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.

Beware of the Crazy’s…

Driving late last night to pick up my in-laws from a bad transmission story involving a Chrysler Mini-van and I-40 in Tennessee (long story), I tuned into my XM radio to catch a fascinating/ freaky discussion on the talk show “Ground Zero” about the various threats facing America in 2013.

A truck driver in Phoenix called immediately and claimed he had been watching “hundreds of semi’s loaded with cardboard cutouts of tanks and Humvee’s being shipped from Texas to North Carolina“, that along with “train loads of armored gigantic pick up trucks going the same direction” formed the basis for his belief that “America was about to plunge into Martial Law and that we needed to move away from major cities and start to stockpile weapons and food for a civil war and “impending nuclear sub attack from China and Russia in a secret pact with Iran that would reduce 90% of the USA to rubble in the next 1.5 to 6 months.” (quote)

groundzeromedia

groundzeromedia

The radio host (Clyde Lewis) of “Ground Zero” rapidly agreed with the caller and further elaborated on the “hundreds” of similar stories and eye-witness accounts he had interviewed saying “exactly the same thing” and concluded that this was in fact “as serious as it gets folks.” A second caller from Illinois noted the similarities in the year 1913 and 2013 and claimed we were in a “Time-Echo” that would result in an exact repeat of somber Historical events from 1913 adjusted for today’s world. Complete with a huge economic crisis (the great Depression) and a global world war (World War I) that would devastate the US currency and reduce the US to third world status… YIKES!

These talk show call in guys were more than morbid, they were dizzy with anticipation to forecast the upcoming apocalypse. Gnarly. Disturbing.

This Morning when I hopped in my SUV, I had the station still tuned to the same Channel on XM, and heard George Norry of “Coast to Coast AM” wrapping up his late night talk show discussing the growing evidence of the “Yeti or Bigfoot” being an ancient Alien/Human hybrid species that helped to create the lost civilization of Atlantis and form the basis of the Genesis myth about Anakin and Giants being descendants of men and angels. A caller phoned in to ask the “Yeti” host expert if he believed in Gnomes ? Not just the idea of a small human (smaller than a Hobbit he said) but the existence of a small race of beings like us that lived in obscurity like the “Yeti or Bigfoot”?

hiconsumption.com

hiconsumption.com

Wow.

Seriously crazy stuff for sure. I wonder how much of its true ? (Just kidding)

Moms and Dad’s, let’s be careful what we listen to. Let’s be careful what we consider as being fact when in reality it’s totally conjecture and theory. These are over the top examples, but they do bring up an interesting pattern that can be an issue when our world quits making sense to us.

I’ve heard friends dialogue for hours about the state of our nation, the world and the prophet signs of scripture. Debating heatedly about the realities that may soon be facing us all. Economic world-wide meltdowns, Demonic manipulation of government officials, hidden signs in the bible that only now are coming to light etc… Creating a whirl-wind of fear, anxiety and dread at every new development that Fox News or CNN broadcasts. Wondering if this “IS THE EVENT” that is going to send us all into disaster.

The Christian family just doesn’t have to live out 2013 in this crazy-out of control manner. Let’s remember what the bible says. 2 Timothy 2:23-25 (ESV) (Biblegateway.com)

23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.

or how in Colossians 2:8-10 (MSG) we are given some seriously helpful and sound advice…

“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.” 

Bottom line…everyone has an opinion. Just not all of those are worth repeating or believing in. The world is out of control, no doubt about that. But as we live our lives, let’s be intentional and centered around the WORD OF GOD in our beliefs and actions. Our families are relying on us to provide for them stability and strength at a time when everyone else is grasping at proverbial straws to explain the unexplainable.

Peace out RTP!

Pastor Brad.

Absolute Proof

So much of our modern-day culture is consumed with proving facts to be true… with a deep need to “KNOW” what is real and what is false. That is especially so with Faith.

I’ve watched my friends, family and own children go through the process of seeking out truth, of desiring to know for themselves what is true and what  is someone’s opinion. Our Faith is an individual and intimate treasure, one that we can either hold only for ourselves or choose to risk sharing, “entrusting” it to others.

