Understanding The Restlessness Within

Learning to reject our ‘old’ identity and habits for our ‘new’ identity in Christ is an ongoing struggle for dominance in our Christian psyche.

Each heart that confesses the name of Christ and invites & submits to His presence as ‘Lord” and savior in our heart, has activated a soul transforming process catalyzed by the Holy Spirit. 

No one can experience the presence of Christ within one’s heart and mind without being affected. It reorients and rearranges our spiritual DNA into something ‘new’ and ‘different’ than what was ‘us’ … before.

Photo by Amine M’Siouri from Pexels

Speaking only for myself, and quoting directly from my own personal journal entry, the process looks and feels like this;

I can sense the old patterns of thought, behavior, self-condemnation, guilt, and shame are being slowly replaced with a new confidence in the power and presence of Christ within me. The ‘old’ brad is almost gone, the new ‘brad’ is slowly emerging from the shadows of my past life. The habits, tendencies, and temptations of two decades ago are no longer a constant, living, memory, within my heart and mind. New habits and affections have replaced the old. My soul, heart, and mind are coming into alignment and my sense of becoming ‘whole’ is growing inside of me. The more ‘wholeness’ I sense, the less restlessness remains. The transformation of my identity from old to new is reducing my wandering heart and diminishing my anxieties and fears. 

The alignment of who I am in Christ with how I see myself, this is the new-growth of my current identity. I’m moving away from the ‘old’ man and actively leaning into the ‘new’ creation I was promised in scripture. This convergence of the internal and external man is what I mean by ‘wholeness’.

For me (and I believe for you too), the convergence of the promised and the present within, this is the hidden work of God’s Holy Spirit. He’s gently remaking me (us). We are works in progress, transitioning from being motivated by a restless and uncertain heart to a more grounded and comfortable one. A hidden transformation expanding from within.  This growing sense of inner peace and contentment is firmly connected to my (our) growing understanding of who and whose I am.

The Christian life is more than a static existence, more than a series of devotions and disciplines, it is a transformational journey. A hidden supernatural work within that recreates our very identities and deepest passions. 

God is re-writing His laws upon our hearts, as he repeatedly promised and prophesied. The presence of Christ within changes everything, and that my fellow believer, is the eternal power of the Gospel.

May the peace of Christ guard you’re ‘heart’ and mind.

Father Brad Mathias

 

Hearing the ‘whisper’ of God.

Elijah was a rock-star in the Old Testament. He was a prophet’s – prophet. No other prophetic life in the scriptures can compare to the astonishing events surrounding this man of deep faith. (see his story for yourself in 1 Kings 17 – 19 and 2 Kings 1-2)

He literally caused a three year drought, called fire from heaven, and never actually died on earth as he was taken up in a fiery chariot. This was a man of courage. Elijah, at the risk of his own life, called out a corrupted government and the sin of embracing openly pagan worship in defiance to God’s will and ways. (not too unlike the world we live in today) 

Yet we know this astounding man of faith also struggled with despair, depression, and anxiety. He too felt the fatigue of spiritual burnout, he got tired of all the struggles, all of the burdens that came with representing God to a hostile culture.  Much of his life he had to live on the run, a wanted man without the comfort and stability of a home or place to call his own. His life was filled with great turmoil and forced isolation.

Photo by Eric Sanman from Pexels

YET… he needed to learn to hear God’s voice, just as we do.

Elijah is the guy who hid in the wilderness, was fed by ravens, and eventually faced his fate completely alone and seemingly abandoned by God. It was in this place of deep despair that he and God had a remarkable encounter.

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13

 

It was in this whisper that God came to Elijah, in the middle of all his stress and anxiety, despair and chaos, God spoke quietly and calmly to Elijah. It wasn’t in the rush and hype of a busy work day or after a stellar worship service at church, it was one to one – alone – on the mountain of God.

If you find yourself like Elijah, overwhelmed, discouraged, and full of despair… it may be time to go to the mountain and get quiet. For some of you reading this, that may mean a literal place you need to go to. A quiet place of reflection and beauty, a place where God has spoken to you before. For others, this is a metaphor of life. It means setting apart some time to be alone in your day or week, to be silent. It will mean turning off the electronics, clearing your calendar and waiting for God to approach.

It seems that in the moments we need Him the most, God comes to us. But only after we quit trying to control the story we live in. It takes a posture of full surrender to be still, to get quiet enough to hear the ‘whisper’ of God. 

The Peace of Christ be with you.

Fr. Brad.

