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I recently had a conversation with a friend who said “I saw so-and-so (a mutual friend of ours) last week and boy are they broken.  Really in bad shape . . . I know this person makes a lot of effort to help others . . . but how can they even think of helping others when they have so many issues themselves?!”

I was so taken aback that all I could say was “I don’t agree!”.

I have not been able to get that statement out of my mind since my friend said it: “. . . how can they even think of helping others when they have so many issues themselves?!”  Consequently I have thought and thought about it and decided to share some thoughts with you.

First of all, unfortunately . . . this is a pervasive perspective that many of us tend to gravitate toward.  When we turn it back on ourselves it says: I won’t attempt to do this or that until I have ______ (you fill in the blank) resolved or worked out in my life.  Not far from the attitude of I’m not good enough (at least until I get my stuff together) to ___________(again . . . fill in the blank).

What a limiting perspective!

I grew up in a large denominational church . . . one with a lot of pomp and ritual . . . lots of responsive readings and ups and downs in the pews.  The minister would parade on to the pulpit with his beautiful robe and collars and a couple of other folks who were clearly his underlings.
The whole setting smacked of the idea that the minister was a holy man . . . a man who had it all together . . . perhaps even less sinless than the rest of us. After all, he would lead us through reciting our Confession of Sins: “Lord, I know that I am lower than a snakes belly in the mud after 10 inches of rain . . .” I can remember leaving that place with the idea that I would never be good enough to _____________ or have it together enough to ________________,

So, this limiting idea has been around in our cultures for eons.

Fast forward a zillion years when Kris and I moved to Southern California and attended great churches like The Crystal Cathedral and Saddleback Community Church for over 20 years. Among a million messages we heard, the over-arching main theme we learned was that Jesus was the only perfect human to ever walk the earth . . . none others before or after Him.   And . . . that God created us to be in relationship with him . . . just as we are . . . warts and all. Translation: Where you are right now in your life . . . God has equipped you perfectly to do whatever He has put in your mind for you to do.

When we decide to wait until we have this or that handled or resolved before we follow through with an idea from God . . . we miss it . . . the amazing blessing that God intends for us to be in other people’s lives!

That’s it . . . end of story!

Here are the “and so’s” to the whole thing:

 

And So . . . “God never wastes a hurt” (Rick Warren). The junk you are going through or have been through makes you perfectly qualified to help others going through similar stuff.

And So . . . When I was in Nicotine Anonymous . . . even though I was still smoking . . . I didn’t have it all together . . . others in the group were still gaining tools from me from watching my struggle!  This is the case in all 12-step programs.

And So . . . We don’t need to be disillusioned with an attitude that we have it all together.  But rather, humble . . . I don’t begin to think that I have it all figured out . . . but here is what I have learned so far . . .

And So . . . Rest in the confidence that you are a work in progress . . . you will never be perfect in all things. The one thing you are perfect for is being the you in God’s plan for your life right now!

 

 

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I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart . . . WHERE? . . . down in my heart . . .

During my quiet time this morning God put an interesting concept in my mind . . . as He almost always does.

The idea is that God has filled each of us with joy. The joy is always there . . . essentially, for us to harvest. It is up to us, and our free will as to whether or not we choose to embrace that joy.

Think of Paul when he was in prison writing his letter to the Philippians; “for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Ph1:19 NIV Paul was choosing to embrace the joy that was there . . . even in his dire situation.

I guess we could say that Paul was choosing for his glass to be half full rather than half empty! He was choosing to look at the sunny side of the slope!

Does this idea make sense to you?! What about it . . . what do you think?

Has God placed continuous joy in our lives . . . and rather than praying for joy to be delivered to us . . . all we have to do is reach out and embrace the joy that is already there . . . within us?!?!

I’m interested to hear your comments on this!

Thank you for reading!!

Pat

Many of you know that I am a big believer in spending a quiet time with God each morning before I start my day. Until recently, my quiet time was spent largely with me doing all the talking. I could just image God sitting there listening and then saying but . . . but . . . but . . . I . . . Jeez . . . I wish this guy would let me get a word in . . . I have a lot to tell him!

In a message Rick Warren delivered at Saddleback Church some time back he addressed this. Rick said just shut up! Ask God if there is something He want to talk to you about or say to you and then be quiet.

I have been incorporating this into my quiet time over the past year and it has made a huge difference in my relationship with God.

After reading my devotions which, certainly will get my thoughts going in certain directions. This is what I sensed after asking God what He wanted to tell me this morning:

You are generally on the right path with me. The more you can talk to me and seek my direction, the more time you will spend on my path of life for you.

