Waiting, Resting… and other ‘odd’ requests.

The Christian life in our modern world is so convoluted with the secular it’s almost impossible to sort things out.

The way our world works seems normal to us. It seems logical, even wise… but it operates on principles foreign to the Holy Spirit.

The world is about self-preservation, promotion, accomplishment, and gain.

Christ led us by example into a new way, a Kingdom built out of self-sacrifice, humility, service, and loss.

Photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels

He promises that if we will follow after His way, we’ll find what we’re all searching for… a new life, one that’s abundant and free.

One of the first things we’re often asked to do by God is to ‘wait’. He doesn’t assign us a prominent role in the ministry, He doesn’t place us in positions of great influence or authority, He often puts us in a ‘time-out’. 

He’s not punishing us, He’s loving us. His voice will often urge us to ‘rest’. It seems odd. It seems out of place for us to ‘not’ pursue after our ministry, or work, or family. After all our entire life has been in ‘pursuit’ of something!

What is this weird request?

We may feel like we’re aren’t ‘needed’ for His purposes? Did we misunderstand Him. Did he misunderstand us? It’s so unusual to slow down and to actually stop running around that we feel useless, and irrelevant when we do. So we don’t.

Yet God asks us to be still.

The point I believe is we’re being ‘un-taught’ our worldly ways. In our world the harder we push the further we get. In God’s Kingdom, the way up is down. His ways are opposite of our ways, the slower we get the quieter we become. The less we do, the more we can hear. 

When we learn to ‘hear’ clearly we can proceed with conviction and confidence. If we’re learning to live and work in ‘his’ strength, then knowing His will and way is far more important than working out the ways we’re going to accomplish things, or pondering the “how to’s” of our ministry.

God is speaking to us, it’s essential that we learn to slow down and stop. To rest and be quiet, it’s in these moments that we learn the most. His will is all that matters.

Blessings, Pastor B.

Isaiah 30:15 (ESV) “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,” 

The Choice to trust…

It’s always a temptation to doubt.

Life often doesn’t go like we planned, relationships get tough, finances strained, our work fails… we wonder where we’re going.

The struggle gets real with the news of cancer, loosing your job, a spouse who considers walking out, life can seriously strain one’s sanity at times. Parents get caught in the middle of this all the time, juggling one or more of these major stresses, yet needing to keep the ship balanced at home. The question becomes…how do we make sense of our faith when nothing makes sense anymore?

We get to decide what we’re going to do. The truth is, we’re not victims caught in the rush of water and helpless before the flood. What we can do is choose to ‘trust’. But when we can’t ‘see’ or ‘feel’ God, when our circumstances push us to the limits of our logic, God is near. 

How do I know that? Many – Many – Many times I’ve been caught in desperate moments. I have struggled ‘wondering’ where God was in my hurt and loss. I’ve not always trusted God in those moments of confusion and pain, I’ve often allowed myself to ‘thrash’ emotionally, blaming myself, others, and God for the struggle or issues at hand. It’s exhausting and unnecessary.

Photo by Ali Arapoğlu from Pexels

But no matter how overwhelmed, shocked, or stressed out I may feel, I still retain the consciousness to recognize my free will. I have a choice to make. A decision for how I will respond. I’m not caught in a one way tunnel of darkness, I can still pull my gaze away from the nasty stuff around me and focus on the light of God’s word, and remember the power and love of my Savior.

It takes a massive effort to deny myself the satisfaction of being a victim, of living in the gutter of self pity. Instead I have to choose to remember God’s faithfulness. I have to deny my emotions and not allow them to rule over me. I have to embrace my faith within my own mind and heart. I have to decide to trust God, to acknowledge He is ‘good’. 

These moments of choosing are the moments that build our faith. We can’t avoid our struggle, we can’t always flee or run and hide, we have to face it and we can do it in our own strength or in His. The struggle is to allow God to lead us when we can’t see or feel His presence… that takes ‘faith.

