I don’t know about the rest of you but, when I hear  new paradigms in my life, my deflector shields seem to just automatically snap into place.  Sort of a My life is pretty much in equilibrium here . . . don’t mess with it!  kind of an attitude.  You ever do that?!

It’s interesting how when we hear or read something that challenges our current paradigms . . . especially in something as foundational as our faith life we all react and process it differently.

My wife Kris, for example, takes in the new information with sort of a that’s nice attitude and adds it to her belief system or tosses it out . . . pretty much immediate processing.

Me on the other hand . . . I tend to process things In terms of absolutes . . . black or white . . . right or wrong.  When I discover something that challenges my paradigms . . . especially my faith, my first reaction is that I’ve had it wrong all this time!  Ever do that?!

Thankfully, I am learning more and more about myself as I mature (OK, perhaps mature is a strong word . . . perhaps get older is more appropriate!).  But the good news is that I now have learned to not take my life so seriously.  Now, that is not to say that we should take nothing in life seriously . . . but seriousness needs not to be our full time jobs.

I’m sure that each of us can see ourselves somewhere in this spectrum of processing new challenging ideas . . . especially to our faith.  So, as we consider Bell’s book or any other influence which challenges our current faith beliefs and where heaven and hell might really be . . . at least we can do so knowing that we too have had a faith that has worked in our lives.  A faith that we truly believed God is with us, guiding and directing us a lot of the time.  A faith in which much of the time we can sense God’s nudging.

To say that we had it wrong all this time is probably too strong.  To say that a new paradigm may be a healthy way for my faith to grow even more is probably correct!

Who ever said that the way we think about our faith in God is the way God wants us to see it?!?!  After all, our current relationship with God has been largely influenced by our upbringing and teaching . . . oh yeah. . . . by other humans from their paradigms!

My experience is that while we all have to guard our hearts . . . we also have to allow new ideas and perspectives through.  It is through the continuous challenging of where we are that we can move ahead!

Let’s all continue to read . . . go to conferences . . . retreats . . . and study . . . and in so doing,  strengthen our faith!

Thanks for reading . . . Blessings!

Pat

I read a lot of things relating to my spiritual growth and living the way God wants me to . . . doesn’t mean that I am always successful.  But one I have to tell you that I have received a lot of good, solid teaching from Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California.  Today’s posting was inspired by a daily devotional e-mail I received from Rick “Purpose Driven Connection”, several weeks ago.  That coupled with my own walk and experiences helped to create today’s post.  Thank you Pastor Rick!

Many of you know that Kris and I have spent time serving as missionaries in Kenya.  During our first trip there, Kris and I separated.  No . . . No . . . nothing like that!  I mean, on this particular day, Kris when with one group to work at an orphanage and I went with another to high school in the slums.

As a little background to this about 30 of us were on this trip and we though we were allowed to bring two suitcases at no extra charge (that dates me doesn’t it!) we each only brought one suitcase and a plastic storage container.  These containers were filled with everything from medical supplies, medicines, school supplies, clothing and shoes for the folks we would be working with.

Back to our story; my group was at the school to deliver some of the school supplies we brought with us.  We all met in the schoolmaster’s office with Pastor Steve who was our leader as well as some of the teachers and unpacked our gifts for them.

Afterwards, our little group broke up and we went out into the schoolyard to connect with some of the kids.  While I was standing there, I saw the schoolmaster walking across the makeshift soccer field toward me.  When he finally reached me he greeted me again with his sing-songy Kenyan accent.  And then he said, “Ah yew a meenistah?”  I was taken aback because he knew who our pastor was.  He had just had him in his office 5 minutes ago!  I answered, “No, I’m not a minister, I am just one of the people here on mission.  Steve, the tall guy over there is our pastor.”  He retorted, “Yew ah weeth thees group yes?” I agreed.  He continued, “ahnd yew ah heeya serving Christ yes?” Again, I answered yes.  With his voice elevated for effect he concluded, “Theen yew ah a meenistah!  We ah ahll meenistahs!”  I got it!

In chapter 40 of his book; “The Purpose Driven Life” Pastor Rick Warren asks the question: “What will be the contribution of your life?”  My translation of this what will be the legacy you will leave behind after you are gone?  Will it be money, fame, property or lots of toys?  Or will it be changed enriched lives . . . Lives that are different because those people came in contact with you during their life?

That is ministry.  It’s not a big scary thing it is just simply anytime you use your gifts and talents to help others . . . you are ministering.