As I told you earlier, as you seek Me, I make your paths straight. I open and close many doors along your path . . . too many in fact for you to be able to know what to do with each one of them relying on your own understanding.

Trust and have faith in Me and you will see that you will spend more time on my path for you AND your anxiousness and stress will be less AND your peace and joy more.

An elementary message I know. But isn’t it nice to get a good kick in the pants once in a while?!

Comments . . . Questions?!?!?!

Thank you for reading

Jesus talked many times while He was on this earth about our closeness to Him . . . our reliance on Him. But how does that play out in our real, rubber meets the road lives?! On one hand, we know that Jesus is perfect and we are anything but. So does that mean that we should not make a move in our lives without consulting Him and waiting on his direction and guidance?

We have been given free will after all! Does that mean that we go through life making all of our own decisions without ANY input from God . . . except of course when we run into trouble and start our negotiations with God for not consulting Him more. This approach can easily take us to the place of having the illusion of self-sufficiency . . . not having a need for God.

This issue is a fine line for all Christians to walk. We can’t live our lives paralyzed waiting on instructions from God for our every action, yet, we have to have a certain reliance on Him. After all, He IS the creator of the universe . . . He knows better than anyone else how it is that our existence works!

After praying and studying on this, I am of the current thought that it boils down to each of our own personal relationships with God. He knows the right mix of independence vs. dependence each of our own personality requires to best serve Him . . . and when we are in harmony with His will for us . . . that is where we find purpose, peace and confidence.

Weigh in on this. What do you think? What is your experience? Please share!

Thanks for reading!

Pat

img_7982.jpgMoving from Southern California to the mid west as you can imagine, has been full of change for us.  The differences in the pace of life, lifestyle, values and right down our church experience.  In the small community where we live, the worship experience is very different as is my perception of people’s motivation for attending church.

Please understand I write this from the perspective of observation and inspiration, not judgement.

The church experience here for many, seems to be more motivated by people’s “duty” to attend church.  Oh there are still many folks here who are filled with the spirit of God and thirst for more knowledge and learning about Him and how to be more like him.  I am not in their shoes but my take is that a lot of people attend church because it is what you do or it is what is expected.  Of course where I come from in church experience is very different and is something, I hazard to guess, most people here have never experienced at all.  The perspective I come from is having had such a spiritual and educational experience with church, that I couldn’t get enough of it!  I literally “thirsted” for more like a parched person lost in the desert after having had their first sip of water . . . MORE . . . MORE . . . MORE!

First of all let me set the stage a bit for my concerns; I am a big believer in osmosis . . . the process of taking things on just by being in their proximity and not due to making an active effort to take them on.  Example; when we spend our time around very positive people; our outlook tends to become more positive . . . without us making an effort to become more positive.  When we hear people talking about certain things on a regular basis, whether we are actively listening or not . . . the ideas will come to settle into our minds . . . subconscious or not.  The osmosis of life according to Pat!

The observation that came to me recently is that when we are motivated to drink in everything we can spiritually, we listen and discern the message more.  We think about how it applies to us or if it applies to us.  We also look at the validity of the message that is being delivered.  The process goes on and on.

When we are just going through the motions of going to church . . . a lot can be said without our focusing on it and discerning much about it.  The issue is that the osmosis effect still goes on.  We hear the words being spoken albeit subconsciously.  That’s great if the things spoken are truth and valid and relevant to you.  But think about this, if the message is off the mark, either in application or even theology . . . you are drinking a lot in . . . forming a lot of invalid opinions and values by default.

Something to think about . . . I have enough influences around me which, by default form certain opinions and values I may or may not want.  What about church?  If I am going to invest my time in going, hopefully I am growing in a direction God wants me to grow in.

So here is the cheese that goes with my whine; as we study and spend quiet time with God in our daily lives, we perceive (or hear) Him more and more.  As we develop our relationship with God, we will be inspired to attend church with a purpose . . to learn and become more like Christ.  The message will have more relevance and impact on us and we will begin to actively discern things about the message we are hearing.

To borrow the “Purpose Driven” trademark from Pastor Rick Warren for a moment . . . If we can all become “Purpose Driven Church Attenders” our lives will be more fulfilled and blessed by God . . . not to mention our churches.

This is not something for me to prescribe to you . . . but perhaps it is a good subject to visit with God about in your next quiet time!

Again, that’s just where I am this morning . . . perhaps it’s something to think about.

