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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Here's How to Make a Dent

You know who an expert is?

Someone from out of town.

So I've heard. I also think an expert--that person we listen to with great expectation and hold their opinions and teachings at a higher level than the average Joe--is someone we pay to hear, someone we pull out our notebook and pen for, and someone we tell others about.

And we tend to think that unless I'm an expert--someone with a name and an entourage and a book or two--I have little to no chance of really making a mark in this world.

But Jesus taught otherwise. And if we're going to get serious about looking at life from our Lord's perspective we need to value what He taught over what conventional wisdom teaches.

Jesus said that to make a mark in this world we simply need to serve.

Now I don't know about you, but I'd rather have some business cards made up, set me up a web site, and work the expert angle. It's a lot more glamorous, more appealing...to the flesh...my flesh.

But if Jesus, my Lord and Master, didn't operate that way, then neither should I. I can't expect to make a dent in this world by going the expert route. I'll only make a lasting mark by doing it Jesus' way...serving.

Not only did Jesus serve willingly every day as He encountered the needy and distraught people of Israel, but He also gave us a beautiful and challenging portrait of service at its most menial when He washed the disciples' feet just before His crucifixion.

Peter was astounded by Jesus' grunt labor. He didn't want to participate, he was so taken aback. We've read the story enough, seen the teaching pictures to go with the narrative and processed it all with admiration, so we're not quite as surprised by Jesus' actions. We're suitably impressed. But do we really think He meant for us to bend quite that low in order to serve those around us?

I think that's exactly what He meant.

And I'm not very good at heeding that call. Are you?

The question that rings in my mind is "how?" How am I supposed to get to the point where I'm willing, obliged, and grateful for the opportunity to serve? Not to do the expert thing...the glamorous thing...the showy thing, but to really take up a rag in one hand and a dirty foot in the other and serve?

I want to be willing. I want to say, like the friendly folks at Chick-fil-A, "It's my pleasure to serve you!" And I want to mean it.

And today as I read from John 13:1-20 I found the solution to my lack of want-to. I'm sure most of us have missed this seemingly insignificant phrase as we've launched into the familiar story, but I'd like to draw our attention to it today.

Jesus, knowing that the Father
had given all things into His hands,
and that He had come from God
and was going to God,
rose from supper and laid aside His garments, 
took a towel and girded Himself.

I think it's no coincidence that John lets us know how it is that Jesus could perform such a menial act of service. Quite simply, He knew who He was. 

It couldn't have been easy for Jesus to serve those men on that fateful day. We tend to think that everything Jesus did was somehow easy for Him. After all, He is God. But consider what He was dealing with on that particular evening.

He was tired. He had at least 12 tired, dirty, smelly, clueless men around Him. He was growing closer and closer to the moment for which He had come: not a moment of glory, but a terrible, humiliating, and painful death. The guys who clamored to sit close to Him right now would soon scatter like roaches in the light. And He was about to take on--literally, physically, and spiritually--the sins of these disloyal guys, the folks who were crucifying, spitting on, and jeering at Him, and you and me.

That would not be the moment I would easily, willingly get up and put on a servant's towel and pick up a basin of water. No, I'd be soaking in a pool of self-pity and looking around me with contempt and disdain.

But not our Lord. He served.

He had nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide. Jesus knew where He'd come from and where He was ultimately returning. He knew the mission that had been given Him was the one that all hope hinged upon. 

It occurs to me that if I know who I am in Christ Jesus--His beloved, His friend, His precious one--then I am more likely to serve with willingness and complete abandon. If I know my purpose in life--to glorify Him so that people may come to Him--then I can lay aside my own agenda, my desires and my reputation in order to bend low enough to really make a difference. And if I know that this day is only a blink of the eye in the larger scheme of things and that I'm heading to an eternity in His kingdom, then I can get my hands a little dirty today, sweat a little today, be a little uncomfortable today.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Oh, Lord, give me Your perspective so that I might serve others as You did. With grace and love and complete abandon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Set Up

My kids can thank me for their good vision. But they can also blame me for the crooked teeth they had straightened with orthodontics.

