Why Thirteen?

Kids do eventually become young adults, they grow and change… and ‘mature’ over time.

The most significant transition of life occurs during adolescence. An individual’s personal identity (or view of ‘self’) forms between 10-14 years of age,  a critical factor in forming a personal belief and value system. 

For the church and families of faith, this stage of life lies smack – dab-  ‘in-between’ childhood and youth ministry programing. (thus the term… ‘tween’)

Parents are stuck with kids who are either too old for ‘kids’ church… or not quite grown up enough for ‘youth’ group. This non-critical issue may lay distantly in a parent’s mind, but fades to the background as ‘other’ more pressing concerns take center stage, like sports, scholastic pressure, or dating!

The challenge for the church is this, if over 80% of our youth are actually walking away from the Christian faith community in their late teen years, what has changed?                                  (Barna Research) 

The mass migration of young adults ‘out’ of the faith must have some ’cause’ and ‘effect’ to it. What is different? Why are so many of our college age kids discarding their Christian beliefs? Studies suggest that our kids made their decision before the age of…

Thirteen.

The age of Thirteen is the approximate year most form their core beliefs, values, and identities. The stage of adolescence when we try out our growing ideas and opinions beyond the safety of  home or church.

image – courtesy of armadamusic.com

It’s real life experience a growing mind needs… peer stuff begins to crowd out the voices of authority figures. Parents, pastors… teachers all lose their influence while friends, social media, and pop culture gain ground.

Adolescents are growing into independent adults, in the process they evolve and adapt to their environments, forming initial beliefs that haven’t been tested or fully embraced as an adult. This process of ‘discovery’ is natural and normal, and helps them establish an ‘identity’.

It’s somewhere between fifth and seventh grade that social pressure starts to sway kids more than they ‘fear’ their parents wishes. It’s a part of the normal maturing process of kids to pass through various ‘crisis’ points in the development of identity – as they literally ‘try on’ new ideas and beliefs like we would a new hairstyle or clothes outfit. They just want to ‘see’ if things ‘fit’… if a parent knows this is ‘normal’ and expects it, the process can be stressful but not a ‘crisis’.

If parents are already stressed out, distracted, and overwhelmed by life… this adolescent ‘stuff’ can drive them over the proverbial ‘edge’. It’s here that faith and culture collide.

Thirteen.

What our kids decide is ‘real’ and of value, what they perceive to be ‘true’ of themselves and the world begins to slowly solidify. 

Their identities are being shaped in this ‘in-between’ time of the late grade school and early junior high years. We all learned this in biology or sex ed when we were teenagers, but as parents and pastors this presents new dangers and opportunities.

 The formation of identity is effectively reinforced by the stability of their social environment (according to studies) and the actions of parents in the home. What we say, and more importantly what we ‘do’… impacts our kids as much or more than anything else… before the age of ‘Thirteen’.

We have a short time with our children. a fixed period during which we can teach, prepare, and then ‘model’ our faith. They are going to struggle with the truth, they will make erratic and unpredictable choices…but in the end,  studies and experience (and the promise of God) predict their identities and beliefs are seriously affected by the health of their home life and the respect kids have for a parents faith. 

Not a spiritual perspective, this entire blog post is based on secular educational studies (see references below). The need for ministry to pre-teens and tweens has never been greater as media and access to digital platforms is now a normal part of childhood. Our kids need to know and ‘see’ the faith of their family and church. They need to know that we’re serious about Jesus Christ being the ‘center’ of our lives… they don’t need us to be perfect or polished, but they do need to know we’re sincere and dedicated to following the principles of the bible.

B413 the ‘No-Filter’ tour is all about equipping families of faith with the inspiration and biblical truth they need to help navigate this critical stage of parenting and life!

Let’s make EVERY effort!

Pastor Brad.

