Do you know what you believe?

Seems silly to ask…

But an important question for each of us to answer.

Do you/we know what we actually believe about the essentials ? You know, the important stuff like… “what or who is God”, “what role does Faith play in our lives”… “what is Christianity”… “where do I land on the moral and social justice issues of our time”, “does absolute truth exist”?

Nicene Creed

Nicene Creed

We often carry what we ‘know’ without much consideration. With no urgency to explore the reasons why we ‘believe’ stuff… we sort of move through life untroubled by doubt until someone else crosses our path and disagrees stridently with us. Suddenly we’re confronted with all sorts of irritated thoughts and questions, strong emotional reactions pouring out of us in a rush to defend our beliefs, it’s often in those moments we start to realize we truly can’t explain why.

Personal convictions of truth must go deeper than a vague concept of what’s right or wrong or a long ago memorized creed. Today, we need to go beyond what we were ‘taught’ or learned ourselves from pop culture, childhood Sunday school lessons, or the simple acceptance of what our parents said was true. What do WE believe?

Complex and life altering influences are all around us. From the latest polls to the block-buster movies we’re catching at the local cinema, we may be absorbing more of our cultures beliefs than we realize, reduced to a faith based-carbon copy of our secular counterparts. Emotion driving us to form our values and personal beliefs, from recycling to a woman’s freedom of choice.

With a moment or two of consideration, we may find we’re far less formed in faith beliefs and convictions than we first ‘thought we were’. 

What do we believe… ?Chesterton-Quote

My challenge dear reader.., take the time to find out! Invest a little time in some personal research. Educate yourself by reading up and praying through your life. Ask God to show and confirm to you the “truth”.

Learn about some of the defining issues of our time and consider for yourself what is ‘right’ and ‘true’. Our kids will take their ‘que’ from us. IF they see us asking the important questions… they will too.

In this millennial generation, maybe more so than any in a long time…beliefs are going to be tested. Simply ‘assuming’ our kids agree with us because they compliantly follow along right now, isn’t going to cut it. WE / THEY need to ask the hard questions, wrestle through the options and find the truth for themselves.

Honestly, there just isn’t any other way. And, I believe it’s all as intended by the great designer Himself.

Every blessing to you as parent your families forward to life…. and check out some great resources from Reasonable Theology; start your ‘belief’ journey here !

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B.

PS – the sacred “Creeds’ of the Christian Faith are a fantastic way to review the essentials. Teaching those to your kids is a great way to start the process of learning. But simply memorizing the words isn’t the same as understanding and believing.

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Transplant Theology

The Christian faith has to be more than a list of what not’s. More than a set of higher ideals and noble pursuits… the faith of those who follow Christ must have a bit of the supernatural. The mystic and mysterious nature of God and man intermingling and re-engineering our very souls has to be way more than just a tradition or practice of piety.

galleryhip.com

galleryhip.com

Our basic beliefs hinge on some radical concepts... the violation of known physical and scientific law (Virgin Birth, Resurrection of a dead man, elemental control of the weather, gravity, etc..), as well as the most impossible evidence of all, the regular and repeated transformation of one’s desire’s.

As Christians we are supposed to serve a God of the impossible and improbable.

Why do we tend to retreat to the safe-zone of scientific reason and rational logic when defending our faith and beliefs? Is it to protect ourselves from public ridicule and the private smirk of cynics and realists, embarrassed to be counted as one of the radical Christian ‘fringe’?

Are we uncomfortable being lumped in as part of the emotionally unstable… a sensational and unpredictable ‘charismatic’ Christian, always claiming to see and experience dynamic movements of the Holy Spirit?

So what are we comfortable with?

justacatholic.blogspot.com

justacatholic.blogspot.com

Safe church services where we can easily predict what comes next? Do we enjoy the elevated discussions on theology, doctrine and bible semantics, careful consideration of the latest Christian best-sellers and media… maybe it’s the social predictability of seeing ‘normal’ and safe people with healthy personal boundaries and a familiar mindset. These can be quite reassuring, but are they what we need ?

Our most essential truth is the power of God expressed on a cross to raise the dead.

The very man who claimed to be “THE” son of God… an example of supernatural power and uncomfortable custom – breaking behaviors. He talked with prostitutes, drank in the local pubs, taught without a seminary degree, challenged the ‘heart ‘of the law and revealed the differences between hypocrisy and authentic faith.

Jesus transcended the history and influence of all holy men, prophets, and religious leaders who ever lived in 3 brief years. His message of new life still vibrant over two thousand years later. So what validated what He claimed was the truth?

