Meager to Miraculous… hope for us all

Recently I spoke on a passage in John 6... an iconic miracle of Jesus in which He feeds five thousand with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. The story includes a moment where Jesus allows Phillip some time to try to figure things out for himself, to do the ‘math’ if you will. fish and loaves

In a few moments Phillip quickly calculates the impossibility of feeding five thousand people with a single serving lunch for two or three people. I can imagine Christ smiling patiently as Phillip does his mental gymnastics desperately trying to figure out how to feed all these people…

It’s clear to us as readers the best efforts of Phillip aren’t going to feed these hungry people. No matter how he plans or prepares to meet the need right in front of him, he doesn’t have enough to go around.

How often do we as parents or pastors feel that way on any given day ? 

How often do we add up our resources for a specific need we see in our lives or for others and simply admit how impossible it would be for us to make a difference, and walk away without even trying?

What if we gave God what we have… (2 fish / 5 loaves) and asked Him to “bless it, break it and multiply it” ? Would we too see a miracle of provision from our meager means…. 

I believe so. 

As we navigate our lives we are going to come across situations inside and outside of our homes where the need is greater than our ability. If we see Christ as “bigger” than our problem, we could do more than walk away frustrated at our inability to fix things… we could surrender what we have to Jesus and watch as He does something miraculous right in front of our eyes.

Something to consider…and to find hope in! 

Pastor B.

 

Rush to judgement

As a pastor I deal with lots of diverse personalities, backgrounds and perspectives on Christian life. I hear various and widely polarized views of God, politics and the role of the church in our modern culture. I’ve seen painful issues blow up from minor misunderstandings to a church split, based on a single personal offense.

It’s tragic when we allow ourselves to be manipulated, nudged into fueling turmoil and rumors without all the facts.

We forget of our mortal enemy and his mastery of getting us to think the worst of the other. Subtle demonic encouragement that urges us to assume ill intent from a fellow brother or sister.

We can easily get caught in a ‘knee-jerk’ rush to judgement and say things that we regret.

Let’s be careful to recognize the unrestrained flood of emotion that can ‘mysteriously’ show up in our days.

It clouds minds and hearts and overshadows all the good and true things of our Christian communities. In those dark moments, very few of us have all of our facts sorted out and lined up before we throw down on our fellow Christian. Let’s pull back to Christ before we give in to the temptation to spew whatever we’re feeling all over every one else.

Let’s be careful to not presume the worst, but to have the courage to ask for the facts.

Let’s choose to trust the Christ in each other and not to use each other to simply “affirm” our views. Let’s give up on the option we can hold in reserve, the plan B to simply walk away if our views are ever rejected. We have to deny the lies that whisper….”we’re not wanted” and re- focus on the redemption of God in our hearts,  trusting He does the same in others. We can’t keep simply leaving communities of faith when we get hurt, grinding our teeth and nursing grudges, simmering with bitter resentment that can slow boil for decades.

The problem is… what we ‘feel’ isn’t usually true and if other people are involved in our lives…. we will get hurt eventually. An unavoidable reality of a fallen world. 

The truth is we are all already wounded, scared and angry. We cautiously visit churches, convinced we’ll be rejected before we ever enter the doors… self-sabotaging and primed for defensive measures. Please understand….I get it. I’ve done it. I know how to live frustrated and wary, cynical in my mental isolation.

We need to learn to take a moment to slow things down and really-truly ask our God to show us where HE wants us to belong. Where are we called to plug- into a community of faith? Not where we feel the most ‘fed’ or  the most ‘comfortable’ or  where people all agree with me.

Ask Him to reveal the things in your life that are uniquely ‘yours’ to resolve. Ask Jesus to come. Invite Him to touch your heart and heal the broken spaces, the old issues and fears, frustrations and pains that need to be brought to His healing cross.

christwithin.com

christwithin.com

Wouldn’t it be great if we moved from a Co-Dependent faith that seeks to find only those who agree with us… to a genuine relationship with God in a community of faith that’s bound by covenant of love and shared mission ?

