Seasons Change

It’s been quite a run.

Middle Tennessee has been home for over fifteen years. We’ve raised three kids here and helped plant a new Anglican church. We helped care for and bury my dad and dear sister-in-law. We’ve had the honor to stand side by the side with those who grieved and those with reason to celebrate. We’ve been blessed to be included in the lives of hundreds of amazing men and women, kids, and students since moving here in 2003. A huge part of our lives was invested in the formation of iShine, the Tween Gospel Alliance, and Bema Media.

Mathias Family Circa 2017

The call to the Priesthood and pastoral ministry with NewSong Christian Fellowship, Four Winds Mission and the AMIA all were birthed here. The blood, sweat, and tears we shed for the unique and beautiful family that is the church at Four Winds Anglican Mission, was a constant part of our past nine years.

To leave these things is to leave a part of our own identity behind and unthinkable. Yet the voice keeps coming… and the images of Maine are never far from our minds. When I prayed… I felt it, when I slept… I saw it, and when I began to investigate… God revealed it.

It started a few months ago when we  (Paige and I) visited the state of Maine, and had an unexpected sense of displacement, a familiar connection to something we shouldn’t have, in an area we’ve never been before. (Ellsworth / Acadia)

An old and faintly familiar nudge began coming into our thoughts from somewhere outside of us. A kind of gentle whisper that wouldn’t go away, coupled to a ridiculous implication that didn’t make any rational sense. The idea inside those thoughts was just too crazy to seriously consider.

“We both felt we were supposed to live in Maine”

We knew being empty nesters meant some major life changes, but this was a bit much. After all, we have a grandson two hours away, our kids, friends, and church family were in middle TN. Our life had been built around and for this beautiful and warm place we called home. To leave now, just didn’t’ make sense.

The insanity of the idea was clear to any rational mind. To willingly decide to leave the familiar and comforting parts of our life and go to a place we know nothing  and no one… just didn’t make sense. 

In the end it was proven true, and confirmed by everyone in our life. After four weeks of intense and persistent prayer for confirmation, it came. First from our Bishop and then from our immediate family, we talked with our bosses, friends, and fellow pastors. They all sensed the truth of this and affirmed our decision to leave.

Acadia National Park

The crazy call of God to go to Maine wasn’t just some bout of indigestion or a momentary impulse. It was a genuine ‘calling’ to go and serve in a far away place. To be His servant in a strange land, to minister and laborer for His Kingdom and not our own. It felt scary and exciting… like a sneeze and a hiccup in one deep breath.

This radical idea had gone from a general concept to startling reality in a few short weeks. The truth of our calling was hard to apprehend, yet the implications obvious. The idea of getting our house ready to sell, of unplugging our lives and moving a thousand miles should be terrifying… but it wasn’t. A strange but peaceful atmosphere  was settling over our home and lives. God was miraculously forming a path out of the fog, a new road for us to follow, a journey for Paige and I into a new season of our life.

What had been a seemingly random idea was morphing into something quite solid, touchable, and true. A miracle that was taking shape right in front of our eyes. The reality of relocating our lives had hit ‘home’, and it felt ‘right’. (The transitions of our life may be sudden, but in God’s hands, we can remain peaceful.)

So here we are today, moving forward in faith. Our house is for sale, and we’re looking in Maine to find our next residence. We’re living proof that God continues to use broken people to serve Him in unusual ways and in unexpected places.

Paige and I are about to embark on a grand adventure, to explore a new and much ‘colder’ place with new challenges and experiences sure to be ahead. The path forward has been revealed, but the details are still foggy. We don’t know when exactly, we don’t know what exactly, but we do know where.

It turns out…St Thomas Anglican in Ellsworth Maine is in need of a Priest, and we believe it is to become our next stop. This obscure and distant place is strategic to both the Kingdom of God, and to our lives.

We’ve learned since hearing from God, that New England and the specifically the state of Maine are suffering greatly from a famine of churches*(see sources) and pastors to serve them. We know that Maine has few churches to meet the needs of God’s people and that around fifty percent of pastors are giving up their pulpits within three years of serving a church. This remote state and region matter to God, and the need for pastoral care is clearly reaching a critical stage. We didn’t know all that before we said yes… but we do now. Things are beginning to make sense.

St Thomas Anglican

God is constantly leading people all over the world to do seemingly radical things for Him. Just like the unknown fishermen He found on the shores of Galilee… He’s asking people to ‘Come and Follow Him,” and He will make us into  ‘fishers of men’.

I wouldn’t dare presume to know for you, but for some… you’ve been hearing the whisper of God already, but were afraid to respond. I get it. To trust God so completely is scary, but it’s also an honor and a privilege to be asked. For Paige and I, it’s time to hit the pavement and start on a brand new and totally EPIC Roadtrip to the great state of Maine. 🙂

We’ll see you there.