Miracles validated Christ’s claims.

What is going to validate our faith to this generation…?

quietkinetic.wordpress.com

quietkinetic.wordpress.com

For me, it’s the miracle of a heart transplant. That I could give up my old broken heart for a new – pure true one. The spontaneous regeneration of my character, morality and compassion from the ravages of sin and compromise. God re-arranged me from the inside out. Every atom realigned to become something ‘different‘ than I had been. Like a flash of lightning, my life was turned inside out and from wrong to right.

A legitimate miracle.

Since that day… my life has been one transformational moment after another. First in me, then my family and now in the church I help lead.

The Holy Spirit untamed as ever, has pushed me from all things comfortable and familiar as I follow…. seeking to just keep up.

I believe we need more of the miraculous and less of the safe stuff we call Christianity. We need some transplant theology to radically revive our collective hearts and to show a watching world that God is still very much alive.

Peace out,  Pastor B.

 

 

the final Peace for your puzzle

Monday morning, 5:30 am. Alarm blares and first thoughts of the day hit like an icy fist in the gut…. Dread, Fear, Anxiety, knots of unease form as we grapple mentally with problems unresolved and coming up in our day. “We wonder …what is going on with my life? Things are piling up around and over me, heavier and deeper each year…everyone else is speeding up while I’m laying here stuck!

artsonline.monash.edu.au

artsonline.monash.edu.au

Gulping down breakfast and dropping the kid’s at school, Kroger, the gas station, and onto work… channel surfing the radio and looking for something to ‘grab’ for the day. An inspiring song, a great sermon sound-byte, promising news report on the economy….’anything positive to give us just a smidge of comfort, some scrap of encouragement for a day that seems doomed before it begins.

Disgusted at the lack of hope in the world,  you settle for a retro radio station and sip convenience store coffee until the demands of the day force back the dull ache that used to be your heart. We’re only dimly aware we might be surrendering our yearning for something ‘better’ to simply surviving.

Life, it’s crazy complicated. Family, marriage, career…they each demand all of us. Friends, bosses and children…all shouting for us to “keep up!”  We run and hustle obediently to get things done, pushing forward. Numbly we find a way to fit ‘everything and everyone’ into our 24/7 schedules, only to find ourselves back in bed… waking up with a fresh round of deeper anxiety and dread.

Whats happening to us ?

Couple of quick thoughts,

1 – We have to ‘remember’ our purpose. God created us, our kids… our friends, everyone and everything with purpose. We’re not random accidents of science and happenstance. Our lives have purpose,but finding the purpose in the day-to-day is hard. It takes effort and intentionality to rediscover your faith and focus for life. (that means time)!  Sharing your heart (fears, frustrations and anxieties) with God, reading scripture and hanging out on a regular basis with a community of faith 🙂

2 – We have to ‘trust’ that in our purpose, God has a plan. Our life circumstances are more than a series of tragic episodes. We’re in process, being changed and transformed from the in-side out. Faith means believing there will be ‘good’ that comes out of our suffering, in our difficulties God shows up. We learn to recognize His face, His voice and His path instead of the ‘other’ options we have.

3- Our hearts are redeemed. As a Christian, you’re living with a redeemed heart. God has touched you with His Holy Spirit, it hovers inside of your life, and inspires us to do great and beautiful things with our lives. It’s only barrier to full expression is fear.  We live as wounded and wary people, avoiding risk and intimacy in an effort to avoid more pain. But the truth is we’re designed to grow only by sharing, only by sacrifice can we become whole. When we live ‘guarded’ lives, we’re only living with half of our hearts.

God is closer than we feel. He’s touched us before, and He’s ready every morning to touch us again. To take away our fear, and pain and sorrow and replace it with peace. It’s one of the most important pieces in our life puzzle. Once we sort that out, we can start to see the patterns and beauty of our lives unfold.

Love you, Pastor B.

 

 

 

Stop Apologizing

I find myself “apologizing” for all kinds of random stuff.

I apologize…

For irritating my teenagers when I ask them to get off their smart phone and do the dishes.

For asking for help.

For speaking the truth in a posture of love.

For going back to exchange the right item for my drive-through order.

For being offended by an overtly sinful act or image.

For opening the door for a lady I don’t know.

For praying before a meal at a restaurant.

For not being as passionate about political issues as my friends.

For not praying enough and for feeling like I’m ‘bothering’ God when I do pray.

It seems I apologize frequently.

