Facing the past as parents; 1988 to Now

I think every generation of parents has fear. Each transition of faith from one age to the next feels like a critical pass of the baton, a sacred trust that must be kept.

This age and stage of our society may be unlike any before…unique in the modern era. Not being a legit historian, I would hazard a guess that not since the rise of the industrial revolution has the fabric of life been so rapidly affected as it is with today’s technological transformation. 

Think back 30 years. (1988) Consider the state of society and faith, the condition of the family and what we considered to be ‘normal’. The personal computer had just become a product for us to consider. The internet wasn’t yet a public concern. Cellular phones came in bags and families of faith were focused on the abortion debates, and prayer in the classroom. Marriage was defended by both democrats and republicans as between a man and woman. Pot was illegal. 

Oh, change was occurring in 1988; generational shifts were rapid between music styles, MTV videos and late night television stars opened up the door to cable TV programming, and something called “hip – hop’ was being heard from those ‘boom boxes’ in the streets. We were fascinated by Top Gun, Beetlejuice, Michael Jackson, and Miami Vice. Big hair and Nike shoes were the norm as our values were shifting to focus on wealth, raw materialism and success. The party scene was focused on  a brat pack in southern California and the valley of San Fernando was the talk of every town. Eddie Murphy was coming to America, the Young Guns were big at the box office and Ronald Reagan was rocking America into a major economic recovery. The incomparable U2 was on top of the music world,  “but we still couldn’t find what we were looking for”. 

Today, life is shifting again. Parents who were once teens, are now facing tremendous strain. We who were the self absorbed children of the 80’s are now seeking wisdom on how to help our teens navigate a digital world of relativity and limitless opinions. 

If your not aware, here are some recent (2018) stats about Generation Z (kids currently 13-19 years old) from the Barna Research Group.

Barna Research Group (2018) Study Findings: Barna’s most comprehensive research study investigating the perceptions, experiences and motivations of 13- to 18-year-olds in Generation Z, reports the following:

  • 59% of students in this age group Identify as Christian or Catholic (down from 75% ).
  • 21% say they are atheist or agnostic (up from 11% )
  • 4% say they have no religious affiliation (up from 9% )
  • Students in this age group offer the following “barriers to faith”:
    • a. “I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil or suffering in the world” (29%)
    • b. “Christians are hypocrites” (23%)
      c. “I believe science refutes too much of the Bible” (20%)
      d. “I don’t believe in fairy tales (19%)
      e. “There are many injustices in the history of Christianity” (15%)
      f. “I used to go to church but it’s not important anymore” (12%)
      g. “I had a bad experience at church with a Christian” (6%)
  • Students in this age group struggle to reconcile science with the Bible.
  • 24% side with science (up from 16% ).
  • 31% believe science and the Bible refer to different aspects of reality (up from 25% ).
  • 28% believe science and the Bible can be used to support each other (down from 45% ).
  • 17% consider themselves on the side of the Bible (up from 13% down from 19% for “Millennials”)
  • Students in this age group hold negative perceptions of the church in the following areas:
  • The church seems to reject much of what science tells us  (49%)
    b. The church is overprotective of teenagers (38%)
    c. The people at church are hypocritical (36%)
    d. The church is not a safe place to express doubts (27%)
    e. The faith and teaching I encounter at church seem rather shallow (24%)
    f. The church seems too much like an exclusive club (17%)
  • When students in this age group were asked why they didn’t think church was important, they gave the following reasons:
  • “The church is not relevant to me” (59%)
    b. “I find God elsewhere” (48%)
    c. “I can teach myself what I need to know” (28%)
    d. “I think church is out of date” (20%)
    e. “I don’t like the people who are in church” (15%)
    f. “The rituals of church are empty” (12%)

So… reading those stats can sober a parent up.  At first glance it looks grim, things are clearly different than when we were teens. Reasons for this are debatable, but anyway you slice it, our kids are changing their values to reflect today’s pop culture, just as we did in the 80’s. I went a bit crazy in my early twenties, after college and the restrictions of my parents, I promptly set out to chase after money and success, reflecting the values and beliefs of my generation. I left my faith and family for a BMW and a swollen Edward Jones portfolio, but by my mid-30’s Christ had graciously derailed my selfish path and reconnected me to His perfect plan.