Links to references: http://www.rcgates.com/psyc/c16_pv.html  http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/adol/selfidentity.htm

 

 

Tired of Waiting…the AcheDeepInsideOurSoul

The greatest single threat to a family’s health… is divorce.

As a pastor and a parent, I get it.  We all understand the temptation that promises to bring excitement and passion when we feel ‘nothing’. The allure of being free again….to leave what we have for something… ‘better’.

NBC – source

But sometimes we get tired of trying.

We just wear out inside. No more desire. No more determination to stay… we just surrender to the dull and relentless… and seriously consider its time to simply ‘give-up’.

 

We feel only a little…  and it all adds up to just an empty AcheDeepInsideourSoul.

St. Augustine tells it like it is in his classic, “the Confessions” … “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” (source link)

For those who are grieving… those who lost a spouse… a parent, or a child. The grief that consumes is identical in its impact to our psyche as when a marriage runs off the rails… For those reading who are openly contemplating divorce… the truth is, you’re already grieving.  In your sorrow, you can lose all sense of time or purpose. You can lose your colors and taste, no flavor… personality dried up. We simply ‘exist’.

The need to ‘feel’ again is overwhelming. It scares us. 

In those moments of panic and desperation we turn to everykindofcrazy option. Cutting, drugs, sex, alcohol, work, ministry, friends ,cars, boats, exercise, gardening, books, movies, music, porn, you name… if you hurt badly enough…  we give it a whirl.

The solution to the “AcheDeepInsideOurSoul” isn’t obvious or easy. It’s not ‘more’… but ‘less’. 

We can’t fill up our empty spaces with stuff, or pleasure, or pain… we can’t get back to being whole again by doing more or owning nicer things.

source – Readers Digest

Our pain is only resolved by living with less. Less of us. Less of me… more of God. 

We start a terrible and dangerous spiral down when we keep insisting on getting what we always wanted. We look at the stuff we don’t have and then we start a checklist of all the things that will be better without someone else holding us back… or weighing us down.

If we were free to do and be and go…  would we be happier…. ? Or would we be more MISERABLE?

Here’s what I’ve learned….To fill the empty ache, you need to shift your focus. When we give up our rights, and our petty little wrongs…we gain life. Real life. Jesus said that. He meant it. 

Take whatever it is in your life your so weary of.  That thing you’re so tired of waiting for… Maybe it’s the option to walk away from an empty marriage or a dead-end job that you know you’re supposed to keep. Are you willing to consider another option?

Would you take another day… another week and sincerely ask (Pray) for God’s help?

Do something radical… don’t run away… trust God and stay. What if you chose to sacrifice your ‘wants for someone else’s needs? What would God do with such an act of faith?

(Disclaimer – It takes 2 to make a relationship work, and if you are the only one who wants to try, you’re going to have to pray for a change of heart in your spouse – and there are definite times to walk away from marriage – abuse – infidelity – addictions etc… God knows your specific circumstance – ask Him – listen – wait – He’ll show you what to do)

You won’t regret it and neither will your family…

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

Need some extra encouragement and practical support? … Check out a “Weekend to Remember” with Family Life.

 

 

 

 

A uniquely complicated, but very intended individual. 

Disclaimer for this post:  There is/was no anger or fresh personal experience that stimulated this blog post. Instead… I wrote this blog after noticing a series of deep relational issues that kept coming up in my pastoral marital ministry. Couples who were coming to me for counseling exhibiting issues and patterns of verbal / emotional conflict that had specific behaviors in common. It was from these experiences that I began to research the ‘root’ causes of some of this… this blog post was a response to what I felt impressed into my heart and mind. It rang true to me and my prayer would be for this post to help you understand yourself and others better. Marriage is all about seeing ‘past’ the shortcomings of others.

I detest fake people.

You know ones I’m talking about… folks who always have a plastered smile on their faces…, never dropping their guard or relaxing their emotional control.  Always having a “fantastic‘ day or ‘gushing’ about how amazing their career is going, how accomplished their kids are… nothing negative, only awesome all the time!

