Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Breakfast Part 3

John 21:7-17

We have reached the end of our three part series called Breakfast. When we last met, Jesus instructed his despondent disciples to revise their fishing methods. After an evening of unproductive effort they caught nothing but attitudes. It’s rare that professional fishermen could fish all night with no return.

Their backs – sore
Their eyes – strained
Their mind – restless
Their stomach – empty
Their hope – questionable

Jesus, from the shore, then directs them to try again before giving up. But this time, do it differently…

5 more minutes

I believe that it is in the moments beyond our natural ability that we experience the supernatural. There was a gentleman that worked in our office that had a unique screen saver. It slowly bounced “five more minutes” in different fonts and colors all over his screen. I worked up the nerve to ask him about the distinctive screen display. He said it was a personal mantra to give exactly five more minutes of concentrated effort right before he felt like quitting. It was a push to perform and prove that at the point of breakdown a break through could occur.  Jesus operates exceptionally well in this area of human frustration. Jesus will take control when we let go and He will do exceedingly - abundantly - far above what we could ask or think.

Love God – Love You!
In John 21:7 it says, “Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord...” I love this verse for two reasons.

1.     John’s confidence is amazing. I read that if you were to ask a random group of individuals to list their top five loves, it is nearly definite that no one would list himself or herself. There is nothing wrong with having a healthy appreciation for you. If we are to treat others, love others, and appreciate others the way we want it reciprocated, we must first discover how to love us and understand what makes us loveable. Which leads to my second reason for loving this verse.
Dinner in Colombia
2.     The bible teaches, But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Oftentimes our struggle with love and commitment to our loves (family, career, hobbies, etc.) is because we have not worked out our love with God. John knew it was Jesus because He knew Jesus. Not that the other disciples didn’t know Him but at this moment John’s thoughts didn’t cloud the vision of His savior. Jesus is the ultimate example and guide. How many times has he cared for you when you were careless with your love for Him?

Simple Math

The author details that after the fisherman caught 153 large fish (v11), Jesus invited them to breakfast. The immediate assumption is that Jesus is requesting an offering of their catch. Yes but not yet. Breakfast is already prepared when they arrive and there is still more for them to catch/learn.

Just as 5+5=10 so does 6+4. When we invite Jesus to dictate our decisions we do not become mindless robots but informed individuals with the capacity to obtain solutions but in a different and often better way. We must recognize the necessity of His inclusion and be open to Jesus’ teaching.

Give them a fish then teach them to fish…

Lastly, as they are sitting and enjoying breakfast, Jesus asks Peter a direct question. The interesting thing about the exchange between Peter and Jesus goes back to the 3 times Peter denied Jesus followed by a night of fruitless fishing. It is fair to perceive that Peter subsequently felt no longer productive for the advancing of Christ’s kingdom.

I love how Jesus works. Mark 16:7 and John 21:7 are very helpful for the dejected believer. Yes Peter denied Jesus three times and yes Peter had an evening of unproductive effort. However, Jesus is not like us. Instead of rejecting the broken, He builds by knowing how to perfectly reposition even the most messed up parts.

In the book of Mark he specifically calls for Peter’s presence. Then, in the book of John, Jesus asks Peter three specific times if he loved him and upon Peter’s response, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus gave Peter insight and direction for three years and strategically Jesus asks about Peter’s love the same amount of times that peter denied his love for Jesus. Jesus grabbed Peter’s heart and then had his ear. Jesus is saying I know you love me and now I need you to teach others about the redemptive, restoring, and reviving love that they too can have (the offering).  Don’t allow the fear of mistakes you haven’t made stop you from living the life that was made for you.

You have been given many experiences over the course of your life and I am encouraging you right now to realize that your life’s momentous and messed up moments are tools to teach others about a loving Jesus that saves.

