What’s the plan!?!

I like to know the plan. I don’t function well in limbo. When I was in High School, I went to the state fair with a large group of friends. I don’t recall really doing much that day, except standing around and trying to figure out who wanted to do what. Someone just needed to make a plan. “We’re going on the roller coaster. Let’s go!”

More than wanting to know the plan, I like to know the reason for the plan. “Ok, why are we doing it this way?” Reasoning and logic are important to me. It’s hard to follow a plan when you don’t have any idea “why” this is the plan. But sometimes we don’t get to know the reason. Sometimes we just have to trust. This was certainly the case with Esther.

Esther 2:20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Modecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up. 

It doesn’t appear that Esther knew why she was supposed to keep her background a secret. She did it because Mordecai had told her to. He probably had a good reason. He probably had a purpose and a plan. All she had to do was trust that he knew what he was doing. And this man could certainly be trusted. He had proven over time that he was for her. He adopted her at a young age and provided all she needed. He had greater wisdom, greater authority, and greater influence. “Just trust me on this one, Esther.”

God says the same thing to us, doesn’t He? “Just trust me on this one!” This can be hard for people like me who want to know the plan and the reason behind it. But God doesn’t always give them to us. Instead, He asks us to trust Him. He has adopted us and provided all we need. He has greater wisdom, greater authority, and greater influence. So the next time we get wrapped up in “what’s the plan, God?” let’s instead put our energy into trust.

In Esther’s life, God was cooking something up that she could never have imagined. She just had to trust. I am pretty sure the same goes for you to.


Looking for opportunity in failure

Is this a failure or is it a success? Most of us don’t need to ask that question. We know when we’ve failed and we know when we’ve succeeded. My daughter plays a lot of basketball. In this sport, there are lots of tournaments. Generally speaking, the outcome of the first couple games determines your success in the tournament. If you lose too many, you are eliminated completely. Sometimes, failure feels like that – a complete elimination. But what if failure actually led to opportunity?

Esther 1:19 Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.

In this story, the king got drunk and wanted to show off his trophy wife to his party-goers. She replied, “Oh I don’t think so!” Then he fired her from her position as queen. This situation is a complete fail. He failed by getting drunk and wanting to parade his wife around. She failed by refusing to submit to the king. All this failure became the open door to Esther saving God’s people.

Consider this: worldly failure might just be kingdom opportunity.

We all experience failure. So what would happen if we didn’t waste our failure? What if we looked for kingdom opportunity? Because if we did, we would find it. One of my great failures led to my calling to ministry. I didn’t see it at the time, but God began to show me another way. He opened my eyes to see that my worldly failure was a kingdom opportunity. My failure was not wasted. In fact, it catapulted me into my destiny.

What opportunities in your life could be disguised as failure? Ask God to open your heart and your eyes, then watch Him open doors before you!

Walking In Step

I had the privilege of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. The place was buzzing that day and security checkpoints occupied every entrance. There was a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the president laid a wreath. The president being there caused quite a spectacle. The streets were lined with armored guards and military personnel. After the president’s motorcade drove by us, the soldiers began to disassemble in a unified march. They were perfectly in sync, step by step.

The steps of the soldiers, in perfect unity, makes me think of the things we walk in step with in our lives. When we walk in step with something, we are becoming like those soldiers – a unified troop. We become one with it. In the book of Psalms, we see some great advice in regards to the things we walk in step with.

Psalm 1:1-3 1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. 

Blessed is the one who does NOT walk in step with the wicked, but who walks in step with the ways of the Lord. In order to walk in step with what is right, we have to stop walking in step with what is not. We can love the Lord and believe that His ways are good, but still walk in step with the wicked. When we do that, we don’t see the blessing of God in our lives. When our hearts are in step with what is wrong, we don’t live in a way that is right.

When we are intentional about walking in step with the ways of the Lord, we flourish. We are like a tree planted by streams of living water, and we see the fruit of that in our lives. We don’t wear out and dry up. No! We do not wither; we prosper. If you find yourself in step with the wicked, get out of that rhythm today. Start walking in step with the ways of Lord and discover the blessings that follow.

Credit where credit is due

Success can do weird things to people. The same people who previously depended on others now claim to be “self-made.” They get lost in the riches of success. Pride overtakes their soul. They become elite, above others, and self-entitled. Now, that certainly does NOT describe every successful person. I have heard many an athlete, actor, business owner give credit to those that got them there. I love it when someone wins an award but gives the real credit to the person behind the scenes who did the hard work.

According to the Bible, David was a successful man. He had great wealth. He was king over the land. He had a great army, great loyalty, and great leaders. Near the end of his life, he handed off the task of building the temple to his son, Solomon. But he did more than just hand it off; he gave a large amount of his personal wealth to the project. He used his success for Solomon’s success. You see, David never got weird about his success. He was grounded in the truth.

1 Chronicles 29:16 Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.

David recognized an important truth: It all belongs to God. This is a man who had built great wealth throughout his life, but never did claim credit for it. He recognized that He was anointed and appointed by God. He recognized that God was his provider. He knew that his wealth came from the Lord. David gave credit where credit was due.

