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

 

Praying with Perspective

Do you struggle sometimes to pray. To sincerely trust God more than we do our-self? Do you wonder if He’s really going to ‘show’ up in our life when we need Him the most?  I mean the whole idea of God being engaged and concerned with my struggles and fears can seem laughable. I’m sure He has bigger ‘fish to fry’ than my petty little anxieties and circumstances.

If you’re like me, you might find yourself praying timidly around the edges of your life, asking for general things like favor, health, wisdom, etc. We’re  easily convinced He has better things to do than talk with us. 

It’s easy to feel that way. It’s not true of course, but it can ‘feel’ that way. We keep our conversations with Him short and superficial, we avoid asking what we’re in true need of, uncertain of our status with Him.  Sometimes it’s because of the fear we have about His true ‘answer’ to our deepest concerns, but I think its also because we don’t feel worthy of much blessing. We are keenly aware of our own shortcomings, inconsistencies, and hypocrisy.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

In the opposite extreme, sometimes we can totally take prayer for granted, rushing into things we go through our ‘check-list’ of needs, heedless of who and how we’re talking to the one who saved our very souls. We charge ahead in our demands, wanting answers to our ever present emergencies, approaching God without the reverence and awe He deserves.

If we’re being totally honest… often the ‘real’ reason we’re visiting with Him in prayer at all is to ask for stuff or to ask Him to affirm our wishes as His will. He becomes sort of a cosmic cookie jar rather than the Creator and Lord of all.  

In an effort to find some balance its important that we approach Him with the proper levels of both familiarity and respect. It’s vital that we find a healthy balance and perspective for the amazing opportunity that Prayer provides the Christian. In the end, prayer is all about relationship. It’s not about ‘getting’ but growing.

For those who feel unworthy, we don’t need to be afraid to approach Him and for those who are simply spiritual consumers, we shouldn’t over assume on His blessings. Thankfully, we’re offered grace for either imbalance and scripture grants us insights into how to access His faith and power despite our inconsistent and often messy spirituality.

I’ve been struggling with being too timid, too conscious of my shortcomings. Recently I was reminded to pray with more courage and a clearer purpose, to ask with less hesitation and more hope. 

Quick couple of thoughts for you to consider if you’re in a similar state.

  1. Instead of asking God for generic things, I’m learning to ask for specific issues. To be bold and ask for more, not less.  (for example – instead of just asking for His favor or blessing over those who are ill or struggling in their health. I’m asking instead for Him to “heal’ them completely.) I’m getting bolder, asking for the miracle and not just comfort, to see God bring wholeness from the brink of death or despair. (understanding that despite my boldness, His will isn’t always to fix things)
  2. I’m also learning to pray with an understanding that God’s strength and power are already ‘mine’ to access. I’m learning to pray with more confidence, trusting Him for the strength I need when I’m weak, trusting that those scriptural provisions of the Holy Spirit already exist, and I only need to ‘come under’ them or walk ‘into’ them in my day.

This isn’t word of faith stuff or positive thinking, it’s a firmer grip on the work of Christ on Calvary and my status as ‘His’ adopted son.

According to the scriptures, I’ve inherited His strength and wisdom and insight, I simply need to ‘remember’ that and step into it with the confidence of His work on my behalf. I’m not a beat up, worthless piece of poo in my redemptive life, I’m a son of royalty, a prince and heir to the King.

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Rather than giving me hubris and overconfidence, these insights give me the courage to engage my life head on.

I don’t have to slide around the scary things in my day or week, I can confront them directly when required. I don’t have to live waiting for the next crisis to crush me, I have every thing the day will require in Christ.

So do you.

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

 

 

Fighting for our Lives

I was reminded recently that God takes ‘sin’ very seriously. Seems obvious, the entire landscape of the bible is rooted around this reality… but our culture seems to be overlooking the obvious.

I was sparked by a recent Instagram post of a Francis Chan quote. He mentions the two biggest lies of our culture, that God won’t punish sin because of His loving nature and the belief that we’re essential all ‘good’ people.

Image – Pinterest (Jacob Roberts)

Our modern Christian world has pushed back the old school ‘hell and brimstone’ approach and instead has embraced the ‘grace and space’ approach to our personal faith. I admit, I love that ‘new’ approach as it gives me the flexibility to approach God on  my own terms. I like this more familiar territory with an emphasis on Grace and dismissal of the seriousness of sin, but does it hold water?