Saints, parents and friends, we must push forward through the turbulence of community life, we have to choose to forgive and grow up together  into Christ, mature and stable, able to discern between good and evil.

Paul says it so much better…

Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV (Biblegateway)

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Love you all, Pastor B.

Hope and Change…

The elections are almost here, Obama or Romney? Time to choose, time to place your bets and roll the dice… who is the best man for the job? Who can deliver on the most promises and who will provide a better America for our kids and grandkids to grow up in?

immigrationvisaus.com

Hard to say isn’t it?

Obama is an iconic and historical first for America, but his values and beliefs represent hope for change from the status quo’ and recalls to us the dreams of every American who has ever suffered injustice. His call is for us to trust in the government to step in when we can’t.

Romney is a no-nonsense businessman who claims to represent the pragmatic and disciplined might of our American ideals, hard work, conservative values and economic prosperity. His call is to trust in his ability to “turn things around” and in his lifetime of success in the boardroom.

Choose and vote your conscience, but remember… there is only ONE true answer to our universal cry for “Hope and Change”.

Putting our faith in a man, or an economic system to protect and provide is what repeatedly tripped up the nation of Israel in the historical record that’s found in the bible. They too found the temptation to trust in something visible, touchable and popular….outweighed the teachings and traditions of their Hebrew faith. The families who lived through the  Exodus from Egypt had forgotten to keep fresh the miraculous evidences of God’s provision. As a result, their trust and faith in Jehovah slowly faded,  lost in translation from one generation to the next.

I’m fearful for our nation that we are approaching our challenges with a similar mindset. Hoping for a plan, or an economic philosophy that we can “see”, trusting in only logic to create a way to recover our financial health and restore the fortunes we’ve lost.

What if no one can figure it out?

Let’s be careful that we as families of Faith don’t begin to place our trust in the wisdom of man and ignore the patterns of God and the obvious history of our unprecedented blessing as “One Nation Under God”? Isn’t it time to begin respecting, believing and trusting in God’s word as a nation again?

junialeigh.wordpress.com

This year… vote with a clear understanding that the man we elect is only a servant of the people, meant to reflect the values, beliefs and character of our nation. The only true source of lasting “Hope and Change” is going to come from us, the people, the real faces of America and what we choose to do every day.

Let’s each renew our personal commitment to walk with and trust in the power of God to guide and provide the “best” way forward for our families and this nation.

NO man, NO Plan and NO force of will is going to save us from ourselves…Only Jesus.

Peace out, RTP.

Carly Rose reminds the world what a 13 year old CAN do…

Working in the music world of Nashville with pre-teen and teen artists I’m used to coming across amazing talent with iShine (www.ishinelive.com), young men and women who are vocally talented and gifted. But this 13 year old (Carly Rose Sonenclar) was not what I was expecting… after watching her X Factor performance, I was a fan… A Facebook post by my niece piqued my curiosity and then I starting typing out this blog.

gossipcop.com

http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/The-X-Factor/169661/2279104729/Meet-Carly-Rose-Sonenclar/videos

I watched the video and reposted it… and when the goosebumps started to fade I realized part of what I was feeling was the pure joy of hearing a voice that was meant to be heard! A gift from God that stirred the heart and refreshed the soul, from the lips of an emerging adolescent girl who at 13 was tearing IT UP!!!

It reminded me of the amazing potential our next generation has to shape our world, to refresh and reorient us from our adult cynicism, heartache and bitter pain. Our kids hold the keys to the future, literally. As in Carly Rose’s case, she can hit all the “keys” on her way up and on the way down the vocal scale 🙂

As parents… let’s use this wonderful musical interlude to remind ourselves of the vitality and strength that is retained in the lives of our pre-teens and teens. Their dreams and hearts are just big enough to become reality, let’s be extra careful to NOT put their hopes in a box made out of our own shortcomings, failures and pain.

