Ruth’s story…

Some days our faith hangs by a thread so thin we wonder why we even claim to be a Christian. Despair is a the door, hope has left the building and we are all that remains. Our hearts merely empty shells… echoes fading of our past professions of God’s goodness and grace.

If those words resonate… you’re not alone. 

Studying the book of Ruth for a sermon series, I felt the powerful parallels between her story and mine. Her faith and story serving as a powerful source of hope and inspiration, especially for those caught in heartache, loneliness, and a season of profound injustice.

If that’s you… then STOP for a few minutes… read the book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters long. A novella of sorts, written 3,000 years ago from the perspective of a still young widow woman without a country, a family to call her own, or any semblance of a future. Destitute, facing starvation, and homeless… she resisted the temptation to run and chose to stick it out with God.

Her act of faith a heroic tale full of every emotion one can feel. Despair and hopelessness mixed with redemption and restoration. A true story of one woman’s selflessness and God’s intimate and tender touch. 

I can only introduce you to Ruth.

To know her, and possibly yourself… you must explore the passages on your own time. Reading under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit… trusting God to reveal to you the ancient details as they relate to your own tragic moments and empty faith. Watch in wonder and fascination as utter loss and shame becomes renewed hope and a sure future.

image source - sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

image source – sandyfreckletongagonartblog.wordpress.com

In the end Ruth is vindicated for trusting in her God. She is accepted, loved, adored, and exalted to the highest place of honor possible… the great-grandmother of the Messiah.

Her journey is our journey. Her determination to follow after God ‘no-matter-what” resonates with me on so many levels. 

God’s word is like that. Filled with story after story of men and women like us, feeling the same struggles of life and experiencing the personal attention of a loving Father who intervenes and validates each individual moment of suffering and loss as part of His perfect plan.

Ruth renews my trust in God. I hope it does the same for you today. 

To discover more about Ruth and her amazing story, read on at Biblegateway.com !

Pastor B.

The Promise of Provision

God’s word guides us… in ALL things.

We don’t have to walk in the dark, even when nothing God seems to be doing makes any sense! In fact, it’s often in our most difficult moments that we gain the deepest insight and begin to understand how big our God really is…

Take Abraham and Isaac as an example.

oldtimewallpapers.com

oldtimewallpapers.com

Son of Promise, Isaac was finally born after twenty-five years of waiting. The heir of the epic Abrahamic-covenant between God and Man, Isaac was the demonstration of the promise fulfilled for Abraham and Sarah. Yet in Genesis 22 God calls to Abraham to come away, and sacrifice his promised son… seem a bit crazy? Youbetcha…

 

Life with Christ leads us to unknown and unfamiliar places. For sure. 

Navigating the pressures of family, faith and relationships will at many stages of our life simply become too murky to see the path forward.

Scripture, the Word of God provides the Christian with the illumination we need to take the ‘next’ step. Sometimes that’s all we can see. Only the next step, so the follower of Christ will be forced to exercise their faith by choosing to disregard what they can’t control and leap into the unknown with the confidence that God is and will ‘catch’ them before they fall.

This is how God trains us to trust. 

After a few moments of life where we absolutely can’t see what’s next… and yet still obey God’s leading, we grow. We gain confidence in the character of God. We begin to believe that what is promised will be fulfilled. We also learn that the ways God moves in our lives to accomplish those promises… is odd, unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, but nevertheless effective.

Abraham arrived at Moriah with his son of promise ready and willing to radically trust God in Genesis 22… but it’s in that moment God reveals Himself in a more intimate way.

Jehovah Ji’reh, or the God who “see’s and provides”! This was a new facet of God revealed to Abraham, but only after obeying God was it ‘knowable’!

No way any of us could ever take such a huge step of faith without spending regular, real, intimate, personal-time with our heavenly Father. His presence removes our fear, doubt and frustration in a moment… replacing it with peace and joy. It sheds light on the darkest of circumstances and provides us with hope when we need it most! 

If your life seems to be full of murky confusion… it may be that you just need to turn the lights on to get a better perspective…?

Peace out,

Pastor B

 

for to you have I committed my cause.

Reading scripture is like finding a light on the darkest night. 

