The thing about making plans, I’ve found, is that things rarely go according to plan.  At least not my plans.  Which is frustrating, because if I’ve gone through the trouble of making plans, I kinda feel like things should go accordingly.  I don’t think I’m particularly unreasonable - I just want things to go the way they’re supposed to. The way I planned. But they don’t.  I’d like to think I’m really good at making plans. I’m just apparently not that great at making good plans.


I make plans for what I’m going to do today.  I make plans for my family and our future. I make plans for work.  I make plans for things like grocery lists, and vacations, and meals.  Every day, I plan what the day is going to look like, because I like a good plan, even if I’m not that good at making them.

Interestingly, I’ve also found that despite my frustration, sometimes things are better when they don’t go according to plan - or at least according to my plan.  Sometimes the plans I come up with are really bad. Of course, no one ever comes up with a bad plan on purpose.  They almost always seems like good plans at the time, but honestly, sometimes they really aren’t.  


Sometimes they don’t work.  Sometimes someone gets hurt.  Sometimes things break. Like the time when I was 5 and my younger brother and I thought it’d be fun to see if we could “fly” off the back of an armchair in the basement, onto a pillow on the concrete floor.  It was a really bad plan. I broke my arm.  

Or the time when I was leading a mission trip in the mountains of West Virginia, and had a great plan to get up early and hike up the mountain alone in my flip-flops and take a photo of the sunrise. I broke my leg.  True story. 

Sometimes my plans do work, and it turns out to be worse than if they hadn’t.  Sometimes they don’t work, and it turns out I’m far better off than if they had.  Recently I started noticing that more and more often that's the case, and I actually think that’s one of the ways God shows His grace.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25


One of my biggest struggles is that I’m not all that interested in letting go of my plans - even when I know there’s something better.  I suppose it’s a part of the human condition - this pride and stubbornness.  I guess it’s not all that uncommon, but it’s not holy.  It might be normal, but it’s not healthy.  The author of the book of Proverbs describes the result as “death.”  

Here’s the thing that gets me. We choose to go our own way, which we know isn’t going to end well, and then get mad when it doesn’t work out.  The more I think about it, the more I think that maybe the reason we get so upset is that we’re not big fans of anyone who isn’t following our plans - even when it’s God.  We make plans, and have expectations, based on God’s promises, and get disappointed that He isn’t following our plans.


Look, you and I aren’t the first people to feel this way. The Israelites had the very same struggle - and it made them bitter.  It caused them to turn away from God, because God wasn’t acting according to their plans. This actually happened a lot. In fact, they’d get really close to God when some great thing happened, but over time, when the excitement of their “God-encounter” wore off, they’d drift back to doing their own thing.  To be honest, I can relate.

This happened over and over, and it made God angry. Usually when God gets angry, He sends someone to warn His people that bad stuff is about to happen if they don’t get it together and keep their end of the deal. One of those people was Jeremiah. 

Jeremiah had a really lousy job, as you can imagine. Basically, the God sent Him to let the people know all the bad things that were common because of their disobedience and idolatry. No one wants to be that guy. No one likes that guy. They definitely didn’t like Jeremiah, because most of his message was pretty gloomy. 

But after a while, he writes a letter to “the surviving elders among the exiles… in Babylon.” (Jeremiah 29:1)  It’s a pretty well known letter, especially the part in the middle - the part about God wanting to prosper us and make our lives perfect, and give us everything we could ever imagine. The part where it’s gonna be beautiful and life's greatest treasure is just right there for the taking.

Okay, that’s not exactly what it says, but I’ve definitely heard it preached that way before.  And it’s certainly tempting to expect it that way.  And when it doesn’t work exactly that way, I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting pretty frustrated with God.

The popular verse in the middle, the one everyone likes to quote actually says this: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” (Jeremiah 29:11)


But what if that’s not even the most important part.  In fact, in order to actually understand what God is telling His people right here through Jeremiah, you have to back up. Anyone know off hand what verse 10 says?  Go ahead, look it up.  I’ll wait. 

