Understanding The Restlessness Within

Learning to reject our ‘old’ identity and habits for our ‘new’ identity in Christ is an ongoing struggle for dominance in our Christian psyche.

Each heart that confesses the name of Christ and invites & submits to His presence as ‘Lord” and savior in our heart, has activated a soul transforming process catalyzed by the Holy Spirit. 

No one can experience the presence of Christ within one’s heart and mind without being affected. It reorients and rearranges our spiritual DNA into something ‘new’ and ‘different’ than what was ‘us’ … before.

Photo by Amine M’Siouri from Pexels

Speaking only for myself, and quoting directly from my own personal journal entry, the process looks and feels like this;

I can sense the old patterns of thought, behavior, self-condemnation, guilt, and shame are being slowly replaced with a new confidence in the power and presence of Christ within me. The ‘old’ brad is almost gone, the new ‘brad’ is slowly emerging from the shadows of my past life. The habits, tendencies, and temptations of two decades ago are no longer a constant, living, memory, within my heart and mind. New habits and affections have replaced the old. My soul, heart, and mind are coming into alignment and my sense of becoming ‘whole’ is growing inside of me. The more ‘wholeness’ I sense, the less restlessness remains. The transformation of my identity from old to new is reducing my wandering heart and diminishing my anxieties and fears. 

The alignment of who I am in Christ with how I see myself, this is the new-growth of my current identity. I’m moving away from the ‘old’ man and actively leaning into the ‘new’ creation I was promised in scripture. This convergence of the internal and external man is what I mean by ‘wholeness’.

For me (and I believe for you too), the convergence of the promised and the present within, this is the hidden work of God’s Holy Spirit. He’s gently remaking me (us). We are works in progress, transitioning from being motivated by a restless and uncertain heart to a more grounded and comfortable one. A hidden transformation expanding from within.  This growing sense of inner peace and contentment is firmly connected to my (our) growing understanding of who and whose I am.

The Christian life is more than a static existence, more than a series of devotions and disciplines, it is a transformational journey. A hidden supernatural work within that recreates our very identities and deepest passions. 

God is re-writing His laws upon our hearts, as he repeatedly promised and prophesied. The presence of Christ within changes everything, and that my fellow believer, is the eternal power of the Gospel.

May the peace of Christ guard you’re ‘heart’ and mind.

Father Brad Mathias

 

Am I running the right race?

This week, we consider the metaphor of “Athletics” as our entrance into this passionate principle of Christian living.

Paul’s describing the (his) call to ministry as similar to running a race, an illustration that his audience would recognize and appreciate. Athletic heroes and achievements were as huge in Paul’s time as it is in ours. The influence of the Greek culture included the Olympic ideals of athletic excellence and the cult fame of being a champion.

Let’s consider something similar in our time… the cult of athletics is alive and well – fan worship is enormous. Just consider the recent success of the New England Patriot football team and the accomplishments of QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Their unprecedented record and longevity of winning has established  them as legends in the annals of the NFL.

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The effort and sacrifice required to earn such a reputation and record on the field is enormous and widely regarded as obsessive. Such dedication and personal commitment is remarkable and requires a year around dedication to train, diet, and avoid unhealthy habits or behaviors to ensure their bodies and minds are free of any containment’s or conditions that might reduce their athletic strength or skill.

This extreme level of athletic effort and prolonged discipline of will is the exact context that Paul uses to describe his focus and attention to ministry and personal spiritual living.

Assuming then that our lives are full of options – of different paths to choose from, we have lots of possibilities to race after, from prosperous careers to  acclaim and celebrity – we have our pick of races to run in – The question becomes… what race are you and I running? 

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. “

Paul’s life had changed dramatically from that of a scholar to that of an evangelist. His focus and attention were completely captured by the truth of the Gospel. His experience with God had redirected his energies to serving the needs of others more than himself.

Many of us get caught running the wrong race…not that ‘other’ races in life are bad or wrong – but they are “less” than the pursuit of God’s Kingdom. Remember the words of Jesus…in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 7

 “31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Paul was not focused on “earthly” achievements – he was focused on one primary goal, to finish the work that God had given him to do. Paul’s work assignment of planting churches across the Roman empire was specific to him, but we all share the bigger picture – God has entrusted each of us with a series of unique and specific assignments to oversee in our lifetime.