But I haven't just set my two children up with physical blessings and cursings. It's likely that I've paved their paths in other ways as well.

Fact is, I'm setting the pace for their lives in many ways...with every decision I make, every attitude I harbor, every word I say, and every habit I practice.

For the past several days I've been reading in 1 Kings and I've begun to notice a trend. I bet you've seen it too.

Turns out that David's decisions and lifestyle sent his sons Absalom, Amnon, and Solomon in three different directions. Saul's tormented attitudes drove Jonathan to an early death. And Solomon's short-lived wisdom and success predicated his son's short-lived reign on the throne and shrunk the kingdom he inherited significantly.

And that's not all. The chapters I read indicate one son after another who reaped the consequences of his father's or grandfather's actions. Sometimes the inheritance was good. The father had done well and so the son was blessed. Other times, unfortunately, the dad messed up and the son ended up trying to clean up the pieces he left in his wake. Blessings and cursings. Inheritances and handicaps.

That makes me think: what am I setting my children up with?

Sometimes the consequences of our actions are direct and unmistakeable.
  • A divorce leaves a child with a fractured family and a shattered concept of commitment.
  • If I neglect to provide for my child financially, he inherits poverty and must work his way up out of a pit before he's had a chance to fly.
  • And if I don't take my child to church on a regular basis but only occasionally, then I teach him that God is secondary, an afterthought, maybe even an inconvenience.
But I'm sure there are more subtle set ups in the making every day of our lives. Little decisions, "harmless" words, unintentional reactions, stubborn attitudes we think belong to us alone and affect no one else. We're wrong. The Bible clearly teaches that our ways--all of them--are laying the pavement our children will walk on in their adult years.

For instance, what kind of path do I pave for my children when I:
  • gossip with my friends, sneering at others' mistakes and casting judgment on situations I'm not fully briefed on?
  • neglect to help the poor, show concern for the hurting, or give assistance to the down and out?
  • insist on having things my way all the time, refusing to bow to others' preferences occasionally?
  • raise my voice in anger?
  • fight unfairly with my spouse, calling to account past grievances and using words like "never" and "always" and "divorce" and "hate"?
  • produce lavish Christmases, birthdays, and vacations for my family, but never include anyone else who might not have a family to celebrate with?
  • pick up my Bible on Sunday mornings and lay it back down by 1:00 that afternoon, rarely locating it otherwise?
  • sit stoically through the Sunday morning sermon and then enjoy roasted preacher for lunch?
  • ask my child or spouse to tell whoever is on the other end of the phone that "I'm not here"?
  • rarely call my parents or include them in family outings and plans?
  • shop 'til I drop, pulling out the little plastic card to "pay" for things I can't afford?
Ahh, the list could go on and on and on. The little things. The little things that I've seen have huge consequences in other peoples' lives. The little things that I'm setting up my children with.

So I ask myself today--and I ask you--what choices have I made today...this day...that have set my children up for blessings? And what decisions have I made or neglected to make that have set them up for struggles, for problems?

It's something to think about. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Did you know that God wants you to succeed?

Now before you dismiss this post as some sort of "health and wealth" mumbo jumbo, you need to know that I'm not a big fan of such teachings. I don't think our prosperity is God's biggest concern or goal. I also don't believe it's any kind of predictable measure of our faith. God causes the rain to fall on the good and the evil, like it or not.

But today I was reminded that God is not intimidated by, repulsed by, or careless with our successes. In fact, He wants us to succeed.

Of course, my idea of success and God's estimation of coming out on top can be polar opposites. I don't think God is interested in me winning for winning's sake. I don't think He owes me success or prosperity in reward of my obedience or allegiance. And I certainly don't think He deserves my whiny complaints when I don't feel like I've gotten my due.

