Monday, March 19, 2007

weekend reflections

Well this weekend we launched our new mini series called "I Am" and all I can say is that any time you do a series on God and just how big He really is He shows off. Now mind you when God shows off it usually directly benefits us. IF you have been reading my blog over the past week you know how God has been showing up big in regards to the building we are wanting to move into. But every Sunday over the past 4 weeks someone in one of our services has also begun their spiritual journey with Christ. WOW This weekend was no exception we had one person receive Christ and two more people sign up for our beach baptism. Remember on Sunday April 1 we will be at the beach for the whole day. The service will begin at 11am, then we will have lunch and after lunch we will head down to the beach for the baptism. I can't wait to see all of you there. If you still would like to sign up for the baptism just shoot me an email and we will get you signed up. Also, I would like to give a big shout out to all of our volunteers from this weekend you all rock. I know that there were people missing due to various reasons and yet everything ran incredibly smooth. That is totally a God thing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

WOW God sure is BIG

Ok. Have you ever had one of those weeks that was so full of stuff that it felt like two weeks? Well that is a great picture of what has been going on for me and the rest of the crew here at the Relevant office. Right now Carly is giving birth to little Adair number 2 (they began inducing her this morning at 7:30am). Carl is frantically putting the final touches on our new set (it supposed to be simple, yet has taken the better part of two days). I am putting the final touches on my message for this week, called "Big G, little me". It all about just how big God really is. After this week let me tell you, my God is huge. Let me recap for you why I feel this way.

* Sunday during our communion service we had two more people put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. WOW

* Monday I had an amazing meeting with 6 other church planters and just celebrated the fact that there are over 1,000 people represented in our churches and none of these churches existed 2 years ago. Of those 1,000 people over half are people who just began their faith journey. Double WOW.

* Tuesday we received a phone call from the owner of the Masquerade, who said that he wanted to talk about our proposal. We offered what we felt was a huge monthly payment for us. It was low compared to what he wanted but he did not laugh at our offer. In fact he said "Let me talk with our guys and see if we can make this work." Triple WOW

* Wednesday as I am sitting in Starbucks (the annex office in Ybor) I receive a phone call from the owner, who is with his team of people running our numbers. He asks if this is our best offer to which I respond "Probably." So he says he will call me back. No call for three hours, so we as a team go into prayer mode. At 2pm I receive a phone call back from him and he asks if we can we hold off for two weeks till after Festa. I responded that I thought we could raise our offer slightly and we that increase we came to an agreement. Now mind you, the deal is not done yet, but we do have a gentlemen's agreement. God still has to come through in a major way because after spending three hours in the building on Wednesday it is going to be a big job getting the building ready for us to use. Quadruple

* Thursday I hear a story about a new couple that has been attending our church for about 2 months. They were with another couple from the church having strawberry shortcake at Parksdale Farms in Plant City (the best strawberry shortcake in the world bar none). The couple who has been attending for a while asked how they felt about the church and if they felt like it was a fit for them. The second couple responded "Absolutely", and they credited their decision to our small groups. They said we really wanted some community and we really found it here. WOW!!! Then Susie and I went out to dinner with a couple from our pre-marital class last night and they made the same statement. They said it is really so nice to have friends who you don't just see at church but you really want to do life with them, and they said it is all happening in their small groups. WOW! WOW!! WOW!!! (I forgot what comes after Quadruple).******editors note: Quintuple or Pentuple ********

Now this weekend we launch into a series called "I AM" with an emphasis on how big God is. Let me tell you right now my God is so freakin big I cannot even describe it to you. I am so pumped about this weekend. So if you were thinking about possibly missing let me encourage you to reconsider. Some of the stuff I have been learning about this God we serve has been rocking my world. If you have friends who do not have a relationship with Christ bring them with you Sunday. It is going to be awesome. If you want to ramp up for it, read Isaiah 40 that is where we are going to start this week. WOW! I AM SO STOKED. I cannot wait to see you all Sunday.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm Overwhelmed

