Moving through the Wilderness is Moving Past Me.

Moving past Me

We may be starting to appreciate the design in our wilderness circumstances, even begin to understand the strategy in all our struggles, but the battle to survive the process we’re caught up in will require us to lift our gaze further than we have before.

The journey of faith we’ve been invited into cannot simply be focused on our situation, it’s larger and bigger than us. His presence in our lives is meant to be more than a means to an end. He cannot be approached without shrugging off our selfish and ambitious nature.

We cannot proceed any further in our upward ascent to following God if we insist on retaining what remains of our old self and sense of control. Thus the need for us to be driven into a desert / a wilderness moment of life, a place of being sorted out from the contamination of our world and the sins that so easily clings. (Hebrews 12:1-3) (Romans 12:1-3)

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The maturing focus of our spiritual journey requires a shift from our plans and promotion, to the relationship behind the entire belief system. Christianity is not a path for personal enlightenment or purification for our own merit – but rather as a process of being sanctified and consecrated for the creators presence. We are not our own.

Our relationship with God must become greater than any other preoccupation of our hearts. We can’t simply pursue His favor and blessings, we won’t progress any further than we are. To move deeper and higher we must relinquish our very identities to Him. Finding our strength and value and purpose in our time we spend within His presence.

He is not a means to an end… HE IS THE END.

Tozer quote: “We must be concerned with the person and character of God, not the promises. Through promises we learn what God has willed to us, we learn what we may claim as our heritage, we learn how we should pray. But faith itself must rest on the character of God.

 Is this difficult to see? Why are we not stressing this in our evangelical circles? Why are we afraid to declare that people in our churches must come to know God Himself? Why do we not tell them that they must get beyond the point of making God a lifeboat for their rescue or a ladder to get them out of a burning building? How can we help our people get over the idea that God exists just to help run their businesses or fly their airplanes?

 God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God. He made heaven and earth. He holds the world in His hand. He measures the dust of the earth in the balance. He spreads the sky out like a mantle. He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father, and you are His child. He sits in heaven, and you are on the earth.”

 From his book; Faith Beyond Reason, 44.

Parenting Essentials #5 – Fighting Single Parent Stigma!

Single Parent Stigma and the Church!

1/3 of all households are led by a single parent. (34%) Today’s single parents are struggling to engage with the church and with their faith. Being ‘alone’ and unsupported by the Christian culture is something solo parents often ‘feel’, no matter what a local community of faith might project.

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The battle for single parents is real. It’s hard enough to raise our children to be responsible and well-balanced citizens, to provide for their well-being, and keep up with the all the myriad of demands that life throws at us. The challenge to do that without a spouse is nearly impossible. Single parents are overwhelmed by it all in the best of circumstances, and they need our help.

The role of church in coming along side of single parents has largely been a question. Many single parents feel abandoned or judged by the church and lack the confidence to enter the doors of a church to ask for help.

As parents, the demands of doing both a father and mother’s job with their kids is intimidating and discouraging. We as Christ-followers are challenged to help the “widows and orphans” as a manifestation of our ‘true religion”. (James 1:27)

What role should the church play in supporting a single parent? Why?

The growing needs and complex issues surrounding single parent families are not going away, and as our culture continues to shift… the role of family will obviously continue to grow and stretch. The church will need to stretch and grow with those changes and reach to meet the needs of parents in crisis.  A big part of that change within the church will be the priority of creating ministries specifically focused on the needs of the single parent family.

Our interview today explores some of the ‘stigma’s associated with Single parent living, and how to engage with your local church in a way that will help and not hurt you! We invite you to listen in as Nikki tells her story of redemption and renewal!

 About Nikki Leonti Edgar:

Nikki Leonti started her music career as a successful teen gospel singer. She went on to lend her vocals as a backing singer for artists such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, CeeLo Green, Demi Lovato & Amy Grant to name a few. As a sought-after vocalist in Los Angeles she contributes her talent to Fox’s hit show “Glee” as well as “American Idol”, “The Voice”, CW’s “Oh Sit” and many others!

Author of “All things Beautiful” 31 Devotionals for single moms!

Interview Links:

Podcast Interview Link:  https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/ep59-nikki-leonti-edgar

YouTube Link of interview:  https://youtu.be/5CgGxmHJLMk

Solo Parent Society Link: https://soloparentsociety.com/

Brilliantly Brave Parenting Website Link: https://brilliantlybraveparenting.com

“All things beautiful” Devotional Link: https://www.amazon.com/All-Things-Beautiful-Devotions-Single/dp/1424556287

Notable Quotes:

Fact: 34% of parents are single parent families.