Beyond just being on the water and catching the big fish, the best part of fishing is telling the big fish stories. No one can tell your story better than you. Jesus picked you up when you fell and will continue to lead you when things get dark. – SHARE YOUR FISH…

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Breakfast Part 2

Far away but Close enough 

One of my son's favorite activities is swimming. If I didn't know better I would check his neck for gills. He has taken multiple swim lessons and swam in all sorts of pools. While on vacation, I took him to the pool at our resort. Decked in ninja turtle swim gear - he looked like a little sea ninja turtle without fins. 

Because we were on vacation, I had limited packing space so I left his arm floaties in Houston. But, I figured he was a strong enough swimmer to make it without them. At the pool, he swam pretty well. I stood by the pool’s side but let him venture out as far as his confidence would allow him. 

He was far enough to practice what he knew but close enough that he could still hear my voice. 

The Bible describes a moment when a mindful savior was close enough to save but far enough to teach.

“At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.”
John 21:4-6 NLT

Jesus had died on the cross, was buried, and rose again. The disciples were out fishing but their efforts were in vain. At their point of exhaustion, they hear a voice from an unrecoginzable source. Based on research, it cannot accurately be determined how long the figure was there. Yet when day broke - they heard a voice and saw a figure.

Point 1 -  God is here and He cares
There are moments that make us question if God really sees us. Truth is He promised to never leave us (Her 13:5) and He meant it. His silence does not denote His absence. God's voice of guidance and comfort can be masked by our toddler-type attitudes of “I got it” however,  when we get tired of unsuccessful toiling we will hear the help we so desperately need. 

Point 2 - You are closer than you think
Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to change their boat’s location. He instructed them to change the direction of their effort. It’s not that your calling/purpose  is wrong. God is showing you that there is a better way to get results. Small changes in how you work will greatly affect how your results will work out. 

Point 3 - Plan for a harvest
God doesn’t waste blessings. When He gives us a vision, He also gives provision. And, if God is providing He is also making sure that your net can sustain its increase. No one takes a small net for a large harvest. Even in the disciples' night of nothing they still used big nets because they expected a harvest. 

Lean in on this, I heard a seasoned fisherman say that a good angler never reveals his fishing hole. It  is comforting to know that we have a master fisherman who doesn’t keep secrets about our future success!

My son is a good swimmer but not as good as his father. Although he takes great pleasure in swimming, he has not perfected it. As I stood on the side of the pool cautiously watching him work and struggle, I offered a few adjustments to  that helped  him swim better. I believe Jesus stood on the shore not because He couldn’t walk on water and save the day but because he wanted to teach the disciples that abundant possibility was still available in a dry place if they refined their efforts and kept working. Jesus had done His work, it was their time to not only remain diligent but also maintain an open ear to divine instruction.

Are you still listening or have you given up? You can still win where you are!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Breakfast Part 1


A few weeks ago I attended a conference for youth leaders. I was amazed at the music, the graffiti, and the excitement of every individual that was there. Each session was filled with contemporary worship and dynamic teaching that challenged and inspired everyone in the room. 

One particular day, a poet walked on stage and commanded the crowd. With the backdrop of a full band that bounced colorful worship music off the walls of a packed auditorium, the poet stood still and spoke.

This simple yet powerful man spun words into sentences that tickled the ears and excited the conscious. Yet, there was a particular phrase that caught my attention and inspired this message.

With deep bravado, the poet held the mic closely and said, “When you increase your NETWORK, it will make your NETWORK, which will enhance your NETWORTH.

It rang loud and powerfully in my ear like the release of an air horn from a parent at their child’s high school graduation.

This is a message in three parts with a single theme of trusting God always.

Part 1

John 21:1-3

Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.[a] This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

Jesus endured an unfair trial, died on a cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and got up from the grave three days later. Yet, it was an additional 40 days before Jesus’ ultimate ascent. 

It was in those 40 days that Jesus made some incredible appearances. The Gospel of John tells of a time when the disciples were distraught over Jesus’ death and despondent over their next move. For three years they walked with Jesus witnessing miracles and loving the lost. Then their leader dies. The disciples disappear into their own seemingly unconquerable maze. The bible says that the disciples broke from their norm of ministry and within their own brokenness, went fishing.

