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.

Body Tithe University

 

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

Parenting through an eating disorder

*Statistics say that 3 out of 4 women struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food.

Ever ask yourself if that might be you? Or your daughter… wife, best friend?

Might be time to consider expanding your circle of trust and risk sharing that struggle. What about taking the step to engage with someone or something that has helped thousands get free? It takes courage and humility to admit our need for help, and it takes the support of someone who walked before us.

Let me introduce a friend and expert on the subject, Constance Rhodes – she’s the founder and CEO of “Finding Balance” and she can help.  Her help saved my daughter’s life six years ago and it might do the same  for you or someone you know. Someone who’s fighting in despair and feels all alone and about to give up.

Eating disorders and poor self-esteem related to body image are arguably the most common and painful struggle any parent with teens will ever face. 

I’ve done it. It’s rough. Seriously dark stuff to wrestle with by yourself.  No one wants to over-react, to provoke things further, but if you’re noticing a pattern… a trend, then its very likely real.

You may wonder if this important enough to risk the anger and resentment? It is.

First step... admit there might be a problem. 

Second… ask for help. 

Third… listen to the Brilliantly Brave Parenting podcast and reach out to Finding Balance and get some honest and tested advice. 

With all my heart…

Pastor Brad.

*FindingBalance interview – BBP Podcast.

Parents! What do you believe?

We are working with the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) on a new book / resource project and need your anonymous input.

If you are a socially aware parent, and have an active and ongoing interest in our shifting Faith culture and parenting, we would LOVE and APPRECIATE your help with this ten question survey!

Take our 90 second survey – make a difference!

TAKE OUR SURVEY HERE – You could win some cool stuff from Chik-Fil-A !

Survey is fast! It only takes 90 seconds to complete the ten multiple choice questions and it’s going to help thousands of parents and kids! 

God Bless you and please share with your friends or family!

Pastor Brad / Road Trip Parenting – TGA team

Looking for Intimacy…?

Valentine’s Day is upon us…

Flowers and food, fresh moods and sweet surprises, our Valentine celebration is a once a year explosion of red hearts and glitter cards… a reminder of everything cliché’ about ‘Love”.

From grade schoolers trading Star Wars valentines to the serious date dinners with chocolates and diamonds, our annual tributes to the ideal of love is as diverse and different as we are.

theantiquemarket.com

But what about “Intimacy”? Isn’t that the longing of every heart… the deep down desire of every soul on earth. It must be… just look at the millions of books sold by Nicholas Sparks or the powerful pull of the romantic comedies on our pocketbooks. We’re searching to find that ‘something’ still missing in our relationships.

We can’t seem to find the “it”. We search it out at home or online… in friendships and spouses, kids and co-workers, we look and look desperation growing. Eventually we give up… seeking it out vicariously through the lives of the fictitious.

Don’t read me wrong, I’m in there with you. I too struggle with “Intimacy”. It’s not my wifes fault or some personality conflict that bars the way for our long-last connection as a husband and wife. Alas… no.

The scriptures and the Holy Spirit help us uncover the secret to discovering “Intimacy”! It’s simpler and harder than you think… recently I’ve been reminded (through my own marriage) of the truth about Intimacy. You see, true Intimacy is only found in our willingness to be ‘vulnerable‘ with someone else.

weheartit.com

Our lives cannot grow interdependent and intimate if we’re playing it safe. Proximity isn’t the same as intimacy! 

We aren’t able to discover and dig deep into the world of the Intimate soulmate without risking the rejection and pain of discovery.

Trusting and believing in each other is all platitude until you risk exposure of your deepest self. When we take the plunge to open up and share our inner fears and frustrations, our biggest dreams and desires… we’re exposing our heart to someone who can receive it and cherish it or simply discard it.

The choice is ours to make. But if you’re hitting the ‘wall’ in your marriage, it might be time to consider stopping the merry-go-round of life and pause long enough to have a heart to heart. Really and truly share with your ‘other’ what you feel and long for… and then listen back…

It could be we need some alone time to reflect on the offer Christ makes to us all… the offer to accept as ‘we are‘. To really and truly be intimate with the one who created us and all those unmet longings within. That my friend is one sure way to build a lasting foundation for others to love and be loved.

Happy Valentines Day from RTP!

Pastor B.

 

The Stuff we see is the stuff we want!

Christmas is cool…but very EXPENSIVE!

Budgets are great in theory… but when you hit the local mall, your consumer DNA kicks in hard. The stuff you SEE is the stuff we WANT! But is it the stuff we can AFFORD?

From the siren call of the credit card to the demands of travel and last-minute meals, the average family feels the pinch of our finances every Christmas. It’s how you respond that makes the difference.

If you’re like me… you can get very frustrated! After all we mean well, doing our best to save money throughout the year. Unfortunately, life intervenes all to often. Braces, Car repairs, broken washers… surprise school expenses… all conspire to suck up our cash before we even get to Black Friday.