The bible talks a lot about ministry and the fact that every Christian on this earth for ministry:

We were Created for ministry (Ephisians, 2:10)
We were Saved for ministry (2 Timothy 1:9)
We are Called Into ministry (1 Peteer 2:9-10)
We are Gifted for ministry (1 Peter 4:10)
We are Authorized for ministry (Mathew 28:18-20)
We are Commanded to minister (Mathew 20:26-28)
We are Prepared for ministry (Ephisians 4:11-12)
WE are Needed for ministry (1 Corithians 12:27)
We are Accountable For and Rewarded according to his or her ministry (Colossians 3:23-24)

Look at 2 Timothy 1:9 LB

                          “He saved us and chose us for His holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was His plan long before the world began.” 

Why did God save us?  So we could serve Him.  A non-serving Christian is a contradiction

So, If we were saved to serve God, how do we do that?  We do through ministry by using the gifts and talents God gave us!

But how do we serve in ministry?  Well, I can tell you this, It is much, much easier than may think.  As the schoolmaster in Kenya helped me to understand: When we help others in the name of God . . . “We ah ahll meenistahs!”

In upcoming posts, I will discuss some of the super easy but effective ways of being in ministry, helping others.

As always, thank you for reading and following.

Blessings,

Pat

Being a believer is a life full of contrasts and inside out thinking . . . it’s a real balancing act.

The world’s values and economy and God’s values and economy are pretty much at odds with each other . . . about 180 degrees apart.  The world tells us to look out for number one . . . that it’s all about us . . . grab everything you can before someone else gets it.  Do whatever we have to so that we will feel good!

God’s values tell us to turn the other cheek . . . to love our enemies . . . care for the widows and orphans . . . to first be a servant in order to be a leader.

But, as I was studying and preparing a sermon message, it came to me that there is a great way to marry these two diametrically opposed value systems . . . it’s with ministry!

It is actually pretty simple but it does require a difficult first step . . . start serving others.  When we put others first and help them in the name of God . . . that’s ministry.  And the way God set the universe into motion, is that when we open our hearts to serve others and help others . . . we are the ones who are blessed . . . and feel good about ourselves.  Oh, we definitely bless those we are helping but I would argue that we are the ones with the biggest blessing and . . . we develop a purpose and passion for our lives and become the really self-actualized people.

Want to look out for number one . . . help someone else!
Just a thought!

Thanks for following and reading.
Blessings,

Pat

As we finish this series on being strengthened by God . . . . just a quick review of where this series has taken us:

FIRST – We have to connect to God.

SECOND – Know that there will be barriers to following His direction for us and

THIRD – It Will Take Determination . . . Strong Faith . . . Single Mindedness

Just because you flicked the Devil off your shoulder once doesn’t mean he won’t be back.  As we covered before.  The enemy will be relentless in keeping you from growing closer to God!  It’s that simple!  So it will take determination on your part . . . a single minded determination to stay the course that God sets for you!  When I was preparing this posting  . . . FLICK – HIT THE ROAD! . . . FLICK – HIT THE ROAD! . . . FLICK – HIT THE ROAD! . . . the enemy was everywhere!

A great example of this kind of single-minded faith is a guy named Mauricio.  Mauricio was the son of an itinerate farmer.  He and his family moved from farm to farm with the farming activities throughout the year.  Consequently, Mauricio never attended the same school more that 2 or 3 months at a time.  He was always the new kid and the brunt of jokes and bullies.

But, Mauricio had a dream.  He was going to work hard (he was certainly no stranger to hard work) and save his money and buy some ranch land.  With more work and more savings, he would buy some horses and be a horse rancher and trainer.  Mauricio had had this dream for as long as he could remember . . . it was going to happen.

One day in school, Mauricio’s teacher gave the class a writing assignment; write two paragraphs about what you want to be when you grow us.  “You have 30 minutes to complete this and turn it back in to me at my desk.” She told them.

Mauricio couldn’t believe it!  This is great!  Not only do I know what I want to be, I have the vision in my mind.  All I have to do is put that vision on paper!  He thought.  He started writing and the words just flowed from his # 2 pencil. If Mauricio had any difficulty with this assignment, it was keeping it to two paragraphs . . . very long paragraphs and  . . . containing his passion for his dream!  He was the first to turn his completed assignment in.

Later in the day, the teacher had graded all the papers and handed them back to the class.  As she walked down his aisle, Mauricio thought he saw something on the next paper in her hand.  And as the teacher handed it to him, he could see the large bold red “F” with a circle around it!  As he looked at the paper he also saw a note below the large red “F”  See me after class! it read.

From that time until the end of class Mauricio couldn’t keep from thinking about the “F”.  Maybe she doesn’t like me . . . why an “F” and not a “D” . . . I actually thought it should have been an “A” or “B” . . . I think it was pretty good grammatically . . . after all, I did complete the assignment . . . maybe my paragraphs were too long.  It clouded his thinking until the end of class when he could finally talk to his teacher about it.