What do you do when you experience a break in your plan? Where do you go when you don’t know where to go?

I met a kid who earned a full scholarship to play football. His tuition, his room and board - everything was covered. All he had to do was play ball when the season started.  In my head, he had arrived and could coast until the school year. Nevertheless, after the season ended and the scholarship papers were signed, he continued to put work in work at the gym. He told me about another guy who received a similar scholarship to a different school. The difference was that his friend took a break as soon as the season was on break. Eventually his friend decided he needed to get ready for college football a short time before for his first college practice. His pre-college workouts were tough, he was sick, and every experience left him sore and uncomfortable. 

Then, a thought hit me. Champions are made in the off season.

What we do when things are great is important however it is what we do and who we are in the lean/off season that will sustain and support us. 

The disciples didn’t go fishing to hide from their problems, they went fishing to stay active until Jesus shared His next move. Jesus loves a moving target and in order for our faith to be fulfilled we must work. I like to put it this way, “When opportunity knocks, it is our responsibility to open the door.” Dreams are great for sleep but the successful ones actualize their dreams by continuously working on them.

Here is the close for part 1. Set backs should not dictate your faith. In your area of uncertainty, the best thing to do is get busy. Occupy your actions with efforts that push you toward your goals. It is a theory I call, “habitual effort.” Practice success. Look for a way to win or learn despite the score board. Your time is coming - will you be ready?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

We played tug of war at church - (The little things)

The Little Things

How to get over being overwhelmed!

The alarm rings at 5:30am; after several rough nudges, I throw my legs over the side of the bed and bury my face into my hands. A short prayer is emitted, “Lord help me…” My house moves like clockwork, the infant is crying for attention and the toddler is fussing to be fed moments afterwards.  A little more rest would be ideal but the snarl of traffic grows with each passing minute.

Clothes, breakfast and backpacks are readied and before I know it, it is time to leave.

The hustle of our days coupled with the responsibilities of our careers and extracurricular activities can be daunting. It is easy to become overwhelmed and exhausted.

Yet, just as what we have to do can be overwhelming – what we love to do can be overwhelming as well.

Sunday we did an object lesson using a tug-of-war rope. I held one rope end with one hand and had an elementary student grab the other rope end. Easily I was able to pull the child in my direction. I added another elementary child to the opposite end of the rope.  Once again, I easily pulled the children in my direction. Another child was added. It forced me to use two hands but I successfully pulled them. A fourth child was added and the task became significantly more difficult. I was able to pull them for a moment but they prevailed.

Little tasks individually handled are easily manageable. 

However, when those small tasks multiply, they
can develop the “overwhelmed” feeling.

The Bible compares it to small foxes that spoil a vine rich with succulent fruit. (Song of Solomon 2:15)

We never plan to be overwhelmed. Yet, the incessant addition of school/career work, family needs, body goals, social plans, and life interruptions stack like Legos.  The little things nip at your productivity, your sleep, your strength, and your will.

I know what overwhelmed feels like but I also know whose name overrides any and everything with surrender posturing power.

Be encouraged with these scriptures:

Psalm 46:1-2, 61:2, 119:105 - Instead of just crying about your current situation, cry out to the God who delivers, sets free, and saves.  He is the bird’s eye view to your situation and the guide to get out.

1 Corinthians 14:33 – God is not the creator of confusion. He is a promoter of peace. When there is insurmountable stress, slow down and seek God’s face. Pause and Pray!

Mark 6:31 – Step away from some things. People tend to unnecessarily carry things that have no real benefit to their day or even their life. I have an overstuffed wallet that makes it difficult sit down when it is in my back pocket. That wallet contains my college ID, a couple expired gift cards, some receipts, and various other useless items. The weight of these individual items is insignificant. Nevertheless, when they are combined they cause a problem.  The items carried value at one time but now I’m still carrying things that mean more to me than they do by themselves. Let it go.