Pinterest

Or… the maybe even worse…the fake people who rush to breathlessly confide in you. Whispering excitedly about the shortcomings of another in a somber tone of false concern, only to do the exact same bus-throw to you after you leave the room. Flitting from one conversation to another, always pointing out the problems of others, never offering to be a part of the solution, critical and duplicitous.

This is the wounded heart floundering through life. The insecure and insignificant soul reaching desperately to find purchase on the slippery edge of their existence, the ‘fake’ behaviors only symptoms of something much deeper. 

Let’s be honest here, we all struggle with both sides of this. Sometimes we’re the victim… sometimes the offender, all of us affected daily by relationships with people who are struggling to find their purpose.  People secretly afraid to admit their problems are real… hiding their shame in plain sight.

We’re all flawed, broken, and desperate for purpose and identity. We are longing to find the answers to the deepest issues of our existence, the reason we’re alive, the reason we matter.

The world is full of options and offers to pursue… knowledge, pleasure, possessions… honor. All of these can be valid to some degree, but what ties it to us? Where does our deepest identity spring from? Are we athletic, intelligent… beautiful, or spiritual? Do we allow ourselves to fail… or are we pushed to perfection in a wordless cry for value and significance?

Lots and lots of questions…

The Christian faith offers a simple consideration that can bring clarity and conviction to any life. An honest and enduring truth to build your entire existence around and on. 

Jesus Christ is in fact both man and God. His life an ultimate illustration of what life can be for each of us. What life should be for each of us.

The loss of purpose and value, the soul robbing power of fear and uncertainty gone in an instant. If Christ is who he claimed to be… (the one and only path to God) then what he did and why should matter.

It means we’re valuable. 

It means we matter. 

It means we can stop being fake. 

It means that who we are, the way we are… the unique and weak parts of us are all on purpose. They serve a function that’s essential and vital to our purpose as created ones. The things we hate about ourselves… our personalities, feelings, fears, and frustrations… our insecurities and stubbornness are all a mix of us… a uniquely complicated, but very intended individual.

The twist here… in our weakness, God reveals his strength.  That means… ultimately we’re not going to measure up on our own. That means… we’re going to get it (marriage/parenting/relationships) wrong. We’re going to fail each other and flounder around and foolishly fall on our faces.

So what! We are only HUMAN! Not GOD! Cut yourself some slack… cut others some too.

Here’s the punchline… there is only space for one “God” in our life…. and it’s not us. Once that reality sinks in… we’re off the hook. No more ‘pretending’ to be something we’re really not. No more posers trying to convince ourselves and everyone else we’ve got things in our life under control. 

What a relief that could be…

Peace out, Pastor B.

 

Anchor Down

Drifting is a problem for me…. 

I get distracted sometimes, lost in the variables of life. Lost in the memories of past regrets and immediate consequence. What if… maybe I could have… and should have…thoughts combine to paralyze my present.

Added to regrets, may be the reality that life has not have turned out how we planned it… and a mild drift can quickly turn into ‘lost’.  (Sorry for the nautical) Corey_Arnold_Gulf_Crossing_2008_1178_97

The truth is we’re easily distracted, discouraged, and can get derailed from our life course. The rigors of circumstance and disappointment can sap our strength and siphon off our resolve. What was healthy and whole can become fractured and weak. Not from an overt sin or moral failure… but from the slow accumulation of setbacks and suffering.

Faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised to stay strong and flexible. Without use it will atrophy and shrink. 

The storms of life are sudden and violent, they threaten and bluster at us with all the vehemence and force of a hurricane before suddenly slowing and settling down. Anyone can maintain their sense of direction during clear weather, but it takes an ‘Anchor’ to hold us when the waves get high.

What are you anchored to? 