There have been so many things going on in the last week that I can hardly keep from jumping out of my skin. I know many of you may be thinking "Paul what is going on" and I really wish I could share all of it with you, however at this point I must keep some of it under raps. But let me just say that God is doing what He always seems to do. He is going Big.
So many times I think that those of us who call ourselves Christ Followers only attempt things that we know in our own strength we can accomplish. I have been wondering as of late why it is that we do not risk big for God anymore. Now I am not saying that everyone is like this. I hang out with church planters all the time who are on the edge for God each and every day. But let me share with you what I have learned as a church planter. When we first launched Relevant everything was a risk. Just spending $100 was a big deal. So every time we attempted anything we were risking big and expecting God to show up. Within the first 12 months of our church we decide to do a rehab o a widows house here in Ybor that cost our church $30,000 of which we had none. However, God showed up big and He provided all of the money. That was a huge faith builder. So back to my point. Why is it that it seems like as Christ followers and in church planting in the beginning stages we are ricking everything all the time but as we grow older we play it safe.
Here is what I am learning and I know that this is not new but it is revolutionary when applied.
- we need to redefine risk- Here is what I believe to be God size risking. Attempting something that is so big that is if God does not show up it will not work.

This is one of those things only comes from vision though. I meet to many people who when asked what do you see God doing in your life our your church in the next five years and they say well I hope He remains faithful to us. Here is a thought God is faithful He embodies that try something bigger. Let me give you my vision for the next five year.
My prayer is that God would allow Relevant to be know as the church in Tampa. Not for us but because I really want to make His name famous in the city of Tampa. Susie sent me the Jabez prayer yesterday and at first glance I was thinking "oh brother not the Jabez prayer again" But I was wrong I was focusing on the blessing part thinking of only money. But take a look at this verse it is amazing.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NLT)
9 There was a man named Jabez who was more distinguished than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful.
10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and extend my lands! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!" And God granted him his request.

This whole idea of extend my lands was puzzling to me but when I looked at it further realized that Jabez was asking for much more that just space he was asking for influence. And for me I really think that is what we are doing at Relevant. We are saying God would you grow this thing to a level so that we have influence in our culture and community so that people will know who you are. My buddy Perry Noble puts it this way, he says " we are here to make Jesus famous" How cool is that. I really pray that God would bless us so much with influence that Jesus' name would become the most famous name in Tampa. That is going BIG.

Let's stop going small for God and make the choice to GO BIG!!

fierce conversations

Today I want to share some thoughts I got from a new book by Susan Scott called "Fierce Conversations" Here are the keys points.

"Fierce Conversations"

Principle 1: Master the Courage to Interrogate Reality

Everyone has a different take on reality and unless we decide to interrogate it on a regular basis we make wake up to the fact that reality has changed.

Principle 2: Come Out from Behind Yourself, Into the Conversation, and Make It Real

While many fear "real", it is the unreal conversation that should concern us. Unreal conversations are the conversations that happen around to water cooler because as leaders we will not face reality.

Principle 3: Be Here, Prepared to Be Nowhere Else

Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be. Participate as if it matters. It does.

Principle 4: Tackle Your Toughest Challenge Today

Today is the day to have the conversation you have been avoiding. All confrontation is merely a search for the truth.
Make things hard up front so they can be easier down the road.

Principle 5: Obey Your Instincts

Don't just trust your instincts. Obey them.

Principle 6: Take Responsibility For Your Emotional Wake

There is no trivial comment. Something you may not even remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone who looks to you for guidance and approval.

What people hear from your mouth they will associate to you and if what comes out is always negative or sarcastic that is who you become in their eyes.

Principle 7: Let Silence Do the Heavy Lifting

- Insight occurs in the space between words.
- Learn to love the sweet territory of silence

weekend reflections

WOW! What an amazing communion service we had yesterday. The band did an amazing job on the Leland song "Carried to the Table". If you have not heard this song or if you have not had you band try this I strongly urge you to listen to it. We had two people trust Christ which means that over the past 3 weeks we have had 7 people begin their faith journey. This is why we do what we do. It is all about life change. I am realizing more and more that when I get out of the way and allow God to do what he wants in His church amazing things happen. Check out later this week for the latest video podcast. We hope to have some of the worship up on the podcast as well.