In the close of my tug-of-war object lesson, I led the youth to scripture that reminded them that Jesus cares deeply for us. He sees when we are struggling to sustain and the moment we call His name, He steps in and adds supernatural strength to help us hold on and remind us when to let go.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Don't panic just chill - How to survive a GATOR!

Don't panic just chill. 

Remember what you are taught!

A trapper on Monday shows off the alligator
  that attacked Juliana Ossa in Orlando, Florida.
 WESH / NBC News

Think about the best advice you were ever given. It is probably a profound quote that you will never forget like, “always wear clean underwear”, With God all things are possible”, “look before you leap”, or “mistakes are bruises and not tattoos.” 

These power statements stick with us and remind us how to respond in moments of adversity. 

The other day, I came across a story of a 10 year old girl who was swimming in a shallow body of water in Florida. The story says that while she was swimming, an alligator bit her. The girl beat the head of the alligator but it was to no avail. She calmed down and made her next move. She stuck two fingers in the alligator’s nostrils. Because the alligator couldn't breathe, his jaws opened and the girl was able to remove her legs from the alligator’s grasp.

Following the incident, the girl explained how she escaped. She gave credit to a Florida park called Gatorland which gave instructions about how to respond in a gator attack.

The bible says in 2 Timothy 3:14, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.”

It is amazing that the young girl didn't panic. Yet, it is more awe-inspiring that the young girl survived because she stayed calm and remembered what she was taught.

The bible admonishes us about anxiety and mental duality but gives solace that peace is possible through prayer and reliance on a more powerful source. 

Now is not the time to panic. You will walk though your valleys and you can persevere in your mountain peaks when you remember what you have been taught. 

Major tests are going to come, loved one's will pass away, jobs close, and unexpected bills occur. 

When you feel the bite of fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, or confusion remember this:

Phillipians 4:13 
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Deuteronomy 28:13
If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

In times of trial, go back to your teaching. Panic doesn’t produce positive results. Get calm, get focused and trust your teaching!

Read the full story Here

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Keep The Change! Is change a good thing?

Keep the change! 

Growing up, there were a few things that remained constant. Sunday church service was a non-negotiable. When the Arsenio Hall show came on it was time for bed and Hi-C Orange from McDonalds' was the only acceptable fast food kid drink! 

Recently, McDonald's announced that they are discontinuing an entire drink. Yep! The Hi-C Orange. That's  like telling me to erase my childhood. The craziest part is that they aren't even replacing it with another version - it's a drink completely different from my coveted orange awesomeness! Sprite TropicBerry. It is almost like saying the 90's never existed, ALF wasn't a real alien, and Steve Urkel wasn't a real boy genius. 

But, as bad as I want to resist this travesty and ultimate upset in American fast food history - change is happening. 

To aid me in this transitional struggle, I reached for my bible.

For real! 

Joshua 1:9 ESV 
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:"

It's not a matter of if change will come but how will you respond to it. 

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, "The only constant is change." It's interesting to note that the original manuscript for that quote is in fragments and can't be changed. 

As much as we want to white knuckle grip certain things in life, change is always a possibility. If it weren't for change how would know what better really felt like, looked like, or dare I say tastes like.

Our God is a change agent!
1. Genesis 1:3: dark was changed to light 
2. John 2: Jesus changed water to wine
3. 1 Corinthians 15:33: Mortality is changed to immortality
4. Ezekiel 36:2: A heart of stone is changed to a heart of flesh
5. Romans 5:19: Sinners are changed and made righteous  

Change is inevitable and if we were never meant to experience change why would God permit it? After all, He said in Isaiah 43:19, 

"Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert."

Change will test you, talk to you crazy, tempt you, and toughen you up. 

Even when things are too difficult to determine, your next move is being carved out by your creator. Follow the The leader. At the end of it all, you never have to face change alone. Your Heavenly Father is a comforter that will ease the blow of change and help you get back up. Some thing's aren't forever and that's ok - accept the change and lean in to new possibilities. 