“I’m sure your are wondering why I asked to see you after class.”  Mauricio’s teacher asked him after he approached her desk.  She continued, “and why I gave you an “F” on that assignment”.  “Well Mauricio, I’ll tell you.  You see you are only the son of an itinerate farmer and while I am sure that your father is a fine man he is after all, an itinerate farmer.  And Mauricio, you cannot ever amount to any more than what your father is!”  To write about owning a horse ranch and being a horse rancher and trainer makes for a nice story.  But you remember I asked you to write about what YOU want to be when you grow up.  This paper you handed in is pure fiction . . . a pipe-dream . . . there is no reality about it at all!”

“I will make you a deal Mauricio.” She said, “If you will go home and re-write this paper and base in on something in our realm of reality and turn it in again tomorrow, I will invest my time in grading it again.  Is that fair?”  Mauricio agreed, took his paper back from her and dejectedly started his long walk home.

Once he was home Mauricio worked and worked on that paper.  After several hours and many crunched-up papers from his writing tablet later he was finally done.  He went to be in a much more peaceful state.

Awakened by the excitement of his new perspective, he showered, got dressed and headed off to school early that morning stuffing a pop tart in his mouth as he walked.

He got to school well before the starting bell was to ring and his teacher was at her desk getting ready for her day.  She heard Mauricio step into the room and looked up from her desk and said “Good morning Mauricio!  Did you think about our little conversation yesterday?”  Yes, Ma’am he answered and he pulled his paper out of his back pack and handed it to her.  Just has Mauricio had experienced the day before, she could see the same big red “F” with the red circle around it on the paper before it even reached her hand.  She took it reluctantly and said in a very curt tone “why this is the same paper that you turned in yesterday.  I thought you were going to re-write it.  Does this mean you don’t care about your grade?!”

Maurico sat pensively and said, “you know, I thought about re-writing it but this is my dream and I made a decision last night.” And what would that be Mauricio” she asked him.  His volume increased a bit under his determination and he replied, “That you can keep that “F” and I . . . I’m gong to keep my dream!” and turned and said down at his desk.

That, is the kind of single-minded faith I am talking about!  The enemy is going to employ every kind of deterrent he can to discourage you from following the direction God has given you for your life.  It might be a direction for the next short segment or it may be a life-long dream and passion like that of Mauricio’s.  But we all have to have the tenacity to FLICK the guy in the little red suit and horns off of our shoulder and continue to look to God and follow His direction and don’t give up!

I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME!

Amen and Amen!

Thank you for reading and following!

Blessings!

Pat

In this series we have talked about how God strengthens His people. and the first step in allowing God to strengthen us is to connect with God.  Doesn’t it make sense to consult with the inventor of this thing we call us to see what I (we) was created for?

SECOND – Life is a Battle . . . a SPRITUAL Battle!

The Bible is full of stories about battles and God’s involvement in them:

  •  When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies.  (Numbers 10:9 NIV)
  • He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. (Deuteronomy 20:3 NIV)
  • Saul immediately called his army together and they went straight to the battle. When they got there they found total confusion—Philistines swinging their swords wildly, killing each other. Hebrews who had earlier defected to the Philistine camp came back. They now wanted to be with Israel under Saul and Jonathan. Not only that, but when all the Israelites who had been hiding out in the backwoods of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were running for their lives, they came out and joined the chase. God saved Israel! What a day! (1 Samuel 14:20 MSG)

Like it or not there is good and evil out there.  There is continual spiritual warfare going on between God and His antithesis; call him Satan, The Devil, The Enemy or even He who shall remain nameless!

When we are connected to God and hearing from Him it means we are growing closer to God.  And you know what, we can’t grow closer to God without growing further away from the Enemy.  And . . . the enemy is not going to like that!  He will use the very things God uses to encourage us; friends, books, scripture and spouses to discourage us.

I have been blessed by a great word picture for this.  My good friend Sven (sounds like I’m setting you up for one of those old Swedish jokes doesn’t it!) who Kris and I met shortly after moving to California has been a great spiritual partner for the last 20 or so years.  Sven is one of those guys that is larger than life itself and will hold you accountable to your values and convictions in a non-threatening way.

