The beginning or the end?

As we have just finished this 21 days of fasting and prayer it may seem like an ending, but in reality it’s more like a beginning and here’s why. What God has done in each of us and our church is not meant for a short season of 21 days, but rather a new level of surrender, sacrifice and obedience.

Whenever we have times where God moves in us they are never meant for a moment and then going back to where we were previously. They are meant to raise us up to another level of discipleship. They are watermark moments in our lives and with Him they are meant to become the new normal. 2 Corinthians 3 tells us that we are to be moved from glory to glory to glory…becoming more and more like Jesus. Which means we don’t have moments of becoming more like Him and then falling backwards. It looks like us continually being transformed into the image of God, glory upon glory.

Are there bumps along the way? Sure, but it is a directional thing where the Spirit of God is continuing to work in us, empower us and move us forward.

So remember…this wasn’t the end…It’s a new beginning!

New Year – New ?

As we enter a new year,  we all look at our lives and I believe that every one of us has some things in our lives that we’d like to see changed.  With the new year it brings many things; A close to the following year, a fresh start, resolutions and expectations and many times hope.  It is the most natural time of the year where we have a built in process for new beginnings. So take advantage of this….don’t just talk about it. Implement something new. Begin to do something that you’ve procrastinated this far in doing. Make a change. Do it!

Because although every day can be a new beginning, take advantage of this one. But remember this: If you really want to see change, you have to change some things you believe, it stats with what God has said….like Philippians 4:13, You can do (fill in the blank) it! Believe Romans 8:31 that God is for us. Really believe it. Believe 2 Peter 1:3 that tells us that God has given us everything for life and godliness. This year grab on to a promise from God and go after it! Really believe it. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe it! Deep down at your core believe it.

Here’s why:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”

Change what you believe, really believe and your thoughts about everything will change. Your words will become different, you’ll begin to speak into your destiny instead of off-hand words that fight against it. Your actions will follow and done a few times repetition begins to take over and they become habits. What you do consistently tells you what you value and what your life becomes.

It all changes because you determined to listen to the Word of the Lord and truly believe it. Remind yourself over and over again what His Word says….the rest will follow.

2018 is going to be vastly different for many people, you might as well be one of them.

Breaking all the rules!

Admit it, you partly clicked on the link because of the title. I didn’t title this writing because of that, but rather because this is exactly what Jesus did.

Reading in John chapter 4 and we come across an innocuous passage of scripture. At first glance we maybe don’t give it much thought, but go a little deeper than the surface and you see that this is exactly what Jesus has done. He broke all the rules.  Here’s the passage: John 4:1-30

In this interaction with the woman at the well, Jesus crossed ethnical, moral and gender barriers that most of His time didn’t think should not be crossed.

1.  Ethnically – The Jewish people looked down upon the Samaritans to the point that even their drinking vessels were considered unclean, so when He asked her for a drink of water He crossed a barrier.

2. Morally –  The woman came alone to draw water from the well, whether that was because she wasn’t welcome with the other women or a sense of shame kept  her isolated…whatever the case, Jesus talking to her created an ambiguous situation that looked as if Jesus crossed another barrier as He was talking to a woman with a checkered past and how that could have appeared to onlookers. She might have even read that conversation wrong, but He set that straight as well.

3. Gender – Many sages of the day warned of being seen speaking to a woman for two reasons. First, because of the opportunity to fall into temptation and second because of what people might think.

The disciples were astonished that Jesus was talking with the woman but obviously trusted their Master.

In all of this it’s important to see that Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, rather He just broke the expected norm of the culture. He did that then and He is still doing that today because He loves us. You may find yourself in a place wondering if there are barriers between you and God…there is nothing too great that can keep you from His love, mercy and grace. Just take a page from this story and give Him whatever He’s asking for…He’ll take care of the rest.

Out of gas?

Have you ever ran out of gas in your car? I have twice in my life. Both times happened because I didn’t fix a problem earlier and it ended up with me on the side of the road. It left me frustrated, stressed and overall not happy with the situation. (This was also before cell phones so I couldn’t just phone a friend.)