Our faith must be secured to something or someone greater than yourself, stronger than our emotions and deeper than our experiences. stone cross

For me it’s all about what I consider in my moments of freedom. When life is suddenly quiet and calm… where does my mind drift to? If I find myself over-indulging in the gratification of my senses, it won’t be long until I find myself discontented and critical.

When I deny my own gratification and take the opportunity to invest in my spiritual development… I grow. I gain perspective and I receive deeper insights into God’s character, His plan and purposes for life and the role He’s asked me to play.

Knowing a thing doesn’t mean I always choose wisely… 🙂 However, I am learning to discipline myself, to devote my time to prayer and reading of scriptures, to anchor myself before the storms of life hit.

To grow my faith in the moments of rest and not simply retreat from life when the opportunity presents. God is wooing me to spend time with Him for only the sake of ‘knowing’ Him more. Not in a crisis driven frenzy of faith, but in a simple and honest desire to be ‘with’ Him more than to feed my flesh.

Pastor B.

Key Scripture Reference: Ephesians 4:14-15 (ESV) Biblegateway Source:

14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Link to Daily Reading and Devotional resources;

Why 13?

Why 13?
In many cultures the age of 13 is a celebrated moment in time, that childhood is no more and the child is prepared for the future. Modern research indicates that what a person believes is locked in by age 13.

It’s time to reclaim the value of age 13 in America! I’m a part of a founding team of Christian parents and pastors who believe that it is important for a child to have established an unshakable foundation of faith before 13.

What is our response?
We partnered with like minded media groups and ministries within the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) )to create a unique – never before – kind of live event! We call it the B413- No Filter Tour!

We’re launching this spring (2017) in Bowling Green KY (April 22) and Austin TX (May 5) – hosted by Churches and partnered with Christian Radio, we’re reaching directly towards families of faith.

We wanted to create a place where kids can bring their parents to a one evening event with Christian music’s top artists, a world class illusionist, interactive video, and the nation’s top communicators for the family. We hope to help equip families to set the course of their kid’s entire life before 13.

So, if you have a pre-teen in your house and you’re concerned about the influence of our pop culture on their values, beliefs, and world views… you should come! We’ve asked the very best in Christian artists, speakers, and entertainers to help us convey one very specific message about your true IDENTITY in Christ.

2017 No Filter Tour

We’re excited to do more than worry, we decided it was time to do something “positive’ and empowering for Christian families. We’re asking you to do the same, won’t you invest in the next generation, won’t you help us do something significant to reverse the rapidly changing cultural shift in our society?

Here’s your chance! Bring your family to one of these two inaugural events and help us begin something new and different for the entire nation!

Tickets are $15 for an individual or $10 (group or family rate) – Find out more at B413.org. or iTickets.com 

Blessings and Happy Easter!

pastor Brad.

Why life can be so hard.

Life is hard. No denying that… but why?

livewellmagazine.org

Deep question… lots of ways to respond to that statement…but here are couple of thoughts to consider.

  1. Our own ‘Free-Will”. 

  2. There is a “Villain” in our story

  3. Other People’s “free-will’ 

Could it be that simple? I believe it really is…

Item #1 – “Our Own Free Will”.  We make choices. Everyday -it’s free-will that allows us to decide who to live with or run from,  when we will go to bed and what we’re going to eat or wear. All of these choices have a consequence. Each consequence is ours alone to bear. That’s hard. I make bad choices every day. We can’t ‘duck’ our part in the play – so to speak.

Item #2“There is a Villain in our story. Don’t forget you’re in a larger ‘story’ called the Gospel. In that context there is a good King and an evil prince. One is looking to protect and provide for you… the other is stealthy and deceptive, seeking to steal and destroy. For the Christian, our life is a constant heaven and hell skirmish. We’re fighting a two front battle all the time; (1) we’re pushing past the resistance of our own selfish ‘old’ self as well as the (2) demonic push back of Lucifer (the villain) who has lost everything in his rebellion from God. He is ruthless and persistent in the attack. Bad things are thrown at us all the time… without knowing who it is that’s out there, we could be fooled into thinking it’s us, our friends,… or worse, God to blame.

