Waiting for the other shoe to drop…

Ever find yourself worrying about why things are going so well?

Seems silly…

That fearful anticipation of what will inevitably go wrong in the very near future, waiting for the ‘other – shoe – to – drop’. A  day-to-day fear for some, a distant hovering apprehension for others.

However you describe the anxiety of the unknown, It’s real for all of us. I find myself guilty of pondering the ‘what if’s‘. Over thinking and watching for whatever’s out there and looming in the dark. Listening for an unknown danger just out of my sight, or something hidden over the next life horizon … a circumstance about to catch me off guard.

Why do we do that?

Are we just conditioned to expect the worst… or is it something deeper. Are we cynical and afraid because we distrust ourselves, not convinced God truly cares about us? About me… ?

Today I’m sharing some personal insights related to the uncertainties that torment so many of us. Here are three powerful truths to combat the unknowns of our lives. header_faith

  1. God isn’t trying to punish us. He’s come to save us. To redeem our lives, not stomp us in the dirt. Anything else is a lie. A deception designed to make us distrust. 

  2. Good and Bad things are relative to our perception in the moment. What may seem like a tragedy on day one can transform into a blessing within a few weeks. Faith is trusting God can and will use anything in our life for good. 

  3. Trusting means letting go of control. Anxiety is wrapped around our need to know. Being a Christ follower, means we’re surrendering our independence for His will, not our own. 

These 3 reminders are anchors for me on days when I can’t quite relax. When my heart is racing and I don’t know why… I can pause and pray, and remember the truth.

image - thelosthighwayhotel.com

image – thelosthighwayhotel.com

Parents, our world is full of crazy. Listening to the news can wipe away a week of rest in a moment. The mailbox might have a letter we don’t want to see from the doctor… or our kids might bring a note home that turns our stomach to lead. Whatever your fear…take it to God, remember these 3 truths and watch as it fades.

You’re not in this alone. To prove my point, I’m starting a brand new PodCast/Blog (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) with some friends at iShine and the TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) to illustrate how everyday parents are living extraordinary lives.

Pastor B.

PS – Read and pray this passage of scripture anytime you need relief. Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) – Source Biblegateway.com  6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When we run and hide…

Met with a dear friend and fellow pastor the other day. We talked and caught up… he shared of his summer and the struggle he’s had with isolation and the allure of pulling back from his church community.  Of his battle with feeling alone and wanting to avoid others… it was a familiar story.

He eventually recognized this internal struggle was more than just an emotional pull or some sort of ministry fatigue. It was spiritual warfare. His church was growing, having just walked through a very difficult season of transition things were finally gaining momentum… the Kingdom of God was pressing forward into their local community and suddenly there was just a sense of unexplainable spiritual fatigue. 

The result… he pulled back from meeting with others in his community of faith for coffee or prayer. He took a ‘break’ from reading his bible. He re-arranged his personal life to allow him to ‘miss’ regular church events and generally pulled away from all things “Christian’ in order to get some ‘space’.

In time it affected his marriage, his kids and of course… his relationship with God. He was sharing with me in the ‘past-tense’ and I noted that he was embarrassed and upset with himself for letting it happen. Wryly he acknowledged he could see these same issues in others easily enough, but seemed so blind about himself…he was sharing out of accountability and support. Bringing it out into the open and letting me know he didn’t want to stay in this place of isolation any longer.

picture credit - www.doctormit.ro

picture credit – http://www.doctormit.ro

That took courage. It mean he had conviction and determination to follow Christ no matter what he was ‘feeling’ or not feeling on any particular day. It also meant, he was walking in humility and purpose. Recognizing he was fighting more than a personal battle, but experiencing spiritual resistance to the work that God was doing in and around him at his local church.

In his family.

In his marriage.

In him.

We all have felt this way in our lives. Many times I’ve wanted to run away and hide from ministry. To just get in my car and drive until I didn’t know where I was. To isolate and hibernate away from people… from problems. From the concerns of others and the petty annoyances of life.

Yet… somewhere deep within we know that’s not the better path. We sense that God is working in these empty moments of life. Developing something ‘more‘ within our heart of hearts. Growing us deeper roots for finding that ‘everlasting’ water and preparing us to serve in new ways. It’s in these moments of isolation that we have to choose to open the bible once more and read. Drinking deep of it’s wisdom and experiencing the grace of God afresh.

picture credit - thelaneblog.wordpress.com

picture credit – thelaneblog.wordpress.com

Faith is tested every day. Sometimes it’s the in-between of our lives that we are most vulnerable. The subtle shift in our attitude… the bitter taste of resentment or past injustice nudging us to pull back. To avoid.