Blessings,

Pat

As we go through different times and seasons of our lives, our attitudes and outlooks change and flex to adapt to those situations.  After those strenuous times pass, do we ever return right back to the way we were before ?

The answer is no.  That is what makes us the new person we just became and changed to through that experience.

The challenge is negativity.  if our reaction to a situation or season of life is to adopt a negative outlook, getting back on an open and positive track can be difficult.

This is where our focus is important . . . our focus on God and who we believe He wants us to be.  Through our humility and teachable spirit, God uses the hardening of our hearts and our “glass half empty” attitudes for the greater good . . . of both ourselves and others!

Through this process we grow in our relationship with God, become more discerning , and we have been there . . . the whole experience of this and now we can share and walk others through their journeys.  It’s endless, the number of blessings that come out of a trial . . . Only God knows how many apples will be produced from a single apple seed!

God never wastes an experience or a hurt.  He will use it!

Thank you for reading!

Blessings,

Pat

Several years ago, my wife Kris and I sensed a need to get a better handle on our finances.  So, in our quest to figure it all out, we found “Crown Financial Ministries” http://www.crown.org/ and a small group study at our church.

I can’t say enough about Crown and how it helps to lead you to a biblical perspective of your finances.  I didn’t know it before getting involved in Crown but the bible talks about money more than any other subject . . . who knew?!?!

I tell you that to tell you this; part of the curriculum of small group study of Crown was to memorize a bible verse each week.  One memory verse, which was the longest and most difficult to memorize, had the greatest impact in my life and consequently has become my “life verse”.  This was David’s prayer of praise in 1st Chronicles 29: 11 & 12.  Here it is:

“Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things.  Riches and honor come from you alone, you are the ruler of all mankind.  Power and might come from you alone, and it is at your discretion that people are made great and given strength”

Think on this scripture.  For me, it puts everything in perspective; God is over all things and it is at HIS discretion that people are made great and given strength!  Of course we have our part to do in this life.  We can’t be successful just sitting on the beach eating bon bons but our success is at God’s discretion.

Those are some of the ways that God spoke to me through this verse.  Think on it yourself.  I am confident He will speak to you also . . . not necessarily in the same way He spoke to me.

By the way, if you sense God telling you to get a better handle on your finances, Crown Financial Ministry is a great place to gain God’s perspective on this.  Also a great place to become close to others with similar issues.  We have many life long friends and small group member who we met through Crown.

Have a blessed day!

Thank you for reading and following!

Pat

As many of you know, I am a strong proponent of a daily quiet time with God.  This is where I can connect with Him on a daily basis.  This is where I get my marching orders for the day.

My philosophy is; that it just makes sense to connect to the only one in the universe who has the owner’s manual for us for our direction and guidance?!?!

I have a special time during my quiet time when I ask God what he wants me to hear from Him today.  Here is what I believe He shared with me:

“Just listen to me and follow my lead.  Don’t worry about outcomes . . . just follow my lead . . . I’m in charge of outcomes!”

Thanks for reading and following!

Have a blessed day!

Pat

Kris and I started reading a new (to us) devotional last April; “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young.  Since we started it in April, we have not yet read all 365 devotions so after I read the December 31 devotion, I decided to re-read the forward of the book in preparation of starting with the January 1 entry on New Years Day.  I want to share an excerpt of that with you:
“I have read many things on my spiritual journey I was especially impacted from what J. I. Packer wrote in his book “Your Father Loves You”, “God guides our minds as we think things out in His presence.”  “I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying . . . with this my quiet time and journaling had changed from monolog to dialogue.  Soon, messages began to flow more freely. . . . This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him, more than any other spiritual discipline . . . “
IMG_8685Very powerful about how important and how life changing a daily quiet time with God.  the statement that J.I. Packer wrote: “God guides our minds as we think things out in His presence.” Just think about how gracious God is . . . all we have to do is to show up in His presence and he does the rest . . . guides our mind!

We serve an awesome God!

Blessing to you this day!

Pat

Grab a cup of coffee.  This post is pretty lengthy but I think worth the read.  It is a sermon I preached last month and I was really blessed by the preparation and my prayer is that God will bless you through it.

Luke 8: 26 – 39 is the story about the man possessed by demons and Jesus casts the demons into a heard of Pigs and they rush down the hill into the river where they drowned.  Afterwards the man asks Jesus if he can stay with him and Jesus tells him to go home and tell everyone what Jesus did.

