Wrestling with God…

The struggle is real.

Life and Faith wrestle within us, battling our doubt, cynicism, and pain. We wonder how a God could exist, why He would allow such suffering… such tragedy. We wonder…why is He not intervening on our behalf…?

Our lives get interrupted by the repugnant touch of cancer, dementia, and loss. We have always ‘believed‘. Always trusted that there was a God. Hoped we were following the right path down life’s highway…but are we just holding onto our faith like a warm blanket, tugging its comfort up and over our proverbial chins on a cold and wintry night. Safe and secure in the assumed knowledge that God will be with us, that we weren’t alone.

If bad things can actually touch us, then maybe God isn’t so near as we thought?

What now?

What if the faith that always comforted us before wasn’t true after all? Is that heresy? Are we abandoning the faith to question God?

What happens to our innermost hopes and dreams… if our faith falters, will we lose our hearts desire?

If we’ve set aside our desires for ‘His’, and in the end we’re simply left standing alone and isolated in our devotion to someone who isn’t even there…? What shame, what regret we would have. 

This is wrestling with God.

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Jacob Wrestling 

 

It’s part of every Christian journey. From the ancient patriarch Jacob until now… we must wrestle it out. We have to struggle with our faith to find out if it’s all real. There is no other way!

My strongest encouragement,despite how it seems…He is near. God won’t disappoint. But our conceptions of God and His ways are radically different from the assumed. The touch of God is subtle in the tragic circumstances of life. We have to ‘look’ for His whisper and wait for His approach if we are to cling to the faith that we once took for granted.

My hope is that like Jacob in the Genesis narrative…you will cling to Him, finding God is everything you ever hoped for, and more. That the still-small-voice of His presence will guide you in every choice yet to be made and His comfort will touch every moment you regret.

God isn’t abandoning you, it us who have lost our way in the dark of night and He patiently waits. He wants to wrestle it out with us… but will we cling to Him? Hanging tight to our Faith until the dawn breaks and our hearts are freed from the struggle of doubt. 

Wrestling changes everything.

It must.

Stay the course dear one, I believe, not because I know more… but from my own wrestling with the angel, and like Jacob…I too walk with a limp.

Pastor B.

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Guilty pleasures…

We run hard.

All the time.

Life pushes and stretches every free moment of our day. Work demands, school, sports, friendships, church, errands, bills, laundry, homework, cleaning the bathroom, the trash, the dishes, email, social media… the details of our everyday pile up and up as our free time evaporates. We never seem to catch up or slow down.

But when we actually do find a few precious hours of unscheduled, un-demanded free time… we may be confused. 

We can feel guilty. 

Uncomfortable with the unfamiliar freedom. 

It’s at times like this that I often find myself looking for something else to do. I feel so out of balance when life slows down that instead of enjoying the moment and resting,.. I rev up and chase after some distant almost forgotten task or meaningless assignment. Just to avoid the ‘uncomfortable’ void of doing ‘nothing. It’s as if rest has become a ‘guilty pleasure’ that I don’t deserve.

Ever feel that way…?

The truth is very different, the truth is we need rest.

The truth of God says we are commanded to rest every seventh day. In the Old Testament, we were supposed to take every seventh year off and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But we don’t. In fact we can’t really even allow ourselves to enjoy the few brief moments of unscheduled life that come our way.

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Let’s stop rushing and filling our lives with stuff. Let’s agree to trust that our creator knows what’s best and start planning to not plan every hour of every day.  🙂 

Peace can be found in letting go of the need to be in control and resting in the assurance that God’s promises are true.

Simple as that. 🙂

Pastor B.

The Unresolved Dilemma’s of Life…

For me, Faith is a lot like our culture… I perceive it to be an immediate thing.

I have a problem.

I pray.

God answers.

Problem solved.

Sometimes when I pray, God’s response is to say “No” and I hem and haw and shuffle my feet… grumbling a bit as I slowly start to obey. Other times it’s a resounding ‘Yes” and I nod my head in agreement, confidently striding through the next open door of life. But sometimes… the answer is “silence’.

adrianashton.co.uk

adrianashton.co.uk

What do we do when God doesn’t seem to respond to our urgent requests for an answer ? 

Do I quit asking and move on to wise counsel and best selling Christian books for direction? Maybe flip a coin 🙂 and hope for the best ?

Here’s a third option to consider. When God is seemingly removed and unconcerned with our immediate need for resolution, we may want to simply ‘wait’ for His still small voice.

Remember the prophet Elijah? His moment with doubt and struggle, hidden in the wilderness while all of Israel was out to kill him, a price on his head from the evil king. In that moment of severe isolation and distress, God shows up for Elijah and reminds him of the faithfulness of God to provide, protect and even ‘direct’ His servants lives.