After all, Jesus was in the temple at 12 wow-ing his world as he shared with the scribes and teachers of the law from a depth of divine insight that was unprecedented. Josiah was running an entire empire by his 13th b-day and Mary the mother of Christ had to be in her “early” teen years when called upon by the Holy Spirit to play a lead role in the eternal story of redemption.

Jesus in the Temple – truthworks.org

It’s clear that pre-teens and teens were and are meant to share a lot of valuable stuff for us “adults” to learn from and they carry in them… hope and heart and optimism for us all!

WoooHoooo!!!  You Go Carly Rose ! and we’ll be rooting for you in Nashville every step of the way, and praying for God to protect you and your precious family from the rigors of your emerging fame and success.

Before any one out there gets too upset, I’m NOT comparing this young talented singer to the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Virgin Mary, but I am pointing out the potential she has at tender age to impact the world as noteworthy and encouraging for parents of Faith. What a great and timely reminder for us to nurture the dreams of our own children as they  may well have a significant gift like Carly’s to share with us all!

Blessings to you RTP families!

Brad.

is Age12, old enough to embrace faith?

After spending the last four years of my life engaged in tween media and ministry (www.iShinelive.com) , I’ve had the privilege to hang out with some of the most profound thinkers and observers of Christian culture in our generation. ALL of them point to statistics first and personal experience second on this age issue…

Statistics say that 3/10 kids from Christian families will still be in a church or community of faith after age 18. According to research from George Barna (author of Best sellers like; Revolutionary Parenting &  Maximum Faith) and data researched by the Barna Group ; surveys of 8- to 12-year-olds has shown:

 2% possess a biblical world-view

18% believe in moral absolutes.

32% believe that Jesus was resurrected

36% believe that the Bible is totally accurate

40% believe that the purpose of life is to love God fully

67% believe that being a “good person” equals salvation

68% believe that good people can earn salvation

70% of 8- to 12-year-olds in America believe there is no Satan

80% say the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon teach the same truths…

Pretty shocking statistics, even for someone who works in and around these issues every day. The bottom line for parents is this; an hour a week in sunday school will NOT offset an average of 80 hours a week consuming mass media. We will have to INTENTIONALLY engage our tweens with the details of our faith. Not by forcing more bible study, or expanded devotionals every night at the dinner table…not by disciplining them into outward compliance, but by the sheer integrity of our own parenting faith.

We will only win their hearts for Christ by the way we treat our spouses, friends and co-workers. By what we say and don’t say about our brothers and sisters in the faith and by how we invest our time, money and resources for self…or for others. Faith has a way of declaring itself to be real to those who are closest to us. Our kids know if we’re the genuine article or not. The question is… will they be so affected by our lifestyle of authentic and practical faith they might want it too?

Francis Chan

 “Satan would probably love 90% of what goes on in the church in America,” says Francis Chan. “‘I don’t even need to deceive them. They’re deceiving themselves.’ We must set the example as people who live by faith.”

So the answer to today’s question… is YES to age 12. Not only is the answer “YES”, but statistics suggest we should be actively asking them about what they do believe at this age! Not passively assuming they are absorbing what we believe.

Further research shows that our kids will decide by the age of 13 if the the Jesus we proclaim is going to become their own. The ultimate illustration of our parenting faith is not found in dedicated church attendance or scripture memorization, but in our LOVE and practical application of what we say we believe.

As the father of three teens, I pray often for Christ to show me the specific areas of my kids hearts that need to be “won” for Him. And when I begin to see the areas of doubt, pain and hurt that have blocked His message of hope and joy and peace, I go after those as best I can…praying all the way for grace to cover up all of my faults and flaws and inconsistencies.

To be clear…I’m not fixated on age 12, I am fixated on the condition of my kids hearts. I know that God can capture any heart at any age, what I’m hoping for is that our kids won’t run from him when he does 🙂

School is about to resume.

Patterns of life are being set, I want to be sure I keep focused on my family and the healthiest possible patterns of love and faith inside our home, trusting God to handle things beyond our door.

