Titus 2:14 - Jesus gave himself for us.

Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own eager to do good works." - Titus 2:14

Dear Jesus, 

I can grasp intellectually what these words mean, "Jesus gave himself for us." It means you die in my place.  But to appreciate emotionally and spiritually what it means that you wholly replaced my damned soul with yours comes over me in waves. Who does that?  We all give up some things for others but not everything. You gave up everything for me.  Your life was over so mine would have no end. I feel loved just thinking about it. How could I ever unknown this once I get it?

I believe you saved me by paying the highest price. Make that one thought my constant companion today.  Amen

Pastor Don Patterson

Sometimes it's best to just think of being loved beyond reason by Christ and nothing else.   

Matthew 5:7

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7

Dear Jesus,

There is no way I would ever have a relationship with you if you were not merciful.  I fail you too much and too often. But your mercy keeps our connection alive and fresh every day.  I know that mercy is meant to change me.  You want me to give the mercy that keeps all my relationships with people alive as well.  I need your supernatural help with this one.  There is a canyon in my soul between the cliff where you give me mercy and the cliff where I am supposed to share that mercy with others.  I need you to build a bridge across the great divide.  I want to be merciful like you are, but I am weak and fearful.  So, I withhold forgiveness.  I repent, Jesus.  Help me to forgive and help me stay in the relationships around me, even those that hurt me, for your mercy’s sake. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Mercy, forgiveness and grace are triplets that transform the person with whom they live or else they leave.

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled. – Matthew 5:6

Dear Jesus,

I want a lot of things.  But I don’t wake up each morning wanting to be righteous.  That’s why I’m so glad you tell me to want it.  It makes me think through what life is all about.  It makes me start looking honestly at my heart and asking what righteousness would look like.  I want to be right in your eyes.  I cannot make myself right though.  I can’t even make myself right in my own eyes.  I’m a failure through and through.  That’s why I am so glad that you give me your righteousness.  It fills my soul and settled my spiritual hunger pains.  I am righteous in you.  That frees from myself to love and give, to share and bless, to forgive and pardon.  Oh Jesus, give me your righteousness every day so I live in grace and not my own piddly thoughts. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Like eating healthy foods, the more we eat and drink Christ the more we crave the nourishment he brings.

Matthew 5:5

Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5

Dear Jesus,

I know you bless hard work and determination but I hear what you are telling me here too.  You want me to be meek, gentle, loving and humble much more than you want me to succeed.  Then you can give me what I so ardently pursued as a gift instead of a wage.  Then, I will be grateful instead of prideful.  Then I will share instead of horde.  Oh Jesus, make me meek.  Help me to see the difference between meekness and weakness.  Make me strong in meekness and faith.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

God loves to give us many blessings, especially when he sees that we will cherish it as a gift from his heart and not a payment.

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

Dear Jesus,

It’s our natural inclination to avoid crying about anything.  In fact, for a long time I thought that if I was mourning that I was not living the good life.  But you teach me that quite the opposite is true.  If I learn to mourn the tragic parts of life, then and only then will I be open to receive your comfort.  And I have experienced your comfort too.  When I mourn my sins, I have been authentically comforted by your forgiveness.  When I have mourned my disappointments, I have been comforted by your promises to work good out of them.  When I have mourned the loss of loved ones, I have experienced relief in your promise of heaven.  When I have mourned my own mortality, you have comforted me with life that never ends.  Oh Jesus, help me to really mourn and really feel so I can also feel your love and truth yanking me out of my sadness to true spiritual peace and joy.  Give those I see repressing their feelings the insight to open their heart to mourning and comfort too. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

It’s a good thing to be sad when something sad is happening, as long as we are sad with Jesus and his strength by our side.

Matthew 5:3

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:3

Dear Jesus,

I was born wanting to be big, important and meaningful. I thought it was the way to life. But you teach me that the way to true spiritual life is to be small, to need grace and mercy, to know one's place before your throne. Then you give me blessing and opportunity to bless others and have impact without pride. You give me the kingdom of your love. Oh Jesus, keep me small in my own sight so I can let you be big for me and through me. Give me someone today to bless without concern of what I might get in return. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

It is becoming small that our lives are enlarged by his grace.

Psalm 23:6

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. – Psalm 23:6

Dear Lord,

Your goodness and love follow me wherever I go, even if it through the dark valley of disappointment, grief and sorrow.  Even there I know your promises and they keep my weary soul busy with pleasant thoughts.  I have hope in my life because I know you and your blessings will be there the entire length of all my days.  And then, when I close my eyes for the last time, I won’t need them anymore as my soul explores the rooms in your house where I will live closer to you than now, … forever.  In this life have hope that you will bless every good and bad thing for my welfare.  And over all my thoughts looms the heavenly sign, “All this and heaven too.” You are the good shepherd!