Item #3 – “Other people’s Free-Will; Yep… you know what this means. Other people in and around our story can make totally lame choices that will definitely affect us. From walking out of a marriage to stealing money from our company… each individual can and will fail us from time to time. Understanding that as they fail us… we’re likely to fail them too… we may choose to come to ‘peace’ with that reality or we’ll isolate. We’ll try to run and run and run… until we can’t run any longer. Simply avoiding the risk of being injured by others.

As Christians we must walk out our lives in the same context as everyone else… however, we have an optional fourth item to consider. The Christian’s helper / comforter is the Holy Spirit in us. It radically affects our perspective, infuses us with supernatural power, and warns of danger with discernment and wisdom.

With the presence of the Holy Spirit, we’re well equipped to respond to the world of free-will and the randomness of our lives, and we’re protected from the viciousness of our soul sworn enemy. The Holy Spirit along with God’s truth (scripture) gives us more than an edge in living our lives with victory.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another,

If you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re soul tired… you need some newness of life.

I recommend the prayer of the Holy Spirit to jump-start your day.

Start with a spiritual song… sing along to it (out-loud).

Engage your heart and mind in this effort… allow several minutes to pass. Linger in the presence of God, soak up the words you’re listening to and then quietly Pray for God to grant you the grace and strength for your day,  ask the Holy Spirit to ‘fill’ you afresh.

Read in scripture or listen to it on a podcast. Hear the truth. Let it remind you again of God’s plans and purposes for your life… let it’s warmth push out the lies and agreements that may have crept into your psyche. God’s word freeing us from bondage and false accusation, opening us up to restoration. Ask for God’s protection and power to live your day in a posture of optimism and hope. .

Wait. . .

if necessary, ask for forgiveness as any recent sins may come immediately to mind. Don’t avoid this. Then Repeat…

Wait. . .

when God’s’ peace and purity flood your heart… resume your day.

Repeat again tomorrow.

Watch you ‘hard life’ suddenly change. It will steadily keep changing as your days start to morph into a series of satisfying and beautiful ones. A profound change in attitude and posture will start to show in you, as God through his redemptive supernatural power changes you.

A changed “you”… will begin to choose differently. A changed ‘you’ will respond to attacks without fear. A changed ‘you’ will grow in patience for those who  live selfishly. Not because you had a profound breakthrough or read the right book, but simply by seeing your life as it truly is. 

This is the Christian “LIFE”.

Pastor B.

Reference Verse for this blog; Romans 15:4-5a ” 

Walking with Grief…

When you walk with grief… it’s hard to ‘feel‘ much.

God is there.

People are around.

But not much shows its color.

Flavors fade.

It’s slower inside your head. Kinda numb all over, things that might have grabbed your attention… don’t. That includes your faith. It affects your friendships… your family. It dulls your heart and mind, makes us feel empty inside. Like the dentist numbed more than just our tooth.

I’ve talked with lots of folks walking with grief. The death of a loved one… father, mother, friend, lover, wife, son, or daughter… they say the same basic things. It hurts more than you might have expected... takes time to come ‘back’ from it…

 And it does. 

So… when that grief grows to include your family at large, it wears down your parenting heart and steals some of our hope.  We think, we should be providing the role of comforter – that we should be ‘encouraging’ our kids…we should be strong for them. But we’re not.

We feel our vitality fade as we can’t help but linger on the pain of knowing… we won’t see that person again. We won’t be able to share a coffee or meal or a story some ‘other’ time.  Painfully… their absence becomes clearer, we won’t be doing those things again… they are gone.

At least for now.

The truth is…Eternity is a mystery all it’s own. Unknowable and infinite, we ‘trust’ that God is real and true. That heaven is up and out there and that the cross of Christ is everything it claims to be. That’s what makes us ‘Christian’.