The choice is only ours to make. No one can do it for us, it’s deeply personal and painfully intimate. Once we make our choice, we can experience ‘peace.

My prayer for you and myself is this… “Lord give us the grace to hang on to the words you spoke to us, to remember the special promises of your scripture, to look for your salvation in this moment. Lord provide me the strength and wisdom to move forward in faith and open the doors you want me to enter and shut the ones not good for me. I trust your goodness, I believe in your sovereign power, and I look forward to seeing your miraculous solution to my impossible problems.” 

Psalm 100:5 “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Pastor Brad.

Moving through the Wilderness is Moving Past Me.

Moving past Me

We may be starting to appreciate the design in our wilderness circumstances, even begin to understand the strategy in all our struggles, but the battle to survive the process we’re caught up in will require us to lift our gaze further than we have before.

The journey of faith we’ve been invited into cannot simply be focused on our situation, it’s larger and bigger than us. His presence in our lives is meant to be more than a means to an end. He cannot be approached without shrugging off our selfish and ambitious nature.

We cannot proceed any further in our upward ascent to following God if we insist on retaining what remains of our old self and sense of control. Thus the need for us to be driven into a desert / a wilderness moment of life, a place of being sorted out from the contamination of our world and the sins that so easily clings. (Hebrews 12:1-3) (Romans 12:1-3)

Pexels.com

The maturing focus of our spiritual journey requires a shift from our plans and promotion, to the relationship behind the entire belief system. Christianity is not a path for personal enlightenment or purification for our own merit – but rather as a process of being sanctified and consecrated for the creators presence. We are not our own.

Our relationship with God must become greater than any other preoccupation of our hearts. We can’t simply pursue His favor and blessings, we won’t progress any further than we are. To move deeper and higher we must relinquish our very identities to Him. Finding our strength and value and purpose in our time we spend within His presence.

He is not a means to an end… HE IS THE END.

Tozer quote: “We must be concerned with the person and character of God, not the promises. Through promises we learn what God has willed to us, we learn what we may claim as our heritage, we learn how we should pray. But faith itself must rest on the character of God.

 Is this difficult to see? Why are we not stressing this in our evangelical circles? Why are we afraid to declare that people in our churches must come to know God Himself? Why do we not tell them that they must get beyond the point of making God a lifeboat for their rescue or a ladder to get them out of a burning building? How can we help our people get over the idea that God exists just to help run their businesses or fly their airplanes?

 God is not a railway porter who carries your suitcase and serves you. God is God. He made heaven and earth. He holds the world in His hand. He measures the dust of the earth in the balance. He spreads the sky out like a mantle. He is the great God Almighty. He is not your servant. He is your Father, and you are His child. He sits in heaven, and you are on the earth.”

 From his book; Faith Beyond Reason, 44.

The Stillness of Intimacy – a gift from the wilderness

 

In the Wilderness… we can grow into a deeper ‘Intimacy” with God. 

The process of the Holy Spirit is persistent and subtle in our wilderness season.

  • He asks us to follow the voice of God – to walk the path we have been shown despite our limited insights and understanding of the “purpose” or plan.
  • We are gently forced to let go of our stuff – our crutches that have propped us up. (Career – intimate relationships that hold us back from growing in faith – confidence in our financial strength – friendships – ministry roles) things that affirm us or give us perceived value. Things “other” than God.
  • We must willingly surrender these “other” things as we choose to “stay” in the place and path Gods spirit has led us. We cannot run away or hide – we must allow the work of the Holy Spirit to persist in our weakness.
  • Our dependence on the flesh for support and affirmation is reduced the longer we allow ourselves to be reduced. Our need for the flesh is weaned – and we grow in hunger and interest in the things of the Holy Spirit.
  • The loss of self is astonishingly difficult, but it removes our false confidences and pseudo identities and replaces them with a transparency of the soul. We block less of the Spiritual light within and begin to assume more and more of our identity from the one who inhabits our heart.
  • Here habits can be broken and false assumptions revealed. Here in this place we can be changed and transformed from what we were to who we are destined to be.
  • It’s also here that we can begin to hear and understand the work of the Holy Spirit within much better than we could otherwise. We can gain insight and wisdom from the suffering we’re experiencing.