A sort of social knee-jerk for me when I sense any potential for imminent conflict or uncomfortable tension in a circumstance or relationship.

As modern, culturally conditioned parents and Christians, we’re taught to be über sensitive to others. To do our best to avoid being rude, offensive and presumptuous with our faith or beliefs. As a result I and We often take the ‘high’ road of avoidance in an effort to simply reduce the stress on our own lives. That ‘appears’ to be the right thing…until you really think it through.

uheart.wordpress.com

uheart.wordpress.com

As Parents… we’re called to lead. As Christians we’re called to be distinct in our world, “light” in the dark and “salt”for flavoring ? 

What happens if we simply fade back into the word-work and allow other more vocal and angry folks to paint the context for Christianity or Culture without our voices? What if we refuse to risk rejection in a vain attempt to be conciliatory and safe?

As I study – grow and learn from scripture, I’m captured by the boldness of men and women of Faith. Those who threw off the social ‘norms’ and status quo to embrace a new way of living from an emerging gospel that brought truth and clarity to the lost and confused.

A Pilgrims path of understanding and reconciliation that included openly confessing their beliefs in the Cross of Christ and sharing with others of the ways in which His gift of forgiveness had released them from enduring a life of captivity & shame.

The emphasis in the early church* was of a passionate compulsion to reach out to others, to share, to rescue and to love, not to pull back in restraint and apathetic – distant – contemplation.

God help us to be ‘bold’ and “loving’ followers of Jesus, clearing our minds and hearts from the self-imposed ‘shame’ of an apologetic gospel. Following Christ may cause some confrontations from time to time, but in the end… if we’re motivated by love, it can only heal, restore and redeem those who it touches. Help us to be your ‘hands and feet‘ to a world that continues to spiral out of control.

Parents, lead on!

Oh, and fellow believers….let’s stop apologizing for the clarity that comes from living for and in Christ.

Pastor B.

*for reference, check out the Apostle Paul’s’ letter to the Colossians and Philemon in the New Testament. (Source – BibleGateway)

 

Prodigal pain

Raising kids up and into adulthood can be one of the most rewarding and most painful experiences a parent will ever face.

Those of us with adult kids (over 18) know exactly what I’m referring to here. Those of you who don’t yet.. bear with me a little on this post.

We can faithfully serve, model and demonstrate our faith to our kids year after year and still find ourselves nauseous with the gut wrenching turmoil of watching one of our own “bail” on everything we tried to teach. Authentic and faithful are all we can be. After that, it’s up to the Holy Spirit and free will.

I recently had to watch a 22-year-old son in the faith, flat-out walk away from the truth he had embraced only months before. The culprit, infatuation and months of deceit with a healthy dose of behavior modification to smooth things over.

In the end, the truth came out and he decided to leave the confines of our Christian home and seek his fortunes elsewhere…on his own terms. He left his faith, the truth of the scripture and the divine blue-print God gives us for a healthy life all behind as he made his escape.

Broke my heart.

If you’ve ever experienced that for yourself, you know how much those three words contain. But it didn’t break my hope for him. I am trusting him to the same grace and goodness of the God who chased me down as a 30-year-old . I had hoped to help him avoid the many painful regrets of a life lived selfishly and to provide a healthy foundation for his life to be built on… but that it seems will have to wait.

In the interim, I can pray and wait and watch.

I’m praying for God to interfere with his plans and re-direct him back to the safety of his faith. I’m waiting expectantly for that to happen and confident that it’s not a matter of  “IF” but of “WHEN”… and I’m watching so I can rush to greet him when he surrenders it all to Christ and resumes the journey of life and faith we began together.

Jesus uses the parable of the prodigal for a reason. In one way or another we are ALL in that illustration of life. For some of us with adult children who are living outside of the will of God, it’s an obvious and poignant reminder of the truth.

For others it’s a reminder to trust God to be faithful for our kids at any age, believing that their eternal security is riding on more than just our ability to be “good” parents. It’s riding on the complete and absolute willingness of God our Father to do whatever it takes to win their hearts.

Let’s hang tight to our confidence and trust our kids (adult or tween) to the loving Father who saved us when we were lost too, after all it’s only a matter of time.

Peace and Grace -Pastor B.

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Luke 15:11-32 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

NOAH… the movie

NOAH… “the” Noah. Legend, myth… or actual historic figure, whatever you choose to believe, his tale is an epic story, pulled from the ancient archives of the book of Genesis., the first book of the bible. The most recent incarnation of Noah comes to life in Russell Crowe, part of a big budget, super intense – CGI fantasy show, complete with apocalyptic immersion into the ‘pre-history’ of mankind.