(for those of you with young children, this ‘waiting’ and listening is almost impossible in the normal chaos of your day to day. Ask for the Holy Spirit to provide you with opportunity, and then stick with the being ‘silent’ part until you ‘hear’ what God is whispering to you.)

Transition with Provision

One of the greatest themes of the Old Testament is the ‘Exodus’. The focus on much of the first five books of the bible centers on a ‘transition with provision‘ as the people of God move from one place and season to another. (Egypt to the Promised Land)

Photo by Al Butler from Pexels

The Torah lingers on the details of Israel’s release from the empire of Egypt.  Significant details are shared about the journey of God’s chosen people from the land of Egypt across the Red Sea and into the wilderness, specific locations, events, and characters are recorded in intricate detail.

This “exodus’ is a major theme of the early scriptures and gives us a clue as to its importance in the bigger picture of history and the word of God. It tells us we can expect to face similar experiences and circumstance as we make our own personal journey from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’.

In the New Testament scripture we see a parallel journey for each believer as we leave the ‘old man’ behind and put on the ‘new’ man in Christ. The process of transition for each of us is unique, but the principles are the same. God always ‘provides’ for His people as they ‘transition’ from one stage of life to the next. The introduction of divine food  (Manna) is realized on the Israelite’s journey through the desert.  A remarkable and supernatural provision for their daily needs.

Change is almost always scary. When we leave the familiar behind we are taking a risk. God calls each of us to walk out of our old ways and lean into the new. These changes are transitions and can take many different forms. For some it’s the challenge of a health issue or Cancer diagnosis, for others it’s a lost job and new career path, but for ALL of us it’s a serious shift in our ‘normal’ way of doing and being.

Like the children of Israel, we face many stressful transitions in our life and like the children of Israel we too have a good and capable God who knows our needs and has already arranged for our provision. The scripture reminds us of God’s faithfulness to meet each and every need as we progress from one season to the next.

I love the way speaker and author Stasi Eldredge puts it in her book “Defiant Joy”. “In Christ your life is inextinguishable. Undefeatable. Victorious. Worry, fear, panic, and dread do not get to hold your heart hostage in their vise-like grip. Your heart is safely held in the hands of your faithful God who promises that a life of unending joy is your inheritance. It is coming.Jesus led the way. And though the way often includes disappointment, pain, betrayal, and sorrow, none of them get to have the final say.”

We can live with confidence no matter what we’re walking through or away from. God is going to keep up with you, He won’t leave you behind or let you go. Your safe, secure and intimately cared for, in fact you could not be in better hands.

Peace out, Father Brad.

PS – for a scripture reference to study, check out this passage from the Old Testament.

Exodus 16:14-18 (ESV)  – ” 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”for they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.”

Whose Am I ?

I’ve been on a pastoral sabbatical.

A rare 3 months to rest and unwind my mind and body from the rigors of bi-vocational service. I still have my ‘day’ job to keep up with, but I’ve been allowed to step back for twelve weeks to catch my spiritual breath. A first for me.

Sounds great! A chance to let go of some of the extra  commitments and obligations that come with pastoring a small church… but it’s actually been ridiculously hard. My free time has stretched me in ways I’ve never felt before and revealed areas of my life that needed to be attended to.

When I slow down, I fidget. I get uncomfortable and anxious without something to do, somewhere to be. When I stop, I have time to think… and when I stop moving I feel less important, less necessary…less needed.

Specifically… I lose my sense of value and purpose without running 100 mph every day. After decades of racing through life.. .this sabbatical has raised the proverbial hood of my souls engine and forced me to see what’s ticking underneath the drive to do and be more.

God is gently pushing me to re-examine my life, to take a survey of my identity. Where do I draw my value from? How do I see myself as a person as a man? Stuff I’ve not had to wrestle with for a very long time, issues that I never anticipated have become very much a part of my daily dialogue with God. He’s asking the hard stuff in my ‘down’ time. Just like Jesus did with His disciples, the questions reveal the areas of our life that need to be restored and renewed.

How about you? Have you had to wrestle with where you draw your identity from? As parents it’s appropriate to consider yourself as a mom or dad first. To take comfort in the role you’ve been appointed by God as a sacred trust. Caretaker, teacher, friend, and mentor to your kids. Those duties and obligations often push other commitments and pursuits away, and fill our lives with the daily work of family. 

For dads, we may find ourselves focused on our role as provider and defender. Taking our identity from our ability to work and earn a living. We draw our strength and value from the paycheck and security we provide our homes, and as we gain financial stability our self-esteem begins to keep pace. It feels good enough to our fragile egos  to seduce us into working ‘all the time’.