The process* of growing in Intimacy requires us to become “still”. To learn to stop doing things to change our circumstances. God wants to teach us how to wait. He wants to train us to trust His plans more than our own.

2 Chronicles 20

This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

 The struggle to draw near to the creator is real – everything in us resists approaching His presence. Our minds endlessly inventive for finding “other” options to pursue.

Photo by Lucas Campoi from Pexels

Apprehension at His knowing gaze tempts us to run, to avoid being exposed for what we truly are. Our external and superficial defenses are powerless before Him. We desperately assemble something to prop ourselves up… we use our self invented identities and lean on personal successes to offset the weakness His gaze is revealing about ourselves. Lacking the strength to withstand or endure the penetrating power of His words to us, we are tempted to just keep retreating and hiding from the painful truth. Just like our forefathers we look for whatever fig leaves we can find to cover our nakedness.

The active effects of our wilderness circumstances and of His approach are effective in forcing a “sorting out” of our past presumptions and false assumptions.

We cannot retain our pride and false bravado for very long in the definitely engineered circumstances of His will. There is no room for the baggage of our past in the present, we are unable to deny the truth of our weakness and incompleteness. We must admit our need – accept His conditions or we must flee forever.

This process of growing in Intimacy requires a form of “sorting out” or refinement. Consider your life as you would a precious metal like Gold, Platinum, or Silver, this is how God sees us. The purification of this treasured substance (our hearts) is a large part of the human condition as experienced in Christ.

We are in nearly constant transition as we experience the fire and flames of being heated and then the abrupt change of being thrust into the icy waters. The repeated heating to the point of melting and then being plunged into one more baptismal trial after another is the tempering way for every believer to proceed in their faith. No other path will prepare us adequately for the prize we seek.

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It’s in this season of refinement, in the pain and suffering of our fearful transitions and abrupt life changes that we risk giving ourselves over to the darkness of despair and discouragement. Make no mistake, this is a choice! We have the capacity to chose life or death, Hope or despair and it’s in this that our life trajectory will rise or fall.

No one of us can endure the strain indefinitely, we are subject to the mortal nature of eventual fatigue and exhaustion, but this too serves the masters purposes and realign’s our understanding from fantasy to faith. We cannot continue to pretend or fake our way through the Christian life, we must dig in or bug out.

Despite all of the insight and growing personal awareness of our condition, we cannot remain myopic and self obsessed for long if we are to move forward. The journey is “upward” and if we keep clinging to Jesus, we will wind our way to greater heights and better perspectives than we have ever yet experienced. This isn’t a test of our strength, but rather our wills. Surrender is hard.

The Wilderness isn’t about being abandoned by God, it’s all about learning to be more intimate with Him.  An unavoidable place and space in every Christians story, the journey of faith expands for those who choose to stay in His presence, for those who trust enough to be still. 

Pastor B.

 

5 Essentials for Modern Parenting

 

5 Essential Issues for Today’s Christian Parent!

As summarized from the Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcast series:

Parenting is hard work and it requires effort and conviction to do well! Sometimes it feels like the odds are stacked against us. We’re here to bring hope and practical advice to the challenges of faith-based parenting. Brilliantly Brave Parenting wants to be a fun and encouraging resource for today’s Christian family!

Here are FIVE essentials of parenting to consider:

#1 Fighting Futureshock: Today’s generation of parents currently active & engaged with the church is struggling with more than a simple ‘generation gap.’ We are struggling with ‘Futureshock.“ Which means, “a displacement of reality in which life is only focused on the present, and constantly being redefined by the moment. This lack of stability and constancy creates a state of constant flux for parents.”