I’ve found that ‘my’ preference for immediate faith isn’t always the way my heavenly Father works. In fact, it seems that God allows for difficult circumstances and challenges to exist in my life as a way to keep me close to Him. A chance for me to stretch my faith a bit further than ever before and time for me to really learn to find God in the ‘unresolvedness’ of my life. (my word)

May you find renewed hope and faith in the issues and stresses of life, knowing that your Father in heaven is avidly watching and working despite the delays.

As Saint Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy!

“for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:12-14 ESV)- Source BibleGateway.com 

Peace and Grace,

Pastor B.

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 🙂

Things God can’t do.

Funny title, serious subject.

Things that God can’t do… an odd thought for families of faith, but important stuff to remind ourselves regularly and make the extra effort to teach to our kids.

Passing it on… (image courtesy of diabetes.org)

1- God cannot LIE.

Hebrews 6:18 (ESV) – ” 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us…”

Titus 1:2 (ESV) – ” 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”

2- God cannot break His WORD, PROMISES or COVENANT.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV) ”  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”

3- God cannot FAIL.

Isaiah 46:10 (ESV) ” 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”

In a world where failure, compromise and broken promises are the “norm”… it’s important to surround ourselves with the powerful reminder of who God really is and how different His ways are from ours. It’s a temptation to translate our failures and the failings of those we love and rely on into our relationship with God.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God is infinite, perfect and incapable of falling short of exactly what we long for. We can trust in, rely on and believe for all our needs. He is unlike anyone or anything we know. He is GOD.

When your day starts to spin out of control… or your heart gets broken and your hopes are dashed… REMEMBER who you can truly place your trust in.

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Teach these things to our children, bind them about our hearts and minds and whisper His promises to your loved ones when all seems lost. It is this confidence of salvation in one who cannot disappoint that gives us the ability to press on and pass it on.

May this simple reminder, help to lift and guard your hearts and minds on the long and often lonely journey of parenthood.

Love you all,

brad.

Absolute Proof

So much of our modern-day culture is consumed with proving facts to be true… with a deep need to “KNOW” what is real and what is false. That is especially so with Faith.

I’ve watched my friends, family and own children go through the process of seeking out truth, of desiring to know for themselves what is true and what  is someone’s opinion. Our Faith is an individual and intimate treasure, one that we can either hold only for ourselves or choose to risk sharing, “entrusting” it to others.

We can all recall times when we foolishly shared that trust or Faith with others who we initially admired, but who failed us and ultimately betrayed that trust. As a father and a man, I must constantly resist the temptation to place my trust in savings, finances, career…  a common challenge among guys. For the ladies the issue of Faith and trust often centers around pleasing a parent or finding a significant “other’ who is trusted to “complete’ them.

As we process these life trust issues personally, our kids are watching our every move.

So what ultimately is the “proof” we can offer to them and ourselves of the assurance of placing our Faith in an un-seen, un-touched and un-heard God?

The option and logic of placing our Faith in someone or something we can see, touch, taste and smell is appealing and often the easiest choice. But as life slides by us we start to chalk up the wounds of failed trust and offense and eventually have to step back to really take inventory of what we are and where we’ve ended up.

I recently talked with a teen girl who at 14 years of age is struggling with the concept of having a “relationship” with Jesus… Her entire life she has been surrounded by the “evidences” of God in her family, yet she is still uncertain of how reliable or sane it would be for her give up what she wants and desires to follow and place her “faith” in someone she has never physically met. Understandable.

She wants “Proof”.

So did I and so do you. So what is the “Proof” we can offer her and others and our own hearts of the absolute evidence of God? 

I believe the answer is…PEACE

John 14:25-27 (ESV) – Biblegateway.com

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

When Jesus explains to his disciples that he must go…leave them after his work on Calvary, he describes the coming of someone else, the Holy Spirit who will seal them all with the presence and power of “PEACE“. It was meant to be the evidence of His still being with them… the “PROOF” if you will of his continued existence and involvement in their lives.

If your feeling disconnected from God, anxious and overwhelmed… it’s time to ask again for his gift of the Holy Spirit to fill you anew. If you have never experienced true and lasting peace, it’s available through the decision to trust and experience a new life, a second birth in following Christ. The Peace of God is yours in Him. All we have to do is simply ask for it. That’s called prayer.