Sometimes life is like that. We end up running out of gas, and usually it’s because we didn’t take care of an issue before and it blossomed into the place where you find yourself. Empty…emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually.

What do you do when you find yourself here? You may say if I knew what to do, I wouldn’t be in this place. But theres good news, the Word of God addresses this. In Matthew chapter 11 we see how Jesus encourages us in this situation. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The greek word for labor is kópos and it means to strike a blow so hard that it seriously weakens or debilitates ending in extreme weariness partnered with phortízō –the greek word for heavy laden which means overloaded.

This verbiage gives us the language of what we feel sometimes;  it feels like life has punched us so hard that we’re weak and we’re so overloaded with everything that it leaves us feeling like we’ve got nothing left…that we’re empty. But the Word of God doesn’t just describe where we can find ourselves. God always gives us the answer for what to do WHEN we find ourselves out of gas.

3 Things to do:

  • Come to Jesus – So often we try to tough it out ourselves instead of coming to the very one who has the answers that we need. Come to Him in worship, intentionally create space to just BE with Him.
  • Take His yoke – A yoke was a a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. Jesus is saying connect yourself with me, not the situation you find yourself in. (and btw, His yoke is easy and burden is light vs the heaviness we so often carry around) There’s a divine exchange that happens when you give your heaviness to Him and take His lightness.
  • Learn from Him -Understand this: It’s a process. We have to unlearn so many things about simply trying to do things on our own. Sometimes we have to learn how to come to Him and to exchange your yoke for His yoke. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right all the time…remember…It’s a process of learning and relearning.

If you will make these 3 things a priority…your tank will become full again.

Great Move

 

As I was praying the other day I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Great moves of God happen because we greatly allow God to move in us.” We therefore have to ask ourselves…Are we greatly allowing God to move in us?

A couple days later, I had a dream  where many people were at the altar responding to what the Holy Spirit was saying after a message,  but one person moved and it created a domino effect.

Two things came out of those two moments with the Holy Spirit. 

First: We have to begin to focus less on our schedule and focus more on His. So often we think that means we have to pick between what God is speaking to us and what our schedule already has on it, but what I’ve found usually is that He merges/overlaps His plans and purpose with our already moving life. We simply have to learn to surrender and therefore allowing God to move in us.

Second: Someone else’s movement should not lead ours unless it’s a positive effect in going deeper with the Lord. Many times at altar moments I find that we need to stay and pray through regardless of what anyone else is doing. Just because someone else was done, doesn’t mean you are.

When we begin to allow those two truths to really take root in our heart, that’s the beginning of a great move in us.

Waves

How many times have you felt a situation in life that seemed too big to handle like a wave that was crashing in? Very often they come in the form of a sickness, a divorce, an unexpected financial problem, a death of a loved one, etc. Fear creeps into these moments and they become bigger than we think we can handle.

These are all serious moments that happen to us, but did you know that you were never meant to be overwhelmed by a situation. Maybe you wonder then, “Why am I feeling overwhelmed?” or “How is it that some people just seem ready for whatever life throws at them? Are they wired differently or just naturally resilient?”

The truth of the matter is that as Christians we have a built in readiness preparation plan, but a plan is only as good as it is followed through. In John chapter 15 we have an insight into this plan

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is one of my favorite passages in scripture as this lays out how our lives are to be lived as Christ followers. There are a couple things to know in this:

  • Abiding in Christ is a continual fellowship with the Holy Spirit
    • Our lives in Christ are never meant to be lived out apart from the friendship of the Holy Spirit. 
    • We are to be rooted to Him, to allow Him to be our anchor. Everyday.
  • The fruit that He is declaring over your life as you abide in Him is love.
    • In John 13 we see the command that Christ gives but we also see the fruit of discipleship…34 A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
    • So the fruit you see in John 15: 8 is love.
    • And where love is…fear cannot be is what 1 John 4:18 tells us.
  • As you abide, remain, stay connected His joy becomes your joy!
    • Fear of what if no longer can have a place of residency because in it’s place is the knowledge (the experiential knowledge) that God has you in His love, right in the middle of the moment that used to feel too big.
    • His love changes your emotions and His joy becomes yours, but not in measure, but in fullness!!!