For pastors, lay-leaders and church ministry volunteers: the role we fill as teachers and shepherds can overshadow who we are. Our commitments to serve the body of Christ are noble and self-sacrificing, dutiful and sacred in their own right. We can gain self-importance and significance in our leadership roles and over time those strengths can become a part of our ‘false‘ self. A propping up of our self-worth and self-esteem with the external affirmation and encouragement of those we lead, a temporary fix that won’t work long-term. It’s the same core heart issue as the workaholic dad, but dressed up as ‘ministry’.

All of this is normal and predictable. Mothers gain their strength from the health of their family, dads from the financial contributions they bring, and pastors from the size of the congregations they serve…but there will be a time in each of our lives when those externals will be challenged by events and circumstances outside of our control. 

For parents, our kids will eventually grow and move out. The empty nest is a test for the marriage and identity of both parents, especially moms.

For dads, the career sacrifices and endless struggle to contribute to the bottom line will dry up or go completely away. The stress of being in-between work or career is life changing and carves deeply into the confidence and value of a man’s self-esteem.

For pastors, the expansion or contraction of their church body will temp them to feel good or bad about their performance as a spiritual leader, and in doing so falsely inflate or deflate their self-esteem based on a limited understanding of God and His faithfulness in spite of us.

The struggle is real. Where do we draw our confidence from? Who defines us? Where can I go to discover the truth about ‘me’? 

When I prayed over this and studied the scriptures multiple truths emerged. One question I was asked in prayer was this… Whose am I”? 

Am I ‘God’s man… or man’s man?

Am I focused and intent to spend my energy in knowing Him, of being in His presence? Am I more concerned with His feelings about my life or other people?

Whose… Am I?

Am I my wifes man?  Am I my bosses man? Am I my kids man? Do the people I lead love me? Do I only consider my own desires, or do I surrender my plans for God’s? ?

What I think He’s asking us all is this. Am I God’s man? 

The question is more than rhetorical. My identity is going to be very strongly associated with where my energy is directed and my focus maintained. Where my ‘treasure’ is, there my heart will be also, and my sense of self-worth will flow from that fountain – good or bad.

I notice that when I keep my heart and mind open to God’s daily & hourly whispers… I am at peace and looking for His direction on which step to take next. When I allow God to fill my awareness, I shrink and He grows.

The truth of being an adopted son and joint heir with Christ begins to take root and grow. My need to be seen and heard is stifled and the fears and insecurities fade. The weight of my life is shifted from my shoulders to His hands.  I can rest and I can trust in something much bigger than me.

Taking time to ponder and pray is more than a luxury of a sabbatical, it’s an essential process we all need. The struggle to slow down and simplify although difficult at first, has become an essential lesson for me. It has allowed for the deeper issues of the heart to be noticed, considered, and addressed.

God is active in my sabbatical; He’s pruning me. Preparing me  for a future with bigger fruit and more abundant living. He’s also rewiring me from measuring those things with the models of success that our world so strongly endorses. 

He uses the cross of Christ and an invisible Kingdom as His measuring stick and the presence of Peace in our turbulent existence  as proof it’s all for real.

Pastor B.

PS (the use of ‘man’ in this blog is not meant as sexist, simply as a generic term for mankind)

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 

 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Ever find yourself worrying about why things are going so well?

Seems silly…

That fearful anticipation of what will inevitably go wrong in the very near future, waiting for the ‘other – shoe – to – drop’. A  day-to-day fear for some, a distant hovering apprehension for others.

However you describe the anxiety of the unknown, It’s real for all of us. I find myself guilty of pondering the ‘what if’s‘. Over thinking and watching for whatever’s out there and looming in the dark. Listening for an unknown danger just out of my sight, or something hidden over the next life horizon … a circumstance about to catch me off guard.

Why do we do that?

Are we just conditioned to expect the worst… or is it something deeper. Are we cynical and afraid because we distrust ourselves, not convinced God truly cares about us? About me… ?

Today I’m sharing some personal insights related to the uncertainties that torment so many of us. Here are three powerful truths to combat the unknowns of our lives. header_faith

  1. God isn’t trying to punish us. He’s come to save us. To redeem our lives, not stomp us in the dirt. Anything else is a lie. A deception designed to make us distrust. 

  2. Good and Bad things are relative to our perception in the moment. What may seem like a tragedy on day one can transform into a blessing within a few weeks. Faith is trusting God can and will use anything in our life for good. 

