.

Slow Down! Please.

Pastor Brad.

 

More than just another lakeside chat.

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Luke 5

1 “On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Dapper

  1. More than a lakeside chat

The town of Capernaum was near Bethsaida and framed the backdrop for many of the Gospel stories and miracles of Jesus and His ministry. It was a small town with a trading economy as it was situated by a lake on a major trade route. It was also an outpost for the empire of Rome and had tax collection duties for the region. As a result, the city was small but significant and shared many cultures with the traders and travelers who came through it. It had peaceful Roman and Jewish relations without tension or strife like Jerusalem. The primary trade commerce was related to the lake or Sea of Gennesaret aka Galilee.

Here (Capernaum/ Bethsaida) is where Jesus called Matthew (tax collector) and performed many early miracles in the area. In this passage Jesus called Simon (Peter) and brothers James & John – and Andrew.

  1. More than another religious teacher

The region of Israel was full of various teachers and religious zealots – many sought to gain influence by building a core of disciples and followers. This Jesus was different. He wasn’t seeking to grow a following – as we see in the text, he was only seeking out 12 specific men to become his personal band of brothers.

Jesus was yet to be fully revealed as Messiah, and had a growing company of followers who were curious about who he was and what he would do next.  The guys in the boats were just minding their own business, not active in the pursuit of Jesus.

Jesus just ‘seemed’ to stop by the lake-shore where they were… by sheer coincidence. We know better. There are no coincidences with God. 

  1. More than a suggestion

“Put out into the deep….. and let down your nets”.

When God asks us to do something there is always more than what meets the eye. Much more beneath the surface.

For these fishermen, they have no idea what God is asking of them, or of the multiple blessings offered in this commandment. They have listened to him speaking to the crowds and have seen some of his miracles around town, but this is the closest they have come to him for themselves.

Jesus is engaging them where they live and in what they do, he’s about to teach them a critical lesson on fishing and the power of living a life of obedience.

When God seeks us out to “ask” us to obey him, he approaches us where we live. Not waiting for us to reach some glamorous or prestigious position or place in our life or careers , but right where we live. For these men, he comes to their place of work and asks them to trust him with their livelihood.

He asks them and in illumination… all men, to “put out into the deep”! To trust he knows more about their business than they do. That He knows where the fish are and when to catch them. This would have been contrary to all their considerable skill and long experience had taught them to do.

They were being more than “polite” to Jesus – they were responding to his request in faith. Not knowing the details and being exhausted from their all night efforts, they were frustrated and irritated, but eventually they trusted and obeyed. “Master we have toiled all night and took nothing.”

  1. More than plenty

But at your word, I will let down the nets.”

These are the words of faith. Marion (a parishioner at St. Margaret’s Anglican)  says it all the time….”But GOD”.

The very foundation of our faith is firmly settled in the belief that God has the ability to change any circumstance or situation he is allowed to enter.

  • The first key is to hear his voice for ourselves.

That when we listen for His voice we can respond in faith and expect Him to exceed our best efforts.

But how do we know it’s Gods voice ?  – (at His Word) – how do we “hear” his words for ourselves? It’s a process of learning to be ‘still’ and waiting for His confirmation. (Sermons, Scripture, Prayer, Words of Knowledge, Affirmation of faith)

  • The 2nd key is a surrender of our way and accepting of His way to fish. Means we can’t rely on our own vast depth of wisdom and practicality. (AKA control)
  • The 3rd key is to recognize the absurdity of the request. He works in mysterious ways unlike our own, and that odd style is consistent with divine methods and helps to reveal the “way” in which God works and moves among us.

The results of trusting God are always bigger and more extravagant than we can imagine. The fishing is “grand” with Him. The principle isn’t to turn to God for our financial blessings, but to recognize Him as the “source” of our provision and like the exhausted fisherman – learn to believe and trust his advice for our labors, especially after we’re worn down from the all night efforts that seem to bear no fruit.

The conclusion is this… Jesus is calling to us all. Not randomly, not generically, but specifically. His call is unique to each of us, a personal request for our services as His precisely picked ‘fishermen’. He’s asking us each to respond to His personal invitation. 

The question is… will we trust Him enough to ‘put out into the deep” or will we decide we’re too exhausted for a miracle?

Pastor B.

When your about to give up and give in to despair… DON’T!

We all know the struggle is real as a parent. The struggle to keep hope alive. To choose to ‘believe’ that God is up there and watching, engaged in our lives and actively seeking our good.

But there are days when that belief is strained to the breaking point.

There are dozens and dozens of days that I look back on and wonder how I made it through. How did I not just chuck it all and bail? How in the world did I stick it out and not give up?

Simple answer… GOD’S GRACE.

It’s always a temptation to give up – throw our proverbial hands in the air and just surrender to despair and doubt and walk away. For parents you can do everything right and still seem like you’ve failed.

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

For parents who are raising teens, this can be a daily or weekly event. Those promises of God you scribbled down on sticky notes and taped to your desk or fridge, don’t forget them. The word of God highlighted in your bible until the pages tear… it’s real.  The faith we’ve so carefully nursed along through missed mortgage payments, cancer,  and marital strife, it’s true and tested no matter how we feel.

Yet…it can seem so fragile.

But hang on a sec. Our lives and circumstances are usually crazy. The forces that push us around can seem overwhelming and dark, but that’s only if we forget whose we are. Our strength was never based on how well we performed, never built on a foundation of self reliance and personal will power. If we’re a Christ-follower, a believer in the savior and Messiah – Jesus, then we’re supposed to rely on HIS strength.

That means we’re NOT the key ingredient in our lives or our faith. HE IS. Our eternal destinies and that of our kids are NOT dependent on us. It is the irresistible pull of God to align us and our families into perfect sync with His Kingdom. In His time, and in His way. 

So… unclench your fists. Take deep – slow – breaths… God is still GOD. HE is still at the helm of our lives. His will is going to occur and His plans are going to succeed. We are not victims lost in the floods of life, we are protected and purposed by Him.

Go get your promises out and lay them before God in prayer, remind Him of your need for hope, for encouragement, for peace. Make it a regular habit to ask Him to show up in your despair, to believe He’s going to miraculously realign your life and circumstances according to His will.  As you ask for help remember to choose to praise Him for the answer. To look forward in anticipation for His perfect solution… even before you see it.

It is the ‘goodness’ of Gods character that we are being trained to trust in.  The outcome of our lives is not depending on our merit or hard work, just HIS GOODNESS.

For our mental perspective to shift all we have to do is recall to mind and more importantly our hearts, the faithfulness of God to meet ALL our needs. He was God over the impossible in the past and He will be God over the impossible today.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Remember we are but dust, and when our faith is only an ember, it is HIS strength that will carry the day.  St. Paul said it this way… “His strength is made perfect in our weakness”.

So parents – what could be more reassuring than that?

Peace out!

Pastor B.

Suggested link: Here is a great interview with one of my spiritual fathers, Pastor Duane Sheriff. He and his wife Sue have a fantastic perspective on parenting when we feel like a failure. Available at Brilliantly Brave Parenting on Soundcloud, iTunes, and YouTube.