Why?

My parents. They prayed for me every day.

My wife stayed true to her faith when I wandered from mine. In the end, God won the battle for my heart and mind. It was the authentic beliefs and behavior of my family that eventually forced me to consider the Christian faith as ‘real’. Not a fantastic sermon or study, not a fascinating truth revealed in a engaging ministry event, it was the consistency and faithfulness of my family living out their faith when no one was watching that won my respect and ultimately my trust. God wasn’t in a hurry, He had things under control and He was unfazed by my wandering ways.

The truth…God wasn’t distraught over my prodigal diversions. He wasn’t ‘thrown’ by my generations pagan pursuits, He firmly and gently reclaimed what was lost and started the divine story of redemption all over again. I believe He can and will do that for this generation. I believe parents must live their messy faith in authentic ways to earn the respect of our teens, and sometimes we as parents must watch and wait for God to show up in our kids lives. 

Pastor B.

Source Link – Barna Research – Generation Z 

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When you hate your job, but love your life.

We all want to find fulfilment.

When we were younger, we just pressed ahead with our life. We weren’t thinking too far, just focused on the ‘here and now’,  pushing to climb whatever ladder was in front of us. We worked hard to do our best, we wanted more for our lives and a piece of the ‘American Dream”.  School, career, family, church. Each option with its own unique set of struggles and issues to overcome, but oddly they are the same. 

We work and work to gain the next rung of whatever ladder we find ourselves on, pulling up one more level, determined to get further and higher than the others.

Somewhere along the way we notice this isn’t making me very happy. It may be sooner for some and later for others, but in each of our lives we notice.

The faith we’ve kept offers some vague promises about life being ‘full’ and having ‘joy’ in the journey, but it’s a bit hazy when we slow down our ladder climbing enough to think it through. 

We can get a bit surly inside, irritated by the growing dissatisfaction of our progress. The goals we set in our youth shimmer in the distance, unmet. We ponder with regret some of the decisions and compromises we’ve made. We wonder what could have been…

It’s about at this point that I begin to hear comments about how much people hate their jobs. It creeps out at first, bitter and seeping out from the inside. Working late, going in early, struggling to keep up… it’s clear why we run out of gas. Our work doesn’t always fulfill us. It may pay the bills but it doesn’t bring us lasting contentment or satisfaction.

Last night in church LifeGroup we discussed the idea of “vocational calling“. The concept of having a specific purpose and set of unique gifts that God himself granted us. It’s in this idea of a divine purpose that we can find some ‘light’ for this dark and disturbing tunnel we may find ourselves in.

For the Christian, our purpose and our calling go hand in hand. But, our occupations are often unrelated. So, when we work at the local supermarket but long to teach Sunday school… we begin to understand the dichotomy of loving our life but hating our job. Totally understandable. 

God wired us to be in ‘vocational’ ministry for our entire life. We will naturally have a ‘bent’ or leaning towards our calling. No matter where we live or work, we’ll find ourselves drawn to certain causes or people. We will always want to ‘teach’ others if we’re called to be a ‘teacher’. It doesn’t matter if we find work as a fireman or a judge, nothing we ‘do’ will provide as much satisfaction or ‘fulfilment’ as what we were created to ‘be’. Understanding that concept is a huge step forward!

Love this quote from Frederick Buechner “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

So, let’s discover what God created you to ‘be’ and don’t be confused that what you ‘do’ is the same thing as what your called to “be”. The distance between our paycheck and our hearts can be frustrating.  Remember, St. Paul was a tentmaker by day, Apostle by night. I’m confident it wasn’t ‘fulfilling’ for him to work as a common laborer, but it provided the path for his ‘calling’ to be realized. For some courageous few, we get to do both at the same time, but most of us have to work jobs that are not our vocations.

For those who are sick of the disappointments and pointless sacrifices made at work, it may be worth the effort to dig a bit and find what your ‘calling’ or ‘vocation’ really is.