We (fathers) have the added struggle of giving our gang the best possible Christmas! We get hammered with hundreds of big budget commercials showing well-groomed men of substance buying new cars and diamonds for their wives and offering massive piles of presents for their kids! sad-christmas-man_si

Mom’s feeling the heat too, she’s hustling to prepare her home for a Southern Living photo shoot, every towel and trinket in its place, the lights and candles all lined up like they saw it on Pinterest. The pressure’s on to perform, provide the ‘perfect’ Christmas with the perfect meal in the perfect setting… after all, the in-laws are coming!

But what about the payoff in January and February? What happens when those bills come back to haunt us…. Conflict, guilt, anger… we hide stuff from our spouses and hope we can pay it off in the year ahead.

Somewhere in all the pressure to get… we lose sight of ‘giving.

The Christian parent feels all the secular stresses AND is supposed to move past the pressures of this season to make it a Holy thing. Some days it simply feels impossible. Somehow – somewhere we must rein in all this distraction and focus our kids and our hearts on the amazing GIFT behind the cyber frenzy of e-commerce. As parents… we must push the distractions away – and battle to focus ourselves on the truth and the triumph of Christmas. folkmassor-i-shoppinggalleria-på-jul-48343163

Parents! Have a plan – budget your expenses – stick with it. Don’t go to the mall unprepared 😊 Arm yourself with a good Christian attitude and some Charles Dickens or Little Drummer Boy lyrics in your mind – push back – don’t let our culture force it’s selfishness and materialism on you or your family.

Protect the sanctity of “contentment” in your home. Don’t allow the season to be about ‘stuff’.

No matter your age or stage as a parent, there is always the temptation to over-spend. To indulge and over-imbibe on the latest gadgets and gifts for those we love. But… at what a price?

Couple of things to remember when you’re in the ‘fever’ or caught up in a sudden shopping spree.

  1. Gifts are supposed to be special – attached to the intended recipient in a unique and personal way.
  2. Financial budgets are meant to help and protect your family. The boundaries you’re setting with your spouse – are not to be dismissed lightly.
  3. More is not always better. Take care to keep a healthy balance between getting and giving. What are you doing as a family to share and care for those less fortunate?
  4. Engage the spiritual with spiritual. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your gifting efforts. Recognize when you’re Peace is gone… it’s a signal that you may be out of balance in the moment. Lay whatever it is down. Restrain or discipline yourself. The Peace of Christ will return.
  5. Be vigilant as a parent help your kids and yourself to develop a ‘critical’ thinking filter. If shopping – ask the hard question… is this actually going to help someone or hinder them in living a wholesome life?
  6. Grab the popcorn and DVR; Watch the classic movies and do the Christmas stuff, but be prepared to point out the fantasy vs. the reality. Christmas isn’t supposed to be perfect, it supposed to be sincere! Help prepare your kids for adulthood – ask them how they view God for themselves? (Is he a “Santa Claus” figure to your kids?) Discuss – and enjoy!

Christmas can be hard, a moment in time when we as parents want to “get it perfect”! I can assure you no matter how hard you try, people in your family are going to struggle with some part of the Christmas season, and that’s ok. Let God have some space to work! The season can knock you off-balance if you’re not careful.

Christ is still in Christmas… but it may mean some difficult decisions as a parent to keep Him there. It may mean your marriage and family could benefit from some healthier boundaries to get the balance right.

Peace and Grace

Pastor Brad Mathias

  • Article for Charisma –  Christmas ’17

Christmas Podcast/YouTube Video Link

BB-Christmas-768x768

http://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/458-2/

(for more – check out the Christmas edition of our Brilliantly Brave Parenting – Podcast)

Forgiveness…the Evidence of Love

For the Christian… the life and death of Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of love.

The ultimate ‘take-away’ truth of Christ’s life as lived out in front of his disciples… ‘Forgiveness’ 

For most, we would readily agree. Without forgiveness we have no possible way to pray or spend time with our Creator. No option to pursue greater intimacy with the lover of our souls… it takes the foundational truth of being forgiven to start this Christian pilgrimage.

We surround it with words like….Grace, Mercy, Long-suffering, Patience, Humility… but in the end it’s all about ‘forgiving’ sin. From the ‘Lord’s Prayer” to almost every gospel and epistle in the New Testament, we are constantly reminded and commanded to forgive one another.

Forgiveness is the practical and often painful part of redemption. 

Our pop culture senses the power of forgiveness… it stands in wonder at its strength and courage…

Don Henley (of the Iconic band the Eagles) says it like this…

“I’ve been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness” (The Heart of the Matter – Released1989) 

We are ‘redeemed‘ is the liturgical response for many… it means we are the forgiven and restored ones. True. Yes and thank God!  But Christ’s work on Calvary is more than a theological event for all mankind… it’s also our personal moment of salvation.