Today was one of those days that boy I wanted to sleep in. I woke up at 6:30am to get the kids ready for school and by the time they were ready and the bus came at 7:15am it was still dark. I really like daylight savings time but mainly for the evening hours. I think if God wants us to experience the hours of the day he will supply light for them. Especially morning hours. Sorry for all of you who are morning people. After the kids got off to school in was into the favorite spot at Starbucks to indulge in a Cinnamon Dulce Latte now tht is the stuff dreams are made of. While at starbucks I was preparing for our monthly church planters coaching meeting. What a life.

home away from home

I found it. I found it. Yes I am some 750 miles from home in Ybor City but I have found home. Susie an I left Sunday right after the second service and headed the mini van north toward Gatlinburg TN and two gas breaks and one potty break later we were here in 10 hours. Hwever, upon my arrival I began my search for home. Yet to my dismay there is no home in Gatlinburg. I know that many of you are asking right now "what Home?" well it would be my Starbucks home. You see Starbucks has become that sort of third place for me where I experience some really cool community and I was missing it because the closest Starbucks to Gatlinburg is 30 minutes away. Bommer!!! Well God obviously must understand how good a Pumpkin Spice Latte is because yesterday my brother-in-law secured a new condo that is just 3 blocks from my home away from home. So here I sit, sipping my pumpkin spice latte while blogging it does not get better than this. While sitting here I am reminded that our desire here at Relevant is that people would think of Relevant as their third place. You know that place where you can grab a cup of joe and have some community with people who really care about you. I am so thankful during this time of year because I experience that feeling every week when I enter the doors of Relevant. I have the best job in the world. Have an awesome Thanksgiving and know that there is a guy in Tennessee sipping a pumpkin spice latte who is very thankful for you.

7 days

I am sitting here this evening reflecting on the past week just astonished at what can happen in just 7 days. Last week about this time on Thursday I received word that Stan Weiss, a man that was like a second father to me and a person who has been a part of relevant since day one suddenly went home to be with the Lord. Now I do not know about you but I have noticed some things about death lately that I did not notice before. I think that in death we think more about life that at any other time in our life because we realize how quickly it can end. Another unique thing that I have noticed in death is that we never really focus on the bad things that we experienced with the deceased because quite frankly at that moment those things seem so trivial. I know many of you are saying to yourself get to the point Paul we know these things already. Well here it is “I wonder if we can focus on what really matters like life, God, family, and relationships during times of sorrow how much more fruitful would our lives be if we did that on a daily basis. The bible encourages this in Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8 (MSG)
8 Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Boy I wish that this verse described me sometimes but I must admit that it does not. Let me give you a quote for Anthony about the events of this week. He said “dad I sure am sad that Mr. Stan died he was really funny I am going to miss him”. Me to buddy me too.
So on the heals of the funeral service for Stan I came home exhausted only to find that my kids had a tremendous amount of energy and wanted to go mountain biking. As we were loading up both cars because Anthony invited the whole neighborhood my phone rang. Now most of the time when I am with my kids I will just let it ring but for some reason I answered the call even though I did not recognize the number. One the other line was a lady named Bobby and here is what she said “you may not remember me but my name is Bobby and I have cancer and lost my house last year during hurricane Katrina and you and your team came and helped me clean my yard and house and on the anniversary of Katrina I juts wanted to make sure I said thank you. I was blown away by your team as they came into my destroyed house and sat at my table and just listened and prayed with me. I will never forget your kindness and I just wanted you to know I appreciate it.” All I could do was begin to cry. Here was a lady that for a whole year she kept my business card and just a simple pray and a little work meant so much to her that wanted to call just to say thanks. I pray that I would be that thankful for what I have and for what people do for me.

lifelines and pool volleyball

Sorry I have'nt been blogging lately. Maybe this entry will shed some light on it for everyone. Have an awesome week.

Well our company just left. Susie’s sister and her husband and their 4 kids have been with us for the past week and a half. Yes, that is right there have been10 people living in our house together for nearly 2 weeks and 911 was never called. AMAZING!!!

We have had an awesome time Ashlyn and Anthony have really enjoyed the company of their cousins and Susie has enjoyed spending time with her sister. So last night it was time for the family volleyball game in our pool. Now I do not know how many of you realize how competitive our family is, but when it comes to sports we all like to win.