Clearly as parents in a shifting moral landscape we are going to need to anchor ourselves and our kids to something ‘greater’ than ourselves.

The traditions of the faith provide a powerful resource for parents and pastors to utilize. Disciplines of devotion offer a way for us to be reminded of the truth of our biblical heritage. The constant remembrance of how BIG GOD is, and how the values of our world do not match with the values of scripture.

https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/ep57-bishop-dan-scott – Find out more  Listen to our FREE Podcast Link

 #2. Self-Care is ESSENTIAL:

When was the last time you invested in yourself as a parent or pastor?

Parenting is exhausting, the idea that we can just persevere through it is a bit naive. We need to rest. We need to recharge and refocus. As parents we can’t give what we don’t have. Our modeling and ability to teach our kids will be profoundly impacted by the energy we have to give them.

Self-Care requires healthy habits, resting well at night, making space in our schedules to spend time with our families, and watching our diet and exercise. That also means saying ‘no’ to outside things so that we are sure that we’re involved with our kids. We can’t offer what we don’t have.

Jesus modeled this idea when he would retreat from the crowds and the disciples to go apart and pray. He would withdraw to the mountains as often as he could, knowing the essential nature of rest and refreshment spiritually, physically, and emotionally. We are no different.

Podcast Link: https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/reality-with-teens-ep44-paige-clingenpeel

#3 Heritage of Faith

God calls parents to do amazing things with their lives! We can’t put Him in a small box, His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts… the path God leads is often overwhelmingly big and seemingly impossible. But God has a long, long, history of calling ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.

We need to ‘listen’ and be aware of the subtle requests that God nudges us to do. It is NOT our life, we are on loan to God, and we can’t forget that God has plans for us that are bigger than our own. The same is true for our children.

Our kids and our plans can’t be driven by our ambition or pride, because it’s not about us. EGO is Edging God Out, and we can’t do that as Christians.

God will empower us to see beyond our own lives, to see the needs of those around us and to give us the strength and courage to act boldly!

Podcast Link: https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/brilliantly-brave-episode-1-patti-garibay

#4 The Danger of Self-Reliance:

Being perceived as “strong” and above it all is a huge temptation for parents in the church to try and project. The reality is, we’re not. We can’t handle it all by ourselves. We need help and we need encouragement, and we need support from other believers.

Parenting is more than a project to complete, it’s a sacred assignment to be guarded and stewarded well. Part of stewarding our parenting role is to surround ourselves with wise counsel and experience from those who have gone before us.

Living self-reliant as a parent can result in the spiritual death of your kids! Don’t do it. Jesus never called us to be ‘good’ – but Holy. Good is what we do, Holy is what He does. Christian Karma is when we start ‘comparing’ our good/bad behavior with others and rely on our being ‘better’ than other people.

Values based parenting vs. Rules based – the difference is all about what we parent from… fear or love.

What is our goal as a parent? To deliver a ‘good’ kid at 18 years of age, without having premarital sex, or having tried alcohol or drugs? Or is it to love them unconditionally and help them discover their identity as God created them to be?

Podcast Link: https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/ep30-dean-diehl

#5 Single Parents and the Church: 

One-third of all households are led by a single parent. Today’s single parents are struggling to engage with the church and with their faith. Being ‘alone’ and unsupported by the Christian culture is something solo parents often ‘feel,’ no matter what a local community of faith might project.

The battle for single parents to raise their children to be responsible and well-balanced citizens, provide for their well-being, and keep up with all of the myriad of demands that life throws at us is impossible. They are overwhelmed by it all in the best of circumstances.

The role of church in coming along side of single parents has largely been in question. Many single parents feel abandoned or judged by the church and lack the confidence to enter the doors of a church to ask for help. The need for single parent spiritual support and practical assistance is only growing. How the church responds now will be a significantly positive or negative impact for the next generation of parents.