Many of us are feeling the battering of life and circumstance, the weary that gathers like lead in our bones. Deep, dark, and tired our thoughts. We scrape a smidgen of hope from our hearts scarred surface and lean forward… one more step. One more lift of the foot, one more push forward… until we collapse. Face down, fallen.

thejesuschick.com

thejesuschick.com

After laying on the ground, we start to feel around in the dark… lifting fingers first, then our head and slowly on our knees until we stand. Exhausted, it’s a victory to simply lean on something stronger, walking or running seems impossible to ever hope for…so we sway in the harsh of life, clinging to hope by a thread. 

I’ve felt that way, so have you. Maybe you’re in that dark place right now?

Take comfort, be encouraged, you’re not alone. Don’t give up. Help is on its way. 

Jeremiah was an ancient prophet / pastor to the nation of Israel in one of its darkest moments. Attacked from without, decayed from within…. Jeremiah couldn’t win.

Hated by God’s enemies, hated by God’s people he was a man lost in-between.

Faithfulness for him was a road of total isolation and pain, rejection and loss were his companions – until he was jailed by the leaders of God’s people. His darkness was more than a metaphor. In his pain he wrote these raw words…

But the Lord stands beside me like a great warrior.
    Before him my persecutors will stumble.
    They cannot defeat me.
They will fail and be thoroughly humiliated.
    Their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
you test those who are righteous,
    and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.
Let me see your vengeance against them,
    for I have committed my cause to you.

Jeremiah 20:11-12 (NLT) 

There are times in our lives when we run out of words.Times when we need to avoid talk, and must be with the one who created and purposed us. Slow down to a stop, push away the excuses and distractions… you know what to do. It’s time to open the good book. 

futureofeducation.com

futureofeducation.com

Read the word of God, REST in His presence.

Take your time, slowly…honestly… lay out your hearts pain… give it to the only one who can truly understand.

Wait quietly.

Repeat, until the darkness lifts and the light returns.

Live again. 

 

Love to you all….parenting is hard. God is strong.

Pastor B.

 

Fighting through the “feelings”

As parents and spouses we are bombarded by “feelings”… we do what we can to make everyone happy, and often we simply push our needs, our wants…yes even our “Feelings” to very bottom of the emotional pile of our lives.

As responsible parents we usually will put the needs of our children and our spouses ahead of our own, but in the end we run out of space for us… at first a noble and heroic act of selfless love, but in the long haul a recipe for disaster.

It’s crucial that we find a healthy balance of our own time and energy to serve those we love… but in that balance we must guard our hearts and allow our own feelings to be processed in the light and comfort of God’s love… by reconnecting our hearts with God’s word.

Feelings are powerful… strong enough to sway our resolve and threaten our sanity.

Feelings are transient, intense but fleeting… and random and un-expected, an expression of our immediate circumstances, but a feeling can make that moment feel like an eternity.

God’s truth is timeless… ageless, and unfading.

God’s love is deeper than a feeling of being loved, or a desire to return that love… God’s love is a reality. Regardless of how we feel… it exists, it persists and affects us.

Without time for reflecting and refreshing in the truth of God’s word… remembering again of His faithfulness, we can become vulnerable to living a life that’s tyrannized by our “Feelings”. We may regularly find ourselves floundering in the deep – dark waters of life, floating lost and alone. It’s not really true of course… but it sure FEEL’s that way.

iamconvinced.wordpress.com - Source

iamconvinced.wordpress.com – Source

God offers to us something bigger and stronger to hold onto than just our feelings… He provides an anchor for our souls… a reality and truth that never wavers. It’s up to us to ask for help… ready for whatever answer He gives…. not as an act of religiousness…but for the sake of our heart. Choosing to linger each day in His presence long enough to remember what’s real & true and trustworthy.

2 Corinthians 5:2-8  (Message) “Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

6-8 That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in, but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us?

Hang in there dear ones… life is constantly churning – exhausting us with new “feelings”…. don’t let them drive you away from God. Instead take a moment with the one true thing in your life and allow His truth to rescue your heart.

Blessings,

Pastor B.

Integrity or Reputation?

Having kids…forces us as parents to consider our lives from the perspective of building our integrity vs. managing our reputations.