Okay, it says “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”  Did you get that? Seventy years. Um, I start to get pretty impatient when Netflix takes longer than 3 seconds to load the half hour show I planned for my kids to watch so I can get some brief work done.  It didn’t even take seventy years back when Netflix actually sent you the movies in the mail.


Seventy Years!

That’s how long God told them they were going to be in exile.  In fact, starting in verse 5, he gives them pretty specific instructions, to among other things, build houses, settle down, plant gardens, get married, have kids, and get your kids married. Yeah, they’re gonna be there a while. This was not what they had in mind. This was not their plan, and they weren’t happy because God was most definitely doing a different thing.

In fact, it’s only after He tells them to “get comfortable, you’re gonna be there a while,” that He then says the other part - the part we like.  In fact, you can’t really understand verse 11 without the verses that come before it, especially verse 10.  Basically, God is telling them, “listen, I know what I’m doing. I have a plan. It’s not going to make sense to you right now, and it goes against your every desire and fiber of your being, but I know what I’m doing.  I have your best interest in mind, and I always, always keep my promises.  


God ALWAYS keeps His promises.  That’s faith, by the way.  Believing that God keeps His promises.  It doesn’t always make sense, and it almost never happens on our timeframe, but He never fails.  In fact, when He describes Himself in Exodus chapter 34, He tells Moses He is “abounding in love and faithfulness.”


Faithfulness.  He is faithful all the time. Even when we can’t figure out the plan, we can know that He is faithful. Even when it takes longer than we thought, or expected, He is faithful. Even when it doesn’t look like what we were expecting, He is faithful. 

Let’s be honest, God’s promises rarely look like what we were expecting.  But when that happens, the problem isn’t with the promise, it’s with the expectation. In fact, when God doesn’t do what you expected, or what you thought He should, it’s because He’s probably doing something far greater than what you imagined.  You just can’t see it yet. He is always working out all things for your good, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, so if it doesn’t look like what you expected, that just means God has something better for you than you expected. (Romans 8:38)


He hasn’t forgotten you. Just like He hadn’t forgotten the Israelites in exile in Babylon. He hadn’t given up on His plan, or gone off to do something else. He was busy working out everything detail of His plan according to His purpose. He’s doing the same for you right now. 

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9


Right this moment, He’s working out His purpose in your life in whatever situation you’re in. Right now He’s moving the pieces around you, ordering the steps in front of you, and inviting you to walk along with Him as His plan unfolds. It won’t look like what you expected, and He’s not likely to act according to your plan.  But if you can get past that, and let go, He really does have a plan for you.  And it’s a really good one.



I used to think I had a lot of stuff. My wife would probably agree. When we got engaged and I moved from California to Michigan, I had to pack up all of the stuff I had at the time, which didn’t seem like a lot until I had to put it in boxes to have it shipped back across the country. She allowed me to bring some of the stuff with me, but much of it she gently encouraged me to get rid of.  

Most of it really wasn’t all that important, especially looking back. Most of it was things like silverware and plates and cups and bowls that don’t go together.  There were some t-shirts - mostly from various mission trips I’d been on and hadn’t worn since, and old shoes. And probably a couple of suits. I think I might remember a few DVD’s and a guitar. I left all the fun stuff with my at-the-time roommate - like the couch I found on Craigslist for $25, and the TV and entertainment center.  Oh, and I had to leave behind my bed. 


Interestingly, it turns out that most of the stuff I thought I had, wasn’t even mine. It turns out that most of the stuff I thought I had, belonged to someone else. I might have been the one packing it in boxes, and stressing about whether or not it was going to make it back to Michigan, and whether there would be room for it all when we got married and had to learn to share our little condo, but it wasn’t mine. I definitely thought it was mine, and I absolutely acted like it was mine. I was proud of my stuff.  Especially the t-shirts.  Even the ones I never wore.  

But none of it was mine. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’ve never had more stuff in my life than I do right now. One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about it is because the way we look at our “stuff” has a lot to do with how we treat it, and what we do with it - which is probably way more important than most of us think.