However, God certainly can and does set me up for success. He occasionally allows someone to see my good deeds and take notice. He sometimes allows me to increase in favor with others. God often chooses to bless me with good reward, sweet praise, or public accolades.

He does the same for you. Depending on the kind of day you had yesterday or today, you may not think He does. But He does. If your heart is devoted to Him and you're walking with Him in humility, I'm sure of it. He does.

But why does God allow us to succeed, even ordain it at times?

Let your light shine 
before men in such a way 
that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

If you're walking humbly with the Lord it won't bother you that the reason He sometimes (often?) allows us to succeed, to do something right, to gain a little notoriety, is so that, in the end, He is glorified and honored. It's all about drawing attention to Him.

Today I read in 1 Kings 10 the account of the queen of Sheba visiting the most wise King Solomon. If you're unfamiliar with the story I suggest you take a quick two minutes to read it (vs. 1-13). You'll be impressed with just how much Solomon impressed this rich and powerful queen. In her eyes, he was a real winner.

The queen traveled a long distance to put Solomon to the test. She had heard his praises from others, but could this mortal man really live up to his good press? First she grilled him with tough questions. I'm imagining that she threw world event, political, and hot topic questions at him. Katie Couric has nothing on this woman. She didn't only find out if Solomon was well read, but she made sure he understood what he'd read.

Satisfied with the answers to her stumping questions, the queen moved on to matters of the heart. Ah, what pressure! There's not a man I'm familiar with who would want to spend hours talking heart issues with a woman. What a mine field! But Solomon didn't bat an eye. With the wisdom and understanding he had received from God, he was able to handle even the most sensitive questions.

The result?

Then she said to the king:
"It was a true report 
which I heard in my own land
about your words and your wisdom.
However I did not believe the words
until I came and saw with my own eyes;
and indeed the half was not told me.
Your wisdom and prosperity exceed 
the fame of which I heard."
1 Kings 10:6-7
She was duly impressed. Solomon had shone like a brilliant gem and the queen was dazzled.

But here's the catch, the interesting angle. 

Solomon must have succeeded, must have impressed her dainty slippers right off her feet...without ever stealing God's thunder. The queen of Sheba praised Solomon alright, but she didn't stop there. Listen in.

She continued...
"Blessed be the Lord your God,
who delighted in you, 
setting you on the throne of Israel!
Because the Lord has loved Israel forever,
therefore He made you the king,
to do justice and righteousness."

Even with all of Solomon's eloquent words, perceptive intuition, beyond-his-years wisdom, over-the-top wealth, stunning style, and gracious hospitality, he managed to somehow keep this woman's focus on his God. Not her God, mind you, but his. Solomon wowed her, but God got the credit in the end.

And that's exactly why God allowed Solomon to succeed to begin with. 

And that's why when you or I manage to win the moment or hit it big or come out on top...God allows us to succeed to begin with. 

What have you done with your recent successes? Have you grabbed the limelight and hung out there until the applause died down? Or have you humbly acknowledged the Source of every good and perfect gift, every success, every moment in the spotlight? I must admit, sometimes I've failed to give credit where credit is always due.

But the bigger question in my mind is what did Solomon do ...as he spoke, as he answered the queen's questions, as he showed her around his palace, as he talked matters of the heart ...that kept the spotlight on his King all along? How is it that this worldly queen knew, at the end of the grand tour and the grueling question-and-answer session, that God was worthy of her praise?

And so that's a question I leave with you today. I'll be contemplating it; maybe you'll help me out by leaving a comment with your take on the matter. I'd love to hear from you!

I hope you'll excuse my long absence over the past couple of weeks. I've been on a much needed vacation with family. We covered new territory by visiting the Seattle, Washington, area. Absolutely beautiful! Loved it! And for someone who spends hours each day typing away on a computer keyboard, a vacation isn't a real retreat from the normal unless I shut the computer down. So I've been doing just that for a couple of weeks.