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We are all called to be a part of the Christ mission on earth. Each of us are prompted by the Holy Spirit to function as an ambassador and agent of our Heavenly Father. Like Jesus at the temple – Paul in His Roman jail – we all have a specific place – time – and specific responsibilities customized for our specific gifts and personalities.

For the Christ-believer, we must be in pursuit of the presence of God. It drives us to go and do and risk everything – to follow is to obey. For the Christian there is always a Christ-commission that is meant become the prime directive of their life. Everything else is meant to be measured by that – all other considerations are meant to be reduced under the divine commission.

If you’re not sure what that is…it maybe time to ask until you get an answer. When we ask specific questions , God will clarify specifically.

Romans 12: 1-2 “ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

 Paul is making the point to the church at Corinth, don’t just rush around without a specific purpose or clear assignment.  Don’t rush into ministries you’re not called or equipped to perform – those will only exhaust you and wear you out. It’s important to engage with your specific God breathed task or assignment.

Many times we want to be just “like” a leader or mentor we admire – we model our lives and actions to match theirs and assume God would want us to follow in their footsteps… rarely is that so. We can waste years of our lives in frustration and confusion trying understand why our hard work and dedication isn’t showing any fruit. Paul reminds us to be clear on what we’ve been called to be and do.

  1. Do we know we are in a “race” – or are we standing on the sideline?
  2. Are we running with a light enough pack – or is it too heavy to win the race?
  3. Are we clear on what our purpose is – or are we living confused and frustrated?

Life is full of “races” to run – but only one race is truly essential. We have to be careful to focus ourselves in winning the right race.

Father Brad Mathias – First shared at St. Margarets Anglican Church in Conway NH

Any one else out there…?

Feeling alone?

Do you wonder in the silent moments if anyone will slow down enough to notice you today.

Someone to feel the pain your stumbling through life with. Someone to see beyond the surface calm and notice that subtle sadness in your eyes…the only hint to the sorrow and weariness within. All of your pain carefully held in check… we suffer in silence. A self-imposed exile. desert

If so, read on.

Life does conspire against us. It forces us to trust or run. To step into or flee away from. For those of us who still believe… we face the constant pressure to decide. Will we trust or doubt or land somewhere in-between.

Will we pick our faith back up from the curb and smooth it back in place somewhere stuck between our brain and beating heart? Or will we leave it behind… a useless token of youth lost…hopelessly broken ? 

This is where we often live. Right in the moment of in-between and if you’re a Christian that means feeling and being ‘alone’ in ways more profound than we know. The wilderness of faith where doubt and distractions rule the days and nights.

It’s here (wilderness) we have to choose.

It’s here where we grow.Where we change and become… something more than we were… and less.

For Moses and the nation of Israel fleeing Egypt… this took forty years to complete. For Jesus forty days. For you and I… well it remains to be seen. But it’s a part of our journey of faith. Not something we can avoid or skip. It’s a process of transformation that must be done in isolation.

It’s here in this lonely place where we move from a vicarious conviction of faith to a personal and intimate dependence on God’s word to live. 

For many of us… Isolation and loneliness are things we avoid… for others it’s a place we go to hide. But for every believer it’s a gateway to becoming… to expanding our faith from a shared experience to a personal conviction of the truth and purpose in Christ.

When we choose to believe God’s word vs. our feelings… we gain strength. When we delay, avoid, or deny… we don’t.

It takes a supernatural touch to move our hearts to trust again. To believe when we can’t see or feel a thing. To care when we’re numb. Yet it’s only here in the isolation that we learn what we must to go on.

So… take heart. God isn’t abandoning you. He’s closer than ever before. 

Blessings…

Pastor B.

Luke 4:1-14 (reference for blog)

New Year… same old you?

