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

 

Have you trained yourself to miss it?

Have you ever thought about the fact that we actually train ourselves to hear God in specific ways?  Many times we have trained ourselves after a moment where we heard God clearly speak in a specific way. We look for it the same way because that is how it happened before. We in essence train ourselves to then look for the Word of the Lord in that way, creating a model inside our head and heart that THIS is how God is going to speak to me.

Sometimes it’s not in how God spoke to us in the past but rather how God spoke to someone else. We hear about their experience and then begin to listen in THAT way.

Can I suggest that not only CAN God speak to us in many ways, but that He actually DOES speak to us in many ways and if you’re looking for a specific way, you can miss it.

There is a scripture that speaks to this. In 1 Kings 19 we see multiple ways that God spoke to Elijah. First an angel came to him and encouraged and fed him, next we see that Elijah is in a cave and it says “the Word of the Lord came to Him.” Another divine way of communication where God spoke to Elijah, much like God speaks to us in prayer and through His Word. Let’s look at what happened next.

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

If Elijah was anything like me I would have wondered about the wind, the earthquake and the fire…”Is this how you’re speaking God?” The louder, the more passionate, the fire is sometimes how we think we’ll hear God, but maybe that’s because we’re not listening for a whisper. A whisper intimates a closeness and intimacy to listen. Simply put, what if we trained ourselves to hear God in the BIG and the little. What if we didn’t pigeon hole ourselves into listening for God in one way, or even a few ways. Instead we train ourselves to hear God in many ways. God wants you to hear Him clearly in preaching, teaching, prayer and the Word, but also in nature, in conversations, from billboards, through worship and the list goes on and on.

Lastly…If you are having trouble hearing God, expand your horizons on how you expect God to speak and how you can hear Him. Possibly just possibly He’s in the whisper and we need to get closer so we can hear what He’s saying.

 

How do I do this in real life?

How do you respond to wounded people wounding others, specifically wounding you or trying to either knowingly or unknowingly? This is a real life thing with real life consequences. But this is not a new thing…I am reminded of David and King Saul.

In 1 Samuel 18 we see that David had just killed Goliath and Saul has brought David into his house and acted on the behest of King Saul. The problem was that Saul began to become very insecure as David’s reputation began to dwarf that of King Saul’s. So much so that we see that played out in verses 6-9

Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward.

Saul was insecure and hurting emotionally and he acted out of that pain and hurt. If you continue reading the narrative you see that Saul tried to kill (unsuccessfully) David many times and in many ways.

The funny thing is; David didn’t deserve any of this. He simply became a hero because he was trusting God. He was doing the right thing and he received a wrong against him. That happens with us also, we can be doing the right thing and because of pain and hurts/wounds others can lash out and attack you personally.

So often in these moments it is not only directed to you but also about you to others. King Saul did the same thing…out of his pain, he directly and indirectly passed along his offense to others under his command that led to them trying to kill David. I know this is the extreme, physical death, but it happens to people all the time emotionally and relationally. In those moments, others are drawn into the saga of hurt and pain.

What can you do in that moment?

  • Honor the person, not their actions. The natural thing is to fight back. David could have fought back. He could have picked up the spear and thrown it back at Saul. instead he honored Saul (even though Saul’s actions didn’t deserve it) and kept his heart right before God, so much so that in 1 Samuel 24 you get a glimpse into this.
  • Pray – keep your heart right and pray for the other person.                               Matthew 5:44 tells us: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. 
  • Do everything you can to bring healing and restoration into the relationship. Romans 12:18 tells us: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.                                                                                          You’re not responsible for them, you’re responsible for you.
  • Stand. If they are unwilling to be in right relationship…you stand in that place with God knowing that you did all that you could.

Everyday God…Everyday Moments

Do you know that God wants to spend time with you? When I ask the question,  why is it that we turn that opportunity into a chance to do the religious things that we think God wants? Automatically our thoughts go to reading  the Word of God or in prayer, although those are some of the ways He wants to spend time with you.

What I want us to catch is that God wants to spend time with you when you’re driving, working, tinkering around the house, shopping or out for a hike. There is not one activity or moment in our day where He isn’t interested in being with you.

Not just because He has something to say to you, (although He does) but because He wants to be with you because He loves you. Plain and simple. But so often we view time with Him only through those “religious activities” that we deem right.

Consider this…even though He made you and knows every thought before you think it, He still wants to be with you simply because He thinks you’re amazing. That is one of the things that I love about God…He thinks I’m amazing, and He thinks you are too. So reframe how you think about spending time with Him, in your everyday and the normal things in life and as you do that experience something new and fresh in Him.