“In the middle of struggling… that’s where the GOOD stuff happens” – Nikki Leonti Edgar

“Single parents struggle with feeling like a ‘failure’ when dealing with the issues single parents face in raising a family.”

“It’s difficult for Single Parents (SP) to know how to ask for help when you feel isolated and alone”

“SP’s need lifelines. Take the time to throw a lifeline to a single parent you know.”

“Ways to help SP’s in your life or church. – Babysitting – handyman services – errands – meals at home!”

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

When you hate your job, but love your life.

We all want to find fulfilment.

When we were younger, we just pressed ahead with our life. We weren’t thinking too far, just focused on the ‘here and now’,  pushing to climb whatever ladder was in front of us. We worked hard to do our best, we wanted more for our lives and a piece of the ‘American Dream”.  School, career, family, church. Each option with its own unique set of struggles and issues to overcome, but oddly they are the same. 

We work and work to gain the next rung of whatever ladder we find ourselves on, pulling up one more level, determined to get further and higher than the others.

Somewhere along the way we notice this isn’t making me very happy. It may be sooner for some and later for others, but in each of our lives we notice.

The faith we’ve kept offers some vague promises about life being ‘full’ and having ‘joy’ in the journey, but it’s a bit hazy when we slow down our ladder climbing enough to think it through. 

We can get a bit surly inside, irritated by the growing dissatisfaction of our progress. The goals we set in our youth shimmer in the distance, unmet. We ponder with regret some of the decisions and compromises we’ve made. We wonder what could have been…

It’s about at this point that I begin to hear comments about how much people hate their jobs. It creeps out at first, bitter and seeping out from the inside. Working late, going in early, struggling to keep up… it’s clear why we run out of gas. Our work doesn’t always fulfill us. It may pay the bills but it doesn’t bring us lasting contentment or satisfaction.

Last night in church LifeGroup we discussed the idea of “vocational calling“. The concept of having a specific purpose and set of unique gifts that God himself granted us. It’s in this idea of a divine purpose that we can find some ‘light’ for this dark and disturbing tunnel we may find ourselves in.

For the Christian, our purpose and our calling go hand in hand. But, our occupations are often unrelated. So, when we work at the local supermarket but long to teach Sunday school… we begin to understand the dichotomy of loving our life but hating our job. Totally understandable. 

God wired us to be in ‘vocational’ ministry for our entire life. We will naturally have a ‘bent’ or leaning towards our calling. No matter where we live or work, we’ll find ourselves drawn to certain causes or people. We will always want to ‘teach’ others if we’re called to be a ‘teacher’. It doesn’t matter if we find work as a fireman or a judge, nothing we ‘do’ will provide as much satisfaction or ‘fulfilment’ as what we were created to ‘be’. Understanding that concept is a huge step forward!

Love this quote from Frederick Buechner “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

So, let’s discover what God created you to ‘be’ and don’t be confused that what you ‘do’ is the same thing as what your called to “be”. The distance between our paycheck and our hearts can be frustrating.  Remember, St. Paul was a tentmaker by day, Apostle by night. I’m confident it wasn’t ‘fulfilling’ for him to work as a common laborer, but it provided the path for his ‘calling’ to be realized. For some courageous few, we get to do both at the same time, but most of us have to work jobs that are not our vocations.

For those who are sick of the disappointments and pointless sacrifices made at work, it may be worth the effort to dig a bit and find what your ‘calling’ or ‘vocation’ really is.

Be careful on google, there are tons of people and groups who claim to have the magic fulfilment formula, but most are selling you something. God has been whispering to us all along who He is and what we were created to be.

Here is one resource I would recommend.

God bless! Pastor B.

Source Notation. “How to understand your vocational calling

Take it Back!

Words spoken in anger…

We get frustrated. We say stuff we regret. Harsh words spoken with painful spite, the net effect… a wounded heart. 

Pain from the accusation. Pain from the separation of friends and lovers. Pain from the truth and its bitter sting… pain from a well placed lie and the venom of being misunderstood.

Such little things… words.

Add a mix of social media and instant technology, and the toxic can become catastrophic for relationships.