Pastor B.

PS – This blog and my work at Bema Media/ iShine will continue, the podcast (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) and work of Four Winds Anglican are not ending. God has provided a way for each of those to continue on and to thrive. Some of it will include us directly and some will not, but each effort is secure in the shadow of God’s divine providence and sustaining power.

*Sources:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/jared-c-wilson/why-new-england-is-the-new-american-missional-frontier/

http://philwaldrep.org/retreat/

https://factsandtrends.net/2017/08/25/survive-pastors-graveyard-new-england/

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/18/religion/got-faith-maine-the-least-religious-state-in-the-nation/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/how-religious-is-your-state/?state=alabama

https://news.gallup.com/poll/232223/religious-regions.aspx

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 ” 

Passion and Purpose… Connecting the dots

What makes your heart sing?

What makes you light up and glow from deep inside, illuminated by a beautiful, infectious, enthusiastic excitement for life?

Do you remember? Think Peter Pan and the lost boys and you’re on the right track. Something long-buried in us longs to be released. An idea. A pursuit. A passion.

It’s not just the drive of every biological clock, for family, for work, for happiness… this is deeper and more personal. 

Somewhere hidden way far away from our crazy, cluttered, days… is a dream. A longing unmet. Probably something ‘crazy’ and unrealistic. A fantasy that could never ‘work’ in our adult world of responsibility and obligation. But if you slow yourself down long enough… you might begin to remember. To feel it stir again. calling-purpose-passion-amyjalapeno

For Christians and families of faith the yearning for our deepest desire lies dormant far more than it should. We push back our desires for discipline and hide our hearts cry from ever interrupting our day.

We fear our desire. We fear this deep and unrelenting dream. It’s selfish we say. It’s impossible now… too many choices made, too many bridges of life crossed. It’s impractical and irresponsible. 

Yet…

The heart is complicated. It can twist us. It often deceives and confuses us. It contradicts logic and overrides self-control, and without the aid of the Holy Spirit it can be tragic. BUT… in the context of Christ it is our source of true life.

Jesus came to set us free. To release the captive from bondage, and proclaim the liberty that comes only from forgiveness and redemption. (Isaiah 61)

If this liberty is available, what does it mean?

Couple of thoughts and encouragements;

  1. Freedom in Christ is more than a cliché’ – it’s a truth primarily accessed through the heart. Not our mind. An issue of desire, not understanding. 

  2. Our hearts communicate with God in images, music, art, expressions of creativity and imagination. These images convey the deepest passions of who we are and without them, we are less than fully alive. 

  3. The passionate part of our deepest self is alive with the hope of yet to be realized dreams. This passion is a powerful clue to our purpose. It’s a seed and indeed a thread of our spiritual DNA and it connects us to our creator’s original intention for our life. 

  4. As we grow in faith, in understanding God’s ways… the passionate parts of our hearts begin to stir and gain clarity. A healthy and expected side effect of our spirit being ‘freed’ from the shackles of sin, fear, and condemnation. Can we trust our hearts? 

  5. What is your passion? How can you determine the role you’re destined to play in the divine story? What would you risk if it meant you could find and fulfill your purpose? 

  6. Jesus is offering to connect our passions with His purpose… to any who would seek Him first.  At first glance a contradiction, on closer inspection it’s a realignment of our hearts with His.  

This is the life God offers. It’s full of struggle and suffering, but in the end it’s about purpose and passion. A re-discovering of our heart and the intimate journey of desire.eldredge-quote

It’s a risk to upset the safe and predictable for the unknown… a risk well worth taking.

Pastor Brad.

PS: Noted author and therapist John Eldredge and his ministry (Ransomed Heart) is where I recommend you start. Connect the dots. Find your purpose by affirming your passion.

Change is a coming…

Caleb turns eighteen on Thursday.

Our baby boy all grown up. Man that was fast! Life spinning faster, harder…more intense. Graduations, birthdays, milestones to mark the rapidly changing landscape of our lives.

universityparent.com

universityparent.com

Nothing stays the same, an oxymoronic statement that can’t be proven, but certainly true. Life is ever shifting, adapting, overcoming, failing, falling, frustratingly slow and then breathtaking and out-of-control fast! 

The rise and fall of seasons, colors, images and smells flying past as we wind our way through the parenting years of life. Each beautiful moment priceless and perfect, followed by months of monotony and survival.

How can we remain and they move on ?

What anchors a parent to the reality of life when everything and everyone is a changing ? I’m convinced it’s the presence of Love that makes the home a ‘constant’. Not where you live or eat or drive, but the real presence of unconditional acceptance and grace… that spirit of love and hopeful expectancy is what makes our homes… “Home”.