But I'm back and I hope you are too! I've missed you. 

Now, let me hear your thoughts on today's question. Or at least let me know you're out there! Have a blessed day!

Friday, June 10, 2011

When Life is Hard God is Great

I have a number of friends going through some pretty stinky times right now. All three sons-in-law of one friend are facing daunting illnesses and/or trials at work. One dear friend was an innocent victim in a serious car accident this past weekend that resulted in the other driver's death. She also has other difficult situations occurring around her in her immediate family. And another friend has continuous hardships with her teenaged son.

Trouble. That starts with "t" and that rhymes with "p" and that stands for "pain!"

I hate going through such trying times and I hate it for my friends and family members when they go through them too. I especially loathe those times when you can't get the question "why" answered.

Sometimes we know the trouble we are reaping is a direct result of the troublesome seeds we have planted. We are indeed reaping what we have sown. We don't really like to admit it, but we know in the recesses of our heart that it's true.

But other times, we search our recent behavior and our past decisions and we can find no obvious trail that leads to the path of pain we are now on. We honestly don't know how we got there. One day life was humming by and within a matter of weeks one troubling situation has piled on top of another until we're facing a daunting heap of predicaments that we must somehow climb or crawl through, one bad boulder at a time.

So what's the Christian response in such sorry times? What is the godly way to summit this nasty mountain of pain?

As Jesus and His disciples passed by a begging blind man, without sight from birth, they asked their leader, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

In other words, they were asking, "Why?" The same question we often ask when the going gets tough, almost too tough to handle or comprehend.

Jesus' reply should resonate with us today.

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."

Does that make you feel better or worse? It probably depends on your concept of the purpose of life. If you believe your purpose is to be comfortable, to be happy, to have fun, to experience the fullness of life...then Jesus' response to the disciples' searching question probably only makes you angry.

But if you realize that the Bible teaches that our purpose is indeed to glorify God throughout our lives, then Jesus' answer actually ought to excite you.

Is that a stretch? Maybe so, but consider that when you are weak, He is strong. When we are in need, He is sufficient. That through Him we can do all things. That He who began a good work will see it through. That He can work all things together for good in our lives.

When we are going through troubling times, we will certainly hurt, cry some tears, and cry out in anguish, but we can also know that God is at work. And when we yield to that work, submit to His loving hand in our lives, and lean on Him as He holds us up, then our lives, pain and all, can actually serve as a light that reflects God's light and leads others to Him.

We can actually do our "greatest work", so to speak, when we are up against the greatest obstacles. And the truth is, sometimes God allows us to go through some pretty difficult times in order to draw our attention and the attention of others to Him.

Our trouble shines a little light on our God if we don't dim that light with all of our whining and wrestling and "why-ing."

So, while I don't mean to make light of anyone's pain or trouble today, (I am so sorry if you too are struggling with personal problems today...) I do encourage you to see your troubles through Jesus' eyes. Allow God to be glorified through your pain. For me, the consolation in that is that your pain is not wasted when it is used to bring someone else to God. Not wasted at all, but cashed in for a higher value.

Are you troubled today? Look for God in your pain and reflect His glory in your response. When life is hard, God is great.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We Are Fam-I-Ly!

Raise your hand if you live more than 200 miles away from your roots. Raise your other hand if you live more than 500 miles away from your mama. Raise both feet if you live more than 1,000 miles away from all your extended family - siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles!

Me, me, me! Do you see my limbs all waving!

Raise your chin if you're single.

Raise your shoulders if you're widowed.

Raise your toes and wave them in the air if your spouse is deployed, you're deployed, you're a college student away from home, you're separated from family due to extended business, or your spouse lives in a nursing home, out of your reach.

I know folks in all of these situations right now. You are likely one of them.