We can all recall times when we foolishly shared that trust or Faith with others who we initially admired, but who failed us and ultimately betrayed that trust. As a father and a man, I must constantly resist the temptation to place my trust in savings, finances, career…  a common challenge among guys. For the ladies the issue of Faith and trust often centers around pleasing a parent or finding a significant “other’ who is trusted to “complete’ them.

As we process these life trust issues personally, our kids are watching our every move.

So what ultimately is the “proof” we can offer to them and ourselves of the assurance of placing our Faith in an un-seen, un-touched and un-heard God?

The option and logic of placing our Faith in someone or something we can see, touch, taste and smell is appealing and often the easiest choice. But as life slides by us we start to chalk up the wounds of failed trust and offense and eventually have to step back to really take inventory of what we are and where we’ve ended up.

I recently talked with a teen girl who at 14 years of age is struggling with the concept of having a “relationship” with Jesus… Her entire life she has been surrounded by the “evidences” of God in her family, yet she is still uncertain of how reliable or sane it would be for her give up what she wants and desires to follow and place her “faith” in someone she has never physically met. Understandable.

She wants “Proof”.

So did I and so do you. So what is the “Proof” we can offer her and others and our own hearts of the absolute evidence of God? 

I believe the answer is…PEACE

John 14:25-27 (ESV) – Biblegateway.com

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

When Jesus explains to his disciples that he must go…leave them after his work on Calvary, he describes the coming of someone else, the Holy Spirit who will seal them all with the presence and power of “PEACE“. It was meant to be the evidence of His still being with them… the “PROOF” if you will of his continued existence and involvement in their lives.

If your feeling disconnected from God, anxious and overwhelmed… it’s time to ask again for his gift of the Holy Spirit to fill you anew. If you have never experienced true and lasting peace, it’s available through the decision to trust and experience a new life, a second birth in following Christ. The Peace of God is yours in Him. All we have to do is simply ask for it. That’s called prayer.

(Phillipians 4: 6- 7)(ESV)  “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Faith that you and I and our kids are longing for… can be safely entrusted to an object that’s worthy of our affection in Jesus Christ. The evidence and powerful persuasion or “PROOF” of  our Saviors literal presence…is not an equation or formula of science, it’s not going to be discovered in a new end-times revelation or best selling self help book…no, according to scripture its as simple as having a Life that is lived in Peace. 

God help us to live in the Peace that you provide and to stop seeking to find it anywhere else.

Brad.

Storms are bound to roll through…

Special Treat…A Guest Blog from my seventeen year old daughter…enjoy! 

“Last Sunday I woke up to severe stomach pains. I couldn’t get up or out of bed and ended up at Williamson County Medical Hospital. Despite my distress, it was clear from the six ambulances, one middle-aged man suffering from an abrupt heart attack, and the projectile vomiting elderly woman at registration…there were many other more afflicted individuals Sunday morning…who were similarly seeking emergency help! It was clear that their needs screamed for far greater attention than my own. My sister Jessica, dad, and I ended up in the waiting lobby for over three hours. My stomach seemed to settle with each passing wheelchair and bloody patient-and ultimately we ended up leaving before being able to be seen by a doctor.

The next morning I was sitting in bed reading from what’s called “Spirit of the Prophecy” (a daily devotion via email) when I came across this line: “Much of your spiritual function has been fueled by hope rather than faith and trust in me.” Though the passage’s words tend to resemble what you would find on the inside of a fortune cookie, the quick daily devotion has never failed to hit the bulls-eye of my heart, and the morning I read this was no exception. The second my brain had computed the last syllable of this sentence, my internal radar went off with loud bells and whistles. It struck me-I did not have the faith and trust I thought I had in Jesus.

 Maybe that sounds like an exaggerated conclusion to come to from a phrase out of some email, but I knew that God was speaking to me. I was terrified Sunday morning because I had no idea what was happening. I wanted answers, and the worse the pain got the more unsettled I became.

The tears began to flow without my control and my heart raced as I conjured up a million possibilities of what could be happening to me. I had so many fears of death and a lack of control-I had abandoned any faith of God’s hand over my circumstance and resorted to the devil’s all too accessible panic button!

I had never considered that my faith was mainly a mere hope in God.