The Coaching Room

As parents and pastors the field of life is strewn with the corpses of past friends, fellow soldiers for the King and old comrades in arms now fallen.  We see the gross and festering wounds of bitter disappointment and resentment seeping across the hearts of those we minister to… and with.

The culture is sucking us dry. We’re being trained to cut loose our baggage… to move on when things get messy. No relationship is worth our sacrifice and struggle, we exhaust and offend easily, fragile in our self-absorption and pride. 

The gospel of Christ forces us to look beyond self-interest. It re-aligns our hearts to something greater than affirmation and glory. The gospel received awakens something super-natural in us… and true love awakes.

We crave to serve and sacrifice, an unexpected contentment and growing satisfaction in our heart. Our relationships begin to bring us strength, fulfilment, and peace, not the old familiar creep of bitterness and jealous resentent.

Brings to mind an inspired poem that sparked a revival of sorts; “…Whatever it takes they will give: Breaking the rules. Shaking mediocrity from its cosy little hide. Laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs,…” (The Vision Poem

Guys… we must lay down the offenses, forgive the offenders, and take back our words. There’s no other way to reconcile.

Andrea Lystrup Therapy

If you’re struggling with a relationship. If you find yourself distant and isolated, nursing a grudge… it’s time to take it back. Yep… those words of anger and hurt need to be recalled.

Pick up your mobile phone… arrange for some coffee talk and take a risk. Share your regrets and your pain… swallow your pride and fight on dear one. The relationships of life are our only true treasures to keep. 

Peace out- Pastor B.

 

Why 13?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 No Filter Tour

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

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

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

Blessings and Happy Easter!

pastor Brad.

Tweens and Spirituality…

Tweens (kids from 8-13) usually grades 4 -8 are confronted with all kinds of decisions… Who to hang out with…what to wear, where do they fit in? Sports or Band… Science Club or Theatre?

Are they popular enough to be on the ‘inside’ or do they have to retreat to being on the outside, looking in? Have they given up on the popular crowd, taking bitter pride in their independent status as non-conforming and creatively superior?

Or maybe you catch them trying on different styles, looks, and attitudes like a fashionista – exchanging one interest or hobby after another, desperately searching for their niche. Anxious to find a place to ‘fit’ in the overwhelmingly tense structures of modern-day tween-teen social life. tween-slumber-party

These anxieties are centered around school and the elusive ‘popular’ designation and looking to peers as the ultimate validation for their identities. To find that affirmation, our kids are mixing it up with social media consumption at an average of over 9 hours a day, and check their ‘status’ now over a 100 times per day (*13 year olds – see study here) !

YIKES.

Seeing our kids struggling to sort it all out is painful to watch. As parents we remember what it’s like to get caught in the awkward transition from kid to adult. The tween years are painful, ugly, and intense under the best of circumstances…. add to the mess an uncontrollable surge of media and social critique and suddenly we’re in uncharted territory.

There are dark and unpredictable threats to even the most stable families, the most grounded kids are wrestling with personal value, sexuality, and self-worth.

Parents must step further into the adolescent equation than ever before. Gone are the days of ‘protecting’ your kids privacy, letting them form identities as they grow up through trial and error. Gone are the days of simply trusting your kids to have a ‘good-time’ with their friends at the game.

Today, parents must take regular and intrusive steps to review or monitor the social media on their kids phones… educating ourselves about the severity of the assault on our kids hopes and dreams. Attacks that hit everything about our kids that we love… accusations that undermine identities, self-worth, modesty, purity, character, personal beliefs, and of course… spirituality.  teary-teen-image

Kids need to explore their spiritual beliefs every bit as much and more than all of the ‘other’ stuff around them. For the churched kids, they learn to adapt, responding as expected to whatever questions pastors, parents, and religious kids throw at them. Not rejecting the faith completely, just slowing and taking a guarded – wait and see – approach to spirituality.

IF we don’t ask.. our kids just won’t deal with it.

As the parent of a tween / teen, you voice is the greatest voice in your kids life! Not the youth pastor, YouTube, or their friends. YOU!!!

So, take full responsibility and authority and face the uncomfortable silences as you wait for your tween to answer. ASK them about their faith. ASK them to articulate what it is they believe about God. About themselves… about how they see faith in their school stresses and how God helps in their relationships.

We have to connect the dots between church and real life. Our tweens must see and experience their faith in the day-to-day – struggle of being alive. It’s how true faith is formed for all of us.

Something to consider.

Pastor B.