The turbulent world of the Christian evangelical has shared it’s conflicting views between the progressive and orthodox schools of thought. They have vented their sharp disagreements in various books and beliefs, but in the end ‘sin’ is a reality that needs to be defined for each and every believer. We after all will need to ‘account’ for our sins individually, no author or outspoken pastor will be on the judgement seat of God with us when our day comes… 

IF sin is a big deal, and I believe it IS. (thus the radical rescue operation of Jesus and the Cross) We can’t permit ourselves to simply dismiss our personal sins as the unavoidable by-product of our old nature.  There needs to be an urgency in us, we should be aggressively fighting back and pushing forward in the arena of personal holiness.

God is calling us to be like His son. We’re tasked with being ‘Holy like He is Holy”. An impossibility for us accomplish by sheer will and effort for sure, but the pursuit of holiness should be the heartbeat of the believer.

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Are we ‘fighting’ back in our resistance to old habits and temptations? Are we battling the personal attacks on our moral character or are we allowing our old sins to exist and persist? God’s calling us to overcome. He wants our old self to become less and less, and for each of us to become fully ‘alive’ as we give up our old identities and embrace the new.

Today let”s agree to not settle for simply repenting all the time, let’s commit to fighting for our freedom from sin, not in our own strength but in His.

Our lives can be transformed from the inside out, we can be different than we were and God is working out His perfect will in our imperfect lives.

Fight for Holiness.

Pastor B.

Slow Down. Please.

I can’t help but push a little more, I can’t stop the need to check one more item off the ‘to-do’ list of my life. It’s my nature to stay busy, to distract myself from tomorrow by filling my ‘today’.

Maybe you can relate? 

The world we live in doesn’t help. Our instant communication and remarkable technologies have opened up worlds of discovery and detail that compel us to discover and ‘do’ more with each day.

Parenting is easily the hardest and best work of your life. Of any life. Our immediate desire is to protect and provide, to make sure our offspring are safe from harm and well cared for. Later we engage with our kids, teaching and mentoring them into the ways of life and the wiles of our world. We have dreams and desires for them, we have hopes that they will go where we couldn’t, do what we didn’t dare to try. (parenting doesn’t require a biological child, many parent those in need around us)

The struggle to find ‘rest’ in the world of parenthood is real. It seems the days are so slow… yet the years fly by. Our work as a parent never seems to end, we just shift gears as our kids get older, always busy, always engaged with the work of life and family. 

I have been told by almost every older parent or pastor I’ve ever known to ‘slow down’. I’ve known intellectually that life is more than a series of goals to be accomplished, but in the nitty – gritty of day to day living, it really didn’t sink in.

I imagine that many of you could say the same.

So what can we do to realign ourselves and reconnect with our deeper purpose and meaning beyond parenthood…? Isn’t there a purpose to life beyond raising our children?

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Here’s what I’m learning as a newly minted 50 year old grandfather of two little ones. ‘Slow down’ was/ is wise advice.  I’m learning to accept and apply it over all my natural instincts to the contrary. 

Slowing down is a spiritual discipline for those who are ‘wired’ to keep moving. (not so much for those who like to stay still) It’s difficult to do without extenuating circumstances, we don’t ‘choose’ to slow down, we are ‘forced’ to slow down. God in his infinite mercy works in His mysterious ways to push us back into a proverbial corner. We may find ourselves stuck in a situation of His creation that forces us to stop thrashing and simply ‘be still’.

On first glance we feel like we’re being punished. God must be ‘angry’ with us. But as we slowly unclench our hearts and open ourselves up to His voice we soon begin to sense the exact opposite.

God is pleased with us. He wants to reveal something new and essential to our identity. We are now more than just parents or spouses, we are created children of a heavenly father. More than pawns in a cosmic struggle for power, we are invited to be a part of this divine story of redemption and love.

Not to drift too far into the theology, but we generally won’t stay ‘still’ for long without a deeper understanding of the presence of God. We need to learn to seek Him out for more than a few minutes each day. He is inviting us to bring Him along ‘all’ day. This shift from accomplishing things to ‘being’ is essential.

photo courtesy of Pixabay

The presence of God in our lives is where we find true meaning, purpose, and thus ‘Satisfaction’. Yes, the elusive sense of peace and contentment that is promised in scripture is truly out there. It just takes time to discover. 

So, be encouraged if you find yourself ‘hemmed in’ by life. God is in it. He is conspiring to bless you, to force you to rest and be ‘still’. It’s the only way forward.

Slow Down! Please.

Pastor Brad.

