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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

When serving stinks!

When serving stinks...

My family and I went to a popular restaurant for Sunday brunch. The meal was excellent and of course we were all fat full afterwards. Before we exited the restaurant my mother in-love asked me to take papa - the great grandfather of my children to the restroom.

What I assumed to be a quick trip was longer and more involved than I expected. 

Papa is nearly blind, so I had to guide him through the maze of tables to the obscure men's room tucked in a corner of the restaurant. Inside the restroom, Papa tells me that he would prefer to use the stall instead of the urinal. Not a problem. After I walking him into the stall, I helped him find everything then exited to wait for him to finish. 

Another man walked in the restroom and politely asked me if the stall I was standing near was occupied. I informed him that someone was in there then directed him to the next open stall.

Then, another man walked in. He asked me about the stalls then comments about the restaurant. Around this time, I'm starting to think something is strange.

It was the third man that walked into the restroom and make comments that made me catch it. 

Number one, I realized that papa was not in there for number one. Number two, those men thought I was the bathroom attendant!

That morning, I delivered the message in our adult service, I had to dress like a grown up and not my typical jeans and t-shirt youth service attire. I was inadvertently dressed like the staff of that restaurant. The desire to bust out of there was strong, but I couldn’t just leave Papa alone and come back whenever. True serving is done with few stipulations.

I am reminded of a man named Joseph that served 11 years in the house of Potiphar and subsequently spent a few more years in the prison of Pharaoh. It was those times of serving that set Joseph up for his moments of leading. I am sure there were days that the pain of picking up after others and the discomfort of dealing with other people's problems weren't his best days but they built Joseph a better future.

The Bible says, "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give upGalatians 6:9 (NLT).

Our giving should not be based on self preservation. Giving is an act of love. After all, didn't God "so love" that he gave knowing that we would act ratchet and not be thankful always. It would be great if everyone that you invested in had a 100% return guarantee. Unfortunately that's not the case. There are those that are truly appreciative of your giving. However, some will accept your giving and ask for more and then there are some that will accept your giving and say nothing at all. How they respond or how quick they respond is not your problem. 

I believe that God has perfect timing for what we need. Just as every planted seed will break through the earth at different yet timely moments, so shall your financial, physical, mental and emotional breakthrough take place at just the divine moment you need it.

Planted seeds take time to succeed and a seed will only grow if it is planted

The good thing to do right now is to serve, to sow, to share, and to send your best when you give. It is true that serving sometimes stinks but i guarantee that you will forget the stench when the pleasant aroma of accomplishment takes place. Your harvest is coming. Be patient and stay consistent.