Dear friends… we are desperately in need of each other. The battle for our hearts and minds begins with isolation and division. The enemy of our souls will seek to compromise us anyway he can. It’s easiest when we’re away from the strength and support of our spiritual family.

Stay close to your encourager’s. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Whatever your feeling…whatever you’ve done… God is already making it work for your good and His glory.

Hang in there. Stay close. Be where God has placed you.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

Every Proud Mom Cries

Ever sit near a mom during a wedding? What about a graduation ceremony…or even just a good Hollywood movie about a wedding or graduation? 🙂

Tears fall. 

Sometimes it’s just a few silent, solitary drops of pure pride and tender joy. Other times it’s the wet flood of an emotional storm, released without restraint. Either way, Mom cries.  View More: http://traciarneyphotography.pass.us/kelliejarrett

It’s as natural as the spring time, healthy, and in some way… ‘proper. 

I watched the birth of all three of my children. I clapped and whooped as each of them clutched their diploma’s and proudly smiled for the camera….walking by in their black graduation robes. It’s a heart warming, milestone moment… a truly joyful time. Pride pulses through every parents heart, excitement and satisfaction mixed with a bit of growing dread…

Thus the tears.

For mothers the transition of a graduation ceremony or a wedding day symbolizes the end of an era. The shifting of seasons, it represents a diminishment of their influence and ultimately… ‘control‘. That’s intense, anxiety inducing, panic-attack provoking kind of fear for a mother… a huge hill to climb. (Dad’s too, but not in the same way)

For the parent, a graduation or wedding is like a ‘final exam’. 

Did we teach them all they needed to know?

How will they handle the pressure of independent life?

Will they abandon the faith we tried to model…?

Do they know how much we love them?

Will they choose to stay close to us… or have they gone for good?

Just asking yourself these questions can cause your heart to skip beats. There’s far more going on under the surface here…more than tears expressed in a moment of celebration, this is the tip of a proverbial iceberg. A glacier full of fear buried deep in the heart of every mother in every home. For some mom’s this is a devastating time. A deep and dark season where fears can overshadow all else… if that’s you, keep reading.

Couple of thoughts. 

1 – God is Faithful. Pray.

Never forget the covenant love of our God, He is long-suffering, patient and His love endures forever!

2- Take the LONG view.

Give them a chance to grow up and discover the truth’s you taught them were real.

3- Don’t burn the bridge back home.

Express your concerns without ultimatums. It’s their turn to choose how to live. If your right about their foolishness… they are going to need help later to sort things out. If the bridge back home is out… where will they have left to go for advice? Probably somewhere or to someone ‘not’ good.

Inmate Steven Clark gets a hug from his girl friend Tomi Doyle after Clark received his associate degree from the University of Maine in Augusta on Monday at the Maine State Prison.

God bless all you “mothers’ out there. Let the tears flow... but rest well tonight knowing your in good company. Be at peace knowing God hasn’t, isn’t, can’t… abandoned you or your newly independent ‘babies’ 🙂

The adventure is just really beginning…

Pastor Brad.

 

 

Imagining the worst…

Ever watch a friendship or marriage dis-integrate right before your eyes ? Maybe you’re in the middle of a relational crisis, or maybe it’s your tween or teen whose pulling so far away ?

It’s brutal to see up close.

Disrespect and broken trust erode what once was inseparable. Like emotional acid, the burn never seems to stop. Perceptions shift as mountains of past hurts, regret, and shame, dissolve through what remained of our commitment.

Intimacy turns inside out and ugly in a moment. Lost and emotionally afraid, we can start to hate the silence.

Conversations change. Sour stirrings of bitterness creep into our words as our wounded hearts seek to hide the truth and carry on without ever resolving the pain.

In time…our emotional reserves run out. Cold, flat, facts replace the warmth once felt, as we drift and float further apart. Apathy is all it takes to lose our relationship. Love and respect replaced by our deep and wary suspicion of ill intent.

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN ?

Subtly we can lose our grip on reality, as the voices of  twisted truths win the war of trust in our heart. We start to entertain the darkest possible scenarios in our mind, in short…we imagine the worst, believing internal ‘whispers of warning‘ about events that have never even occurred yet.

Over time we can become so ‘convinced’ that we’re in the right to doubt others, we forget to even ask ourselves if they actually did anything to hurt us. Sometimes we can imagine offense by projecting past offenses or hurts into our present. Internal ‘perceptions become reality and our cynical imagination builds an elaborate dungeon of distrust. Once we surrender to those thoughts and fears, we can lose sight of what once was compassion and optimistic hope for one another.