Consider this passage from Proverbs 20:7 (ESV)… ” The righteous who walks in his integrity—
blessed are his children after him!” (Biblegateway.com)

So many stifling pressures can be felt by concerned parents. Some by our own parents, in-laws and close friends and by the over-the-shoulder concerns of our claustrophobic Christian culture that many of us live in or around. The pressures we feel to “get it right”, to effectively parent our kids safely through the minefield of adolescence un-affected and unscathed by the temptations of sin and sex and worldly corruption.

edensedge.blogspot.com

I feel them too. If you a pastor or lay leader in your congregation of faith, you may feel all of these pressures even more acutely than most… with the added weight of setting a “good example” for others to follow. Heavy stuff to try to lift, let alone carry.

What if we looked at it from another vantage point, a healthier perspective?

What if our duty focused on our personal lives and not our public ones, what if we moved pass the “NEED” to make it appear as if we have our lives all together? Wouldn’t that be a relief?

What if we took our days one-at-a-time and focused just on our personal faith and choices, on simply obeying what we know God asked us to do ? Working to improve our motives on the inside and being much less concerned with appearances and the affirmation of others…?

A less exciting proposition for sure, but possibly a much wiser way to walk…? In fact, scripture speaks to us about the significance of obedience being more important to God than sacrifice, or as the prophet Micah said…

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Focusing on the internal condition of our hearts is a slower and riskier process than just maintaining our expected “status quo”, but I can guarantee you those around us will grow in their respect for you, regardless of your failures and inconsistencies. Not only will your life become more influential, but others will begin to lower their guard and openly confide in you. Watch as co-workers and neighbors…and our kids; begin to ask  about our lives, wondering if they too could live like we do,…honestly and without regrets.

We’ve seen what happens to celebrities, public leaders and elected officials who have carefully and deliberately cultivated sterling “reputations”, but failing inside…broken at the core, lacking character. Disaster explodes in a single photograph or anonymous reporters source…, launching large – massive waves of rippling cynicism and broken relationships in every direction. A media frenzy mauls the families and careers of those too close and one more failed man falls in the public arena. Adding as Pink Floyd put’s it… to “just another brick in the wall”. The cumulative affect…we become tempted to pull back a little bit further from believing, trusting , admiring or daring to hope in others.

movieline.com

As parents, that’s an all -to-real scenario that can wreck the most ideal of homes. We must avoid the lure of building just our reputations if we want to successfully lead our kids into a healthy future without the baggage of personal compromise. We are familiar  with haunted eyes of many of our teens, hurting inside with an all-consuming anger and smoldering bitterness at all potential authority figures they encounter for decades… including and especially those in the church.  

It’s time to invest in Character and let our reputations suffer a little along the way… I believe the payoff more than makes up for the loss.

Peace out,

brad.

Going Crazy to stay Sane

Jericho… a massive fortress, a stronghold directly in the path of the promise. The children of Israel had a overwhelming obstacle to avoid or overcome… forty years earlier, they had decisively determined to avoid the entire issue out of fear and frustration. An entire generation had suffered the consequence of their “pulling back” from God.

Now a new generation had been prepared, one who had observed the faithfulness of God for their entire lives; to provide, protect and direct them across a harsh and uncomfortable landscape of desert and sun and heat. They were being asked to choose again what they would do, how they would react to the path that God had directed them to follow…

So at the edge of the Jordan river and still in sight of the wastelands…this new generation lead by Joshua, determines to “trust” God and let Him work out their salvation in “His way”. In doing so, they were surrendering their will for His.  God’s strategy was as bizzare and ODD and unusal as anyone of them could imagine… but in the end, they agreed, accepted that God in His wisdom did know exactly what was best, what would work and dropped their need to understand, to “know” what and why and when, and simply just decided to “trust”.

God’s strategy, His perfect plan was to march around a city for seven days with a band of priests and musicians, it contained no new cutting edge siege style military principles to use, no cunning economic strategy to influence the inhabitants, but a never-heard tell of such – kind of solution that on its face it must have just seemed… well Crazy.

Its clear that as followers of Christ we are faced with the same decision today. God has directed our individual and collective lives across the barren deserts of our past, through the toxic fallout of our previous choices and descisions, and we’re longing for more than mere survival. Our circumstances around us may feel completely unchanged, but something inside of us tell us we are “close”. Close to discovering the promise of hope, of peace and of contentment. We’ve wandered around in the wildnerness of our own way and have a chance to choose again, to go forward and confront the strongholds in our lives or avoid them and go back to the survival cycle we just started to leave.