Be careful on google, there are tons of people and groups who claim to have the magic fulfilment formula, but most are selling you something. God has been whispering to us all along who He is and what we were created to be.

Here is one resource I would recommend.

God bless! Pastor B.

Source Notation. “How to understand your vocational calling

Unanswered Prayers

Paul writes of his ‘thorn’ in the flesh. It’s in his second letter to the church at Corinth, he’s describing an experience he had with God, confused by an unanswered prayer for relief.

 How many of us feel like God’s not listening when we pray? 

How many of us struggle with the weight of circumstances and situations that we can’t escape, the powerlessness of being caught in a dilemma of someone else’s making?

It’s incredibly hard to stay encouraged, ‘up’ or full of faith when we’re praying for relief and finding nothing but more stress and overwhelming pain in our lives. But Paul gives us a very helpful and encouraging insight into these moments of struggle.

Listen to his words… “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV – Biblegateway.com) 

Paul gains the understanding in the midst of his frustration, pain, and bewilderment at God’s failure to remove the obstacles to his life. Instead of growing angry and resentful, He grows closer and more intimate with God. A peculiar response to a prayer denied. I long for that kind of trust and faith.

dwellingintheword.wordpress.com

For me, it’s a struggle to just trust God sometimes. To just believe He is up there. To let go of my control for His will. I wrestle with the difficulties and attacks that seem to never end in my life. I wonder at the wisdom of such persistent stress and spiritual oppression, it seems so overwhelming. So pointless.

But then a passage like 2 Corinthians 12 comes along and light breaks into the darkness of my despair and I ‘see’ again. I remember the goodness of God and His infinite capacity to take the attacks of the enemy and use them for good. Not just “his” good, but ‘my’ good.

Paul illustrates the point of unanswered prayer so succinctly here you can miss it without taking the time to dig a little deeper. God’s grace and power are released in these ‘thorny’ moments of our life. Released in a very unique and permanent way that no other life experience can create.

It’s in these struggles of faith and circumstance that God transforms and abides with us. Our strength is sapped… and His is tapped. 

Powerful grace overshadows the overwhelming despair and defeat we feel… we gain character (for Paul it was humility) and we gain it permanently. We lose our fear and grow courageous, full of anticipation for how and where God will show up in our circumstances. Paul was convinced that the grace and power released in his struggle would so far overshadow the pain of it all that he was encouraged by the setbacks in his life.

So, if you’re in the midst of a rough spot, feeling beat up and abandoned, don’t give into the doubt, God is with you. If he’s not answered your prayer yet, He will. And like Paul’s triple request for relief, if God in his wisdom chooses to leave you in the situation, it’s’ because the outcome is going to be so much better than you can imagine, that it’s worth the wait.

I pray for that atmosphere of faith to rule in my heart.  “Lord I believe… Help my unbelief.” 

Pastor B.

Additional notes and links:

John Piper has multiple sermons and resources at DesiringGod.org on 2 Corinthians 12 – This is the one that was most helpful for me –  

BibleHub.com has a great array of Commentaries as well – the one by Barnes was so helpful in providing the detail on how these thorns create permanent changes in us.

Facing our Fears

Fear can consume us…

As a pastor. As a dad. As a leader I’m supposed to be fearless.

I feel the weight of others watching, waiting on my words… wondering what I’m going to do. It may be a bit myopic, but it’s a very real, and very heavy burden.  I know many of you feel the same weight on you.

Newsflash… I’m not fearless.

I’m full of doubts and fears like everyone else. I don’t have supernatural courage or resolve, I wrestle with my anxieties, walking the floor late at night..wondering where God is, figuring the angles, calculating my options.

Does that mean I’m failing in my ‘faith’ walk? If I roam the house restless and full of dread, does that mean God’s forsaken me for my doubts? Does that mean we’re unworthy of His presence…?

No. Absolutely not. It simply means we’re human and not up for pretending anymore. Some Christians feel like they are failing if they admit they have fear… I promise you, if the disciples wrestled with this… if Abraham and David wrestled with it, we will.