How about you? When you think about money, resources, and things, do you hold on to them with white knuckles? Do you live in fear that you won’t have enough? I want to challenge you today to trust God as your provider. Throughout our lives, there are times of lack and times of abundance. We must give credit where credit is due. As David said, “It all belongs to the Lord.”


Build that house

I’m not afraid to tackle a project I haven’t done before. In fact, today I discovered a broken laptop screen. So I took it apart and ordered a new screen. As long as I have some instructions I am willing to give it a shot. Some things are harder to build than others. For example, Ikea furniture. The instructions aren’t always clear and there are like a thousand parts. Maybe more difficult would be to build a house. If you’ve never done it before, it could be a serious challenge. It would require some devotion and probably some assistance.

In the Old Testament, King David really wanted to build a house. It wasn’t a house for himself; it was a house for the Lord – a sanctuary for God to dwell. He had all the plans drawn up according to God’s instruction. And when it came time to build, he turned to his son Solomon with this charge:

1 Chronicles 28:10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.

What an overwhelming task – to build a house for the Lord! No pressure, Solomon. It’s just a house for GOD! Can you imagine following those instructions? He would be building a house in which God would dwell. If it were me, I’d certainly want to do a good job with it. I’d like to make the place inviting – a place where God would want to dwell. I would make sure there were no idols set up. I would even make sure the floors were clean, because I would want to honor the sanctuary of God. But man, that’s a really important job – building God’s house. I’m glad Solomon got the job and not me. Or did I?

1 Corinthians 3:16 says “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” That means that each one of us is the house of the Lord. If that’s the case, then the Lord has chosen YOU to build a house as a sanctuary. You are to be a temple where the Spirit of God dwells. So you’ve got to ask yourself, have I followed His instructions? Are there any idols set up? Is there some cleaning I need to do?

Build your own personal house today. Examine the walls and see if any repairs need to be made. Look for cracks and leaks; look for cobwebs and dirty floors. Get working on that house. You are a sanctuary; you are His dwelling place. Be strong and do the work! 

Taking Turns

I grew up in a rural area that wasn’t close to the school I attended. Monday through Friday, my dad would drive us 30 minutes to school. It was a long ride and the front seat was the place to be. Both my brother and my sister felt the same way. We wanted the front seat. So in all fairness, we had to take turns. I believe we had a rotation each day of the week so that everything was fair.

I don’t remember the same eagerness to have our turn when it came to chores. I think my parents tried to split them up fairly. Although, I’m certain I got the most, especially when it came to weed pulling. Just sayin’. To this day, it remains one of my least favorite things to do in life. I digress. The point is, we all want our turn when it comes to the benefits, but don’t necessarily want our turn when it comes to the work. But sharing the work is as important (if not more so) than sharing the benefits.

1 Chronicles 27:1 This is the list of the Israelites—heads of families, commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and their officers, who served the king in all that concerned the army divisions that were on duty month by month throughout the year. Each division consisted of 24,000 men. 

What I find cool about this is that the army wasn’t just a select group of men. Instead, there were 12 divisions and they took turns, each serving for one month out of the year. They shared the burden of the work of protecting their nation. In fact, the wording in the verse is that they “served” the king. We, too should be looking for opportunities to serve the king. 

The work of the church of Jesus Christ is not a one-man or one-woman task. It requires the Body of Christ to actively “be” the church. We can be the church through our lifestyle, through our example, through our counsel, and even through our service. Like the armies of Israel, we ought to be taking a turn at serving the community of believers. Jesus didn’t design the church around the idea that some people would do the work and others would sit back and reap the benefits. Instead, he called us to be a family. 

Ask yourself today, how can I serve? How can I take a turn?


Spiritual Metal Detectors

I recently had the privilege of visiting Washington D.C. with my son. It was my first time there and it was such a great experience to see some of our nation’s history first-hand. One thing I noticed was that there were metal detectors everywhere. Aerospace Museum: metal detector. Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day: metal detector. Natural History Museum: metal detector.  Same story at the Statue of Liberty in New York: metal detector. Again, the same thing happened in Philadelphia visiting the Liberty Bell: metal detector.  Alongside all these metal detectors were security guards. They inspected bags, patted people down, and granted entry. The most sophisticated scanners, however, were at the airports. You step into the machine and it does a 360 full body scan.

So why all these security measures? Why the machines and the bag searches? Why the guards? You can probably answer those questions as easily as I can. The answer is security. The goal is to keep unwanted things out. In order to keep the public and the artifacts safe, they make sure that things that aren’t supposed to get in stay out. Things like guns, bombs, and knives. And maybe robots. We can’t have a terminator situation on our hands at these places.

1 Chronicles 26:16b-18 Guard was alongside of guard: There were six Levites a day on the east, four a day on the north, four a day on the south and two at a time at the storehouse. As for the court to the west, there were four at the road and two at the court itself.

Just like in Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia, they had guards at the gates of the city in Bible times. These were the gatekeepers, charged with the responsibility to keep the city safe. They were assigned a position and worked alongside other guards to fulfill their duty. It was up to them to keep the city safe. It was up to them to prevent harm from coming in.