Over time we can even start to predict that all kinds of people will eventually hurt or betray us, and in a paranoid attempt to protect ourselves, we withdraw from relationships before any of that happens. anxiety

The community of faith that Christ calls us to live in can’t survive long with our imaginations working on overdrive. We have to push back our fears and anxiety as we learn to ‘trust’ the hearts of others are actually ‘good. 

The bible describes these internal fear thoughts and ‘imaginations’ as legitimate spiritual ‘warfare’ ! A real life reality for the believer to accept and anticipate if we are going to make our relationships work.

We need to consciously prepare to defend our friendships,marriages and sanity, by choosing to remember God’s truth in those moments when we ‘feel’ the darkness of doubt, fear, and suspicion begin creeping into our thoughts.

If we don’t regularly choose to believe the best in our relationships, we can easily be deceived into thinking our friends, family, and spouses are the ‘enemy’.

(for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

The Apostle Paul 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (AKJV)

Parents, believe for the best.

Spouses, trust that nothing is ever impossible with Christ.

Peace out, Pastor B 🙂

Real Change… an Excerpt from “Road Trip to Redemption”

Behavior Modification vs. Transformation

“It was this issue that Jesus addressed over the course of his entire gospel ministry–the problem each generation has with seeking behavior modification instead of transformation. The brutal truth is this: without God winning the battle in our hearts, we cannot be changed or transformed. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees fought tenaciously with Jesus over the rules and politics of his time; they engaged in intellectual dogfights over their theological beliefs and opinions. They were proud and educated men who knew every phrase of the Scriptures by memory but resisted the message of the heart that Jesus kept preaching to them in one parable after another. In the end, they so resented what he was implying that they killed him.

The battle between the mind and the heart rages on. The mind wants to “understand” God, to grasp the nature of our salvation, to comprehend the significance of grace and of new life. It’s far too busy trying to understand the love of God to actually experience it. The mind wants to control the environment it’s in, to subdue all possible threats and or undesired outcomes before they occur, to avoid risk and anything uncomfortable, to be entertained and engaged and flattered and loved and pleasured. When we put the mind first, we seek to find significance in ourselves, to use God and faith as excuses for pursuing our own ambition and preferences. We discipline ourselves so we can enjoy the pride of personal accomplishment and the adoration of those who can’t do what we can. This is the mindset of our human nature, and as parents we will always drift this way if we are left to our own devices.

God speaks directly to our hearts. He is aware that if we seek to follow after him with just our heads, we will fail. We’ll end up reducing faith to a list of rules instead of a living, breathing relationship. We’ll know about God without really knowing him.” 

———————————————————

As parents… we share similar struggles and frustrations, the core of the process remains the “Heart”. My prayer for you as parents is to see your kids fall in love with the same Jesus you did.

Peace out RTP, Love you… Pastor B.

Book Excerpt from Chapter 4… pp 76-77. (C) 2013 by Brad Mathias, all rights reserved – Published by Tyndale Momentum Publishers, Carol Stream IL.

Storms in Spring

Every year we get hit.

Every three months we seem to get surprised by life… usually a major shift in the weather or the world around us that serves as a reminder of how fast things can and do change.

Each shock-wave life throws at us,  provides a chance to renew our perspective on life and living.  For those in middle America, the change from Winter into Spring is most turbulent. Moist warm air from the Gulf collides with the remnants of an Arctic air mass and WHOOMPH! We get tornado’s and straight-line winds strong enough to blow eighteen wheelers off the roads and house trailers off their foundations. Lightning over small town

Spring is beautiful and warm and full of new life, but it’s also often violent, traumatic and painful, without a safe place to go in the sure to come storm, you could be at risk for a tragic event.

I’ve watched each night this week as one tragic news flash after another has scrolled across the TV screen or interrupted my radio station… ‘Breaking News, Bombing in “…. “Breaking News, explosion…, terrorist attack, hundreds injured…” etc… the relentless pace of the tragedies we face… have many of us on edge.

It feels like our world is starting to unwind itself a bit, fraying at the edges of sanity and bending back upon itself like an out of control episode of “24” with the secret agent hero not quite getting to the bomb in time and tragedy strikes the innocent. The hero doesn’t win the day and it’s just all twisted up and wrong…

When surprises turn nasty… life feels like the story we hoped to live in has been changed on us, instead of the “good” guys winning the evil and twisted villain seems to be in charge! 

nationalgeographic.com

national geographic.com

As families of faith, we must remember that is NOT true. God is still in control, He is the author and finisher of all things and His will cannot be stopped regardless of how crazy our world becomes.