Anyway, at one of our small group (bible study) meeting we were discussing the issues of spiritual warfare and Sven, with his still slightly present Chicago accent told us this:  “I like to think of it like the old cartoons we used to watch when we were kids.  You remember Tom and Jerry?  Besides it being probably one of the most violent cartoons at that time, it had some great spiritual messages!”  Sven turned to me and said, “You remember when Tom finally had Jerry right where he wanted him and all of a sudden, a little angel would show up on Tom’s right shoulder.  The angel would always try to encourage Tom to do the right thing: Let Jerry go . . . don’t be so mean to him”.  Then, suddenly, on the other shoulder a little guy in a red suit, horns, a pointy tail and a pitchfork would show up; “Him, don’t worry about him . . . wad ee ever do fer you?  Do him in!”

Having the room’s full attention now Sven was standing with all eyes on him.  “So I just do what brother Tom (of Tom and Jerry) taught me . . . whenever the devil is telling me I can’t do something, or I’m not smart enough, rich enough or spiritual enough, I put my middle finger behind my thumb, turn to face the enemy on my shoulder and FLING, flick him off of my shoulder and out of my life with a loud HIT THE ROAD! It’s easy!”  With that Sven sat down and we were all left with that word picture for life . . . and now you have it also!  By the way the translation for “Hit the Road!” is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

Wouldn’t be great if that would be the end of the enemy’s efforts?!  Well, it won’t be.  He will continue to come back to you in different ways to discourage you or to get you focused on other things . . . away from God wants you to be doing.

But now when the rubber meets the road and we are out there in the world and those situations come up about doing the right thing . . . following God’s direction for us.  As followers of Christ we will have to fight these spiritual battles over and over but remember, God strengthens His people:

Joseph – when his brothers sold him into slavery . . . was in prison and then finally became the King’s right-hand guy . . . only to be tempted by the King’s own wife!  God strengthened Joseph and he became a great person for the Kingdom of God.

David in the story of David and Goliath.  David could have (as did most) shrunken from the challenge and turned away.  But God strengthened David and we all know that David killed Goliath.  Through God’s strength David became a great man for the kingdom of God!

Shadrach, Neshack and Abednigo they could have bowed down to their king and turned their backs on God.  Instead, faced certain death and walked into the fiery furnace.  Through God’s strength,  Shadrack, Neshack and Abednigo became great men for the kingdom of God!

He will also strengthen us . . . when we seek His help!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!

First – Be Open to God . . . connect with Him.
Second – Life is a Spiritual Battle . . . turn the enemy away!

Amen and Amen

Again, thank you for reading and following these posts.  Be sure to stay tuned for the final posting in this series: It Will Take Determination . . . A Laser Sharp, Single Minded Faith!

Blessings,

Pat

Last time we talked about how God has strengthened His people and that we need to rely on Him to strengthen us.  Well, that’s all great but how does all that happen?  How do we receive strength from God?

Let’s look at the first part of our scripture again:

12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things by just sucking it up?!?! I can do all things by pulling myself up by my boot straps?!?!?
Oh wait, I think it says,  I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-20 New King James Version (NKJV

The elements of sucking it up and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps are important if we are going to allow God to strengthen us but . . . they are not central to the idea.  Trusting God is the central idea.

So how does this all work?
FIRST – We have to be in touch with God; through prayer and spending time with Christ in a daily quiet time.  It doesn’t matter what part of the day you do this or how long you spend.  As they say in the popular ad campaign: “Just Do It!” .
I happen to be a morning person and it just makes sense in my mind for me not to start my day without direction from God.  Consequently, I have my quiet time in the morning.  I have a good friend who does the opposite; she has her quiet time before she goes to bed at night.  She feel that it helps to unwind the day and put her in a place of peace and of God’s contemplations before she sleeps.

You will just need to experiment and see when the best time is for you.

I find that it just seems to make sense to talk to my creator each day.  It is like He offers me a gift (talking with Him) each day.  On the days I don’t take time for it, I can see a big difference in my day . . .  things don’t seem to fit together well & I’m more anxious.  It’s as if I got locked into seeing the micro small version of my day.  Without my time with God, I don’t seem to be able to see His big picture very well.  I’t  as if I am grounded when I don’t have my quiet time.  When I do . . . I am able to get off the ground and see the aerial/overall view.

Spending quiet time with God moves you from a religion with God to a relationship with God.  When you spend a consistent quiet time with God it won’t be long before you will discover that the rituals of your religion have started to give way to your desire just to talk to God and hear from Him.

Now, am I talking about being a pious religious person who spends hours in prayer?  Not really.  Now, sometimes life may require that of us but on a regular basis, I will spend anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes . . . depending on my needs and . . . how much of a priority I have made my quiet time for that day.

So how do you do your quiet time with God?  You will have to find what works best for you.  For me, I start my time with what I call my centering prayer.  Then I move into putting God’s thoughts and ideas into my mind by reading a devotional or some scripture in the bible.  Then I pray.