Life is scary. Stuff gets crazy and out of our control very fast and very intense. From a bad lab result to an unexpected change in your job, life hits hard and sudden. We get caught off-guard and unprepared. It scares us… sometimes it just freaks us out! 

The Christian isn’t immune to fear or anxious thoughts, we just have another option. We can retreat, blame God, our parents, or a spouse… become a victim and isolate or we can face our fears and learn to get past them. We can do this alone, proud, and defiant… or we can surrender our pride and ask for help. Help from God, help from our friends, help from our spouses. Facing fear requires the courage of humility to overcome. 

What is abundantly clear is this… we are going to be afraid. There are going to be moments that are overwhelming and super intense, we are going to have to move forward or retreat inside when those moments come. Our faith will grow or shrink. We will trust Him again… or we won’t.

My encouragement…Don’t run. Don’t hide. Face this stuff head on, but don’t do it alone. Ask for help. Pray. Read the word. Share with your Life-group, share with your pastor and friends, access the community of faith and the strength we share together.

Fear has a way of crushing our hope and strangling our faith, but when we walk together through the storm, we find solace and support. When we choose to trust despite our frustration and fear… I promise we’ll find Jesus, and He brings Peace and He brings comfort.

From Genesis to Revelation, the entire narrative of the bible speaks to fear. It tells us to be of ‘good courage’, to ‘fear not’, it talks of God’s provision and protection. It reminds us of God’s will and the destiny of God’s plan for each life. It gives us confidence that we’re not alone, that our lives matter… that we have a way forward no matter how bad it looks. 

Facing the facts with the promises of God brings light into the darkness and hope to our despair. Remembering God’s words of hope gives us courage to hang on, to trust Him one more time for ‘this’ crazy situation. ..we grow our faith roots deeper and we gain strength from confronting our fears. We gain confidence and great Joy from seeing God provide a miraculous solution to one more impossible problem. 

This is the life of a Christian, it is full of stressful moments and impossible odds… but also ridiculously cool surprises and lavish blessings. In the end, it is my belief that we will discover a God who does the impossible and does it with style!

Peace… out! Pastor B.

Links to checkout – Faith vs. Fear 

40 Bible verses about Fear 

Faith conquers Fear

Top 5 Scriptures that banish fear 

 

Rain in the Desert

Some seasons of life are full of rocks, weeds, and dust. The ‘dry’ season can line up one after another until you’re living in the ‘desert’. A lonely time of life, usually with a prolonged cycle of frustration, unproductive labor, and unrelieved weariness.

From Abraham to Jesus Christ we see a regular pattern in the bible of the literal and metaphorical idea of ‘desert’ and famine, of isolation and wilderness. Each man or woman of God being inducted into the desert school of Holiness. 

For me, the desert was a place of beauty and suffering. A place of great extremes, searing heat without shade in the day, followed by plunging shadows and near freezing cold in the night. 

The danger of the desert is the absence of water. Exposure to heat and cold, searing sun and shivering nights leave you worn out, desperate for moisture and some safe place to hide… only there isn’t any. For travelers in the old west of America, learning the water holes and hidden reservoirs were the only way settlers could cross the vast stretches of dust and rock and survive. Spiritually we face a similar challenge as those early settlers. We have to learn to find water to survive.

My life… your life, each are composed of seasons. Some of our journey is full of abundant and fertile, filled with freshness and new life. Other seasons are stormy with turbulent changes and tragic transitions, wild and unpredictable like the spring… you get the idea. 

The season of life I had been walking through in the past seven or eight years had been quite dry. Hard labor with little tangible result. Day after week, week after month, month after year, serving without reward or visible change in my circumstances or life. Discouragement becomes frustration, frustration becomes bitterness, … and then resignation sets in.

This is the Desert.

Our souls are so thirsty. We long for more… we crave affirmation, we want to see some life growing, a hint of green in a sea of brown. 

San Luis, CO

My recent (March ’18) road trip revival was taking me through the literal desert to show me a metaphorical truth. Circumstances and conditions have been very dry in my life, no matter what I did or how hard I worked, nothing ‘seemed‘ to change. But God wasn’t absent, I was simply learning in a special school of faith. Common to every believer who has ever chosen to be a Pilgrim… committed to stay on the path of faith.