We've got some lonely people out there, all over the place, waving their limbs, lifting their chins, hunching up their shoulders, and wiggling their toes. All that wiggling and waving is a little silly, but their situation isn't funny at all.

We all get lonely at times. We all long for home, need someone to give us a hug, want to go where everybody knows our name, ache for family.

And yet, most of us go through seasons of life when we have little or no family around.

I know one woman who truly has little family left. Both of her parents have passed away, she never married, and she only has one sibling whom she rarely sees.

But she would tell you that she has a family. The church is her family.


Psalm 68:8 tells us, "God sets the solitary in families..." Indeed He does. My friend would agree, too.

I really do live almost 2,000 miles away from most of my extended family and a good 900 miles from all extended family. But I have an extended family right here where I live. They can't replace my parents and brother in my heart, but they fill in the gaps nicely.

My church family prays for me, laughs with me, kids me, does life with me. Over time they see my weaknesses for what they are, hold me accountable to what I can become, and commiserate with me over where I've been. Sometimes we don't see eye to eye, but we still stand heart to heart. They're family.

If you're out there on your own today--and many of you are--then I encourage you to find you a family. This Sunday find you a church to attend. But do more than just sit in a pew, soak up a message, and walk out. Speak to the people around you. Smile. Shake hands. Tell people your name and ask for theirs. See if you can hook up with some people going to lunch together. Go to a Bible study, a small group.

And then...

Go again next week...and the next...and the next. Find you a family.

One of the greatest advantages of being a part of God's family is that it is universal. Whenever we find a gospel believing, Bible preaching, obedient, and loving fellowship of Christ, we've found another group of long lost brothers and sisters! Have you found any lately?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

But They Didn't Throw the Stones

It's funny how we read very familiar stories and suddenly see them in a new light. That happened to me this morning.

I almost just skimmed over the story of the woman caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus by the snarly scribes and Pharisees for judgment. I've heard or read the story hundreds of times by now. I know how the story goes.

The religious dim wits bring Jesus this woman they've caught in adultery (how did that happen, I wonder?) and say, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. What do you say?"

The Scripture indicates that they asked this to test Jesus. They had evil intentions, in other words. No pure motives or sympathetic hopes here.

But Jesus just bent down and began writing in the sand. Then He said, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." Then He began writing in the sand again.

One by one the men put down their stones and left. And of course Jesus tells the woman He doesn't condemn her either and she is to go and sin no more.

But wait. I missed something.

You see we tend to get all bent out of shape with these religious idgets, puff our chests up and stand in judgment of them, just as they were standing in judgment of this woman. We wouldn't have done such a thing.

Well hopefully we wouldn't have. But if we manage to do anything right in this world it's for the same reason they didn't throw those stones.

John 8:9 says the reason they put down their stones and walked away from the scene was because they were "convicted by their conscience." They had planned to do evil, but Jesus' convicting words challenged their conscience. They were bent on bringing this woman down, but Jesus' simple command caused them to leave her alone.

They encountered Jesus. They encountered the Truth, the Way and the Life. They encountered the Word who became flesh.

And they stopped in their tracks.

Well praise God for that!

Sure, they had set out to trap Jesus, to stone a woman, and to justify their snarly behavior. And so we label them the bad guys. But in the end they didn't do what they had schemed in their wicked hearts to do.

They changed course, put down their weapons of destruction, turned and walked the other way. I believe we call that repentance. Maybe they didn't repent in the full sense of the word, but they repented in this instance.

And so we ought to rejoice with them, for them.

I thank God for softening my conscience through the inward work of the Holy Spirit. He has made my conscience tender and sensitive so that it is easily pricked by His Word, His Spirit. These men had seared consciences and yet they still managed to be convicted by Jesus' words. Hallelujah!

Here's my point. We're human. That means we have deceptively wicked hearts. We're prone to jealousy, anger, bitterness, revenge and pride. That causes us to calculate evil actions, to plot ugly schemes.