There’s a story in the Bible that really helps me put this into context.  I like it because it’s straightforward and simple, and I’m very much a straightforward and simple guy. It’s in Matthew chapter 21, and it starts with a wealthy land owner who decides to plant a vineyard. It says he “put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower,” (v33). Basically, he did everything necessary for the vineyard that he planted, to be fruitful and productive.


Before he planted the vineyard, he was just a guy with a piece of land, a piece of land that he could have done anything he wanted with. Of all the things he could do with a piece of land, he chose to plant a vineyard, and he did everything necessary for it to thrive.

It actually reminds me of another story in a garden.  In Genesis 2:8 it says that “the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden… The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground.”   See, like the landowner, God could have done whatever He wanted.  It was His earth, and He chose to plant a garden, and it was His garden. 


In fact, it’s all His.  

Psalm 95: 4-5 says “In His hands are the depths of the earth, the mountain peaks belong to him, the sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”  It’s all His. All of it. Even us. 

“Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3


This is important because it’s easy to misunderstand our relationship to “our stuff.” The reality is it’s all His.  All of it. Your home, your iPhone, your laptop, your twitter account, your shoes, your money, your time, your gifts and abilities, your family, your influence, and even those t-shirts I never wore. All of it belongs to Him. 

It’s not mine, it’s not yours - despite what you might think and despite what the world tells you 24 hours of every day. This changes everything. 

Here’s why.

Look back at the parable in Matthew 21. The land owner goes away, only to return later to “collect His fruit.” You see he entrusted it to some tenants, who had a job to do while he was gone, but there was always an expectation that he was coming back.

In the meantime, they had a job to do.

There’s another story close by, over in Matthew 25, called the parable of the Talents, or the Bags of Gold. I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but the bottom line is this: a wealthy guy leaves on a journey and entrusts his property/money to his servants. After a while he comes back to see how they did and take account. Two of the servants had done their job and multiplied the owners money, and received a “well done good and faithful servant.”

One of them didn’t. Jesus’ description of this guy doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings.  He calls him a “wicked and lazy servant.”



Here’s the thing. You have a job to do called stewardship. That’s a word churches use a lot when they talk about money and giving and tithing and building buildings. But it actually the word has very little do with giving. In fact, stewardship simply means to manage something that belongs to someone else.

God actually explained it like this, back in that first garden. Genesis 2:15 says that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”


Work it and take care of it. That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s the thing that is expected of us as we manage the “stuff” in our lives. The NASB describes it as “cultivate and keep it,” which I like because it sort of paints a picture of the two things required of our job here.  Cultivate means to make something grow, or be productive. Keep it means to protect from harm, sickness or loss. Together, they mean to make something thrive.


Think about every area of your life. Your time, your abilities, your money, your stuff, and your family. Your job is to cultivate them, and protect them. It’s your most important job - more important than anything else you’ll ever do. I don’t know about you, but for me, the struggle is thinking it’s mine to do as I wish. But to God, it’s literally why man was placed in the garden in the first place.  And it’s so important that God is going to hold each of us to account.

We are accountable. 

Remember the servants with the bags of gold? There is an account to be given - literally. 2 Corinthians 6:9-10 tell us that “we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ… to give account.” God cares deeply about what you do with what he’s given you. He cares deeply about the way you spend your money, how you use your time, how you honor him with your gifts, and how you are raising your family.

"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks” Proverbs 27:23


Most of us never think about our family as a function of stewardship, but I think it might be the most important area of all. After all, if you can’t be trusted to cultivate and protect the people God has placed in your home, why would He ever trust you in any other area of life? You were entrusted with His greatest treasure - people. Someday, you will be called to account for what you did to cultivate and take care of your family. Let that sink in for a minute.

If you’re a father like me, you are accountable for your wife and your children.  Are they thriving? Are they healthy and growing - emotionally, physically and spiritually? Do they know Jesus? Here’s a tip - if you walk with Jesus, you’ll always lead your family in the right direction.