Podcast Link: https://soundcloud.com/brilliantlybrave/ep59-nikki-leonti-edgar

Faithful is He who called you.

“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (KJV) 

Parenting is one of the most significant ‘calling’s we will ever be honored to embrace. In the stress and struggle of crazy Holiday schedules and family…it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to wonder if you’re ‘fit’ for the duty of being a parent at all.

Let me humbly seek to encourage you and remind you of the bedrock strong promises of God that back us up. We’re not in this all by ourselves, God has not left us alone and unsupported. He promises to work on our behalf, to finish what we started despite our ability to keep it all going on our own.

What a relief! God didn’t just call us into this parenting adventure, He is the one who guarantees the outcome. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 is an anchor to the soul of every parent floundering in the treacherous waters of self-condemnation and doubt. 

Parents! We’re not going to get it right every time. We’re going to fail and flop along the way.

It’s true, none of us are ‘perfect’ parents, and we’re not going to raise ‘perfect‘ kids. Our expectations and pride need to be just a wee bit lower and our reliance on God a whole lot higher! 

We’re all faced with the reality of our ‘human’ shortcomings, the emotional outbursts, anger, anxiety attacks, and frustrations…but in the end we’re backed up by something much bigger and better than ‘us’. It’s time to cut ourselves and our kids some ‘slack’ and enjoy the moments and individuals we have in front us.

Don’t miss your family time today! We can easily be robbed with distractions and discontent. We can get stuck longing for the good old days long past or in planning ferociously to make sure we have a better ‘tomorrow’.  We all need to do our best to live contented, to live with awareness and try to be ‘present’ in the preciousness of today. 

So… for parents handling the strain and stress of the Holidays, relax. Your kids and family have been personally ordained by God as perfect for you, and you for them. There are no mistakes in God’s order of life, He hand picks and places us in the exact situations and circumstances that will best serve our growth and development. He’s all about the end result, and in the messy – in-between we can rely on His ability to finish what He started in us and through us.

This post is meant to be an encouraging and timely reminder to rest in the promises of God for your kids and home.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, lets renew our commitment to enjoy the moments we have together, maybe it’s time to put our phones down and focus intensely on those directly around us… God after all has only placed them in our path for a season.

Blessings,

Pastor Brad.

Scripture Source – BibleHub.com

Seasons Change

It’s been quite a run.

Middle Tennessee has been home for over fifteen years. We’ve raised three kids here and helped plant a new Anglican church. We helped care for and bury my dad and dear sister-in-law. We’ve had the honor to stand side by the side with those who grieved and those with reason to celebrate. We’ve been blessed to be included in the lives of hundreds of amazing men and women, kids, and students since moving here in 2003. A huge part of our lives was invested in the formation of iShine, the Tween Gospel Alliance, and Bema Media.

Mathias Family Circa 2017

The call to the Priesthood and pastoral ministry with NewSong Christian Fellowship, Four Winds Mission and the AMIA all were birthed here. The blood, sweat, and tears we shed for the unique and beautiful family that is the church at Four Winds Anglican Mission, was a constant part of our past nine years.

To leave these things is to leave a part of our own identity behind and unthinkable. Yet the voice keeps coming… and the images of Maine are never far from our minds. When I prayed… I felt it, when I slept… I saw it, and when I began to investigate… God revealed it.

It started a few months ago when we  (Paige and I) visited the state of Maine, and had an unexpected sense of displacement, a familiar connection to something we shouldn’t have, in an area we’ve never been before. (Ellsworth / Acadia)

An old and faintly familiar nudge began coming into our thoughts from somewhere outside of us. A kind of gentle whisper that wouldn’t go away, coupled to a ridiculous implication that didn’t make any rational sense. The idea inside those thoughts was just too crazy to seriously consider.

“We both felt we were supposed to live in Maine”

We knew being empty nesters meant some major life changes, but this was a bit much. After all, we have a grandson two hours away, our kids, friends, and church family were in middle TN. Our life had been built around and for this beautiful and warm place we called home. To leave now, just didn’t’ make sense.