Here's the final thought. Some of the changes we are rebelling against aren't an issue until it's time to change. I haven't had an orange drink from McDonald's since the 90's. 

Give change a try...

Monday, April 24, 2017

If you're hungry enough...You'll eat!


How does hunger influence you?

I think I was in the seventh grade when my hunger dominated my common sense. Grilled cheese sandwiches were my favorite but I was not allowed to use the stove without adult supervision. Well, there was only one other appliance that could provide the heat needed for my sandwich. The microwave. I slathered butter on two slices of bread, slid a piece of kraft cheese between the buttery slices, and smashed it all together. I placed my culinary creation on a plate, opened the microwave, excitedly put my plate inside, and set the clock for five minutes. After I closed the microwave door, I pressed start and walked away. I thought that was going to be the best grilled cheese ever! A few moments later, the house started smelling like burnt popcorn and death! Yep. Death. I ran to the microwave and a plume of smoke billowed out. I nearly destroyed a microwave making a grilled cheese sandwich and I was still hungry!

I asked a group of students about the craziest thing they had ever done because of hunger. One said he ate frozen food, another made a strange combination of food, and a final one said he stole from his mother's purse. It seems extreme, but it is daunting what people will do to satisfy their hunger pains. 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NKJV) 

In East Palestine, Ohio, around eight o’clock PM, an 8-year-old boy and his 4-year-old sister enjoyed a McDonald’s Cheeseburger, Chicken nuggets and fries. That’s about normal until you learn how they got there. That evening, his parents came home and fell asleep after feeding their children. The 8-year-old was still hungry. He grabbed the keys to his dad’s work van, his little sister and headed to McDonalds. The boy made his way down the road with near perfect driving skills. At the fast food chain, they recognized the absurdity of an 8-year old ordering food from a work van alone. The authorities were called but a question was asked before they were released. “How did you learn to drive?” The answer was simple, he learned it on YouTube.

Although it is exciting and entertaining to know that an 8yr old drove to McDonalds, I am more intrigued at the fact that his hunger for physical food was only superseded by his hunger for knowledge. 

Often the greatest deterrent to our dreams is ourselves. Even if everyone else believes in us - it doesn't mean a thing if we don't personally believe it and feed it. 

I have 2 points and then I will get out of your way 

Denzel Washington noted that the same theater that denied him 30 years ago is the same theater he recently starred in for the play Fences. 

Will Smith pointed out, “The most blissful place in life is a place on the other side of fear and terror.”

Michelle Obama admonished, ”Instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you. Let them make you even hungrier to succeed."

The difference between successful people and stagnant people is hunger. Success is not a straight path - there are going to be some bumps

1. Stay hungry

To this day, my mother says, “If you’re hungry enough you will eat.”  I believe that many of us are undernourished and ok with it. We have had some moments of great accomplishment then wired our mouths shut. The bible says in Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Just as God has more than one plan for you, you were meant to achieve more than one thing in life. You have to stay hungry for accomplishment. Make a career goal, achieve it, and make another one. Make a physical body goal, achieve it, and make another one. Make an educational goal, achieve it, then make another one. Every day is another opportunity to be successful. Yet, the true measure of success is determined by you and not necessarily what people think of you.

 2. Eat right

Any good athlete knows that proper nutrition is paramount for quality performance. You must feed on what will help you grow. Avoid copious amounts negativity and career toxic circumstances. Although I do believe that disappointment can drive you to work harder, don't dwell in destructive behavior. Romans 12:2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT). What you consume spiritually, emotionally, and physically is the fuel you will use to power towards your next goal. Cheap or contaminated fuel won't propel you very far. 

Success isn't achieved by convenience it is acquired through consistency.

In closing, I love how our little cheeseburger YouTube driver not only fed himself but also looked out for his sister. Success is for more than you. 

Hunger for right living, hunger for your career, hunger for your family, hunger for better days.

How far will/can you go because of your hunger? The best is yet to come.