(Phillipians 4: 6- 7)(ESV)  “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Faith that you and I and our kids are longing for… can be safely entrusted to an object that’s worthy of our affection in Jesus Christ. The evidence and powerful persuasion or “PROOF” of  our Saviors literal presence…is not an equation or formula of science, it’s not going to be discovered in a new end-times revelation or best selling self help book…no, according to scripture its as simple as having a Life that is lived in Peace. 

God help us to live in the Peace that you provide and to stop seeking to find it anywhere else.

Brad.

Fear and Anger, a parents worst nightmare

How many of us know all to well the terrible twins… “Fear and Anger“?  As parents its such a temptation to let those loose on our kids only to regret it later. If you’re scratching you head about this, well then this blog is probably not for you. If your holding your head in your hands about now… don’t be discouraged, you’re in good company and there is hope for change.

I got a call late one night from a nineteen year old who was really and truly hurt and upset at her father and mother and felt she couldn’t “talk” with them. She and her now grown siblings were struggling with a dad who didn’t seem to listen, or care or have a sensitive bone in his body. He was rigid, demanding and final in his words with them. He made laws and expected them to be obeyed without question. He had made it clear to his family, once he had made up his mind… well you get the idea.

The problem is two-fold and it’s critical we understand it enough to change its devastating impact in our homes.

1 – As parents we often “over-react” emotionally and vigorously out of fear and guilt and utter frustration with our teenagers. We remember our past mistakes, or the horror stories of our peer parenting friends… we ponder the risks and dangers of our kids being allowed more and more freedom.

We fume inwardly at the risks of broken hearts from boyfriends and girlfriends, of faded dreams and hopes that lay shattered in our past. We project those historical memories into our current homes and it scares the “crud” out of us. When we see one of kids stepping right up to the line we crossed… we might “freak” a little and in doing so, FEAR and ANGER emerge.

Wouldn’t it be so much healthier if we just allowed ourselves a moment to not flare up, and instead be straight with our kids about the “why” behind the reactions of fear and anger. To explain to them the past mistakes and humiliations, and tragedies of our own adolescence and to show them our love and our desire to protect and provide and nurture them.

2 – When we make a habit of giving in to the terrible twins of “FEAR and ANGER” we develop a pattern of inter-action between us and our love ones. It slowly builds a wall between our lives and eventually it blocks all communication from coming back from our kids to us. In the aftermath of such unchecked emotional reactivity… we see the charred remnants of what used to be a loving and intimate trust between us and our teenagers now blackened by the lack of any sensitivity to their thoughts, opinions or ideas. We teach them that a parents role is to  “TELL” them what to do, and kids are just there to “OBEY”.

It’s a forgone conclusion that if we react in Fear and Anger enough, they will withdraw  and never even dare to respond any longer. We will lose their trust, their respect and ultimately all of our influence to their heart. They will in time repeat the same with their kids and the painful cycle will continue to one more generation. Someday they might get the courage up to actually confront us with their own frustrations and anger and pain at the way they have been trampled, but that is a whole different issue entirely.

So… The Apostle Paul taught a bit differently on this, He suggested that only three things will endure into eternity… “Hope, Faith and Love…and the greatest of these is Love“.  It also is said in the bible that “Perfect Love casts out all fear”.  If that is true, then we need to seriously step back from our knee jerk parenting reflex of “Fear and Anger” for something better. We should seriously and soberly ask God for wisdom in how to Love our kids better and react to them slower.

Spend some time on that idea today… and ask yourself, why do I react the way I do ? Is it out of fear, anger or pride ? For me it was pride, it was the concern for my own reputation as a parent, as a pastor and out of the belief that if I was the parent, then I had to have the right answer every time etc.. yada didah doo. I was SO Wrong.

When your kids are little they will sometimes need fear and anger… if they want to play with electricity or drink paint etc.. but as they start to grow into adults, its time to lower your guard a bit and let them in. Let them see your own personal doubts and fears about life for themselves, let them consider with you the realities of our world and its dangers. Let them see your LOVE and Compassion and Concern for them in the struggles of it all. That DOES NOT MEAN BE THEIR BEST FRIENDS.  Let me be clear, as teens they will seek to manipulate and twist you for their own way. That is not what I’m suggesting at all, but when they do (and they will) don’t over-react anymore.

In the end they may not like what you decide any better than before, but they will LOVE the fact that you considered carefully before you spoke and that they had your ear in the process. That leads to respect and respect will lead to trust and trust will lead them to follow what you have taught them.

So lets throw out the terrible twins of “Fear and Anger” and let them leave our homes. Instead lets invite Peace and Love to rule our lives and ask for Gods wisdom and discernment instead of our own. Blessings to you as you like me… “seek to keep your kids on the road and in between the lines of life

Brad.