I wasn’t alone, millions of others have walked the pilgrimage of faith. Millions have faced this desert of the soul, and millions had been brought through the desert to see the life on the other side! The Exodus of the Israelites is a prime example.

But today I sensed something new and exciting for my life… Rain was coming. My life wasn’t dried up and my work wasn’t done. God had things to do in and through me. He set me on a path to San Luis, CO. Which is nowhere. It is the ‘oldest’ existing town in Colorado, 645 people and the county seat. On the edge of nothing, it has a unique Catholic mission on a high mesa overlooking the small town. There is a rocky path that winds up the side of the mesa, leading to a white adobe church, and along its trail are the Stations of the Cross. Cut in bronze sculpture, these stations are at approx 8,000 feet in elevation and the experience of walking the winding path will catch your breath in every way.

As I drove to San Luis… I remembered something I heard from God when first visiting here years before… He had put me on a pilgrimage“…. my life in Him and the ministry of being a pastor/priest wasn’t going to be a quick trip, but a long and difficult journey. Here I was coming back to the same exact spot, nine years later and decades wiser… it had all become true. Ministry and life had proven the point. But now I needed some water for my soul. I was tired and dry inside.

And as I drove, I saw something I’ve never seen before out here… “Rain”. It was raining in the desert! A large rainstorm was sweeping across the barren landscape and it was beautiful to behold! 

Driving rain washed over my car and the road, consuming the dust and dirt…covering the arid landscape in a haze of grey moisture and as it cascaded down, it was releasing the most amazing smells of sage and juniper, pinon and pine… it was amazing! A sweet and inspiring fragrance was covering the entire region and it felt like the countryside was celebrating with God for the long-awaited promise of water.  The dry was gone.

Was all of this a Foreshadowing for me….? I choose to believe so. 

When you roadtrip with God, nothing is an accident. No detail is a coincidence. He’s talking all the time, it’s the listening and observing that extends the conversation.

Rain in the Desert

For many, the desert of life has been our most recent address, the idea of rain is a long distant hope we’ve forgotten. My encouragement to you dear reader…, the rain is coming. God isn’t leaving you to wither up and die, He’s coming with new life. Hang in there. The desert isn’t forever, the seasons do change, God is active and involved in your life no matter how little you see or sense.

Remember that intimacy is gained and power is released as we wander through the desert seasons of our life.

God’s word shows us the pattern of preparation that each suffering servant endures, the school of the desert is for our growth not our punishment. It’s in the desert that we learn to dig a deeper well… it’s in the desert that we learn to be still. It’s in the desert that we unload the junk of our lives… leaving the unnecessary weight behind. It’s in the desert that we are transformed!

Think I’m crazy… check out the Prophet Isaiah… he wrote about 3000 years ago. 🙂

Snow in the mountains is tomorrow, my last day on sabbatical.

Pastor B.

 

Living in the “NOW”

After my breakthrough moment with God in Colorado… I carried a deep and lingering sense of calm. A peaceful and contented acceptance.  A better way to say it…  I had insight, an ‘understanding’ of what God was really like.

As my “papa” he was tangible to me. I could reach out and ‘touch’ that presence anytime I allowed myself to be quiet and still. 

This truth became a ‘doorway’ to a deeper chamber of my heart. IF God was my ‘papa’… then I could rest. I could let down my defenses and pretenses. I could let go of the constant need to review and project, my mind scanning constantly for danger in my past or the future, never allowing myself to enjoy the present.

The idea of relaxing was as foreign as ‘rest’ to my mind and heart. I couldn’t relax… not really. I had to be vigilant, had to assess and project the probabilities of success or failure. The inherent dangers along the way or the review of past mistakes to gain insight . I wasn’t able to relax because I had no one to rely on but myself. I didn’t really trust anyone. Not completely.

The Shack (summit entertainment)

If God was ‘papa’. He is trustworthy. Safe. Present.