 

Life in The Wilderness

 

  1. A classic setting – The Wilderness
  • God moves us away from our fleshly support and natural strengths = isolation
    • This process of removal from all things “familiar” is an essential part of deconstructing our old identities and allows for the reconstruction of the new and true identity we’ve never fully realized from our own effort and ambition.

Source – Pexels.com

* He allows us to be left out of the normal flow and function of our world = leaves us feeling discarded or in a ‘time out’, but we’re not.

* He allows our circumstances to be uncomfortable and difficult = suffering

  • He prevents us from seeing beyond our day, no vision for tomorrow, no clarity of our path forward = dependence
  • Our activities are mundane and seemingly irrelevant, we feel insignificant and ineffective at best = reveals motives
  • Our hearts feel alone and unsupported, our minds are anxious and we sense only ourselves and no one else. = Faith vs. feeling
  • In our despair we are forced to choose, we can turn to our past or trust God for our future. Our flesh aches to find meaning, value, purpose in our old ways and habits. The spirit urges us onto deeper intimacy with God. = spiritual growth
  • The longer and deeper the struggle lasts, the more profound and enduring the lessons and transformation we experience.

This isolation and instability is awful. It removes all manner of old affirmation and familiar encouragements, this is exactly as intended by God to lead us deeper and further into our intended purpose.

Psalm 27 is / has been a significant strength to me.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

  The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

 4  One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

  to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to inquire in his temple.

 5  For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of trouble;

  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will lift me high upon a rock.

 7  Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;

be gracious to me and answer me!

 8  You have said, “Seek my face.”

  My heart says to you,

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

 9  Hide not your face from me.

  Turn not your servant away in anger,

O you who have been my help.

  Cast me not off; forsake me not,

O God of my salvation!

 10  For my father and my mother have forsaken me,

but the Lord will take me in.

 11  Teach me your way, O Lord,

and lead me on a level path

because of my enemies.

 12  Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

for false witnesses have risen against me,

and they breathe out violence.

 13  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living!

 14  Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord! (ESV)

Life in the Wilderness – Biblical Examples:

* Abraham in the promise land – experiencing famine and leaving the promise land to go down to Egypt. (Foreshadowing)

  • Abraham and Sarah – living in the land of promise without the promise and creating Ishmael in an effort to force the promise of God
  • Jacob and his servitude to his father in law
  • Joseph and His imprisonments
  • Moses and his 40 years in the desert wilderness
  • The nation of Israel and their wandering generation of 40 years in the wilderness
  • David as the future anointed King and his 15 years of running and hiding in a wilderness exile and under threat of persecution by King Saul
  • Jesus in the desert for 40 days and nights before his ministry begins
  • Saul / Paul in his desert time in Arabia – 14 years

These ‘examples’ should bring us comfort and perspective. Each of us will enter multiple seasons of wilderness life, each will need to move from anger and doubt to acceptance and trust. The wilderness in scripture represents a time of testing and teaching. God was not punishing, He was preparing.

So it is with us.

Sorting Yourself Out.

There are moments we dread.

Long pauses after telling someone we ‘love’ them…opening a certified letter from the IRS… or getting ‘the’ follow up call from our doctor. Each of these moments slows our life down to mere milliseconds of movement. Our breathing stops, the sweat beads up and we want to wretch. It’s awful.

Fear grips us, gut deep and gnawing as we realize our life is out of our control. 

These ‘moment’s sort us out pretty fast. 

It’s in these moments we discover what we’re really trusting in, who we really are and who we are not, and what we actually believe about God.

Pexel.com

I’ve recently been through another season of personal upheaval. Deep changes in my work,  home life, and ministry. I find myself in Northern Maine, serving God. I’ve been removed to a distant and lonely place, isolated from my friends and family. Here on the back side of nowhere…I’ve had to change my perspective as I’ve been given some ‘extra’ time to consider and process.

Each change hit me hard. (Think like a two-by-four) Rapid blows that deformed my safe and predictable life, knocking the air out of my plans, my expectations,  my path forward.

On reflection… God it seems was calling me into something deeper and in doing so, He was ‘sorting me out’.

I believe the bible shows evidence this ‘sorting out’ is a ‘normal’ and healthy process to experience for the Christian, however when it happens to you for the first time, it gets ALL your attention.

So what’s the deal? Why all the drama and unanswered questions? Is God having a game with us or is there something deeper going on? 

I’m not for sure yet… but it seems to circle around this fact; I can’t get a grip on the essence of grace and the nature of our heavenly ‘father’ until I am desperately ‘aware’ of how much I need Him. And every so often… I forget. 