Noah’s world is an ash-tray of a garbage dump, blackened and fouled by the industrial hordes of pre-historical technology and a violent, lawless society. Noah serves to protect the last of the pristine earth and it’s animals from the relentless surge of a blood-thirsty civilization.

The cinematography is DARK and DIRE, sweeping and full of some strange stuff, and ideas. (i.e. Watchers)

Filmed largely in Iceland, this epic story becomes a very focused dramatic tale about the dysfunctional family dynamics that twist Noah’s life.

For parents, this movie is dark, scary and at times bloody. A violent, but not so far-fetched interpretation of the biblical text. A bit too violent and scary for youngsters in my opinion. Kids under 13-14 should steer clear, but for those with teens, this provide parents with an excellent opportunity to go deeper.

My encouragement is this… take your teens to see this with you. Prepare them by reading through the Genesis narrative as contained in the scriptures. (Gen 5-9) Once you have your popcorn and milk duds, kick back and enjoy the fictional and gritty drama of Noah’s family as they cope with the pressures of global genocide and personal faith. The acting is solid and you’ll find yourself caught up in the tension that builds between Noah and his daughter/wife/sons along the way.

I did appreciate the powerful reality check the movie provides to us as believers. Namely that there is such a day as “judgment day” and that sin isn’t a minor detail on the way to the warm glow of an Easter story. I also appreciated the struggle Noah has with understanding what God is calling him to do, making his faith all to familiar, something for us all to appreciate.

hdwallpapersdose.com-

hdwallpapersdose.com-

Note the odd emphasis on Noah’s intense – even rabid faith portrayal, the value placed on animals over mankind and the use of magic by Noah’s grandfather along the way. Entertaining and intense, this story is a bit of a ssstttrrreeeettttcccchhhhh , but it serves a very useful purpose. You will have your teens interested enough in the bible to read and talk about it for days to come.

For the record, it’s big budget and exciting, although a “downer”, it is full of great music and hi-tech imaging, effectively recreating what would seem to be the basic “vibe” of the old world decay that the bible describes.

I happen to believe the bible is accurate, truthful and trustworthy, making this story more than just a fable, but a piece of our historical journey with God. As such, it’s message is timeless and powerful… making it a significant movie pick for today’s family to consider.

That’s enough for me to recommend taking your own voyage to the nearest theatre!

Peace out and past the popcorn already… 🙂

Pastor B.

Ashes to Ashes… dust to dust

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, the start of Lent and a surprisingly important time to reflect and for some… be renewed.

A season of contemplation and renewed perspective. Not only should we consider the epic sacrifice’s our savior made on our behalf, but also on the path He chose to save us. It’s only natural that we might consider to the path our lives have taken. We all have dreams and hopes, we all have regrets and frustrations…but each Lenten season I can’t help but take the opportunity to reflect on where I am in the timeline of my life. Ash Wednesday pic

To take the time to ask and pray and listen… God, where are my kids at in their journey… my wife, me ?

Am I zooming way off into the distance, frantic and desperate to stay ahead of the curves? Maybe even way ahead of God and his timing? Or am I slinking back a bit…dozing off into comfortable apathy, lethargic and ignoring the issues of my life that need tending ?

Or maybe, on reflection you find you’re doing great! Walking in sync with your faith and living with purpose but you can’t help but notice there might be some trouble on your growing teen’s life horizon.

Ash Wednesday provides us with a time of realignment. A shifting of our priorities and energy. The ashes we use on your forehead represent the dust of the earth (from which we came and to where we will return) and thus our own human mortality. For many of us, our lives loose perspective and it’s a struggle to remember the joys and privilege that is to be alive. Circumstances subtly re-arrange our goals from living with purpose to simply finding a way to survive. Often I find that the deep issues that derail me are the same one’s that I already know God has asked me to give up. 🙂

As you consider your life and the family you love so much… ask God to show you the areas of growth and change that He would want. Consider the things in your life that might be just out of balance, needing a “nudge” in the right direction once again. To do so is the essence of Lent and wonderful tradition that our church fathers have been leading us in for hundreds of years.

My hope is for your family to enjoy the simple and profound beauty of an Ash Wednesday service in your community and take the time to participate together. Not as a religious rite or guilty obligation, but as a time of helpful realignment in your busy life.

Peace out, Pastor B.

For more information about Ash Wednesday check out these sites;  CBS, About.com and Wikipedia