Pastor Don Patterson

Life with God is a life of increased blessings until the grand finale that never ends.

Psalm 23:5

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows. – Psalm 23:5

Dear Lord,

In this dog eat sheep world it is good to know that you protect me as your little lamb.  When people would want to get the best of me by gouging me in a business deal, you promise to work it out for my good.  When Satan would attempt to destroy me with guilt and blame you prepare a table of grace for me.  When temptation would be a parasite in my ears you anoint my thoughts with love that make me want to avoid the sin.  My cup overflows with the richness of a faith filled life because of your Holy Spirit who teaches, comforts and admonishes me into pleasant pastures.  I am the sheep who has good because you are my good shepherd.  I love being in your flock.  Here there is a place for a broken heart to mend and heal.  Here there is a river from God who makes glad the people whom he has chosen.  Here I find my home in a midst of a hostile planet. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Relax in the truth that God prepares a safe place for our body and soul even when others are threatening to attack.

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Dear Lord,

I have lost many close friends and loved ones in the last few years.  Each time the toll rings for them I know more deeply that it rings for me too. And I fear the fear of all fears, death.  Life on earth is a valley through the shadow of death.  The most, the only truly comforting thought is that you are with me in the dark valley and that the toll that tolls is really the doorbell to my mansion graciously prepared by your nail scarred hands.  Your rod and staff, they comfort me.  I can face the wolf when I am by your side.  I know you will defend my life until I reach that door. I have seen you protect me often and I expect you to rescue me some more.  Please make your presence known very clearly to me when comes that moment that you will open the door to heaven for my last step here and first step there.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

The Lord is with us.  Let that one thought be your peace.

Psalm 23:3

He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:3

Dear Lord,

I know that you saved me because you love me more than I will ever know.  I also know that you leave me on earth and change me because you want to show others who you are for them too.  Change my heart and the course of my life so I walk in the right paths when I speak with family, friends and testy people.  Grace my lips with loving words and honest insight.  Give me your supernatural strength to avoid temptations that would destroy my heart and distort my thinking.  Help me choose friends wisely and to be a wise friend for those who have chosen me.  Lead me in paths of righteousness.  I want your reputation to be enhanced by the way I live my life.  You deserve a good name after all you do for me.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

A good way to help people to know the good shepherd is to let him make you a good sheep.

Psalm 23:1-2

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. – Psalm 23:1-2

Dear Lord,

I see how you have been shepherding me.  You provide me with a place to live, an income, moments of rest and relaxation, friends to laugh and cry with, family to share life’s burdens and blessings. I have what I need to feed my body and comfort my soul.  You have given me a church with a pastor who gets grace and truth, who works hard to refresh my heart with your teachings.  You have given me police protection, good roads, and transportation. I have the best medical care in the world within a few miles of my home.  You are my good shepherd.  Now, quiet my wanting heart so I can enjoy the blessing of having all my needs completely met. And help me to reflect the joy of being your cherished lamb to others.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Pause to reflect on what God does for you and will start to reflect the joy of being his lamb. 

Philemon 22-25

And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.  Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so doMark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.- Philemon 22-25

Dear Lord Jesus,

I love Paul’s optimism.  He was in jail and did not know what would happen in court.  Yet, he believed he would be freed to visit his friend.  So, he shared his plans based on hope.  I know my future is bright because you have redeemed my whole life and made it yours.  Give me optimism to plan visits with people that you and I both love dearly. Bless my plans and make them what you want them to be.  And when I get to see close friends who live far away, give me the power to be all there and not on my phone or wasting time in other distractions.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

God loves to see close, godly friends get together so he can work on through them to enrich their lives.

Philemon 17-21

So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. – Philemon 17-21

Dear Jesus,

I love how you led Paul to speak up for Onesimus.  I bet Onesimus was deeply grateful that Paul stuck his neck out for him.  Give me the umph to speak up for people in my life who need me to help them resolve problems with others.  I want your help fighting the desire to isolate myself in the more mundane things in life.  And when you do lead me to get involved, give me the candor and honesty you gave Paul.  Help me to speak the truth in love and to share my perspective, feelings, wants and desires with clarity and grace.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Living with people in real relationships is as flavorful as a rich soup.  Fight with all your heart the blandness that comes from avoiding conflict and resolution. 

Philemon 12-16

I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. – Philemon 12-16

Dear Father in Heaven,

Paul knew that he was living under your ever watching eyes.  He knew that his plans for Onesimus were irrelevant when compared to yours.  So, he gave him up even when he desperately needed him.  Help me to let people go too.  It’s easy for me to cling to them and not let them go to serve others you have for them to bless.  I repent of my habit of pulling people close for my own benefit. Give me the wisdom to see people right now that I need to “send away” to bless each other.  And give me the generosity of spirit to share them with heartfelt joy and not swim in the fruitless feelings that come from missing them.  You are always with me and I know you will bring more people into my life to bless and encourage me.  You have never let me down.  I trust your plan even when I have to wait.  AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Are you lonely and missing someone important in your life? Give them to God and wait for God to bless you with others.  Loneliness in faith is the stage for growth. 