Changing all the time, our kids… our lives are radically different from one year to the next. Urgently driving a taxi from one sports practice to the next… school pushing out private lives, we adapt. Soon, our tween-teens move past us, needing space and identities all their own. Leaving us to absorb the extra margins of life, living close but not hovering in their emerging adulthood.

Soon, they need the ‘push’ of leaving our nest. Heartbreaking and beautiful, we watch as they stretch their forming wings and frantically beat at the air of life. Slowly gaining confidence and skill as they navigate the wind currents and storms.

It’s change, and change alone that we can count on as parents. Sharing our love in each season of our lives, making our homes the bastions of peace and love they need is all we can do after a certain decision-making stage arrives.

Leaning on our faith, and the constancy of our creator… we gain perspective and purpose. Stronger for the experience, wiser and more patient we watch.

everydaylife.globalpost.com

everydaylife.globalpost.com

Life is a glorious circle, full of unique and unmistakable glimpses of the divine, balanced by the foolish and fantastic. It’s too much of an adventure to miss, and I wouldn’t trade any of the moments so far.

This spring, as graduation gowns are donned… let’s be sure to un-clench our hearts and blow out a long… steadying… breath. Change really is beautiful… and would we want it any other way?

Pastor B.

Some changes ARE significant…

Change is inevitable.

We all accept that as we age…things do change. Our babies grow and graduate High School, get married and start families. Our hair changes color and then thins, technology and science advance and each generation of new leaders step up up and shape our society in new ways.

As a Christian I recognize the changes of life are unavoidable, but the shifting balance of societal values and moral beliefs are much more unsettling than the new patch of grey I just discovered in my beard. I can’t help but wonder if the times in which we live are actually unique and more significant in the tapestry of biblical history than any before.

Blood Moon - theindychannel.com

Blood Moon – theindychannel.com

As I study scripture and pray, processing some of the more recent upheavals in our world…

I wonder.

I wonder if the prophetic warnings of scripture are actually becoming the unavoidable ‘realities’ of this generation?  

I wonder if the ancient texts are becoming today’s current events and that the rumblings of doctrinal apostasy and spiritual relativism are warnings to heed? Truths guarded for a millennium by our Christian fathers are eroding in a few decades.

Ideas and opinions have begun to grow within the mainstream of Christian thinking that shake the very foundations of our faith, and may in fact be the strongest evidence yet of a rapidly approaching ‘end of days’ ?

I have to wonder if what ancient prophets, priests and kings have heralded for thousands of years isn’t now – in our time – coming slowly into focus as I tune in CNN.

Sobering details of God’s judgement and return that have all been foretold in the bible…but due to their slow approach, largely forgotten and ignored by the world and the church.

Parents, change is normal for life…. but the rapid deterioration of traditional Christian (Biblical) values and principles in our time may in fact herald a very significant and unprecedented change. One that Christian believers have been waiting a very long time to see…. the return of our King.

As you pray, and live and love through your days… be aware that the rapidly shifting society around you may in fact be the opening act of a series of events that have long been foreshadowed and described in scripture. It’s time to really start to “wake up” and see the days are not just ‘changing’ in the normal ebb and flow of history and societal development… not really. This is something much different, change unlike any other that has come before in human history.

how much is left ?

how much is left ?

It’s time to remember who we are, and where we’re going...  to share our faith with passionate intensity and to stand for the truth courageously. Things are not going to simply keep changing until the earth overheat’s and melts. There will be an “ending” to this epic story of life and earth and man, and we may be witnessing the beginning of its end.

Something to think about,

Something to pray about,

Something to share with our kids.

I’m not an alarmist, not a big ‘end-times’ pastor guy, but I am wondering….how much time is left for us ?

Pastor B.

Post Script: Here are a few, very general follow up thoughts or clarifications from some of the reader questions received on this blog post;

Current Events: The rise of a militant and radicalized Islamic caliphate in the middle east for the first time in almost a millennium (Last Muslim Caliphate ended in 1258 AD), with an extreme hatred of the Jewish nation and Christian faith.

Financial markets and global economics are also showing the world has changed in fundamental ways. The shifting in economies and financial stability away from past regional or national influences to the modern technology fueled, world wide – inter-related,  global system of trading is significant. An international dependency and complexity, vast and so integrated it cannot be fully understood, has literally evolved in our modern era to create conditions that have never existed before.

The overall inter-connectivity of the world from transportation to communications to media, allows for the unprecedented rapid integration of ideas, beliefs and information to billions of people in real time. These massive information platforms, allow for a few opinions to shape millions of lives, and with selective editing, sound bytes can be detailed as ‘facts’.