Each year goes faster… new names and faces, new places… same old you. Emphasis on “old”. 🙂

As life moves us along we adapt, streeeeeetching to fit. We keep up with social media, the latest in smartphones and attempt to be ‘current’ as parents. Adjusting our wardrobe to stay relevant, along with our hairstyles and house color schemes. We’re not compromising here, but simply staying involved with the ebb and flows of modern culture and social norms. We adjust our diets to match the trends and make sure our families are equipped to keep up as well. man in a field pic

And about this time each year…We get rid of the old and worn out, and watch for the appropriately ‘new’!Life never slows or stops, a relentless taskmaster we have to obey. It’s twists and turns push us to go further, faster, and farther than ever before. The changes in our world mirroring the faces of our kids. Everything changes… EVERYTHING CHANGES! 

Except it seems… us?

Ever notice the way that extra ten pounds always hangs out in the same old places and spaces of your body? Or the way we repeatedly worry for our kids and spouses. Anxious about the same ol’ things we were five years ago. The same exact things that we sweated out ten years ago or twenty? Or what about our checking accounts… that hasn’t changed has it? Still just enough to get the bills paid… and not much more.

Why is it EVERYTHING CHANGES but us? 

The truth is… we are changing. We do grow. We are moving on an inner journey. It’s just very difficult to see or feel in the process. It takes ‘others’ to help us recognize the growth. It takes a few un-interrupted moments of contemplation… of review.

This new year… take some time to reflect on you. The world is moving by… and it always will. But what about you? Are you maturing, expanding your capacity as a parent, a spouse… a friend?

We understand that our kids have to eat to grow… but it’s easy to forget that truth applies to us as well. 

2016 is here… time re-new our vows of transformation and honor those best-intentions! Not with a fast diet and a new gym membership… but with a simple and profound desire to read and pray. Read and expand your mind, broaden your horizons as you commit your ways to God afresh. The scripture provides a healthy and irreplaceable perspective on all the things that matter most. meditation

This is the time to reflect on how much we have to be grateful for in the past year… and then look with renewed Hope at the freshness of the calendar ahead.

God is waiting for you in 2016. His promises are already in place. His faithfulness ready to be uncovered as you journey into the unknown days ahead, for He is on this Pilgrim path with us and that means we’re NEVER going to walk alone.

For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’

Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
    and they shall languish no more.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:7-14) 

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Springtime reflection

Each Spring we walk out of the grey and dark of our annual ‘winter’ and begin to see the colors of life again. As a metaphor and a real-life anticipation, Spring brings hope and warmth to our worn hearts and frozen fingertips. It also provides us with a traditional time to reflect and consider. Lent

Lent is the tradition of reflection, self-denial and realignment. A time to consider carefully what is ‘driving’ us, examining our motives, habits and excesses as we look to truth of our saviors example and the power of the cross to break the power of sin, death, and despair in our lives. 

It’s a forty day period between ‘Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday that culminates in the Holy Week before Easter including “Good Friday”. It parallels the traditional 40 day period that Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer, resisting temptation from the devil. A time after His baptism and immediately before His public ministry began.

Symbolically it allows for us to simplify our lives for a few weeks each year, to sacrifice something of ‘comfort’ as a gentle reminder of the terrible pain and suffering our savior willingly endured for our souls to be saved. It does NOT provide us with a ‘higher’ standing in heaven or a better rank with God for our piety, but it can provide a much clearer perspective on our lives as they are now, and the lives we’re called to live as Christ-followers.

Not a guilt trip or a legalistic exercise, Lent is a time to grow inwardly. A time of intimate conversation with God and the Holy Spirit. A season for us to slow and still ourselves. To read more and talk less, to listen and hear what can only be heard in absolute quiet. 4W worship background pic

I believe if you make the effort to reflect… God will make you brand new. Just like a spring flower about to bloom, your heart can be refreshed and infused with vibrant new color… 

May this Spring be refreshing to your heart and renewing to your mind as we all learn how to begin again.

Pastor B.

To read more about Christian traditions and celebrating the Holy Days, check out the AMiA (Anglican Mission in America) blog site.

 

Learning to share….every parents perspective!

What’s the point of parenting anyway? A recent lunch I had with a friend reminded me to ask the question of myself.  His was… “to help raise a young man/woman up with Godly character” (my paraphrase)

parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com

parentscountdowntocollegecoach.com

Good answer… and I bet 99% of us will wholeheartedly agree.