Our comfort is in something and someone greater than the US Government or a positive report from Fox or CNN News… we have a source of strength that comes from more than our emotional resilience, it has roots in the most powerful hope that mankind has ever witnessed.  Our faith has a rich history of God making good things out of bad and redeeming our past failures into future triumph. It’s the power of love un-restrained and its hopeful heartbeat is found in us, in those who follow and take the name of Christ for their own.

Spring is a turbulent season every year, but for those who know where their strength comes from… in the midst of tragedy can be found peace  no matter what’s going on outside our door. Our hearts are broken for the innocent lost and the senseless violence in our world, but in the end… as a Christian we have a way to find purpose and strength in the pain. Perspective that comes from knowing the King of Kings and faith in His ability to provide justice and meaning in all of the chaos around us.

Living our lives despite the dangers shows our kids… we are safe, secure, and together as a family. Our homes a reminder that we are all being held together in the midst of any storm, by a faithful God who cares for each of us deeply.

Psalm 107:28-31 (ESV) – source Biblegateway.com

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters[c] were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

pastor B.

Giant Fear, the one’s that scare me…probably don’t scare you!

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m afraid of facing the Giant problems that seem to always hang out in my life…. finances, health, my kids, my work… retirement ! (you fill in your blank)

These are after all, huge and massive things, that are far bigger and stronger than I am and each one seems to bulge with muscles and bones big enough to crush me in a single swipe, unaffected by my pitiful resistance to their presence. The biggest of these GIANT issues in my life and most of our lives is the same core or root issue….FEAR! Jack-the-Giant-Slayer

So as a Christian, a parent and a pastor… I/we all have to face our fears if we can ever hope to live beyond being a hostage to those fears, restless with sleepless nights and repeated doses of Pepto-Bismo!

Some of my hugest problems don’t scare me, others do. The one’s that scare me, probably don’t scare you ! Nevertheless, you get the point. We can’t run from all our Giants, we have to face them.

The bible talks about giants… Caleb and the sons of Anak, in Hebron. David and Goliath of Philistia and so on… they were reputed to be more than fable or myth, but literal giants of significant size and super-human strength. Guys you didn’t mess with casually, so much so that all but a handful of men in the Old Testament fled their presence at all cost. (10 of the 12 Hebrew spies bailed on entering their promise land of Canaan because of these same giants, and an entire Israelite army under King Saul wouldn’t dare to fight a single giant who challenged them to place their trust and strength in God) jack-the-giant-slayer-banner-3

So, that’s interesting history (yawn)…But how do WE kill the giants in our life, specifically the biggest and baddest ones of all… like ANXIETY or FEAR?

Fear is awful. It grabs us and squeezes the air out of lives. Handling something as overwhelming as Fear all alone is a Huge Mistake (pun intended) ! However,  I do believe we can overcome such massive giants simply by making regular time in our schedules to spend with God. Taking time to invest in reading from the sacred scriptures, meditating on his character and in asking for help from him in regular prayer. (Free Daily Audio Bible Download Link) . Devotion to your maker combined with taking the risk to be involved in a local church family and I believe you will have every giant you engage on the run…

In the shadow of the bible and the whole of eternity…FEAR the larger, fades into fear the lessor… and then into history as you allow the presence of God (the Holy Spirit) to overshadow your mind and heart and re-center your thoughts around Jesus and the power unleashed at Calvary. That power is ours to tap. YES it is. Not a theory, not a wishful naiveté, but a legit resource to use in every moment of our lives. That truth of resurrection combined with scripture promises, makes for the most potent weapon we have to kill giants.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

(2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible)

No other person on the earth knows what our fears feel like but Jesus. No other person on earth has successfully and fully defeated the giant of fear altogether but Jesus. Others have grown to be legendary figures of faith, guys like Abraham, Moses, the Apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah etc…) but they all did so exactly the same way… by keeping their perspectives on their God and not the freakishly huge problems that loomed right in front of them, just like they do for us.

Courtesy - Chronicles of Narnia

Courtesy – Chronicles of Narnia

Superhero’s don’t exist… Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah does, and he alone has conquered Fear, Death and the effects of Shame & Guilt. It’s time to stop fighting giants all by yourself.

Invite him (Jesus) to step fully into your heart and mind and save you from the GIANT that’s paralyzing your life. Go ahead… take the chance, trust him with your _________ (fill in the blank) fear.

Then watch in amazement as your courage becomes conviction as you walk behind the one who has real answers to life’s overwhelming fears…  “JESUS !”

As parents we know our kids are really watching us and how we handle our fears is a significant example we can set for them. Good or Bad.

“Lord Give us the Courage to TRUST you and the strength to FOLLOW you” AMEN.

Peace out RTP! Love, Pastor Brad.