The centering prayer for me, is a very important part of this process.  So what is it and where did it come from?  Well, many years ago our small group decided to study two books written by Charles Stanley: “Talking to God” and “Listening to God”.  The Talking to God one was easy for me, many times that is all I do and don’t give God a turn to talk.  That’s where the second book came into play.  “Listening to God” walks you through many ways for us to listen to God and I highly recommend that you add that book to your reading list for spiritual growth.  Among a ot of great content, the one thing that I got from this book and study has stayed with me for a long time and that was my centering prayer and here it is:

  •  “Father, I ask that you open my heart and mind that I can receive your message for me today.”
  •  “Father, I ask that you unclutter my heart and mind so that I can focus on your message for me today.”
  •  “Father, I pray that you fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can understand your message for me today.”

Let me put this into perspective for you; I think the opening and uncluttering of our hearts is pretty self explanatory.  On any given day, at any given time, our hearts and minds are so over burdened with ideas, thoughts, worries and reaction to the incredible stimulus all of our minds and hearts take in each day, it just takes a moment for us to have God open and unclutter our hearts and minds so we can receive and focus on the gift or ideas He has for us.  But the understanding part?  That is quite another thing!  The Holy Spirit is the part of God that helps us to understand Him and His thoughts for us.  The creator of the universe is more complex than we know and the Holy Spirit helps us to make sense of Him.

Let me give you an example of this.  When we lived in California, we had a woman in our small group named Daisy.  Daisy only moved here from China a few years ago and has been diligently working on speaking English.  Now, I can be totally willing to listen (or to receive) to Daisy and be totally focused on what she is saying to me but if Daisy is speaking in Chinese (which I do not speak a word of) then I have no chance of understanding her.  I will need an interpreter or all is for not.  In the same way, we need to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds so that we will know what it is God wants for us.

Here is an example of one of my prayers when I haven’t gone through this centering process:  Father, thank you for blessing our business with the Guesthouses . . . gee, I wonder what time our guest will be coming in this afternoon . . . I wonder if it will conflict with our cooking class . . . wow, I can’t wait to try that artichoke dip . . . boy am I hungry . . .

I think we all have an issue of our mind wandering when we are praying and the centering prayer won’t completely stop it.  I believe that God is working on our concentration but we all still have our free will to allow our minds to go from place to place.  On another level, this process puts a message into your sub conscious mind that God is there working behind the scenes and that you will be more focused and intent on hearing what God has to say to you.

Now that you have made the commitment to talk to god and listen for His message for you, is this going to be a Noah or Moses deal?  I mean, when you ask God about something, is the house going to shake under his thunderous voice when the Creator of the universe gives you His answer?  I think uh . . . not so much.  That’s not to say that He couldn’t if He wanted to.  And, who is to say that God may not choose to speak to you in an audible way.  Now, just so you don’t feel singled out, I have heard folks like Dr. Robert H. Schuller at The Crystal Cathedral, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and many other of our country’s spiritual leaders talk about the fact that they have never heard an “audible” voice from God.

Now, most folks talk about hearing from God in their heart.   What does that mean?  I call it an “inkling”  Just one of those things inside of you when you know the direction you are supposed to go or what you should do . . . in your gut.  Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Chicago has written an entire book on this subject: “The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond ”.   Bill talks about hearing from God in the form of Whispers.  I strongly recommend that you read his book.  It really helps to clarify a lot on this subject.

Next, you may not hear from God right away.  Just because we decided when we want to hear from God doesn’t necessarily mean that is when He will choose to let you hear from Him.  Typically, God will use many different forms to get His message to you.  He will use our spouses, significant others, circumstances, books and scripture just to name a few.  I think we have all had similar experiences when we have been praying about something and then meet with a friend and the same subject comes up.   Or the times when you are sitting in church and you wonder how the pastor knew the exact message you needed that day!  What can I say . . . it’s a God thing!

I think we have heard the message that God wants us to pray without ceasing.    Here is what The Message Paraphrased Bible says about it:

16-18Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – the Message)

Does this mean that we should gather up our provisions . . . food and water and lock ourselves in our little prayer closet 24/7 and never stop praying?  Well, I can tell you, that is not how I interpret this!  I think that this means for us to be continually mindful of what God is doing in our lives.  How He is working behind the scenes in our lives.  And how He just continually works to provide a wonderful place for us to live . . . our planet.

We just need to notice and continually thank Him for the pretty flowers, for our small change s in attitude, for a new idea, for an idea to change something in our life . . . a habit . . . a hurt or a hang-up . . . reconciling  with someone . . . starting a global ministry for widows and orphans . . . everything.