So the game begins without incident. –I need to inform you that we do not have a traditional net across our pool we have blow-up rafts tied together which form our 2 foot wide by 3 inch high net- which by the way continues to move with the waves of the pool. With that said let me digress. We choose sides and decided who will be playing on what team when Ashlyn informs all of the “ButtHeads” -her favorite word- that she does not want to play. We then instruct her to sit on the side of the pool and not say that word again. This worked quite well until her cousin got a little to close to her so Ashlyn scratched her face. Mind you all the while the game is still going on. I am not sure what the score was but I think we were losing.

I re-entered the game after having a discussion with Ashlyn about why we do not try to scratch the eyes of our cousins out. Upon re-entry of the game I was determined to make a difference so in all of my Gaylord Focker fashion I began to smash everything that came on our side of the net back at face of someone on the opposing team. It was awesome!! Then Susie gently informed me that most of the players on the other side of the net were under the age of 14. I realized the error of my ways and began to play as normal as I could without losing of course.

I know you are reading this wondering what this has to do with anything so I will tell you. Have you ever gotten so involved in something where you were so focused on what you though was the goal that you really missed the goal. Last night the goal was not for me to win, it was for the kids to have a great time with their moms and dads acting like kids. I missed that for a moment.

Sometime I think we miss it when it comes to church as well. We get so focused on doing the right thing, singing the right songs, having the best equipment, sharing the best stories, being the coolest church, that we miss the most important thing. What is it? It is rescuing people who are lost in a sea of sin without hope and throwing them the lifeline of Christ. However, that does not seem all that cool or glamorous at times. But that is what we have been called to do. You see when we do that we will hear from those rescued words like the ones I heard from my little 6 year old niece this morning.

I asked here what her favorite part of her trip was in coming to Florida. Now you must know that she went to Disney, Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, Downtown Disney, Fort Desoto Beach and many other cool exciting places but this was her response. She said I liked playing volleyball in the pool last night with everyone the best. My heart sank. She understood the big picture cool stuff, great music, good stories and awesome equipment without connection is crazy. She felt connected last night and it meant something.

I thought how may people are out there that I know who really don’t care about all of the fancy stuff and great stories they just want someone to climb in the water where they are and help them out. Maybe we should focus more on those lost at sea then those complaining on the shore. I don’t know about you but I want to be involved in rescuing people and throwing lifelines out. Will you join me?

exercise and faith

Susie and I just got back from our Anniversary weekend in Nags Head. It was awesome!! We stayed in a three story house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The view was breathe taking.

Well Susie and I awoke on Saturday morning and, being the husband of the year that I am, I cooked her breakfast. After a wonderful breakfast I asked what she wanted to do, to which she responded “hey isn’t there an outlet mall right up the road? Let’s go Shopping”. Now I know that many men out there hate shopping, but I am not one of them. I made my way to the Gap and Famous Footwear. Once inside the shoe store I noticed that they were having a huge sale. So I decided to purchase a new pair of running shoes. Mind you, I have not been running in about 6 months. Now I am not saying that is a good thing it is actually horrible, but once you get out of the routine it is very difficult to get back into it.

So after my purchase Susie quickly reminded me that I no longer have an excuse for not working out, because I have been using the excuse that I do not have any shoes. So Sunday evening I began the beginning of a whole new me. I went running. I actually made it 2 miles, not bad for just getting back into it. Now I know for some of you like my friend Perry Noble who is running a marathon this weekend that sounds weak but I had to start somewhere. Perry has actually inspired me without even knowing it so thanks Perry for the push; you seem to be the one who always pushes me over the cliff. (That’s a good thing)

After the run I actually thought I was going to see Jesus right there on the driveway of my friends house, but I made it. Well, Monday Susie and I were traveling all day so I could not run which was not good, because when starting something like exercising, consistency is the key to success. So this morning I got up and got the kids ready for school, kissed Susie and headed for the YMCA. Upon arrival I knew that I made the right choice yet I hated myself and the treadmill I was on after the first 10 minutes. However, once I made it to 20 minutes I settled in and actually made it to 35 minutes without much pain. I actually feel pretty good right now as I am sipping on my latte while writing this entry.