God does give us hope. It is one of his promises to us, and without hope we couldn’t have faith. In Hebrew’s He says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”

 Jesus gives us hope to fuel faith-the assurance of the fulfillment of his word without our clear, human, understanding of all that may mean and lead to. I’ve been hoping in God; hoping that all my prayers and requests will be met. My seventeen year old mind had not given much thought to the chance of something bad and unplanned-like going to the hospital-actually happening. I had only prayed in hope for the situation to be avoided, however, not fully believing in faith that he would take care of me in the midst of trouble.“I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” –Isaiah 12:2 ESV 

When I was in all my pain, I hoped God would take care of me, when I should have put my lack of understanding and fear aside in faith, resting in the knowing…an assurance that he had the whole situation under his perfect control and would take care of me.

If you have only been hoping, but not truly believing in God to take care of you, don’t let the enemy strip you of the fullness of a life in faith any longer. Instead, allow God to use the uncertainty of life to reveal himself to you as a true and faithful father.

Storms are bound to roll through, but when they do, remember what God has promised-that He will, not… that He might.”

(C) 2012 – Bethany R  Mathias (guest RTP blogger and Honors High School Journalism student)

Living beyond the reach of Fear

As a father and husband, I notice the single greatest disruption to my life and my families is the reoccurring presence of “Fear” in my home and family. Hardly a day passes when we are not confronted with some form of “Fear” manifesting in our lives. From the pressures to provide financially to the distress of a health problem to the tensions at work or school. Life is constantly providing circumstances beyond our ability to control, and in those moments we have a choice on how we are going to react.

Will we allow ourselves to be driven by our fear or will we maintain faith that God can handle it and has a path forward for each impossible life circumstance we encounter ?

FEARnoun

“A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid” (Source -Dictionary.com)
Faithnoun
“Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.”(Source – Dictionary.com)
I don’t want to re-quote all of the evangelical bible study catch phrases to raise your guilt levels and insult your intelligence… I know that most of you already know the framed verses in your homes…we’ve all read enough daily devotional guides and feel good theology books to choke us. Most of us know those oft quoted verses by heart and have since childhood, but they have not fundamentally changed how we think or live. We understand with our minds that God is all-powerful, and able to raise the dead, heal the sick, split the seas etc…but when it comes to our lives, He seems so… distant.
Why is that?
One humble suggestion… because we forget that God actually died for US. I know it’s a simple thought, but in our Christian soaked culture of sinners prayers and saved from hell salvation stories, we forget that God actually is seeking to be intimate and personal with US. We can readily accept His plan of salvation for ALL mankind, or for the sincere and sweet neighbor, but not really for us. We deep down consider that we should have to fight a little bit to get into the club, earn our own way forward. So we distance ourselves from the power and peace of God to gain some respect and strength on our own.
In the end, if we fail to grasp the very life we profess to have…we are pretending to be something we are not. God has saved us from more than an eternal condemnation. He has saved us from the need to be in control, from the threat of loss and from the tyranny and reach of FEAR. We have been saved from the unknown, from the threat of disaster, from the out of control lives we are desperate to protect and direct. We’ve just forgotten.
Joshua 1:8-9 (Biblegateway.com)
8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Remember the faithfulness of God.
Remember the sweetness of resting in His ability.
Remember He has a plan for our lives.
Remember you are not alone.
Remember you will never be.
Remember by being in His word, as often as you can.
Remember by surrendering.
Remember that God has removed YOU from the reach of Fear, today, tomorrow and forever. The only weapon the enemy of our soul has left, is the weapon of creating fear out of our doubts, and stubborn determination to remain in some form of control of our lives.
When we surrender to God, we destroy Fear. May your day be full of remembering God’s faithfulness and forgetting your fears. Paul began and ended almost every letter to the early church with these words… Peace and Grace. I believe he was reminding his readers and himself of God’s truth in every circumstance. Peace and Grace over Fear and Doubt.
My hope for you… Live in the confidence of God’s truth every day, and it’s power will help to keep us all in between the lines and on the road of life for our homes.
Peace out,
brad.

Planting a seed…of hope for the dry and empty home.