The insanity of the idea was clear to any rational mind. To willingly decide to leave the familiar and comforting parts of our life and go to a place we know nothing  and no one… just didn’t make sense. 

In the end it was proven true, and confirmed by everyone in our life. After four weeks of intense and persistent prayer for confirmation, it came. First from our Bishop and then from our immediate family, we talked with our bosses, friends, and fellow pastors. They all sensed the truth of this and affirmed our decision to leave.

Acadia National Park

The crazy call of God to go to Maine wasn’t just some bout of indigestion or a momentary impulse. It was a genuine ‘calling’ to go and serve in a far away place. To be His servant in a strange land, to minister and laborer for His Kingdom and not our own. It felt scary and exciting… like a sneeze and a hiccup in one deep breath.

This radical idea had gone from a general concept to startling reality in a few short weeks. The truth of our calling was hard to apprehend, yet the implications obvious. The idea of getting our house ready to sell, of unplugging our lives and moving a thousand miles should be terrifying… but it wasn’t. A strange but peaceful atmosphere  was settling over our home and lives. God was miraculously forming a path out of the fog, a new road for us to follow, a journey for Paige and I into a new season of our life.

What had been a seemingly random idea was morphing into something quite solid, touchable, and true. A miracle that was taking shape right in front of our eyes. The reality of relocating our lives had hit ‘home’, and it felt ‘right’. (The transitions of our life may be sudden, but in God’s hands, we can remain peaceful.)

So here we are today, moving forward in faith. Our house is for sale, and we’re looking in Maine to find our next residence. We’re living proof that God continues to use broken people to serve Him in unusual ways and in unexpected places.

Paige and I are about to embark on a grand adventure, to explore a new and much ‘colder’ place with new challenges and experiences sure to be ahead. The path forward has been revealed, but the details are still foggy. We don’t know when exactly, we don’t know what exactly, but we do know where.

It turns out…St Thomas Anglican in Ellsworth Maine is in need of a Priest, and we believe it is to become our next stop. This obscure and distant place is strategic to both the Kingdom of God, and to our lives.

We’ve learned since hearing from God, that New England and the specifically the state of Maine are suffering greatly from a famine of churches*(see sources) and pastors to serve them. We know that Maine has few churches to meet the needs of God’s people and that around fifty percent of pastors are giving up their pulpits within three years of serving a church. This remote state and region matter to God, and the need for pastoral care is clearly reaching a critical stage. We didn’t know all that before we said yes… but we do now. Things are beginning to make sense.

St Thomas Anglican

God is constantly leading people all over the world to do seemingly radical things for Him. Just like the unknown fishermen He found on the shores of Galilee… He’s asking people to ‘Come and Follow Him,” and He will make us into  ‘fishers of men’.

I wouldn’t dare presume to know for you, but for some… you’ve been hearing the whisper of God already, but were afraid to respond. I get it. To trust God so completely is scary, but it’s also an honor and a privilege to be asked. For Paige and I, it’s time to hit the pavement and start on a brand new and totally EPIC Roadtrip to the great state of Maine. 🙂

We’ll see you there.

Pastor B.

PS – This blog and my work at Bema Media/ iShine will continue, the podcast (Brilliantly Brave Parenting) and work of Four Winds Anglican are not ending. God has provided a way for each of those to continue on and to thrive. Some of it will include us directly and some will not, but each effort is secure in the shadow of God’s divine providence and sustaining power.

*Sources:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/jared-c-wilson/why-new-england-is-the-new-american-missional-frontier/

http://philwaldrep.org/retreat/

https://factsandtrends.net/2017/08/25/survive-pastors-graveyard-new-england/

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/18/religion/got-faith-maine-the-least-religious-state-in-the-nation/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/29/how-religious-is-your-state/?state=alabama

https://news.gallup.com/poll/232223/religious-regions.aspx