By the way, you are accountable for your influence beyond just you family. You are accountable for the interactions you have with just about everyone in your life. God has given you gifts, abilities, and opportunities, and He is expecting a return on that investment in you. Every time any of us has an opportunity to serve or be a blessing, we are accountable for what we do with it. Are we helping the people around us thrive and grow?

I still have a lot of stuff in my life, but none of it’s mine. It’s in my house, or my pocket, or in my garage, or on my laptop, but it’s not mine. I’m just taking care of it, and trying to be faithful and productive with it for a greater purpose. It’s actually quite liberating to know that I’m simply responsible taking care of and protecting the things God has put in my life, and knowing that He’s already provided everything I need. I don’t have to worry about what I don’t have, only what I’m accountable for.

What does it look like in your life to cultivate and take care of the things that God has entrusted to you?



I have a question.  But first, I have a theory.  My theory is this: Far too many of us, far too often, are living lives that are far too small.  

What do I mean? Well, let’s unpack this together. To do that, I’m want to share with you one of the uglier parts of my story. Well, actually I don’t. To be honest, I’d rather never talk about it, or think about it again. But it’s a part of my story, and I believe God can, and is, using it to bring a little hope and redemption to the world around me. So, even though I don’t really want to share, I’m going to invite you in to my story.

wide open.png

I spent 34 months in prison, and 5 months in a county jail before that, but the reality is that I was a prisoner long before I walked through the gate at the Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson, MI. In truth, the only difference was that there was no denying the reality that I was no longer free. 

The thing is, I hadn’t been free for a while.  I was a prisoner of my own pride, shame, selfishness, fear and insecurity.  I was a prisoner of an identity that depended on what the world thought of me. I was a prisoner of all of the lies and deceit that I had built my life around. I was a prisoner of the need to be successful, so much so that I gave up on actual success, and chased after the appearance of success. 

The result was simple, if not tragic. My life was small. The walls of the world I had created for myself were suffocating, and over time they would have crushed me. My theory is that many of us - for a variety of of reasons - are living in this small version of life, as a prisoner of all of the lies that world tells us to keep us from hearing the whisper of God’s promises in our life. Which, if you think about it, is kind of crazy because His promises are big and He always keeps His promises.

GOd's promises are big, and he always keeps his promises..png

Often, the problem is that we measure God’s promises by our current circumstances. When they don’t seem to fit our expectations, we make other arrangements. (Let’s be honest. We do.)  But God measures His promises by His purpose.

Think about that for a minute. God’s promises are fulfilled and measured according to His purpose - a purpose we barely understand even a glimpse of. Yet, when they don’t match our expectations, we start to do our own thing. The problem is, we’ll never be able to do what God can do, and we never see the full picture that God see. 

In the middle of John’s Gospel, there’s a story about Jesus’ best friend Lazarus, who is sick. In fact, that’s exactly what it says in John 11 verse 1.  “Now a man named Lazarus was sick.”  

In reality, that verse is kind of a dramatic understatement. As we read, it turns out that his sisters Mary and Martha had done really everything they could. The doctors had come, and there was nothing more that could be done but make him comfortable.  He was literally on his death bed. Like, he was laying on his bed waiting to die. That’s what it means to be on your death bed.  

Now, remember, Lazarus and his sisters were some of Jesus’ closest friends. He had dined in their home, spent time with them, and probably stayed with them frequently. On this day, the sisters had sent word to Jesus, and Jesus’ response is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible.  

In verse 4, Jesus says “this sickness will not end in death. No it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 


I love this verse for 2 reasons. The first is the promise. It’s right there. “This sickness will not end in death.” Did you catch that? Jesus is making a declarative statement about a future event. That’s a promise.  But don’t miss what comes next. He explains the purpose - “for God’s glory.” The the second reason. He lets us in on the plan and explains the purpose behind the promise.

By the way, this is a freebie: God’s purpose is always “for His glory.” It may not sound deeply theological, or even spiritual, but it’s true.  Find me a passage in the scriptures that isn’t about God ultimately bringing about His eternal glory.