If you will give God His reign, you will be shocked at the ideas He will bring to your mind.  Just let them flow!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

Stay tuned for part three – There Will Be Spiritual Battles

Thank you for following and reading,

Blessings,

Pat

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  We’ve all heard this familiar bible verse.  Does God really strengthen us? When does He strengthen us? Does he really care?

The bible is full of stories of God rescuing his people: the classic parting of the Red Sea to rescue His followers and to destroy their enemies.   And what about God promising (and doing it) to rescue His people from the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians?  God has no compunction about rescuing His people.  But that’s not what we’re talking about today . . . we’re talking about God strengthening us.

Look at the classic story of David and Goliath.  God Strengthened David to stand up against the giant Goliath.  Oh, God could have made the whole conflict go away with a simple flick of the wrist and either make everyone forget about it, strike Goliath down Himself or any number of things but . . . God chose the strengthen David instead.

Remember the story of Shadrack, Neshack and Abednigo?  By the way, that’s not “and to be we go” as my daughter though it was when she was 5!  Anyway, the story was that the King was demanding that everyone bow down to him and forsake their other Gods.   Shadrack, Neshack and Abednigo refused to obey the king and so were sent to their death (so the King thought) in the fiery furnace.  God strengthened them to stand up to the king and brave the fate of the furnace.  When they came out on the other side unharmed God made quite an impression on everyone.

Again, God could have just stricken the King down dead, made him mute or blind or simply just rescued Shadrack, Neshack and Abednigo by just beaming them out of there.  But He chose to strengthen them.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.   This was one of my mom’s life mantras . . . I heard it over and over and in all situations.  Consequently, it became an involuntary memory verse for me.  As is the case with memory verses; they come to us when we need them and this one has been no different in my life.

But what does it really mean; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?  Let’s look at the actual verse it is a part of and see what it says in Phillipians 4:
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ[b] who strengthens me.

This was part of a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians while he was literally in chains in prison.  Paul suffered more for his Faith than probably any of us ever will.  He writes about how he has known great times of need and time of plenty and through all of it Christ has given him the strength to deal with it . . . whatever it was.

So, what about us?   When we are going through difficult times . . . depression . . . losing a job . . . losing a loved one . . . a devastating diagnosis.  Will god strengthen us through those times?  Or what about when we are searching for direction in our lives . . . what to do with the second half of our life . . . how to develop a passion or talent god has given us . . . or we simply feel that we need to start exercising, losing weight or writing that long-overdue book.  I do believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!

That’s all great, but how does God strengthen us.  Do we just get an idea in our head and claim this scripture as a promise; OK God, I am going to rob this bank and shoot two guards in the process . . . you are now obligated to strengthen me to do that?!  Really?!?!   First of all that scenario would clearly put God in the vending machine category which He certainly is not.  Secondly, somehow I think God needs to “be in the boat” with us on the thing He is going to strengthen us to do.  So how do we know what God is on board for?

If we think about it, god created each of us individually with our own unique talents, skills aptitudes and passions.  Doesn’t it just make sense that God is going to be the most interested is strengthening us to do the things He made us for?  In the unique way that each of us needs to be strengthen?  So how do we know what those are?

We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!

Stay tuned for follow up parts of this series.

Thank you for reading and following,

Pat

As we go through life we learn lots of important lessons like not touching the hot stove or not jumping from a high branch on a tree, spitting into the wind; those kinds of things.  Some of these lessons we have learned the Hard Way” and others, perhaps we listened to someone teaching us.  So that perhaps others may benefit from our life lessons, we all need to do what Kris and I call; “Sharing Our Stuff”

So what is Sharing Our Stuff?  If you have been blessed with figuring certain things out in life or through your hard times, have learned some tough lessons in your life, share them with others.  I have been blessed with figuring out how I relate to God, I have a great marriage, a good dose of creativity, a talent of teaching and a lot of other skills and talents. My feeling is that it is my duty to share what I have learned with others who are coming up behind me.

We can look at this using the analogy of life being like a dark underground cave.  Imagine you and several other people are wondering around in this huge underground cave with catacombs leading off in every direction.  You break away from the crowd and wracked with fear and anxiety you inch your way along making slow but steady progress,   After several hours and a lot of near misses of nearly stepping off into an abyss at one point and coming upon a dead end at several other points, you see a glimmer of light far off into the distance.  Suddenly your adrenaline re-energizes you and you move faster toward the light, all the while being careful again not to step into a hole or off of an underground cliff.  Finally, you are able to see vegetation mixed in with the light and you realize what you had hoped for; it really is the outside.  As you get closer to the opening, you can smell the fresh air and scents of flowers and foliage.  You finally step through the opening and drink in a deep breath of the much-anticipated fresh air!