 

 

But that’s in the future… living in today, we walk with GRIEF.

We struggle with Faith.

All of us.

If you are struggling right now… take comfort in these illuminating words from one of my favorite authors.

Has God abandoned us? Did we not pray enough? Is this just something we accept as “part of life,” suck it up, even though it breaks our hearts? After a while, the accumulation of event after event that we do not like and do not understand erodes our confidence that we are part of something grand and good, and reduces us to a survivalist mind-set.

I know, I know—we’ve been told that we matter to God. And part of us partly believes it. But life has a way of chipping away at that conviction, undermining our settled belief that he means us well. I mean, if that’s true, then why didn’t he _______? Fill in the blank. Heal your mom. Save your marriage. Get you married. Help you out more.

Either (a) we’re blowing it, or (b) God is holding out on us. Or some combination of both, which is where most people land. Think about it. Isn’t this where you land, with all the things that haven’t gone the way you’d hoped and wanted?” 

Quote source; from “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge.

Psalm 42 is written by ‘the’ awesome and epic Hebrew King David, (covenant making dynasty) a friend with God and in the royal line of Christ himself… but after reading his words in the Psalms’ it  strongly suggests he was familiar with and often battled grief.

That he truly felt the powerful drag of depression and despair… if your are too…read this. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/…

Be encouraged. No matter what you can or cannot ‘feel’ today.  No matter what grief is pulling you down… your God is good, you are created and unique. That means you’re day and life are and will be significant! It also means whomever you’re grieving  was also unique and significant and worthy of your love, and grief.

…My dad died on Ash Wednesday, March 1st 2017.

Pastor B.

BGraham quote BB Podcast

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Grief part 2….

My brother’s wife is fading. My precious and only sister in law… mother of three;  Judy Mathias is nearing her end… a battle with brain cancer lost.

She has days to live.

Her family comes to care and provide for her. To lend help to my brother, to hug their three beautiful kids and to say good-bye to Judy.

It’s tragic, and all of us must walk through it… but here’s the twist… in the middle of it all, a daughter’s wedding day. 

Crazy.

Our grandfather/ dad dies… and my daughter is married less than a week later. Now my brothers wife is about to pass and he has a daughters wedding set for days from now.

For both of us … we’re reeling in some kind of emotional shock-wave. Uncharted water so to speak…. We’ve got no way to sort it all out emotionally. No way to make sense of the surges of our joy and grief and frustration. 

The death of my father heavy on my mind, I try to comfort my brother and his family in the midst of their suffering… The truth of these circumstances remind me painfully, each season of life is completely out of my control –

In that ‘helplessness’ of loosing control we can go spastic or relax. We can trust in our God or curse His face… we can still choose to cling to “hope”. To believe that there must be a purpose for it all. To ask for Gods comfort and Redemptive touch in the very messy moment. 


psalm 89


I’m learning… suffering (or grief) brings profound clarity to our lives… a wrestling away of our personal agenda’s and petty ‘little’ wrongs. It reveals the ways we try to ‘use’ God when we need him… a way to fix our problems…

Suffering illuminates a path much more intimate and true and way less manipulative.

A quieter path of knowing our Father and of allowing ourselves to be known by Him… and that hidden knowledge… it changes us.

Tozer says it like this… ““O, God, we don’t want anything You have, we want You.” That’s the cry of a soul on its way up.

From his book, Success and the Christian, 29.

 
Walk through the grief dear one. Look for the unseen but clearly felt ‘hand’ of God as it gently but firmly lifts your hand into His.
It’s not an answer… but it is profoundly reassuring and brings with it the protection of unmistakable peace.
In this peaceful mystery… you will sense the true nature of your savior...  A man of sorrow’s who is acquainted with all our griefs”. 
And that is enough.
 
Sorry for the long (2 part) blog today… this one’s been building for awhile.
Pastor B.