This is a pretty important point, because without it, that’s how we end up measuring God’s purpose by our circumstances, instead of His purpose. That’s how we end up a captive to our own version of how the story should go. The sisters did this.  

It turns out Lazarus does die, and everyone is really upset. Especially the sisters. They even tell Jesus “if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (verses 21 & 32)  Both of them say the exact same thing. It’s like they had been sitting around, angry that Jesus hadn’t done what they thought He said He would do and were grumbling about it to each other. I’ve done that. A lot. I’ll admit it. I don’t think I’m alone in getting upset that Jesus didn’t do what I think He should have done.

Jesus says two things to both the disciples, and to the sisters, that I think are worth noticing. First, He tells the disciples, upon hearing that Lazarus had died, that “for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Second, He tells the sisters, did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  (verse 40)


You see, everyone thought that Jesus had promised that Lazarus wouldn’t die. That’s sort of the logical interpretation of “this sickness will not end in death.” Here’s the thing, that's not what Jesus promised at all. Jesus had something bigger in mind - the glory of God. What Jesus was really saying is that, no matter what happens in the meantime, "I got this. Lazarus might even die, but I promise that this sickness won’t end in death, so when he does, that’s not the end of the story.”

Did you catch that?  No matter what you’re going through, this isn’t the end. And just like Lazarus, with Jesus, your story doesn’t have to end in death. This “sickness” whatever it is, doesn’t end in death with Jesus, because He defeated death. Just watch what happens next.

Jesus goes to the tomb, where Lazarus had been laying for four days. There’s a lot of reasons that matters, but just know this - it’s significant because he was really dead. He was dead enough that it started to stink, but Jesus orders them to remove the stone. Remember what He says in verse 40 that “if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” It turns out this isn’t a story about healing a sick man. It’s about raising a dead man to life.  With Jesus, that’s what it’s always been about.  


Jesus did not come to fix you, He came to free you. He did not come to make you better, He came to make you whole. He did not come to change your circumstances, He came to change your heart.

Just look at what He says in Luke chapter 4, verse 18:  “I have come to set the captives free, to give sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed."

See, a lot of us, whether literally, or figuratively, are a lot like Lazarus in the grave. We’re captives. We’re captives to our own pride, our own sin, our own plans, our own selfishness.

But there is good news. The stone has been removed, and we are free.  

Jesus calls out to Lazarus, “Come out!” You see, though Lazarus had been raised to life with the sound of Jesus’ voice, Jesus didn’t do it only to leave him in the tomb.

And now the same voice that called Lazarus out of that tomb is calling your name.  Come out of that tomb of addiction. Come out of the captivity of brokenness. Come out of the tomb of anger or depression. Come out of the captivity of sexual immorality or deceit or pride, or whatever it is that is keeping you prisoner.

The last thing Jesus did was tell the others to “take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  You see, just because we’ve been raised from the penalty of death, a lot of us are still walking around in grave clothes. We walk around carrying the identity of our sin, our shame, and our failure. A lot of us are carrying the labels of our past, but Jesus invites each of us to be free. He invites us to take off those clothes, because a man raised from the dead has no business in a tomb, and no use for grave clothes. 


So, I told you I had a question.  Remember the theory I have - that far too often, far too many of us are living a life that’s far too small. Far too many of us are still standing in an open tomb.  Too many are walking around in grave clothes, as if we've never been brought out from death and captivity.

For me, it meant letting go of the pride, selfishness and fear that had driven me to live such a small life. It meant getting real, and getting honest with myself, and those around me, about the brokenness I had lived with inside for far too long.  It meant turning over to God the areas of my life I had decided I would be in control of. It meant letting God reshape my heart, and help me become the man, husband and father He created me to be. It was then that I finally began to experience freedom.  The kind of freedom that truly sets you free (Gal 5:1)

So, my question is, how are you living?  Are you living as a prisoner? As a captive? Are you measuring God’s promises by your own circumstances, and as a result, living as a prisoner in your own life?

Or, are you living the kind of wide open, abundant life that is available through Jesus Christ?