So the question is, do you hike back to your car and drive home so you don’t miss going out with your friends that night?  Oh wait, your friends . . . oh yeah, they are still back in the cave trying to figure a way out of the inky black maze.  Here is my point, as a friend or even a fellow human being, don’t you it owe to those folks back in the cave to go back and show them the way out?  Let your trials and successes benefit someone other than yourself?

Life is like that; we struggle through figuring out a phase of our life whether it is battling with an addition, raising a challenging teenager, figuring out our relationship with God.  There are o lot of people behind us in our walk through life who could benefit from what we have learned as we have gone through ours.  Haven’t we also benefited from someone else sharing their lessons?

Share Your Stuff . . . Someone needs it!

I have just added an “About” page to this blog.  I think it is important that whoever reads or follows my blog understand where I’m coming  from or . . . “Why I said That”.  so I have included it as this posting.

Of course future readers will be able to click on the “About” page and also be able to get some background.  This is more of a brief synopsis of my “Walk of Faith” rather than a “Bio” of the author . . . though there is some biographical stuff there.

My own personal “Walk of Faith” began when I was born into a family split on religion.  My mom was raised as an open door Baptist (they were at the church any time the doors were open) and my dad wasn’t really raised with any organized religion.

Mom had a burden for all of her kids to have a faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, she drug us to church anytime she could.  This was a tough task for her as dad was not there for her support.

This was in the 50’s and 60’s.  We attended the Presbyterian Church which, in my experience, was a pretty prescriptive church.  By that I mean that our faith walk was pretty well prescribed for us by the church . . . what I would believe . . . when I would be baptized . . . when I would join the church and so on.  As you can imagine, I was not very much in favor of this type of cram it down your throat religion.

Fast forward to my senior year in high school.  I had been dating a girl whose whole family we born-again Christians.  They seemed to be filled with a joy and happiness about their faith rather than a dread or foreboding.  The God they worshipped was a God of love and compassion and forgiveness rather than the mean and angry one I had learned about.  I finally made my own decision to also accept Christ as my personal Lord and savior when I was 18 years old.

During my college years and my early adult life, I fell away from practicing my faith.  Oh, I was still a believer, but my choices in my lifestyle and how I related to God put me into the category of what I call a non-practicing believer.

The power of a praying mom.  My mom continued to pray for me and my relationship with Christ.  She mailed me articles, books, and magazines continually.  Finally something stuck!  She had mailed me a book by Dr. Robert H. Schuller (formerly of the Crystal Cathedral) titled “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do”.  The book hit me right in the heart.  I had been going through tough times in my career and that is exactly what the book talked about.  How it is not all up to God to make our lives fruitful.  That we also have an important part to play.  That God has a plan for us and He will equip us to fulfill that plan.  That God didn’t make no junk!  In general, that God loves me no matter what!  What a concept!  That idea had never occurred to me.

From that point, I began to devour Schuller’s books and I could feel God become alive in me.  At the suggestion of one of my co-workers, my wife, Kris and I began to attend a church in Plano, Texas where we lived: The Reformed Church of Plano.  Now this was in a time not long after the fiasco in Guyana with Jim Jones and all of his followers drinking the “kool-aid” committing mass suicide.  I had never heard of The Reformed Church and so my first question was: “Do they use bibles?”  He assured me that they did.  As it turned out, the Reformed Church was the oldest church in America and was also the same denomination of The Crystal Cathedral!

Though we only attended this church for about a year after that before moving to California, it was a life-changing experience.  We learned that we could be involved in teaching others . . . even at our level of faith and experience.  We learned that Christians could be “cool” and didn’t have to be dweebs or goof balls!  Our pastor and Sunday School leader, possibly without even knowing it, and by “sharing their stuff”, helped to shepherd us to the next level in our faith life.

Soon after, I was recruited to a firm in Southern California and so we moved there.   A week or two after we moved was Mother’s Day.  I asked Kris what she wanted to do for her day.  She had just discovered that The Crystal Cathedral was only 15 miles from where we lived.  She announced that she would like to visit The Cathedral for Mother’s Day.  Talk about “Shock and Wow”!  We were amazed by the service . . . level of musical talent . . . the level of preaching and the people were fantastic!  We decided to attend a “fellowship group” (Sunday School class) of about 80 people, called Family Life and that started the next mega-growth period of our faith life.

We attended The Crystal Cathedral for over seven years.  We “did life . . . ministry” with our Family Life Group.  All of us Sharing our Stuff with each other as well as others outside of the class.  We became immersed in learning about our faith and putting into action.