You see, remaining in fellowship with the Holy Spirit truly does change everything. You become ready for whatever life throws at you, because of the preparation of our soul before the moment that you needed it, as you stay connected to the Holy Spirit.

Turn Around Moments

Are you stuck? Do you feel like you can’t get forward traction? Sometimes we feel like this and that we’re all alone and nobody understands where we’re at. But the truth is every one of us have situations in our lives where we feel the same way. It’s also not germane to life as we know it. It’s been this way for every people in every generation.

If you take some time to read through Biblical history you’ll see that the people of God had the same struggles and situations. In Isaiah 43 we see that God is speaking to His people. He’s speaking life, He’s speaking promises, He’s speaking of His redemption and salvation. He’s reminding them of who He is and who they are to Him, and yet they refuse to turn to Him and because of that the people are missing out on the very thing that they desire. A moment of deliverance, a moment of change and freedom.

You see every situation that you struggle with, every place that you feel stuck is in some ways a place where you need deliverance. Delivered from that place into a place of forward movement. You see the people of God were one step away from a turn around moment. That one step is simple. Turning towards God and away from trying to simply do it yourself. If I’ve found one thing out in my time following Christ it’s this…I can’t do it on my own, but when I turn towards Him and humble myself I get unstuck. I begin to move forward and the amazing thing…you and I are always just a moment away from a turn around.

A moment can begin the change, a few days begin to change your habits and then you’re positioned for a new life.

Take some time, read Isaiah 43 for yourself and let the Holy Spirit speak to you about the new thing God wants to do for you in the midst of being stuck. Then as you allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life, share this truth with others that need to be encouraged.

 

Highway Hypnosis?

When is the last time that you’ve driven across town and you realized that you don’t remember actually how you got there. Your mind was elsewhere but you ended up at your destination. It’s kinda scary when you think about it, but you’ve probably experienced this at some point. Here’s what happened. Wiki tells us it’s called highway hypnosis. It’s a mental state in which a person can drive a car great distances, responding to external events in the expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so. In this state, the driver’s conscious mind is apparently fully focused elsewhere, while seemingly still processing the information needed to drive safely.

This phenomenon makes me think about our lives. Do we do this in our everyday lives? Basically sleep walking through life. Sure, we do all the things necessary to get from here to there everyday. But do we miss the nuances the moments that can be, that could have been but we missed because our focus was elsewhere.

Spiritually I feel like we do that. We’ve got highway hypnosis, we’re going along but our mind is elsewhere. So often it’s the struggles of life that become our focus instead of the nuances and moments that the Holy Spirit is leading that we can miss. When we do that we can miss days, weeks, months and even years because our focus is elsewhere, and that shapes our lives.

So how can we change that? First: Live in the moment. Be aware. When you catch yourself “zoning” spiritually, make a shift. Secondly, there is a phrase that the Holy Spirit dropped in my heart a few weeks ago, “Let us do what we’ve been called us to do based out of our time with You. (the Holy Spirit)” When we do that we truly fulfill our purpose. Because we’re flowing with the One who created us and our purpose. Live from this place. Have a continual dialogue with the Holy Spirit and move out of that place of purpose, healing and life. If you do these two things you’ll live the intentional life of purpose that you want and that you were created for.

 

2020 Vision

It’s vital for us to listen to what God is saying and then in faith and obedience follow the leading of the Lord. It doesn’t take but a moment to look throughout the Word of God to see that blessing follows obedience to the Word of the Lord, but things don’t go so well for those who choose to not follow what God is saying.

As your pastor, my heart is to follow the leading of the Lord and to lead First Assembly in the way that God is speaking to us. I  I have heard God speak clearly to me about our future. God is calling us in faith to break ground on our new campus by 2020, because where we are is not big enough for what God is going to do. In our 2020 Vision, hundreds and hundreds of families are going to come to Christ and become a part of our faith community. This is the why! So He is calling us to devote the next three years to seeing this vision become a reality.