So what does exercise have to do with our faith? Well I think that it has a great deal to do with it. You see physical fitness takes pain, time, and endurance and our faith, if it is going to be fit, requires the same thing. The problem is that many people have let their physical bodies and their spiritual bodies turn from fab to flab because of just neglect. So what do we do to turn the tide in our spiritual fitness? Here are some of things that may help you on your journey.
  1. Start with attainable goals- Most people have heard the saying that if you don’t have a goal you will hit it every time. Yet many times in peoples spiritual journey they set out like they are running a marathon at a sprinters pace and they end up quitting shortly into the run. When I am running I set short attainable goals on my quest to finish the run that I have started. In our spiritual life we need to do the same. We need to set small attainable goals as we develop in our faith. I know it sounds spiritual to have a 3 hour quiet time everyday but if you are just starting out I think that may seem a little daunting. Set small goals and as you achieve them they will give you the stamina to achieve larger ones.
  2. Understand the principle No Pain No Gain- In my quest to reshape my physical body I am finding out that it does not want to cooperate. My muscles are sore and fatigued and quite frankly I would just as soon quite then put my body through any more pain. However, I know if I can push through this quitting point it will get easier. The same is true in our faith. Many times we come to a place where things are just not easy and it seems like it would be easier to quite serving God and for the immediate time it may be, however in the long run we usually will experience more pain if we are not willing to endure the short term pain of becoming spiritually fit. I am not saying it is going to be easy, it is not. When you start the treadmill of spiritual fitness God will begin to shed the pounds of unwanted fat off of you, just remember when there is no Pain there is no Gain. I know in my own life I have learned far more through the painful experiences than all of the easy experiences put together. Because pain develops a greater dependence on God. Don’t avoid the pain.
  3. Time to lace up- some people never make it out of the starting blocks of life because they will just not lace up and start running. Hey make excuses like “I have screwed up to bad”, or “I have tried that religion thing and it didn’t work for me” or my personal favorite “I need to think about that” Well here are my responses to theses excuses for not lacing up.
  1. I have screwed up to bad- Take a walk through the Bible because last I checked it was full of screw-ups like murders, adulterers, whores, drunks, thieves, and crooks all who found that God’s grace was enough for them so I think it is probably enough for you too.
  2. I have tried the religion thing and it didn’t work for me- Great religion didn’t work for me either and from what I can tell Jesus got pretty ticked at those spouting their religion without ever experiencing the changing power of a relationship with God. Religion will always leave you empty but a genuine relationship with God through His son Jesus will satisfy you completely.
  3. I need some time to think about it- If I was giving out free hundred dollar bills I dare say many people would not have to think about it very long before they took one. So why is it that when offered something as priceless as eternal life do we say we need to think about it? I guess we are just not real good with investments after all.

bliss or blisters

Tomorrow Susie and I are leaving for a little R and R on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. So you ask, what is the occasion? And maybe you noticed I didn't say our wonderful kids were going with us. Well you are right, they are staying with their Nana. This Friday Susie and I will be celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary. I know we look too young to be married for that long. I agree!! We were just babies when we got married.

I was in my favorite place the other day, you know Starbucks, and actually that is where I am right now. When one of my barista friends and I were talking, I mentioned to her that Susie and I have experienced 16 years of wedded bliss. To which she responded “well I am sure that it has not all been blissful”. So I said well you are right sometimes the bliss has turned to blisters.

What is it that changes from the wedding day, which is so blissful, to the days full of blisters and pain? Susie and I were talking about this subject this morning in bed after our kids got on the bus for school. We began to reminisce about all of the places we've lived over our 16 years and all of the people who have crossed our paths. I told her “Susie I cannot think of anyone else that I would have wanted to spend the last 16 years with than you” (AWH) To which she responded “who else could have put up with you” She is right.

We laughed about all of the crazy hand me down furniture we've had over the years, and the places we've traveled. But one thing was missing. Neither of us mentioned the blisters. Oh we've had many, some huge ones that sidelined us from the blissful game of marriage for quite sometime. However, right now all I can think of are the blissful moments. So today I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned over the last 16 years that have helped us make it even through the blisters.