You know you do it. I do. I plot. I admit it. I think to myself, "I'm going to tell her..." or "If he does such and such I'm going to so and so...." or "They better not even think of blankety blank or I'll give them what for..."

Out comes all the ugly in our hearts. Or maybe I'm just the most wicked of us all. I don't know.

But in the end, I'm so glad that on most days God's Holy Word and His Holy Spirit manage to penetrate my heart and prick my conscience and stop me in my tracks.

And not only does He convict me so that I don't do the very evil I plotted to do, but He touches me so that my attitude changes, my countenance softens, my words take on a shade of grace, and I manage to give love where I once meant to hand out "what for."

Today I thank God for a conscience that still works. And I thank Him for His Word that is alive and sharper than a two-edged sword so that it can penetrate my heart and my mind even when I've plotted and schemed to do evil.

He has stopped me in my tracks time after time, caused me to put my stones down and walk away. In the end, the scribes and Pharisees did the very same. Praise God for that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are You in Charge?

I like to be in charge...sometimes.

I don't like to be in charge of a classroom full of 3-year-olds, a meal for over 12 people, a cabin full of preteens, or anyone else's dogs.

I do like to be in charge of my family's vacations plans, my Sunday afternoons, my kitchen, and the radio/IPod player in my car.

I don't like to be in charge of where we're going to dinner, unless the other people are voting for things like sushi, Weinerschnitzel, or Dairy Queen.

I do like to be in charge of the money, as long as I'm getting to choose how to spend it instead of how to save it.

Sometimes I'm really good at being in charge, like when I'm planning a party, leading a discussion group, or planning out menus for my family's meals.

Other times being in charge makes me shake in my boots, like when I lead a group on a hike, spearhead a group project, or ... try to control my emotions.

That's right. One of the hardest things to be in charge of, in my book, is my own emotions.

Do you agree?

The Bible teaches in Proverbs 16:32:

He who is slow to anger is
better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit 
than he who takes a city.

According to this pithy maxim, it's more important to be in full control of your spirit, your attitude, your demeanor, your temper...than to be in charge of a mighty army that storms a fortified city and takes control!

What does it mean to rule your spirit?

It doesn't mean that you never feel justifiably angry, devastatingly sad, a little green with envy, euphorically proud, or pleased as punch. Emotions sometimes pop up like unpredictable storms, like unexpected company. We're cruising along and then something happens out of the blue that makes us suddenly feel
  • gleeful
  • agitated
  • put out
  • jealous
  • pitiful
  • disappointed
  • riled up
  • thrilled
  • or pious.
But the Bible teaches that as Jesus followers we're not supposed to let any of these emotions rule us. We might feel the sudden impact of them, but then we are to temper them, sift through them for appropriateness and godliness, and let them know who is in charge.


No, the Holy Spirit.

If I walk by the flesh, I'm prone to allow my emotions to take charge and just go with them. That's when I say things I later regret, make faces that stick in peoples' minds, slam doors, walk with a strut in my stride, make poor decisions, and hurt other peoples' feelings.

But if I walk by the Spirit, letting Him be in control, in charge, then I'm more likely to feel those bursting emotions come under His calming influence.

  • He helps me love when I feel like twisting someone's neck.
  • He restores my joy when I'm sinking in sadness.
  • He gives me peace when emotions are flying like damaging bullets around me.
  • He infuses me with patience when others are making me lose it.
  • He helps me say a kind word when I feel like spewing venom.
  • He shows me how to do a little good when I'm more prone to do a lot of harm.
  • He keeps my touch, my words, my tone of voice gentle when I'm feeling harsh.
  • He helps me stay faithful when I feel like throwing in the towel because "that was the last straw!"
  • Bottom line, He helps me stay in control and refrain from losing it.
I'm not the best at ruling my spirit, but I'm working on it. I think it's important. It's one of the ways we show our world what Jesus looks like. When we allow our emotions to take us on a roller coaster, our lives look just like the lives of those around us...like an amusement park. Sometimes we're scary, sometimes we're laughable, and other times we're a little sickening. But when we rule our spirits by not allowing our emotions to get the best of us, we show the world what our God looks like.