There are four words that can easily keep us on track with where God is taking us. Faith, Focus, Change and Commitment! I want to break those down for us on how that practically looks as we move forward in our 2020 vision.

Faith: In Hebrews 11:6 God tells us about faith…And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Faith is the foundation of our relationship with God. Not only can we not please God without it, He rewards those who believe and seek Him. Faith in a very elementary way believes God and follows His Word.  Faith looks like creating a space for Him to work in our lives and letting Him fill that space. God has set the mark, now we  live to accomplish what He has called us to do.

Focus: It is very easy to have a focus for a short time, but much more difficult to maintain focus over the long haul. God has given us not only a vision of our preferred future, He also has given us a timeline. He’s set the goal for us to break ground on our new property by 2020. Because of that we will need to continually refresh our focus, daily even…remembering the “why” this is vital. It is not about breaking ground, it is not about the new property and it’s not about a new building…everything we do in this 2020 vision is about ONE BIG IDEA people coming to Christ. 

Change: It’s been said that “Old ways won’t open new doors.” We live in a constantly changing culture, but change is nothing new to God. God has constantly raised up His church to reach the changing culture throughout history. How He reached people with the Gospel in one generation and culture has changed throughout the ages. Sometimes we struggle with change but I want to remind you of a quote I shared a few weeks ago: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle but gorgeous at the end.” But with all the change there is one constant,  God’s unchanging Word. We have to allow God to change us, our expectation and even the way that we have done things in the past will change, but our commitment to the Word of God and preaching the truth unashamedly will never change.

Commitment: Focus and commitment sound similar but they are actually two different things. Focus is our why! Commitment is our how. It’s the rolling up our sleeves and doing the work of ministry. It means we’re all in.  It’s understanding our role and joy of inviting people into faith and into our faith community. It looks like serving, praying, giving and loving people.

So here we go, let’s enjoy the journey that God is taking us on. A journey of Faith, Focus, Change and Commitment…and remember it’s about one big thing: People coming to Christ! That is a vision worth following.

Pastor Patrick

 

It’s not what you said…It’s how you said it!

I love how God just shows up. Ok, ok, I understand theologically that God is always there. He’s always with us. But there are also times in the midst of everything that God is doing in and around us, He shows up or shows off in ways that sometimes leave us in a sense of awe.

Today as I was enjoying a time of conversation and ministry in lifegroup the Holy Spirit took the conversation and our words and lifted them up to another level. The discussion had come to a point of how sometimes even well meaning people will speak words over us that aren’t exactly, how shall I say… encouraging. Now I know that there are times when people mean to do that, and their words are cutting.  But in this conversation we were talking about how sometimes it happens with people that don’t mean to harm. They don’t mean to not encourage…It just happens.

Sometimes people speak a word of truth but it is not wrapped in love. Many times it’s couched in concern or frustration, anger and even in self-righteous religiosity. With this we rationalize that people need this word for their own good. They need the truth. Which is true, but it also needs to come in the right “package”.

In Ephesians chapter 4 God tells us to speak the truth in love. So God has laid down the example of how we are to speak truth. There is no question mark attached to this….this is how we are to speak. Our lives and our words should be marked by truth and love. Not truth or love, but both.

My question then today and what the Holy Spirit said in this moment; “If we are to speak the truth in love, isn’t that also the only way we should receive the truth?” If you’ve been hurt by a word that someone gave you that was true but it wasn’t wrapped in love…should you receive it? Don’t get me wrong, God’s plan is for each of us to walk in truth, but we can be wounded by a well meaning person speaking truth just not in love. How many times have you heard either in the past, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”

So what do you do in that situation? You don’t receive that, BUT you ask the Lord if it was truth then to have that Word given to you in love by either Himself or someone else. That’s not sugar coating it, it’s receiving the way that God intends for us to receive. It actually helps us appropriate the truth into our lives.

Our own experience with God is also one that He never speaks truth into us without love. So why would we receive truth from someone else without love, especially as He was very specific in His Word on this.

Bottom line: He’s teaching us not only how to speak, but He’s also teaching us how to hear.

-Selah