But how the heck do we accomplish that… ? There must be ten thousand books out there on parenting, discipleship and mentoring of tweens and teens. But can anyone just boil it all down to a single thought or idea that insanely busy – stressed out parents can remember in the heat of our over-booked days?

How about this…. “Learning to share”  

I think we can all admit that God is still teaching us as parents. How many new and important truths, ideas and healthier perspectives has He given us about our own lives, the world we live in and the value of a family. In all honesty, we’re being taught new and vital lessons for our lives almost every day. The process of growing and maturing is constant. A Holy process that begins with our conversion and ends with Christ’s return.

Theologian’s call it sanctification… I call it difficult.

What might be less obvious is how God always seems to be teaching us vital life lessons in the difficulties of our “grown-up” lives. Insights and understanding that pop into our heads mere minutes or days before we REALLY needed them. Truth’s that kept us from making a tragic mistake or foolish decision are commonplace in a believer’s life. I know we all notice when it happens to us…but I wonder if we remember to “share” that new nugget of wisdom with our families…with our kids.

What if God was teaching us so that we could teach them?

Could it be that simple?

An authentic – struggling parent who openly admits their day-to-day need for God to guide and provide and protect them. Un-afraid to be honest and open with their kids about the doubts and fears and frustrations they face every day ?

@ABSOLUTEtweets

@ABSOLUTEtweets

Oh yes, I believe it could be… AND I believe it’s EXACTLY what our kids are so hungry to see.

1 Thessalonians 5:22-23 “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” (Biblegateway.com – The Message)

Peace and Grace to you fellow parents and take heart, God IS faithful.

Pastor B>

 

 

Messy Parenting

Our kids are messy, literally and figuratively, and so are we.

Life is so full of unexpecteds (my own word) – those things that cannot be anticipated or prepared for. They swoop in and surprise us, leaving our days completely out of sync and our nice orderly schedules shredded. The trickle down affect often hits our kids first…

Example; Arrive at work to find you have a new boss, new boss wants you to head up a committee for improving work force efficiency, the committee is mandatory and it’s first meeting will be at 6pm tonight. Better get cracking. Kids have frozen pizza and your spouse is left to their own devices to manage the household.  Those devotions you all committed to having are a long lost dream by the days end, after a week of surprises those devotions are forgotten and the carefully structured Christian parenting technique you planned to stick with… is now toast.

Life is messy, our plans rarely ever happen as expected and we can fret and fume and play guilt games with ourselves and each other all day, but the net affect is negative and painful for the over-scheduled parent.

What do we do?

Take comfort dear out-of-time one. Remember that parenting is more than a series of structured devotional moments, linked to a weekly sermon and properly hip & relevant youth Sunday school lesson. It’s more than a neat and tidy home framed with neat and tidy children who memorize scriptures and read the Lords prayer responsively on Que.

If you feel like your failing at that ideal… relax! Even if you did just have an “epic” fail, don’t you dare give up!

Parenting is so awkward, so inconsistent – messy and clearly imperfect, because it depends on us, and when you finally realize how hard it is and how bad your failing at it…. relax, it’s not about the externals, it’s our kids hearts that matter.

Our hearts are the core of who we are, our minds are the instruments we use to navigate life and logistics and the world we live in, but it’s our heart that drives us, that forms our values and beliefs. Our kids are not going to follow Christ because of how well we adhere to our patterned discipleship plan, they are going to follow Christ because they see Him transform our homes into something beautiful, that something maybe very messy… but it’s authentic and beautiful and commands their attention long after they have moved on to college and start living out life on their own.

So take hope, your house may have four days of dishes sprawled across your kitchen counters, and six feet of laundry blocking the hallway…but if you as the parent, keep close to Jesus and walk humbly with your family through all of the “unexpecteds” of Life, you can bet those kids will respect your faith enough to check it out for themselves.

That’s all anyone of us can hope for.

So, don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t freak when your sixth attempt at re-starting a weekly or daily devotional time with your kids get’s busted up by yet another surprise event in your life.

Rely instead on the power of God to show through us messy, flawed parents in an authentic personal testimony of Faith that far overshadows the many failings and frustrations we carry around with us on any given parenting day…

Peace Out… Pastor B.