No father betrays his kids. No heavenly father would be negligent in caring for my life. I could let that long – held – breath  out… and begin to slow it all down, steady heart. Mind resting enough to notice the details around me. I saw the beauty of Santa Fe, an old – old – old place. Full of adobe and tile, leather and stone. Beautiful and serene, it’s age a testament to longevity and purpose. Built by the Spanish monks over four hundred years ago, their places of worship still stand. Pointing not to their ingenuity – but to the one who inspired them to risk it all and go to a foreign place and dangerous time to spread their faith.

I noticed all of that in a nano-second. Like a Matrix moment in slow-motion… I could see and smell, hear, and perceive details all around me. Thousands of colors and shades had been missing in my life. I was black and white, sharp-edged and fast. Moving through the days like a school project, missing the ‘life’ around me. 

As I began to slow my existence in the wake of knowing ‘papa… I could live in the ‘NOW” for the first time in a long – long – time. I hadn’t felt this  in so long it was a bit foreign to me… not since I was a pre-adolescent kid in the summer – riding my bike with Scott McCumber or Mike Middleton – catching Crawdads – playing army – I remember each day was a decade of fun – but that had faded with adulthood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I was ‘present’. Santa Fe was beautiful… each shop and restaurant a new treasure to discover, fear gone… I was able to relax.

Today, I was able to enjoy just being there. No distracting anxieties no restlessness.  I drove from Santa Fe to Taos, using the ‘high road’ it was gorgeous. The sun was clear and bright, blue skies and breezes all day. I drove and explored and relaxed in the sheer delight of it. No guilt, no regrets… I was living without the weight of all that pressure to keep moving. I could finally ‘stop’ inside.

Thank you GOD!

Next… my last two days on this Roadtrip Revival. Each was another beautiful surprise… rain in the desert and snow in the mountains. Special moments to share, truths to help me along.

Pastor B.

Silent and Still

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe our lives.

Does it feel like you cram a week worth of life into just 24 hours? Our pace of life can be cruel, exhausting, and increasingly stressful.

Stressing out is more common than you think. (See 2017 study of American Workers Stressed Out Most of the Time – CNBC) Consider these facts… see if you identify with them.

“Participants were asked to rank their stress on a scale of one to five. One in four, 25.7 percent to be precise, said their stress was at a level four. And, 4.9 percent said it was at a five out of five. Altogether, more than 70 percent of respondents ranked their stress at a level three or higher. Over 60 percent said that they felt stressed three or more workdays per week, on average. This means that, on any given day, more workers are feeling stressed than not. This state really is the norm.” (2017 Study

 We are over-committed, over-scheduled, over-whelmed by our world and its relentless pace of life. As technology advances we get more efficient, more productive, and way less rest. 

thejesuschick.com

When was the last time you felt like you could actually ‘rest’?

It seems for most of us, we’re not feeling like we can really ever catch up. Our stress is bullying us into working harder, faster, longer. Work isn’t all bad, in fact I believe it’s a great and wonderful part of our existence, President Roosevelt said it this way… ”

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

BUT, when our lives get overburdened and out of balance, we quickly burn ourselves out. If your like me at all, you live in the extremes of life. Seasons of life push us to do more than we thought humanly possible, followed by sudden lulls in the storm, and free time to binge watch Netflix and let our world fade into sheer entertainment and a lazy haze. Both extremes should cause concern. Finding balance is as much a discipline as jogging or daily prayer.

What I recently discovered on a four-day sabbatical to the mountains of New Mexico involved going a step further than speeding up or slowing down. It meant learning to ‘be still’. 

Have you ever done that? I had never actually gotten so quiet and detached from media, the world… work… kids… ministry that I could experience the utter calm and serenity of not moving, inside or out. So unhurried and undistracted within that I was able to live in the ‘moment’ without. I was unaffected by either my past or future, only ‘in’ the present. I was able to be ‘still’ inside my heart and my mind. Totally silent.

For four days.

I would have never believed it. I would have never chosen it. But God through the subtle touch of His Holy Spirit, led me to a place and time where I could be quiet enough and still enough to experience Him in a brand new way. 

Interested?

I’ll blog about the trip I took, where I went, what I saw, and how God showed up in totally different ways than ever before. Time to open a new door on our pilgrimage of Faith.

Pastor B.