  1. You never graduate from the school of marriage- Many of us remember the day that we graduated from high school or college. We remember the excitement we felt and the sense of accomplishment. It was finished, for some that was the last time they would ever pick up a book for the rest of their life. However, any leadership guru would tell you leaders are learners and just because you are finished with your educational studies does not mean you should quit learning. However, that is what many people do with their marriage. In the dating arena singles study diligently because they want to pass from singlehood to marriage. However, I have seen it over and over, people graduate Suma Cum Laud from the single life and end up failing after just a year or two in the marriage classroom. Why? Because they failed to keep studying their spouse. If you and I are going to make it in the marriage classroom, we need to be committed to remaining students of our spouses for the rest of our lives.
  2. Don’t trust your feelings; trust the facts- Too many people after a couple of years walk away from their marriage saying “I just don’t love them anymore." I think that is a load of crap. Sorry but last I checked love was not a feeling it was a choice. Feelings cannot be trusted; they will misguide you just about every time. You need to trust the facts of your commitment not the feelings you have. You may be saying Paul what do you mean by that? Well let’s look at our example of love, Christ, and see if we can see the difference.

Romans 5:8 (MSG)
8 But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

This example of love looks more like a choice than a feeling. He laid His life on the line when we did not deserve it. If Christ acted on His feelings He probably would have never gone to the cross and we would have never been able to experience redemption. Yet when it came time to decide on feelings or facts Christ choose to trust the facts not His feelings. Look at some of Jesus’ feelings.

Luke 22:42 (NIV)
42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Aren’t you glad that Jesus did not take the easy road? His road was the one more difficult but it was the one that was the road to redemption. I am not saying marriage is easy because I know for a fact that it is not. But after 16 years of bliss and blisters I find that the things I remember the most are the blissful moments. I think this is because when Susie and I had those blisters we did not bail out, but we stuck with it and went through the healing process.

If you are considering bailing out of your marriage because it has become more blisters than bliss, why not go see a counselor our talk to someone who can help you. I think it is crazy that we have life coaches for our careers these days, but let our marriages fall apart because we have too much pride to ask for help. All I am saying is that we all need to remain students of our spouses and focus on the facts about our relationship rather than our feelings that change as much as the weather.

Susie Thanks for choosing to love me in spite of me. You are my greatest source of encouragement. I am amazed that I have a portrait of Christ’s love as a partner in life and in ministry. I cannot wait to reminisce over the next 16 years. I love you.

fish tales

So yesterday as soon as Ashlyn and Anthony got home from school we loaded up in the van and headed to Inverness, Florida, to this little campground on the edge of the Withlacoochee River where my mom and dad are camping for the next week or so. Just to give you a little background on this camp ground, I spent close to 4 weeks every year of my summer vacation at this camp as an adolescent; so taking my kids up there now to experience this is just incredible for me. This year is extra special because this is the year that my dad and I turned the captaining of the boat over to Anthony my 7 year old son. I know some of you are saying "but he is only 7, how can he become a captain of a boat?" Well our fishing vessel is only 14 feet long with a trolling motor on the front and a 4 HP Johnson on the back. I think he can manage.

So the ladies of our family did their traditional venture into town to shop, as the men (me, my dad, and Anthony) prepared for our maiden voyage with Anthony at the helm. After launching the boat and dad navigating it through the canal to the river, we realized this may not be the day for the young Captain Anthony to begin. You see as we approached the mouth of the river we noticed it had far less water than normal, as a matter of fact, the first thing captain dad did was tell me, the first mate, to get out of the boat, and pull us over to the new sand bar that was now where a portion of the river was once located. So after much pulling and paddling we made it to our favorite fishing hole, which did have plenty of water. This is where the fun begins.

Anthony has never been much of a fisherman until now. In fact, in the past when he went out with us, he was ready to go back within 30 minutes. But, yesterday was different. We anchored and began to get the poles ready. I got a nice juicy wiggler and placed it on Anthony's hook. Then I threw it out for him. After what seemed like just moments Anthony was yelling "I got one, I got one" and sure enough he had. I spent the next few hours baiting hooks and taking the fish off of the lines, but really not fishing. That is when it hit me. -I wasn’t fishing!- I was teaching my son how to fish. And as we were returning to shore I began to wonder why Jesus used so many fish metaphors. And here is what I came up with.