All of these and many more current events help to set the stage for future events to roughly correspond with many of the scenarios of biblical prophecy in the end times. (author note; this ‘reading’ of current events as relevant to end times prophecy has been true of almost every generation of Christians since the middle ages, each believing Christ’s return was imminent.)

Apostasy;  a moving away (abandonment, defection) from a previous conviction, loyalty, or belief as in a personal rejection of one’s prior religious faith.

Modern theology and doctrinal beliefs within the body of Christ universally are shifting to parallel the social and cultural pressures on a variety of issues including, sanctity of scripture, homosexuality and the literal facts of Christ’s virgin birth, death and bodily resurrection. Before there can be the elevation of a one -world government/religion and leader (anti-christ) as described in scripture, a great falling away or “apostasy’ must occur first, removing the barriers of traditional views on morality and faith in the unification of the worlds peoples, cultures and great religions.

Spiritual Relativism; the belief that different things are true, right, etc., for different people or at different times. 

A subtle drifting or moving away from the traditional biblical blueprint (pattern) for determining truth and values. The reorientation of life from a biblical world view to a individual world view that centers around one’s personal opinion of what is ok, a variable belief in ‘right’ or wrong. Seen clearly in our cultural approach to issues of poverty, injustice, sexuality, divorce, education the existence of sin, the sanctity of life & legal abortion, substance abuse etc… These ‘outdated’ moral values will need to be reduced from ‘feared and revered’ to ‘illegal’ for the authority of the bible and Christ’s church to be undermined and the end times  prophetic warnings to come alive.

Authors note; I am NOT a scholar, theologian or prophetic expert.

I do recognize that these issues while present in all generations before us, are escalating at an unusual pace, moving rapidly into the Christian culture, not just the secular one. The changes I’m seeing within Christianity appear to be unlike previous historical patterns of cultural and moral shift. It makes me wonder.

Simple Solutions to Crazy Complex Problems

Listening to news about the Australian Baseball player – gunned down by three teens for being “Bored” in Oklahoma… feeling the crazy push of a worldwide media storm, pundits weighing in on its’ cause and offering advice on how to fix things…

Christopher Lane - Australian (CNN)

Christopher Lane – Australian (CNN)

debating if this is a “racial” or “gun-control” or the “breakdown of the family” problem or simply crying over the fact that our culture’s going to “hell” etc.. .

So… after 48 hours of stewing, and pausing to take my daughters to college – I’m speaking up. Gonna do a brief “soapbox” blog today. Picture me getting up on my soapbox and not “quite” shouting this out at the world!

“HEY EVERYONE –  LISTEN TO ME”  – I KNOW WHAT TO DO ! I HAVE AN ANSWER !

It’s simple, time – tested and true. It works for any one who reads this. Rich or Poor, big or small… influential or forgotten… doesn’t matter, every single reader can join in. You don’t have to “buy “anything, join a church a club or protest at the courthouse. You don’t have to donate, get a tattoo or dress in a special outfit. In fact this works best if you continue to just be “you”.

ANSWER: ” What if we simply did for “one” what we wish we could do for all ?

Andy Stanley has been preaching this sermon for several years now ( He got it from the Bible), I could feel the power of this idea immediately.  I have a 4 kids now instead of 3 because of this idea.  DO FOR THE ONE !  Reach out, look for a special family, person or project that you know GOD is drawing you towards.. and take a risk, a small risk… a tiny itsy bitsy twinge of uncomfortable and offer to help. Ask if they would come over for lunch after church or watch a movie, grill out… grab one extra concert ticket or stop by to fix a leaky gutter.

It DOESN’T matter WHAT you decide to do for someone else, it’s just important that you DO!

Our communities, our families our lives are so fractured, so inwardly narcissistic that we rush by and MISS the needs and opportunities to be Jesus to those we brush shoulders with every day. A neighbor and friend of a friend, a teacher or a coach… all of us can see who and where and how to act if we look !

Do for the One... (pic credit - www.chiefrabbi.org

Do for the One… (pic credit – http://www.chiefrabbi.org

I get the push back on the relentless barrage of commercials asking us to help end world hunger, animal cruelty and AID’s. I feel the sting of the guilt everyone else does when a starving African orphan is staring back at me when I switch through the cable channels on TV.

I check out mentally when that happens… it’s all TOO BIG, TOO HUGE for me to consider. I’m just one person… we’re only one family… what could we do?

Turns out… when you reach out to “ONE” … a lot starts to happen, orphans find homes. Widows are comforted and single mom’s get their “to-do” list’s done. Yards get mowed, mouths fed and hope renewed.

Instead of groaning about the tragic world we live in… we could change it.

Pastor b.