King Josiah – courtesy of mwillustration.com

King Josiah stepped into leadership as a tween, Jesus himself began to teach others in the synagogue at age 12 and we know that Mary was as young teen when she embraced the honor of being a miraculous mother to Christ. From the biblical pattern of scripture, we can certainly see that God uses Tween’s, and when he does…it changes the world. How cool is that ?

Peace out,

brad.

Blueprint for a healthy home

We ALL want to have a healthy home. We all want our kids to turn out “right“. But as we get some mileage on our lives, we find out it’s harder than it sounds… to find some answers, I’ve been studying in the book of Exodus, looking at the patterns of God for the home in its history and content.

The old testament tabernacle emerges as a symbol of the home. Resembling a huge modern-day tent, it exemplified the pattern of worship, law and common-unity for the nation of Israel to grow up and around. This same tabernacle housed the presence of God in its Holiest inner chamber and clearly expressed the heart of God to be with man, in a home.

That mobile and temporary tent structure was replaced hundreds of years later by King David’s son Solomon who erected a massive stone temple that more properly honored and reflected the blue-print that God had described in Exodus for a dwelling place on earth. Even it in all it’s glory, the temple was still an imperfect demonstration of the heart of God towards man….

When Jesus Christ shows up on the stage of history in the Roman era, we begin to see more of the original architects intended design for a Heavenly home. What had been a magnificent stone representation (temple in Jerusalem) of the covenant between man and God was now being transitioned to a new covenant. No longer would the covenant be based on a man to God approach (outside in) but on a much firmer foundation, that of a God to man (inside out) approach. With this new covenant came a  new blue-print for God’s home. In this new pattern, His presence would no longer be containable in a physical structure like a tent (tabernacle) or temple. Instead He would live in the very hearts of those who accepted and followed the teachings and ways of  His only son, Jesus.

This created a new focus,a shifting of attention from the external behavior or appearance of  people,  to the internal reality of their hearts and minds.

Skipping the deeper theological tenants for the sake of brevity, suffice it to say… this new covenant still modeled the ancient blueprints of God’s plan and purpose to be in relationship with man, but it no longer required us to experience God through a surrogate (Moses, Priests or Prophets)…always one relationship away from God’s presence. Instead we were granted the most precious gift of all… of being allowed into the presence of God for ourselves. So what’s this have to do with a healthy home?

Simply this… for us to fully experience a peaceful and vibrant life we will need to back away from having an over focus on the exterior of our homes. Struggling to maintain the outside appearances of our families to others is not going to work… it’s exhausting and impossible to accomplish in our own human strength or wisdom.

When we try to live to maintain the “status quo” of what we believe is proper we major on a minor theme. If we as parents find ourselves overly concerned with “what they (others, neighbors, friends, church)  might think” of us, it suggests we might still be “stuck” in the old covenant of “earning our way” back to God by our external behaviors.

Jesus calls us to abandon that “old” way of living out faith, and instead as parents to make it a priority to spend time with Him first. If we spend that time alone with Him on a regular basis… it allows Him permission to write His law on our hearts…and when it’s in our hearts, it transforms. Families will begin to experience a perceptible shift, completely from within, starting from the top down, and spreading naturally from the inside out. Just like Jesus said it would.

Such changes are not temporary or transient, but eternal and reflect the heart transformation that can only occur when we are in the presence of God. When we focus on our own faith and our own heavenly father first, we may just discover that our ability to be Christ to our kids will suddenly expand and watch in amazement as our and their “hearts”  re-arrange themselves into a healthy and purposeful pattern… which is a divine BLUEPRINT for a HEALTHY HOME 🙂

Peace out RTP!

brad

Planting a seed…of hope for the dry and empty home.

When we start this journey of parenthood, it’s often in the afterglow of a newly married daze and floats idealistic on our own beautiful and euphoric haze of a peaceful and loving future family life… um-hummmn. ?