Jesus said on more than one occasion that He wanted to make people fishers of men and for many years I just thought it was part of Him being culturally relevant which it was. But I think it was more than that, so track with me here.

1. Jesus knew the thrill of landing the big one.
I think as Jesus was growing up that he probably experienced the thrill of hooking or netting his first big catch. He knew the adrenaline rush! He felt a surge through His body as the fish hit the lure, and he had the sense of accomplishment when the fish was landed. And I think he wants us to experience that same adrenaline rush when we share Christ with someone and see the light of their soul come on for the first time. It really is a thrill like nothing else in the world.

2. Jesus knew that fishing took patience.
Jesus knew that when fishing in the natural world or fishing in the spiritual world it was going to take patience. That is why some people never learn to fish in the natural world because they say “it takes too long and sometime I sit outside all day and catch nothing." I have experienced this and so did the disciples, but Jesus told them to just keep fishing and He tells us the same thing. It sometimes takes years to bring someone along this spiritual journey to where they accept Christ, but that is what we have been called to do. Jesus may be telling you today that you are fishing in the wrong place and you need to cast your nets on the other side of the boat for a big catch. Just don’t stop fishing.

3. Jesus taught them how to fish, He did not fish for them.
This was a big one for me yesterday, because I really wanted to fish. When I saw Anthony’s cork go down and I would yell “you got one” and he would just yank it in and miss it, I really wanted to say “move over and let me do it,” but I had to let him learn. I am sure that when Jesus looks at all of us who claim to be Christ Followers, He has seen us miss a few. But just as I did with Anthony yesterday, when He missed one, I think Jesus does the same with us. He says “hey you are learning, just keep it up!” And along the way He wants to give us fish tips to help us with our fishing, we just need to be listening.

This was a big one for me yesterday, because I really wanted to fish. When I saw Anthony’s cork go down and I would yell “you got one” and he would just yank it in and miss it, I really wanted to say “move over and let me do it,” but I had to let him learn. I am sure that when Jesus looks at all of us who claim to be Christ Followers, He has seen us miss a few. But just as I did with Anthony yesterday, when He missed one, I think Jesus does the same with us. He says “hey you are learning, just keep it up!” And along the way He wants to give us fish tips to help us with our fishing, we just need to be listening.

just listen


What an incredible way to start the day. I just finished placing my kids on the bus for school, and I am now sitting on the back porch listening to the birds and watching the sun rise. I know some of you are asking, "Paul why are you being so sentimental?" Well I guess this week I have really been trying to take to heart my own message from a few weeks ago and just "Shut up and Listen." It is amazing what you hear when you listen. I just heard a train go by that I know has been going by at the same time for the last six years, but I guess I have become so accustomed to it that I just stopped noticing. Quite frankly I think it is because of the fast paced life that most of us lead that we all stop noticing things. Think about it. How many of you have driven from work all the way home without ever really being conscious of it? Now you may think I am crazy, but am I? Our lives have become such a routine that we miss even the little things that could make such a difference in someone else's life. Just yesterday I was reminded of this by my son. I had come home and had the usual list of things that I wanted to accomplish when Anthony and his friends asked if I would go swimming. (For those of you who were here last week, no I did not make him choose who could go this time. Lucky for me there were only two with him. HA HA) So I finished up what I was doing, got a running start, and did a cannonball right in the middle of the pool. This initiated an instant wrestling match and I started throwing small bodies everywhere. This lasted for about 15 minutes and I was exhausted, but for those three guys it was incredible.