This reality crowds out the ‘other‘ offenses in our life. When we remember our conversion to Christ… we instantly return to the realization of our own broken state.

It only takes a sobering second of our time to recall  just how messed up we were/are when we were ‘forgiven’.  We remember in vivid detail… the intense and painful brokenness we felt. The anguish at seeing the devastating effect of our sin. The shame at our wilfulness in disobeying our loving father. The despair of  how selfish we were in thinking only of ourselves.

That is the moment of our transformation, when our despair and darkness was pushed aside by the blazing glory of Christ and His offer of forgiveness. An offer of freedom. 

Yet it’s this reality that often eludes us when we encounter the brokenness of others in our lives. Our spouses, kids, bosses, and mothers… all fail. All of them leave us torn up and wounded by their sin and shortcomings. Yet… we struggle to forgive. 

It’s only when we ‘forget’ the sorrow and grief of our own sin… that we delay offering the grace and gift of forgiveness to others.

source – Money Matters

St. Paul said it like this in his letter to the Colossians (chapter 3).1Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Why Thirteen?

Kids do eventually become young adults, they grow and change… and ‘mature’ over time.

The most significant transition of life occurs during adolescence. An individual’s personal identity (or view of ‘self’) forms between 10-14 years of age,  a critical factor in forming a personal belief and value system. 

For the church and families of faith, this stage of life lies smack – dab-  ‘in-between’ childhood and youth ministry programing. (thus the term… ‘tween’)

Parents are stuck with kids who are either too old for ‘kids’ church… or not quite grown up enough for ‘youth’ group. This non-critical issue may lay distantly in a parent’s mind, but fades to the background as ‘other’ more pressing concerns take center stage, like sports, scholastic pressure, or dating!

The challenge for the church is this, if over 80% of our youth are actually walking away from the Christian faith community in their late teen years, what has changed?                                  (Barna Research) 

The mass migration of young adults ‘out’ of the faith must have some ’cause’ and ‘effect’ to it. What is different? Why are so many of our college age kids discarding their Christian beliefs? Studies suggest that our kids made their decision before the age of…

Thirteen.

The age of Thirteen is the approximate year most form their core beliefs, values, and identities. The stage of adolescence when we try out our growing ideas and opinions beyond the safety of  home or church.

image – courtesy of armadamusic.com

It’s real life experience a growing mind needs… peer stuff begins to crowd out the voices of authority figures. Parents, pastors… teachers all lose their influence while friends, social media, and pop culture gain ground.

Adolescents are growing into independent adults, in the process they evolve and adapt to their environments, forming initial beliefs that haven’t been tested or fully embraced as an adult. This process of ‘discovery’ is natural and normal, and helps them establish an ‘identity’.

It’s somewhere between fifth and seventh grade that social pressure starts to sway kids more than they ‘fear’ their parents wishes. It’s a part of the normal maturing process of kids to pass through various ‘crisis’ points in the development of identity – as they literally ‘try on’ new ideas and beliefs like we would a new hairstyle or clothes outfit. They just want to ‘see’ if things ‘fit’… if a parent knows this is ‘normal’ and expects it, the process can be stressful but not a ‘crisis’.

If parents are already stressed out, distracted, and overwhelmed by life… this adolescent ‘stuff’ can drive them over the proverbial ‘edge’. It’s here that faith and culture collide.

Thirteen.

What our kids decide is ‘real’ and of value, what they perceive to be ‘true’ of themselves and the world begins to slowly solidify. 

Their identities are being shaped in this ‘in-between’ time of the late grade school and early junior high years. We all learned this in biology or sex ed when we were teenagers, but as parents and pastors this presents new dangers and opportunities.

 The formation of identity is effectively reinforced by the stability of their social environment (according to studies) and the actions of parents in the home. What we say, and more importantly what we ‘do’… impacts our kids as much or more than anything else… before the age of ‘Thirteen’.

We have a short time with our children. a fixed period during which we can teach, prepare, and then ‘model’ our faith. They are going to struggle with the truth, they will make erratic and unpredictable choices…but in the end,  studies and experience (and the promise of God) predict their identities and beliefs are seriously affected by the health of their home life and the respect kids have for a parents faith. 

Not a spiritual perspective, this entire blog post is based on secular educational studies (see references below). The need for ministry to pre-teens and tweens has never been greater as media and access to digital platforms is now a normal part of childhood. Our kids need to know and ‘see’ the faith of their family and church. They need to know that we’re serious about Jesus Christ being the ‘center’ of our lives… they don’t need us to be perfect or polished, but they do need to know we’re sincere and dedicated to following the principles of the bible.

B413 the ‘No-Filter’ tour is all about equipping families of faith with the inspiration and biblical truth they need to help navigate this critical stage of parenting and life!

Let’s make EVERY effort!

Pastor Brad.

Links to references: http://www.rcgates.com/psyc/c16_pv.html  http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/adol/selfidentity.htm