We’ve all heard this scripture or read it ourselves or at least had the story told to us if not once . . . many, many times.

This story was always and fairy tale to me until I began preparing for this message and started studying it.   I simply couldn’t relate to the horrific description of the demons –  he was named “Legion” because of how many demons possessed him . . . ever wonder what other names his parents may have named him?  What if he had an acne outbreak when he was a teenager . . . did his parents name him “pizza face” until it cleared up?!  Sorry . . . I’m just sayin’!

Oh, I felt bad for the guy but no more than . . . That poor guy – sure sucks to be him!

Then I thought about what demons really are . . . are they evil spirits that bore their way into our souls and take us over?  . . . Perhaps . . . Are they evil thoughts or ideas? . . . Perhaps.

The working definition I came up was this:  Anything that keeps us from becoming God’s best . . . the person He created us to be in the first place is a demon.

Demons are, but don’t have to be limited to be the big stuff: Alcoholism, Drug addicts, Rapists and Murderers . . . demons are basically . . . our Achilles heel . . . our weakest point.  Demons are also; attitudes, ideas, fear, anxiety, need to control, pride, bad relationship with a friend or family member, over eating, worry . . . just to name a few.

Those of you who have read much of my writing or heard me speak will know that I am a big believer in the fact that there is spiritual warfare going on all around us all of the time.  The bible talks about and I envision armies of Stans minions and God’s Archangels flying around above us in constant battle with one another.

You’ve undoubtedly heard me talk about the various names used for Satan . . . the Devil . . . The Enemy . . . He who shall remain nameless . . . and even The Prince of Darkness.   Very appropriate since he does some of his best work in the dark.

On the other hand, look at what 1 John 1:5 says:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (NIV) 1 John 1:5

In other words, God – is light!

Back to our bible story, the scripture says our friend Legion lived in the tombs . . . pretty dark huh?!

Let’s face it, we are not proud of our demons, so we hide them (keep them in the dark) and isolate ourselves just as Legion did . . . and THAT is when Satan has a hay day with us!

So, what do we do about our demons . . . have an exorcism?!  That may be necessary in some extreme cases.  But for the most part, there are some less dramatic ways to rid ourselves of our demons.

I used to have a horrific demon . . . SMOKING.  I had what I call a Death-Wish addition to smoking.  I smoked for nearly 30 years and half of that was 3+ packs of cigarettes a day.  See what I mean Death-Wish!  I tried nearly everything under the sun to quit . . . hypnosis . . . acupuncture . . . the latest stop-smoking devices . . . hypnotism again . . . the patch . . . therapy and oh I would stop for a week or so but soon I was right back to 3+ packs a day.

I didn’t have any success with stopping my smoking until I joined a 12 Step program; Nicotine Anonymous . . . Hi, I’m Pat . . . I’m a nicotine addict!

Nicotine Anonymous is based on the same 12 steps at Alcoholics anonymous.  Because God created us for relationships . . . with one another and Him, AA is a great model for affecting any kind of change in our lives.

Alcoholism and drug abuse is a terrible problem in the former Soviet Union. Before the collapse of the USSR, Soviet officials appealed to American AA members to help them set up AA groups throughout their country. However, because the Soviet Union was officially atheistic, they asked that these first three steps be omitted in adapting AA to them. The Americans refused, stating that those three steps are basic and foundational to their program. We need God to free us from our demons.

Let’s see . . . an 8 step program rather than a 12 step . . . sounds pretty watered down huh?!

Lets look at those first three steps:

 1.We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

Members of AA also realize they not only need God’s help but the support of people around them.  As I said before, God wired us for relationships . . . with each other and Him. Becoming free from our demons is seldom a “do-it-yourself” project. We need help. We need God’s help, and we need the help of other people.
We’ve all tried it on our own.  As Dr. Phil would say, “. . .  and how’s that workin’ for ya?!”

Not so good!

When we take our issues out of the darkness and isolation and into the light (also called confession), THAT is when God can start to work with us.
It’s also a great idea to find a spiritual partner you can talk to about your demons or issues.  Look at what the bible says about this:

9 Two are better than one,
 Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
 But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
 For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
 But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can   withstand him.
 And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I could go into an entire message about this but some simple guidelines for having a spiritual partner are:
•    Someone who has a committed walk with God.
•    Someone you are confident can keep what you tell them confident . . . they won’t blab!
•    Someone who won’t have a need to “fix” your problem but will listen to you.
•    Someone to keep you accountable.
•    Someone who will pray with and for you.