Has that continued for you or do you find yourself struggling to remember the “why” of your enthusiasm for life, for why you wanted to have kids…for why you still bother to fight to maintain the faintest dream of being a happy family. Remember how firm our convictions were early on… our vow to be different from our peers, of keeping our marriages healthy and our lives in balance?

Our world has a way of painfully touching us with its dark tragedies, of stealing our personal hopes and joys one little piece at a time. It works relentlessly and energetically to remove the warmth of our dreams and happiness from our first months and years of parenthood and marriage into the chilled cynicism of middle age and compromise. But I want to give you hope,  it doesn’t have to be life on empty any more…

Most of us get bruised and broken when we rely on something or someone who is unreliable. We place our hopes and dreams on the escalator of hard work and dedication only to find it often stops at the second or third level of life…nowhere near the top floor. We trust that if we just maintain our relationships, they will endure. We touch our faith only when we feel insecure. Our dreams can be based on fictional lives, illustrated by books, sit-coms and blockbuster films, but if we don’t filter out the fake and embrace the real… we start to long for something that never was as if it were.

God is calling to you to help. He’s been calling for thousands of years. Gently, simply and persistently. I’m here to testify that nothing else can truly satisfy. Nothing else can take away the darkest pain, the aches of our life. It’s incredibly hard to trust that such a cliché’ is true, but please consider for a moment. What if Jesus was reliable, what if he was real?

Would He will choose to heal you and reveal to you His plan for your Life from the moment of creation? What if ? I believe…because he did all of this for me when I was broken and empty and out of answers. I felt His call and I took the leap, will you ?

His truth is calling to you… son of Man, daughter of Eve, will you hear Him ? Will you consider taking the one ultimate step of trusting in Him? Nothing else. Of laying down your conditions, your false expectations, your past pains and your ever-growing fatigue with it all… for His promise of Peace ?

If you do, I promise you will radically be re-arranged. An internal reset of your life will occur as your perspective of the pain, and stress and failures of the past immediately start to become testimonies of God’s grace and redemption in your life. He restores the lost hopes, dreams and joy of your youth. He heals marriages, and homes and renews our minds and hearts with the truth of His cross and its ultimate ability to recover all that has been lost.

Don’t mis-understand, surrendering to Jesus isn’t a magic formula that fixes everything in our lives at once, in fact following Jesus is no guarantee of your problems being erased at all. What is promised to us is contentment. From agitated and anxious to steady, from angry to peaceful and from despairing to hopeful. Not because we can solve our problems any better than before…but we because we’ve finally found someone who can.

How is that possible?

It came from a seed. A seed that was the embodiment of all truth and life and love. And from that seed, our lives were redeemed as it was put in the ground two thousand years ago. A seed that valuable was just surrendered, sacrificed and buried deep in the ground so it could grow into much more. The fruit of that first seed is still growing today, in the lives of men and women just like you and me. It’s the fruit of “LIFE”. It’s never fails, it never looses its power or its grace. It heals all who eat of it and it takes out of all who believe in it… the sting of death and hell and sorrow.

Jesus Christ himself was that seed, and His path for those seeking to follow Him requires a similar commitment of surrender, the call to sacrifice our preferences for what we “want” and a decision to willingly agree to let the old “us” be “buried’. To die to our personal ambitions and self. Only when we surrender that old self will we find that like any seed, when it falls into the ground and dies… its re-born and radically transformed into what we were intended to really become and be.

If we insist on continuing to do life our way and on our own, we risk living out the rest of our days trapped in a pointless struggle for meaning. But we never quite get there...As parents we often stop believing in our lives around our middle age years. So we quit trying, but most of us then mistakenly re-focus our hopes and dreams on our kids to become what we never could be in an effort to make sense of what we missed on the way… it’s painful stuff.

God is calling to you parents, not just your kids… don’t give up on your lives! Plant your life seed. Surrender to Jesus and doing so… discover LIFE !

God’s grace and favor to you as you like me… seek to “Keep your kids on the road and in between the lines of life” this summer.

brad.