While we were at The Crystal Cathedral, both Kris and I were very involved in several different ministries.  Through those ministries and various events, we have probably heard some of the best teaching and preaching on the planet.  Dr. Schuller was amazing in his own right but we also heard people like Norman Vincent Peale, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Ed Cole, Tom Tipton, Bill Hybel and Dr. David Tyler Scoates, just to name a few.  We heard testimonies by people like John Tesh, Gladys Knight, and numerous other people who had overcome insurmountable odds to be successful and /or just functional.  I remember once hearing a pastor with CP who in his slurred and almost un-intelligable speech pronounced: “I haaave C. P. . . . whaaaat’s yoooor problem?!”  Talk about giving you some perspective about your place in life!

From the Cathedral, we moved to Saddleback Community Church with pastor, Rick Warren.  We attended there for 13 years before moving away from Southern California.  We were there when pastor Rick wrote his best selling book: “The Purpose Driven Life”.  We Held back for a while on getting involved in ministry there just because we had allowed ourselves to become over-committed to ministry at The Cathedral.

After a year or so, God pulled us into ministry and we lead small groups in financial studies, became pre-marital counselors, lead ongoing small groups for many years and also ended up serving a couple of times in Kenya on mission.

Our time at Saddleback was another great time of spiritual growth for us.  Again, we received, what I call education in being a practical Christian.  So many places tell you what the bible says, and tell you that you need to change, but they don’t show you how to put it into action.

Kris and I are big believers in what we term: “Sharing our Stuff”.   In short, what that means is that when we have been given a blessing or a special gift or talent, we owe it to others to share that with them.  Who knows, it may help them to avoid some tough “life lessons” and it might even bless them!

That is why I started this blog.  To Share my Stuff with others.  I am not an ordained pastor but, I am a firm believer that we are all ministers and as we share our experiences, wisdom and passions, that is where we provide a place where others can grow.  That’s when ministry comes alive . . . when others can see how others live the life of a believer.  This is not to say that we are some sort of saints or that we are perfect.  We are far from that.  But, we are imperfect human beings making our best effort to go through this life the way that we believe God modeled . . . helping those we believe He wants us to and to be the people He created us to be . . . through sharing our stuff!

My hope and prayer is that this blog will bless you or will have something in it that may bless someone you know.   If it does, don’t just keep it for yourself . . . now it will be your turn to Share Your Stuff by forwarding, e-mailing or sharing these messages with others!

I also welcome your comments, questions and discussions.  If you agree, disagree or just want to discuss something I have posted . . . please let me know!

Blessings to you!

Pat Larkin

THE INVENTOR KNOWS

Think on this; You walk into a room that is totally empty except for a green box.   If you are like me, you would probably be thinking; I wonder what this thing is?  I wonder what this thing is for!  You pick it up and look at all six sides . . . nothing . . . no markings . . . no holes . . . no hinges . . . just a green box.  Perplexed, you pick it up and shake it as close to your ear as you can without hitting your head . . . nothing . . . no rattle . . . no shaking . . . no sound at all!

You set the box down and look around the room hoping that there is a piece of paper that would give you a clue about this mysterious box.  Better yet, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a manual of some sort.  And the manual would tell about the box and what it is for and how to use it?!  Ahh . . . but nothing!

Suddenly, the door to the room opens and a little guy with an Einstein-ish hair-do walks in.  He says, “I see you are looking at my box”.  Your box!  You mean this little green box belongs to you?!  “Not only is it mine” He says, “but I invented it and built it!”

Now you’re cooking with gas!  Better than a piece of paper.  Better even than an owner’s manual.  You have the inventor . . . the creator of this thing right there with you.  Now you can learn everything about this silly little green box.  You can ask what it’s for . . . why did he invent it . . . why did he choose green . . . how do you use it?  Anything you want to know, this guy knows because he is the inventor!  He knows every detail about this thing.

Isn’t that the way we are with God?!  We can bounce around life listening to everyone tell us what they think we should be doing.  There is no shortage of advice when it comes to others telling us what is best for us.   And that can be good also.  The bible tells us to seek Godly council.  But what if we could talk directly to the inventor . . . the creator of this thing we call us?  Then we can find out everything about this thing He created . . . what we are here for . . . what we are supposed to be doing . . . why He created us anyway?!  And get this . . . He even had an owner’s manual written about us . . . The Bible.  We can read the manual and talk directly to the inventor/creator.  No need for a middleman or an intermediary . . . it’s direct connect!

This is one reason why spending a daily quiet time with God and reading the Bible is so important for us to live fulfilled lives.  When we listen, we will learn what He wants us to know about ourselves and our purpose here!  If you aren’t already, give it a try!