Hope in our Faith:

All this talk about spiritual warfare and demons is pretty dark (pun intended) and scary.  But that is only the first part of our Bible story.  The story continues with God’s miracle . . . Ahh . . . there IS hope!

Kris and I have been reading a New (to us) daily devotional since about February or March
“Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence” Sara Young

This is one of the best devotionals I have read in a lot of years and the premise is this:  the author, Sara Young attended L’Abri Christian Study center in Switzerland which was founded by Dr. Francis and his wife Edith Schaeffer back in the 60’s.  While at L’Abri, Sara spent a lot of quiet time with God . . . many days two or more hours.  Her book is what she reports she heard as messages to her from God.  Each entry is written in first person as if it is God speaking.  Look at the entry for March 6:

March 6:

Continue on this path with me, enjoying My Presence even in adversity.  I am always before you, as well as alongside you.  See Me beckoning to you: Come!  Follow Me.  The One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand.  I am not subject to limitations of time or space.  I am everywhere at every time, ceaselessly working on your behalf.  That is why your best efforts are trusting Me and living Close to Me.

Ceaselessly – Isn’t that an interesting word . . . I couldn’t find it in the dictionary but hey . . . if God said it I’m good with that . . . it’s a word!  The word DOES get the point across; Ceaselessly

Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Now get this.  I need to lose some weight.  I believe that if He wanted to, God could zap me and transfer my extra  poundage to one of you who needs it . . . though I can’t identify with having that issue!

Now, I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I think God is going to make me work and be disciplined and rely on Him for my strength in accomplishing my goal.

It will be a work in progress AND there will be a lot of little miracles along the way . . . I didn’t gain any weight last week . . . I worked out one day rather than just sitting . . . I walked one day . . . I only ate one cookie from that plate!

Let me give you some perspective on little miracles:  Many of you know that Kris and I attended The Crystal Cathedral for 7 years during the 90’s.  I have to tell you that during period of time both of us experienced the steepest growth in our faith than in any other time of our lives.  Dr. Schuller wrote about a zillion books and I think I have read most all of them.  One of the more obscure of his books was “The Peak to Peek Principle”.

I want to share a quick synopsis of the book with you because I think it is a great mental picture for us all to have when dealing with becoming the persons God created us to be.

Schuller writes that as we are working on becoming all that God created us to be, we will achieve many milestones . . . minor and major.  Each little achievement takes us to a level just above where we were before . . . a “Peak” if you will.  It is from this “Peak” that we are able to get a glimpse “Peek” of what new accomplishments this little achievement could lead to.  As we achieve those things we go to a little bit taller “Peak” giving us a more inspiring “Peek” of things to come.  And the momentum continues.

Have hope in your faith, knowing God has gone before you in EVERYTHNG
That regardless of the negative stuff in your life or things holding you back . . . He is working “ceaselessly” behind the scenes and on the main stage of your life to bring you closer to Him!

Perhaps something just came into your mind that may be holding you back . . . that is a miracle itself . . . a “Peek” at part of God’s vision for you!

Tell Others what God Has Done:
Look at what happened at the end of our story:

     38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

This guy was stoked . . . hey Jesus, how about I hang with you for a while, that was cool what you did . . .  I mean pigs . . . who knew and then that whole drowning in the river part – AWESOME!  I’d like to stay in your safety and . . . maybe get to see a few more miracles!

It’s easy for us to stay in the safety of other believers.  We don’t have to deal with challenges to our faith and we can just hang!
But God wants us to share with everyone – believers and non-believers what He has done in our lives
He sent this guy Legion off with the great commission

Mathew 28:19-20
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Oh, and by the way, that is basically step 12 of AA:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

But I enjoy the fellowship of my friends we all think!  That’s great and as we discussed the fact that we are made for relationship . . .  with God and others . . . all others.

So how do we do that?!

You don’t have to put on a white shirt and ride a bicycle around to people’s houses knocking on doors parroting someone else’s script.  Though you may if you want!

What I have found to be the best approach for me is to just tell people the truth in your life.  Like I just did about my smoking addiction . . . that’s REAL – not contrived.  If we tell our own stories . . . who can argue with us?  They weren’t there.  You were!

Going Forward:

•    Pray that God will show you the things in our lives that keep us from being all that God created us to be
•    Look for and discover the miracles in your life . . . big and small and remember the fact that He is “ceaselessly” working behind the scenes and on the main stage of your life . . . going before you.
•    Tell somebody about it!

 

Thank you for tuning in!!

Pat