When we start this journey of parenthood, it’s often in the afterglow of a newly married daze and floats idealistic on our own beautiful and euphoric haze of a peaceful and loving future family life… um-hummmn. ?

Has that continued for you or do you find yourself struggling to remember the “why” of your enthusiasm for life, for why you wanted to have kids…for why you still bother to fight to maintain the faintest dream of being a happy family. Remember how firm our convictions were early on… our vow to be different from our peers, of keeping our marriages healthy and our lives in balance?

Our world has a way of painfully touching us with its dark tragedies, of stealing our personal hopes and joys one little piece at a time. It works relentlessly and energetically to remove the warmth of our dreams and happiness from our first months and years of parenthood and marriage into the chilled cynicism of middle age and compromise. But I want to give you hope,  it doesn’t have to be life on empty any more…

Most of us get bruised and broken when we rely on something or someone who is unreliable. We place our hopes and dreams on the escalator of hard work and dedication only to find it often stops at the second or third level of life…nowhere near the top floor. We trust that if we just maintain our relationships, they will endure. We touch our faith only when we feel insecure. Our dreams can be based on fictional lives, illustrated by books, sit-coms and blockbuster films, but if we don’t filter out the fake and embrace the real… we start to long for something that never was as if it were.

God is calling to you to help. He’s been calling for thousands of years. Gently, simply and persistently. I’m here to testify that nothing else can truly satisfy. Nothing else can take away the darkest pain, the aches of our life. It’s incredibly hard to trust that such a cliché’ is true, but please consider for a moment. What if Jesus was reliable, what if he was real?

Would He will choose to heal you and reveal to you His plan for your Life from the moment of creation? What if ? I believe…because he did all of this for me when I was broken and empty and out of answers. I felt His call and I took the leap, will you ?

His truth is calling to you… son of Man, daughter of Eve, will you hear Him ? Will you consider taking the one ultimate step of trusting in Him? Nothing else. Of laying down your conditions, your false expectations, your past pains and your ever-growing fatigue with it all… for His promise of Peace ?

If you do, I promise you will radically be re-arranged. An internal reset of your life will occur as your perspective of the pain, and stress and failures of the past immediately start to become testimonies of God’s grace and redemption in your life. He restores the lost hopes, dreams and joy of your youth. He heals marriages, and homes and renews our minds and hearts with the truth of His cross and its ultimate ability to recover all that has been lost.

Don’t mis-understand, surrendering to Jesus isn’t a magic formula that fixes everything in our lives at once, in fact following Jesus is no guarantee of your problems being erased at all. What is promised to us is contentment. From agitated and anxious to steady, from angry to peaceful and from despairing to hopeful. Not because we can solve our problems any better than before…but we because we’ve finally found someone who can.

How is that possible?

It came from a seed. A seed that was the embodiment of all truth and life and love. And from that seed, our lives were redeemed as it was put in the ground two thousand years ago. A seed that valuable was just surrendered, sacrificed and buried deep in the ground so it could grow into much more. The fruit of that first seed is still growing today, in the lives of men and women just like you and me. It’s the fruit of “LIFE”. It’s never fails, it never looses its power or its grace. It heals all who eat of it and it takes out of all who believe in it… the sting of death and hell and sorrow.

Jesus Christ himself was that seed, and His path for those seeking to follow Him requires a similar commitment of surrender, the call to sacrifice our preferences for what we “want” and a decision to willingly agree to let the old “us” be “buried’. To die to our personal ambitions and self. Only when we surrender that old self will we find that like any seed, when it falls into the ground and dies… its re-born and radically transformed into what we were intended to really become and be.

If we insist on continuing to do life our way and on our own, we risk living out the rest of our days trapped in a pointless struggle for meaning. But we never quite get there...As parents we often stop believing in our lives around our middle age years. So we quit trying, but most of us then mistakenly re-focus our hopes and dreams on our kids to become what we never could be in an effort to make sense of what we missed on the way… it’s painful stuff.

God is calling to you parents, not just your kids… don’t give up on your lives! Plant your life seed. Surrender to Jesus and doing so… discover LIFE !

God’s grace and favor to you as you like me… seek to “Keep your kids on the road and in between the lines of life” this summer.

brad.