What will we choose?

The patterns and cycles of our past don’t have to continue. The pain and frustrations of following God on “our terms” doesn’t have to continue to be the partially “all in” faith that we can “almost” surrender to. We can decide today, forward and through or back up and return to our past.

The children of Israel decided to trust God’s plan and not their own. They determined to allow the “Crazy” strategy of God to trump their own “Sane” logical evaluation of their situation. I have no idea of what life issues your struggling with, no clue what the “Strongholds” in your life are, but I know mine and i’m writing/talking to myself here.

God is calling US, to lay down our preconceptions of how He will work things out in our lives, and instead turn to Jesus as the soveriegn Lord of our life. That means if we choose to surrender, He will overcome for us. The path forward is through the cross of Christ Jesus, it is the epicenter of our new reality.

Just as the nation of Israel had to submit to the process of following God through and into their promise land, so will we. The battle is the Lords, the strategy is the Lords, the details are the Lords.. He is simply asking for us to “believe” that He can and will remove every obstacle in our lives and free us to move forward into the future He has prepared for us.

In the gospel of Mark chapter nine we read this story…”21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

That’s my prayer today. For myself and for you. God help us… help us trust when it makes no sense, help us to let go when all our senses tell us to hold on and help us to believe when all our logic tell us to doubt. Help us to have a Crazy faith in order to stay Sane! Let’s trust that when we do, the walls of our strongholds… our Jericho will come crashing down, it’s time for us to take the promise land once and for all.

Peace out, RTP.

Falling walls…and New beginnings

Considering the iconic story of Jericho this week on RTP…we get to see another wild illustration of the unusual ways in which God works issues out in our lives. Marching bands & a six-day religious procession of priests ? All to serve as the apex of an unusual military strategy to begin the long-awaited, five hundred year old promise of re-settlement for an entire generation…

I think all of us would agree, marching around a city with musical instruments is an unusual way to win a battle, a strange way to start to build a nation?

I pondered this story as I fell asleep and wondered about the “why’s” and “what if’s” of this famous and unusual biblical story… I mean “why” include this strange battle in the biblical narrative? Why spend so much time describing & detailing this very short moment in the overall Hebrew historical record?  The author of the book of Joshua took several long chapters to clearly describe and emphasize the biblical importance of this odd Jericho event,including many seemingly insignificant details leading up to…during & after the famous walls fall down.

I woke up with a poignant sense I needed to dig deeper into the details contained in this very intense story… one so familiar and yet so odd. A story that may have been relegated to just a fanciful children’s sermon, paired with a cute, full color, feltboard picture story and little else.What if this epic historical moment represented a significant symbolic “type and shadow” of the divine process that God takes us all through, a foreshadowing to the New Testament model of redemption… when we grow out of the old us, leaving behind the broken walls of our past fears as we start to grow into something different, healthier and new?

What if the battle we have within ourselves, within our hearts and minds is being illustrated in practical detail by the physical reality of a prosperous Canaanite city-state, its customs and our weaknesses providing stark contrast-context for the struggle each generation has with faith. What if we were the weary and worn, the chosen but dispirited children of Abraham? What if God wanted to clearly leave a testimony to His faithfulness and sovereign will that all people of all ages & generations could understand & learn & be changed by? I believe this Jericho passage has deep and profound layers of truth, just waiting for us to make the effort to peel them back and apply them to our lives!

So… join with me, take a moment, re-read the first few chapters of Joshua, and consider the story of those famous walls again, reading through the eyes of faith.  Ask God to show us/you, what walls in our life, might be blocking our progress out of the isolating wilderness of our past. Preventing us from entering into the land God has promised. Things, issues or events in our lives  that we might be afraid to admit or consider, issues that we have struggled so long with that they seem to be a part of us.

If you are struggling with a un-ending cycle of old sins and forgotten promises, if you are tired of the same old patterns of life…then come along with us and lets see if these truths from Jericho will help break us free from the bondage & fatigue of our waterless days. I believe God is reaching out to us from the ancient history of the Old Testament scripture… , offering an antidote to heal our wandering hearts and aimless ways.

This will be a different kind of RoadTrip without the aid of engines or modern conveniences, it will …I hope, prove to be life-changing in the present. Especially for parents…