And just like those gatekeepers, you have a job to do. You are called to be the gatekeeper of your heart – it is up to you to protect it and keep unwanted things out. You are the gatekeeper of your mind – you’ve got to keep stuff out that will ruin you. Stuff like lies from the enemy, hateful thoughts, gossip and slander.

Yes, you are a gatekeeper. And you must have a spiritual metal detector to filter what gets in. What does that look like, practically? For me, I filter what music, movies, and reading material I let in. I put safeguards on my web browser. I don’t do this because I’m being paranoid; I do it because I’m being wise. You too, must recognize that being a gatekeeper is essential to walking rightly with Christ.

I want to challenge you today: put on your spiritual security guard uniform and start checking bags before you just let them in. Get out that spiritual metal detector of the Holy Spirit and run a scan on the things demanding entrance into your life.


The Town Crier

“Hear ye, hear ye!”

Long before Facebook, before Google, before cable news, and before newspapers was the Town Crier. Dating back to the 18th century, Town Criers were elaborately dressed men who would deliver the news to the town. Often carrying a large bell to gain the attention of the townsfolk, they would then declare out, “hear ye!” When the crowd had gathered, they would deliver the important news. Back in those days, if you wanted to “share” a story, you actually had to tell someone.

The Town Crier was an important part of society, keeping the people apprised of current events. But long before the Town Crier, David instituted his own version of it: the Town Prophesier. This person had an even more important job than keeping the town up to date on the current events or town scandals. His job was to announce the Word of the Lord.

1 Chronicles 25:1 David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals.  

Can you imagine this job? The job description might have looked like this: hear from the Lord and declare it to the people. What a cool job! They even had their own band that followed them around. I’ve always thought it would be cool to live life with a soundtrack, but these guys literally had that. Set apart for the ministry of prophesying… how about that?

As I reflect on this verse this morning, what strikes me is how important it is to hear from the Lord and declare it out. It has always been important. But we don’t need Town Criers; we don’t need professional prophesiers. WE can hear from the Lord. The prophet Joel said that God would pour out His Spirit on all people and it happened in Acts 2. Now YOU can hear from the Lord. YOU can prophesy. YOU can declare out what God is saying. 

You just have to take the time to ask and to listen.

The Leadership Factory

There’s this show on TV called “Shark Tank.” The premise is that entrepreneurs pitch their small business to savvy investors with the hopes that they will help take their business to the next level. Often, these people are producing their products in their kitchen or their garages. They come with their meager beginnings and hope to leave with a prosperous future. Often, these business owners desire to move their production from their homes to a factory. The demand has increased and so it is time to increase their productivity.

Once they land the deal, it’s go time. Many of these products get a huge spike in interest from the show, causing the business owners to scramble to meet the new demands. Production is outsourced, new employees are hired, and growth ultimately happens. Well, that’s the goal. The fact is, some businesses are more successful than others. Some flourish beyond expectations and others don’t do much at all.

In the Bible, there’s a story of a priest who flourished beyond the others.

1 Chronicles 24:4 A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants. 

Eleazar’s family was a leadership factory! There were twice as many leaders found from his descendants than Ithamar’s descendants. We don’t know why this was or how he did it, we simply know that his family was full of leaders. Were they just inherently great leaders or was it more than that? I’d like to believe it was more that that; because leaders are developed. Leaders are trained, equipped, challenged. Leaders are given opportunity to lead and to learn.

Often, we just stand by and hope some great leaders show up to help us do the work. We pray that God would send us people that can lead alongside us. But the truth is, leaders don’t just appear; leaders are made. If we want leaders, we must train leaders. If we want a legacy of leaders, we must become a leadership factory. Be intentional with your children. Be intentional with your grandchildren. Look for potential leaders around you and begin to invest in them. 

Eleazar was a leadership factory. You can be, too.

Professional Praisers

There are a plethora of occupations in this world. You can drive a truck or drive a race car. You can stock shelves or sell stocks. You can farm a pasture or pastor a farm church. So many choices for so many people. God made each of us with a unique personality and a unique calling. As I was reading my Bible today, I found an interesting occupation: professional praisers.

Dec. 6, 2009 – Miami, Florida, USA – The Adrienne Arsht Center presents Free Gospel Sundays at the AAC in Miami Dec. 6th, 2009. Credit Image: Mitchell Zachs/MagicalPhotos)

1 Chronicles 23:30 They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening.

Imagine that – praising God was in their job description. It had nothing to do with their mood or their circumstances. It was their job. They praised Him when things went well and when they didn’t. They praised Him when they felt great and also when they felt sick. They simply praised Him because that’s what they were called to do.

You know what? So are we. And there is so much to praise Him for. Some days it seems like it is hard to find something to praise about. But the truth is, there is always something to praise God for. So praise Him in the morning and praise Him in the evening. Praise Him when things are going great and when things are hard.

Praise will change your outlook and it will change your countenance. It will focus you and it will center you. But most importantly, it will connect you with your God, who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. So be a professional praiser today! Try it and see what happens.