He doesn't fall apart, snap peoples' heads off, make hasty decisions on a whim, or act out of jealousy or self-pity. He's consistent and He's good. I want people around me to know that. And that's why it's more important to rule over my spirit than to lead a mighty army.

Without the Holy Spirit, I'd be better at ruling a classroom full of 3-year-olds than trying to keep my wits about me amidst an emotional storm. But with the Holy Spirit in charge it's like having a seasoned preschool teacher running the show. I like being in charge, but I've found that if I really want to get things under control it's best to let Him call the shots.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Are You Building Sandcastles?

So how are you with change? I like to think I'm all for it, but the truth is I usually wrestle against it. Oh sure, after God has finally unclenched the fists I have so tightly wrapped around the here and now, I usually find the change He brought into my life was for the good. I look back and think, "That was the best thing that could happen. I'm so glad things changed."

But I'm the kind of person who likes to have a plan, stick to the plan and follow the plan all the way through. I like to know what I'm getting into and once I'm into it I want to stay there.

And change is fine with me as long as I get the memo far enough in advance too. But, as I'm sure you've found in your life, God is not in the habit of notifying me of changes so that I can cancel my previous plans in a timely manner.

The truth is, I get into my dilemmas with change because I formulate plans that were never on God's itinerary. I like to assume God has shown me the discourtesy of suddenly switching to Plan B, but actually He never gave me the details of Plan A. I had just presumed I knew what I was doing, where I was going.

He had other plans from the get-go.

Such was the case when King David decided he should build a house for God. David reasoned in his heart,

See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, 
but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.
2 Samuel 7:2

The prophet Nathan was every bit as hasty as David and told the king to "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you." It turned out Nathan had misspoken. Sure, God was with David, but He had other plans for him.

That very night God spoke to Nathan and straightened him out. God didn't need David to build Him a house. He hadn't complained about living in a tent. Besides, He had other plans for David.

David was a warrior king. He was brave, smart in battle, capable with a sword, quick on his feet, cunning and strong. Yes, he was a man with a tender heart, a poet's heart. But God wanted to use that heart to create a passionate battle king, one who would defeat the enemies of Israel, conquer the land, and set up a strong and secure nation.

David wanted to build a house, God wanted to use him to build a kingdom.

I think there have been times when I have gotten busy trying to build God a house, too. I've picked a project based on my desires, my talents, my interests. They've been noble projects; others have done the same sorts of thing to honorable ends. But they were just pie in the sky ideas. They were my ideas, not God's.

But God told David through His prophet Nathan that he had bigger plans for him. In fact, if David got on board and did things God's way instead of his own, God was going to bless David far beyond his imagination. That humbled David.

It humbles me too. It occurs to me that my ideas for serving God often amount to nothing more than building castles in the sand while God would have me building an eternal kingdom. And if I dust the sand from my hands and join God in His plans for me with passion and enthusiasm, I too will be blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

I've watched it happen. There have truly been times when I have left my castle in the sand, as elaborate and well-thought-out as it may have been, and followed God in a different direction only to look back and see my little castle swallowed up by the waves. And while you would think it would have broken my heart to look back and see my "project" disappear in the water, it was actually no great loss because I was on to bigger and better things...God's things.

Let me ask you a question. Do you have sand on your hands? Or have you yielded your life -- plans and all -- to the One who is busy building an eternal kingdom? He has a job for you, dear friend, and He's ready to bless your socks off if you'll say yes to Him. His plans may not be your plans. But they are undoubtedly better, higher, for your good (Jeremiah 29:11).

Today's thoughts come from 2 Samuel 7.

Have a blessed day!