In that moment I noticed something. A lot of time I talk a big game about being a good father and husband and spiritual leader. But most of the time it's just talk, because I fail to really hear what the actual needs are. So today I am choosing to listen. In order to do that I have to learn how to control my tongue. This is exactly what James is talking about in Chapter 3. And that is what we are going to be looking at this week at Relevant. We are going to play the game OUTBURST, and I am sure many of us have been playing this game quite a bit this week already. So join us Sunday as we look at another game that people play. See you then. Have an awesome weekend.


following God

Have you ever wondered what it was really like to follow God. I mean to really follow Him. The disciples seemed to have this so easy and yet they struggled with it unless Jesus was right by their side. I have wondered for years “God if all you desire is for me to follow you then why is it so hard?" You would think that all you have to do is just have a desire to follow Him and it would happen, however, there seems to be so much more attached to it. One of Webster’s definitions of follow is “To go after, as if in pursuit.” I have been vexed by this for quite some time because I evaluate my spiritual journey and wonder am I really in pursuit of God.

I guess I am writing this because I am quite sure there must be others out there struggling with the same thing. Although I do not think I have all of the answers by any means, I am beginning to learn a few things about this pursuit. I think it is the word pursuit that is the difficult thing because the word makes me feel as if I am in a race to follow God, yet I will never catch up with Him. And while this is true in the realm of my spiritual development, I think God’s desire to have us personally connected to Him in our relationship to Him is also part of following Him.

I am still a firm believer that He really desires us to just walk with Him in the cool of the day as Adam did back in the Garden of Eden. The other day I was walking through Ybor quite early in the morning. No one was around and there was an incredible breeze blowing. In that moment, I felt as if God was telling me “Paul this is what I desire from you, for you to walk with me in the coolness of the morning and just be quiet.” However, it is so much easier to run with Him in the fast pace events of a Sunday morning when it feels like I am doing so much more for Him. But I am learning that if I do not spend the time in the stillness with Him, I probably will never hear Him in my business.

So you say Paul what is all of this rambling about. Well maybe you have been like me lately “just a little too busy to take a stroll with God." I found some verses in Psalms 119 written by David a fellow struggler that helped me with my strolling problem so I wanted to pass them along to you today. I trust you can find the time to stroll with God today.

Chapter 119
1. You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. 2. You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. 3. That's right—you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. 4. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. 5. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; 6. Then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. 7. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. 8. I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me.

Have an awesome day.


Friday, March 9, 2007

hell Week

Sorry that I have not blogged in a while I have been a real slacker. So this one may seem a bit long. I will be writing more again this week. Happy reading.

Well, hell week as I like to call it is finally coming to an end here at the Wirth house. You may be asking Paul "why such harsh words about a week at you house?) It is not that bad I guess we just have 3 birthdays that fall within 7 days of each other. Ashlyns' is the 3rd, Susies' is the 7th and Anthony rounds out the week on the 8th. Now mind you this is a plus when it comes to my birthday (Sept 29 for those of you wondering) because I have the day, week and frankly the month all to myself except for the 1st which is my moms birthday. So last weekend Susie and I decided that we would do a complete makeover on the kids rooms for their birthday. Now mind you we decided this on Wednesday night and the project was to commence and be completed between the time the kids left for school on Friday and returned home Friday afternoon. As most projects go at the Wirth house we had great intentions but could not follow through in the time that we alloted ourselves. It is now a week later and I just finished placing the final touched in the kids rooms before the big birthday bash tonight.

You know this whole thing reminds me of our faith journey. Many of us when we first come to Christ see all of the things that need to be renovated and we are excited about it and want it to be done overnight. However, we all to often find that our journey with Christ is a life long journey through which He will make us into the person He wants us to be. Yet there are others on the journey with Christ who are in need of a major spiritual makeover because of spiritual arragance and apathy for those far from Christ. They are the ones who make statements that I find most offensive like "I just don't feel like I am being feed" or "I just need some deeper teaching" to those people I would like to leave a few scriptures for their consumption for the mouth of Jesus:

Matthew 9:9-13

9 Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him.10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. 11When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?” 12 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? 13 Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

WOW did you catch His words here. They are awesome. And here is some of that good deep teaching from Jesus as well. Check this out.

Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. 35 One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: 36 “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” 37 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38 This is the most important, the first on any list. 39 But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40 These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Well I think I could stand to work on these few principles for a while. How about you? I am learning that a spiritual makeover is not so much what I think it should be but what God thinks it should be. We have done a great job in religious culture at manufacturing spiritual facades that look good for those who want to look spiritual but to God He see that they are just plastic. Maybe it is time to lay down the plastic and start being real.