Philemon 8-11

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. - Philemon 8-11

Dear Jesus,

I love the gentleness and candor that came with age for your servant, the Apostle Paul.  He knew what Philemon should do.  He understood his own passion for the gospel to be honored in how it had changed the runaway slave, Onesimus.  But he submitted to honest, humble petition instead of demanding what he believed should be done. Oh God, give me the same selfless gentleness that works well with others and forgets the value of my own opinion. Help me to serve up to people and not Lord down over them. Give me joy in meeting needs and solving problems.  Take away my desire to count the cost.  Build a wall behind me so I do not shrink back or shirk my responsibilities to meet interpersonal relationships head on with love and honesty.  And most of all give me the wisdom to use your gospel grace to restore and not destroy relationships. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Jesus loves to make us bold and comforting at the same time. Ignore fear and rush into the mud pit called friendship.  

 

Philemon 7

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. - Philemon 7

Dear Jesus,

Just as Paul was thankful for Philemon's love for God's people, I am thankful for the Christian men and women you have put around me who love your people sincerely and bring joy to them by serving their physical and spiritual welfare.  I am encouraged by their humility and depth of insight.  It gives me joy to see them patiently listen to their critics and to speak a good word for those whom they hear others criticize.  I love how they run toward problems with people instead of avoid them.  Oh Lord, give them an extra measure of your spirit today so they can live in the strength of your love and truth as they spend themselves serving others. AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Take a moment to thank God for sending spiritual friends to your little acre to complete your life. After you have thanked him, then reach out and thank the friends themselves. 

Proverbs 24:26

An honest answer
    is like a kiss on the lips. – Proverbs 24:26

Dear Lord Jesus,

Rescue me from saying things that are not true just to get along in a conversation.  Help me to be honest, gentle, loving and encouraging, all at the same time.  Cleanse my mouth of flattery meant to gain something instead of to bless the one to whom I speak.  Make me a pure well of words that feeds and nourishes those who hear my voice.  You never wasted one word and I find great comfort in that, because I know you lived your life for me.  But now help me not waste any breath on wordy junk food since I live for your glory. 

Amen

Pastor Don Patterson

Every word we speak is a seed that will germinate on its own after we plant it.  So be careful to plant wheat rather than weeds. 

Proverbs 22:29

Do you see someone skilled in their work?
    They will serve before kings;
    they will not serve before officials of low rank. – Proverbs 22:29

Dear Lord,

I know that I have lazily let talents and gifts you have given me lay fallow for years.  In your mercy, I ask you to forgive my wasteful inattention and guide my soul to work at improving my skills in areas I have neglected so my life will change the landscape for others who follow after me.  I want to litter behind me a legacy of blessings that feed and nourish others for several generations.  I don’t know how to help you get the most out of what you intended when you invented me, but I am open to learn, if you have the patience to teach and lead me even after so many years of sloth.  Wake up my soul Lord to the talents and skills you want to come out of my life before I exit to your mansion. 

Amen

Pastor Don Patterson

Every human being will die with Aces in their hand that they never played.  God will forgive them, but while we are still here he would rather have us let him lead us to play them.

Matthew 6:18-24

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. – Matthew 6:18-24

Dear Lord,

Only you and I know how mightily I struggle with letting earthly accumulation compete with you in my soul.  Everything I possess other than you is subject to death and decay.  Everything I call my own, is really only on loan.  You own it all and you will give it to others when you are done letting me use it.  It is not if, but when.  Oh, Lord, but you and your gift of heaven last forever for me.  You will not take that away and give my portion to others.  My place in your mansion with endless grace, love and blessing is secure.  Give me the strength of soul to use my possessions to bless others and not stingily squeeze them for myself.  Make me a giver in supernatural proportions.

AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

God does not measure wealth by digits, decimals and commas.  He measures the impact we have on others by sharing.  
 

Matthew 6:1-4

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:1-4

Dear Jesus,

How easy it is to live my life for others’ praise.  Give me the humility, selflessness and love to have thoughtless generosity toward others.  Make me serve them without noticing it myself.  Free me from the tendency to keep track of anything I or anyone else does.  Help me to just see people whom you love and make me love them in your name.  Give me a servant’s heart, Lord.  I want to live just for you and your generosity.  Make me like your Son, who did not once fall into selfish giving. 

AMEN

Pastor Don Patterson

Godly generosity is thoughtless, without records, overflowing without measure, indiscriminate and uncaring about who is worthy of its blessing.