  3. Trusting means letting go of control. Anxiety is wrapped around our need to know. Being a Christ follower, means we’re surrendering our independence for His will, not our own. 

These 3 reminders are anchors for me on days when I can’t quite relax. When my heart is racing and I don’t know why… I can pause and pray, and remember the truth.

image - thelosthighwayhotel.com

image – thelosthighwayhotel.com

Parents, our world is full of crazy. Listening to the news can wipe away a week of rest in a moment. The mailbox might have a letter we don’t want to see from the doctor… or our kids might bring a note home that turns our stomach to lead. Whatever your fear…take it to God, remember these 3 truths and watch as it fades.

You’re not in this alone. To prove my point, I’m starting a brand new PodCast/Blog (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) with some friends at iShine and the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) to illustrate how everyday parents are living extraordinary lives.

Pastor B.

PS – Read and pray this passage of scripture anytime you need relief. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com  6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Giant Fear, the one’s that scare me…probably don’t scare you!

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m afraid of facing the Giant problems that seem to always hang out in my life…. finances, health, my kids, my work… retirement ! (you fill in your blank)

These are after all, huge and massive things, that are far bigger and stronger than I am and each one seems to bulge with muscles and bones big enough to crush me in a single swipe, unaffected by my pitiful resistance to their presence. The biggest of these GIANT issues in my life and most of our lives is the same core or root issue….FEAR! Jack-the-Giant-Slayer

So as a Christian, a parent and a pastor… I/we all have to face our fears if we can ever hope to live beyond being a hostage to those fears, restless with sleepless nights and repeated doses of Pepto-Bismo!

Some of my hugest problems don’t scare me, others do. The one’s that scare me, probably don’t scare you ! Nevertheless, you get the point. We can’t run from all our Giants, we have to face them.

The bible talks about giants… Caleb and the sons of Anak, in Hebron. David and Goliath of Philistia and so on… they were reputed to be more than fable or myth, but literal giants of significant size and super-human strength. Guys you didn’t mess with casually, so much so that all but a handful of men in the Old Testament fled their presence at all cost. (10 of the 12 Hebrew spies bailed on entering their promise land of Canaan because of these same giants, and an entire Israelite army under King Saul wouldn’t dare to fight a single giant who challenged them to place their trust and strength in God) jack-the-giant-slayer-banner-3

So, that’s interesting history (yawn)…But how do WE kill the giants in our life, specifically the biggest and baddest ones of all… like ANXIETY or FEAR?

Fear is awful. It grabs us and squeezes the air out of lives. Handling something as overwhelming as Fear all alone is a Huge Mistake (pun intended) ! However,  I do believe we can overcome such massive giants simply by making regular time in our schedules to spend with God. Taking time to invest in reading from the sacred scriptures, meditating on his character and in asking for help from him in regular prayer. (Free Daily Audio Bible Download Link) . Devotion to your maker combined with taking the risk to be involved in a local church family and I believe you will have every giant you engage on the run…

In the shadow of the bible and the whole of eternity…FEAR the larger, fades into fear the lessor… and then into history as you allow the presence of God (the Holy Spirit) to overshadow your mind and heart and re-center your thoughts around Jesus and the power unleashed at Calvary. That power is ours to tap. YES it is. Not a theory, not a wishful naiveté, but a legit resource to use in every moment of our lives. That truth of resurrection combined with scripture promises, makes for the most potent weapon we have to kill giants.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

(2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible)

No other person on the earth knows what our fears feel like but Jesus. No other person on earth has successfully and fully defeated the giant of fear altogether but Jesus. Others have grown to be legendary figures of faith, guys like Abraham, Moses, the Apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah etc…) but they all did so exactly the same way… by keeping their perspectives on their God and not the freakishly huge problems that loomed right in front of them, just like they do for us.

Courtesy - Chronicles of Narnia

Courtesy – Chronicles of Narnia

Superhero’s don’t exist… Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah does, and he alone has conquered Fear, Death and the effects of Shame & Guilt. It’s time to stop fighting giants all by yourself.

Invite him (Jesus) to step fully into your heart and mind and save you from the GIANT that’s paralyzing your life. Go ahead… take the chance, trust him with your _________ (fill in the blank) fear.

Then watch in amazement as your courage becomes conviction as you walk behind the one who has real answers to life’s overwhelming fears…  “JESUS !”

As parents we know our kids are really watching us and how we handle our fears is a significant example we can set for them. Good or Bad.

“Lord Give us the Courage to TRUST you and the strength to FOLLOW you” AMEN.

Peace out RTP! Love, Pastor Brad.