Don’t Miss the Dolphins

Paddleboarding-in-Sarasota-County_MilesArticleOptRecently, Jodi and I rented a paddleboard while spending a week together at the beach.

I must say that as someone who has never surfed or even successfully waterskied, my first try on the board was not very impressive. I had no idea what I was doing so those first rides lasted between 10-60 seconds. (Jodi, of course, owned it like a boss from the beginning). Honestly, it took me a couple of YouTube videos to get the basics down and day two was pretty good. Jodi and I both paddled a bit and had a good time. We also met some folks who seemed to have interest in our paddleboard “sea stories.” We thought they might want to give it a shot themselves so we offered up the use of the paddleboard for them to try.

Their responses:

Husband, “No I’d probably break something.”

Wife, “I can’t since I have a terrible fear of sharks.”

They were very interested in what it was like for us, but their fear of injury or “Jaws” kept them from even trying the board for themselves. This encounter made me think: I wonder how often we forsake “what could be” because of fear?

  • Afraid of what they might say, we refuse to ask that special someone on a date.
  • Afraid of getting lost we never leave the guided tour to experience the heart of a City.
  • Afraid of what “might happen,” we never travel beyond our own country or even our state.
  • Afraid of being “turned down” we simply don’t apply for a new job.
  • Afraid of failure, we choose never to return to school and complete a degree.
  • Afraid of rejection, we never share the gospel with others.

When we choose to allow fear to drive our actions, we acknowledge a (little g) god in our lives. It may be safety, security, control, or some other form of that false god, but, in our fear, we choose to serve it ahead of our goals, dreams, or even calling.

Fear is a non-negotiable in life. Everyone is afraid of something, sometimes. If you have no fear, you have a rare genetic condition called Urbach-Wiethe disease; or, you could be a run-of-the-mill psychopath who experiences fear but doesn’t recognize it. Otherwise…everyone experiences fear. Fear, though, is not the problem. What we do with fear determines our destiny and indicates Who or what we serve as our god/God.

Peter tells us to take our anxiousness/fear to Jesus (1 Peter 5:7). Paul says to seek God rather than serve anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7). Jesus tells us to believe (have faith)…because faith conquers fear.

Now, certainly Jesus did not direct me to go paddle boarding; however, the board serves as a good analogy to understand how to find victory over our fears. We pursue our objective with passion and refuse to quit.

Dolphins JumpingHonestly, paddling was cool but what I really wanted was to get up close to some dolphins. On day 3… I did. The water was choppy but I had mastered how to use it like a kayak so when we saw them beginning to play about a half-mile out, I looked to Jodi for approval, grabbed the board and took off for the open water. It took a bit to get out there (since they did not exactly wait on me). I had to plot an intercept course on the open water, but it paid off. I came to within about 15 feet of three dolphins playing as they surfaced near me. It was amazing! (In fact, it is what I had prayed for earlier that morning when I sat a few hundred yards offshore scanning the horizon. I told the Lord that He was all I needed but that I would love to see some dolphins up close if He’d let me.

When the dolphins submerged again (not to return), I looked down and was well beyond the emerald green water we are known for on the Gulf coast. In fact, I could barely make out the spot of beach I had departed from…but I did it! I saw the dolphins up close, simply by getting on the board, paddling hard and not stopping until I go there.

Our new friends…they never broke anything and they were certainly not eaten by sharks…but they also didn’t see the dolphins.

Here is the question…do you want to see the dolphins the Lord has in store for you?

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The isis “grinch” and Christmas

2015-05-09 13.19.57Today I had the opportunity to do an on camera interview with the local ABC affiliate and Mrs. Jackalyn Kovac (the reporter) who happens to call me pastor. Today (Friday 12-23-16) the FBI and DHS issued an advisory of sorts regarding threats against some Christian churches in the US during the Christmas holidays.

The presenting question is “Will you meet for worship on Christmas, and will you do anything differently?” The real question, I believe. is slightly deeper: “Should Christians avoid worship out of fear?”

Let me preface the next few remarks by stating that I am by no means being cavalier in my response here. I have a military and law enforcement background…meaning I always look in the shadows and keep my head on a swivel. So when I say that Christians should not fear…that statement feels odd in my flesh…but it is still accurate. Christians SHOULD worship together this and every Christmas!

So, how should Christians think of threats against churches in some isis memo?

  • Globally, Christians face threats like this one every day. In Nigeria and surrounding countries, Boko Haram has killed thousands of Christian and millions are displaced. Persecution and suffering for believers in the Sudan are unconscionable. In India, churches are burned, pastors arrested and beaten and their families abused over the gospel.In the first century, Jesus Himself was arrested and crucified, all the while being told by the authorities that did it…that he was not guilty of any crime.
  • None of this “danger” and persecution surprised God. It was into this hostile world that He sent His Son, who’s birth we celebrate during this special time of year.
  • Jesus offered His followers this as encouragement. He said, “A disciple is not above His teacher. It is enough that a disciple be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40) ” What was Jesus “like?” In the face of persecution and suffering, Jesus manifested the love of God toward people that were unloving toward Him.
  • Frankly, Jesus never promised Christians safety, only peace in the midst of the storms of life. He said in John 16:33 that in Him we would have peace. “In the world we would have tribulation but that we could take courage because He had overcome the world.”

Honestly, as a church, we are not foolish. We have security procedures and processes in place. Every responsible church does. We are vigilant out of an understanding of our responsibility, not as a response to fear. If fear could stop the work of God’s Kingdom, the expansion of His message, it would have done so several times over the last 2,000 years.

The story of Christmas is that God sent His Son into the world so that the world could know love and a relationship with God and peace that surpasses understanding. So, we worship. We will do so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and to God be the glory!