I think for many of us (myself included) we first experience God through a third person perspective. Faith is ours, but only as seen through eyes of our pastor or parents. Unfortunately it’s usually not until we personally have a few ‘moments’ in our life that we get ‘earnest’ about our own personal spiritual life.

Pexel.com

 

It seems we either turn towards God and seriously start to examine our faith or we discard it and Him.

I’ve been through this a couple of times in my life. Each time I’ve had certain supports in my life to help me through. Regular encouragement from a parent or spouse, the comfort of a ‘position’ in my career, or the structure of a scheduled life. Each of these external constructs were very helpful to keep me stable and moving forward, irregardless of the turmoil within.

But not now.

Now I’m in a new moment of life. God has engineered a space of life where I have to function and exist without any props to hold me up. No external supports or affirmations… just Him.

The empty space and silence of my life right now is maddening. I would rather run and yell and fight. But to just be silent is ridiculously hard and so lonely. 

Yet… I sense this ‘sorting out’ is an essential part of growing up, and an unavoidable part of maturing beyond myself.

What about you?

If you’re like me, you may be tempted to fill in the blanks. Move faster, get busier, schedule more stuff – anything to push back the silence and awkward pauses of our life.

Don’t do it.

Let both agree to let this new pace realign our heart and mind to be more sensitive to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. From Abraham to King David, and Saul to St. Peter, each of the men and women of the scriptures learned to become ‘less’ and let God become “more’.

Peace out, Pastor B.

PS – No, for those who do know me personally… I’m not having a moral crisis or marital implosion, God is pushing into new territory within my heart and it’s uncomfortable. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

 

 

 

Conquering the Comparison Curse

Struggling with the feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt… weakness, all a normal part of the human condition. When you’re a parent, it amps up. The incalculable burden of our kids success is added to the already tenuous personal struggle of affirmation and healthy self confidence. 

If your awake, you know there’s an ongoing struggle around social media and the constant bombardment of filtered images showing ‘perfect‘ mom’s and dad’s on perfect vacations with perfect kids. We can’t allow the highlight reel of other people’s lives to eclipse the reality and importance of our life. My parenting identity has to be built on way more than popularity and sweet photos of us all ‘winning’.

Our kids need so much more than another sports medal or scholastic scholarship to post about on Facebook. Mom and dad’s influence can’t be reduced to how close we are to our ideal weight, having perfect hair,  or raising our children in postcard perfect homes and fashion forward wardrobes.  Please!

Parents, let’s stop this nonsense. We have to fight through the counterfeit lives we see on social media  and break the curse of comparison living. 

Couple of ideas to consider if this all sounds way to familiar.

  1. Pull back from the Social Media outlets take a break. Sign off and stay off for 30 days. The temptation to troll through twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest will fade and your contentment will grow!
  2. Remember who you are, and ‘whose’ you are. God made you to be the mom or dad of your kids. Nothing by accident. No random assignments as parents. We were ‘picked’ by God as the ‘best’ parent possible for our specific children.
  3. Celebrate the “ordinary” moments of your life – and make them ‘extraordinary”. I was interviewing a wonderful lady on our podcast and she made this statement on living with Joy and inspired a portion of this blog today. (Carol McLeod) – Her comment stuck with me and I’m sharing it with you.

In summary – we’re all facing the frustrations of life not going ‘quite’ the way we planned. The struggles of feeling like we’ve failed our children or dropped the ball on our perfect plans for the next birthday celebration or school event. We need to back up a bit and remember we’re not going to ‘ever’ get it perfect.

God save us from those who think they do. 🙂

We have to live by ‘grace’ and in doing so we have to share it with each other and ourselves. The fake world of social media presents a compelling story for sure, but it’s not real. We know what we see from Hollywood and the weekly rags is a sham, we know that movie stars have teams of hair and makeup specialists, wardrobe consultants, and fashion designers to make their lives look amazing.  But, it’s easy to forget that our friends on Facebook have clicked off 34 pictures and deleted them all before posting the ‘one’ we get to see. That’s not real life either. It’s staged.

Let’s quit comparing our lives… we’re not supposed to live any other life but our own. Trust me, we’re all struggling out here, no one has this parenting thing all wrapped up. So, let’s agree to stop ‘posing’ for the parenting camera, and let’s truly ‘live’ as we are, and I think that’s pretty darn spectacular!

Blessings, Pastor B.