Archives for posts with tag: Listening To God

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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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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

“We are better than those people”  Famous words (at least in my family) of my grandmother Elizabeth . . . my mom’s mom.

My mother’s early life was lived in Kentucky as a “Southern Belle”.  They attended church whenever the doors were open and went to parties and events, carrying their special shoes in a silk slipper bag.  Her family had a tobacco plantation ad her daddy was a miller . . . he ran a grain mill for the area.  Life was living a fairy tale in the south!

Enter . . . the Great Depression.  Mom’s family lost everything they moved west to central Kansas.  What a culture shock!  I suspect this is where the phrase “We are better than those people” came from.  While I am not sure I suspect that it could have been born after mom endured some teasing and ridicule for being so different from her new Kansan neighbors and talked funny to boot.  I can jus picture my grandmother Elizabeth telling my mom, “That’s alright honey, we’re better than those people.”  To calm her insecurities.

We grew up with that same phrase when dealing with peer pressure growing up or in many other situations.  Consequently, that mindset became one which played in the background of my mind through many years of my life.

In dealing with my life, my challenges and unbecoming personality traits, I have learned that I have to deal with myself differently than others deal with themselves . . . how I discipline myself . . . what I eat or drink . . . how much sleep I require . . . how I submit my life (when I do) to God . . . how I live my life more by the ways of God than some more worldly folks.

My old mindset told me this was because “we’re better than those people”.  But God has truly spoken to me on this subject and he told me that I don’t have to be better than others in order to follow him . . . I just have to be different.   This puts me on a more level playing field with others and tempers my pride issues but . . . still sets me apart.

This morning in reading my devotional “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young I read this scripture:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways” Says the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts

ISAIAH 55:8-9 (NKJV)

I think the moral to my story is that we all need to be tuned in to God . . . His ways . . . His thoughts.  As we seek to conform our thoughts to be more and more like His . . . I believe this is where peace and contentment reside.

We don’t have to be better . . . just different!

Amen and Amen!

Thank you for reading!

Pat

I’ve written about prayer a lot and to me it is for good reason . . . that is how we connect and communicate with the God of the Universe . . . our creator.

My favorite model for prayer and the one which works best for me is Bill Hybells’ acronym “ACTS” as I have shared many times.  Just to review “ACTS” stands for:

A  – Adoration . . . telling God how much we love him and affirming that we believe that He is the one and only God of the universe.

C – Confession . . . confessing our sins to God and asking Him for His forgiveness.

T – Thanksgiving . . . Giving God thanks for everything in our lives . . . the good stuff and even the not so good . . . the challenges and trials and troubles.

S – Supplication . . . This is where we ask God to work in our lives . . . to change circumstances . . . to speak to us  . . . to help us to hear His voice and to help us to change . . . just to name a few things.

I am great with all of this and as I said, since finding this model, it has radically changed my prayer life.

I currently have a sister in law who is critically ill.  We have been spending lots of time in continuous prayer for her as well as having other people pray for her also.  As I was praying yesterday the question came to my mind; What is it you are actually praying for?  Well of course for my sister in law’s healing . . . recovery and in the event those don’t match with God’s will for her and He decides to take her home . . . for Kris and I to understand and have peace in all of that . . . just to cover all my bases.

But really, when we pray for someone to be healed or someone to change or for a circumstance to change . . . what are we really praying for?!

I met a guy during a break at a Christian Men’s conference and we were discussing prayer and his take was that by praying we can change God’s mind to do something other than what He was planning on.  Really?!?!  That seems pretty powerful.  What do you think?

If we subscribe to the idea of predestination then is there a reason to pray at all other than to do the A, C and T and not the . . . Affirm God, Confess to Him and Thank Him but never ask for anything because under predestination, God already has it dialed in . . . no changes?!

Another guy I spoke with about this concept told me “well you have to give predestination some lee way . . . it’s not like you think.”  But he never could tell me if it wasn’t what I thought . . . what it was like.

What about the idea “ask it shall be given unto you”.  I think in one of my previous postings I gave a ridiculous example of this: “Dear God I really need the money and if you answer my prayer I will give you some of it, so help me to be successful in robbing this bank and don’t let me kill more than two people.”  Ridiculous though that example is, it does demonstrate that somewhere in the mix of praying, we need to be in line with God’s will for us.

Where I have ended up with this is that we pray to let our hearts’ desires known to God.   Isn’t this one of the ways we nurture our relationships, to share our feelings and needs and wants with one another?   If those desires are in keeping with His will for us then He will answer them . . . now get this . . . not necessarily the way that we would like for Him to.  As I once heard Dr. Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral say: “God will answer in one of three ways: No, Yes or Not yet.

I think the big thing with our relationship with God and our prayer life is to be open to God’s will for us, and be willing to accept that however He chooses to answer our prayers . . . it is for the best for us and all those involved . . . whether we know who is affected by our prayers or not.

Don’t forget the song of the great sage; Garth Brooks: “I thank God for unanswered Prayers” in speaking about a love who broke his heart and now he is so thankful that the relationship didn’t work out!

Make sense?

Prayer is a deep and complex issue and a HUGE part of our prayer life and relationship with God.

I invite you to sound off with your thoughts and ideas about prayer.  Please comment on this blog with your input.

As always, thanks for reading and weighing in on this.

Many Blessings!
Pat

I was reading my daily devotional “Jesus Calling” this morning . . . I highly recommend it.  The subject was Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Oh, we’ve all heard the story of Eve and the fall and we men tend to joke that it (the fall) was all the women’s fault and so on.

The subject this morning was the fact that the way Satan tempted Eve was to get her to darken her perspective by showing her the one thing she could not have . . . the fruit from the apple tree.  Think about it . . . . she was in the Garden of Eden . . . everything was perfect for cryin’ out loud!  Yet Satan coerced her into looking right past all the perfection she lived in every day and to focus on the one . . . the only thing on the planet that she was forbidden to have . . . the fruit from the apple tree.

I don’t know about you but I sure have a tendency to do exactly the thing that Eve did.  I live a life with an over abundance of blessings . . . good health . . . wonderful marriage . . . great lifestyle . . . and the list goes on into eternity . . . the blessings I live with.  Yet, when there is one thing not exactly right, we tend to be unhappy . . . discontent until that thing is fixed.  How self-centered and selfish is that?!

As I was thinking about this, the thought occurred to me that we need to be good stewards of what God has given us.  Oh, we have all heard those stewardship sermons where the preacher tells us that we have been blessed with income and we should give 10% to God and I don’t disagree with that.

But let me take that a step further . . . I challenge you to think about ALL of the blessings of our lives . . . our finances . . . the sunrise . . . the blooming flowers you saw on the way to have a root canal . . . ALL of your blessings as something we need to be a good steward of.  Rather than taking those wonderful things for granted . . . give thanks!

Don’t let Satan . . . and the world darken your perspective into only being able to focus on the things that need fixing . . . look at ALL the things in your life that God has ALREADY fixed . . . and give thanks!  Our perspectives will brighten and our minds will be more open to hearing God’s voice in our lives!

Amen and Amen!

Pat