Always Have a Plan, Never Trust It

The path of wisdom is filled with tension. Wisdom often appears to be in contradiction with herself. A clear example of this is seen in Proverbs 26:4-5. It reads,

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”


Many of Jesus’ teachings are filled with this tension as well. One moment He tells His disciples, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16) and the next, “beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (6:1). Or, “Honor your father and mother” (19:19) and “hate your father and mother” (Luke 14:26).

We shouldn’t be surprised to find this tension when it comes to what Scriptures say about planning. Proverbs 21:5 appears to praise diligent planning whereas James 4:13-17 appears to cast it in a negative light.

So, which is it? Do we plan or do we trust God? The answer is Yes.

We can see this tension played out in the Apostle Paul’s life. He was a man with a mission. He had made it his ambition to preach the Gospel in places it hadn’t yet reached (Romans 15:20). He had been set apart by the Holy Spirit and his community for this very thing (Acts 13:1-3).

He didn’t just sit around waiting for it to happen. He used the best of the knowledge and wisdom he had at the time to make a plan.

We read in Acts 16:7 that this plan included bringing the gospel to the province of Bithynia. However, something interesting happened: Jesus stood in the way of the plan and didn’t “allow them” to enter. So, they went down to Troas where one night, Paul received the “new plan” from Jesus in a dream.

What I learn from this is that Paul was a planner, and it was a good thing that he was. Often his plans resulted in the power of the gospel being unleashed in new areas. However, though he had a plan, he didn’t seem to trust it. He was open and able to discern whenever the Lord was saying, “change of plans, Paul!”

My goal as a worship leader is to always have a plan, but never trust it. I’m fairly clear of what God has called me to do but in many ways, it’s up to me to figure out how I’m going to do it. However, as I make and execute my plan I need to keep my eyes on Jesus and not the plan. My heart needs to be in a posture that allows me to readily respond to any changes to the plan that He initiates.

One of the areas this plays itself out week after week is in the rehearsing and executing of our worship service on Sunday mornings. I believe it’s my responsibility to prepare and provide a solid plan for my worship team when we gather for rehearsals during the week. However, I try to do so with a listening ear because God might want to alter my plan through the ideas and impressions of my team members.

Then, when Sunday rolls around, I try to lead in a way that allows the Holy Spirit to redirect the plan in the moment. This can come from an impression I feel, something one of my musicians or singers does, a prompting from a staff member or from the congregation.

I admit, the “always have a plan” part is easy for me whereas the “never trust it” part can be a challenge.  I’m convinced, though, that there’s no other way to lead.

What about you? Which side of this tension do you feel you need to grow in?

If you’re interested in growing in your ability to be redirected in the moment without a trainwreck occuring, read  “What Jason Bourne Taught Me About Worship Leading” for ideas.

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it to your timeline or with someone you think might enjoy it as well. – LWL


Trust Your Heart (Is It Biblical?)

You’ve probably read it, heard it taught and if you’re like me, you’ve probably given it as advice to others: Trust your heart.

The thought that I can trust my heart is a comforting one but is it true? Is this frequent word of advice biblical?

My ESV Bible uses the English word “trust” 80+ times. The majority of the references have God as the object, then man, and then inanimate things. Not once is one’s heart the object. Does this mean that this familiar maxim is unbiblical?

Whether or not a verse can be found that directly or indirectly exhorts us to trust in our hearts, there are undeniably much, much more that exhort us to trust in the Lord.

As a regenerated follower of Jesus, I’m not sure I’m supposed to trust in my heart. But, I’m not sure I am to distrust it either.

Here’s what I mean. Where we stand today, our hearts are somewhere between where it was before Jesus, “deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9) and where it’s headed, “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).

There are times when my heart is right on and other times when it’s way off.

I don’t believe God want us to waste time on trying to figure out if we should trust our heart or distrust it in each given situation. He wants us to trust Him and let Him sort our hearts out. He’s really, really good at doing that.

Matter of fact, this is what Paul chose to do when he told the Corinthian believers that it mattered very little to him if his heart’s motives were judged by them or a human court. He didn’t even take it upon himself to judge his own motives, he let the Lord deal with that. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).

As for me, I’ll follow Paul’s lead as well as adhere to the timeless words of Solomon, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In conclusion, I’m not going to trust my heart as though it were infallible. However, I will follow it when it leads me granted it’s not in a direction clearly at odds with God’s will and word. Ultimately, I’ll trust Him and leave Him to sort out my heart. I’ve learned over the years that He’s so, so good at it.

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it to your timeline or with someone you think might enjoy it as well. – LWL

Cotton Candy, Dangerous Games We Play, and the Praise of Man

I love Jesus. There are so many reasons to love Him but there’s one, in particular, I’ve really appreciated of late. It’s the fact that He is in such a unique position to help me, and all of mankind, unlike anyone else.

You see, as a man, He is intimately acquainted with all of our longings and struggles as He too experienced them. And yet, as God, He is intimately acquainted with the human design because He is its architect. He created us with inescapable longings and He alone knows what can fully satisfy them.

One of the many tragedies of mankind’s fall from the face-to-face intimacy we had with God in the Garden is that having rejected the light of that intimacy, we destined ourselves to lifetimes of stumbling around the darkness searching for the answers to these longings. You could say our history of war, oppression, disease etc… is the fruit of these futile searches.

Back to Jesus. When He walked the earth thousands of years ago it was His mission to clear the way and point us back to the face-to-face relationship with God. It was to shine His light on our fruitless searching and direct us to the true answers to our longings.

One of the many instances Jesus did this is recorded in Matthew 6:1-18 where He instructed His disciples to do good works in order to be seen by the Father, not others. If you aren’t familiar with this passage, click here to read it.

Being the architect of the human design as well as having become part of it (you’re normal if this idea makes your brain hurt) Jesus knew we were created with a need for validation, praise, honor etc… He knew that stumbling through the darkness in search of its fulfillment would lead people to all kinds of crazy and destructive things. He also knew the true answer to this longing. This is the basis for this passage of Scripture.

Jesus was well aware of how much of the religious community of His day sought to find the fulfillment of this longing. Their acts of righteousness weren’t performed as acts of worship but as a frivolous game of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

The rules were simple:

1. I do something religious.
2. You see it and praise me for it.
3. You do something religious.
4. I see it and praise you for it.
5. Go back to #1.

Jesus instructs His disciples to not get caught up in this game of futility and seek the validation and praise that comes from the Father (v. 1, 4, 6, 18).

One of the dangers of this game is that it creates in its “players” a false sense of fulfillment similar to the false fullness that a child experiences when he eats too much cotton candy. Come dinner time the child doesn’t feel hungry despite the fact that underneath the veneer of “fullness” created by the cotton candy his body is crying out for true nutrition.

We can miss out on the truly satisfying praise that comes straight from the Father’s heart because we settle for the counterfeit satisfaction that comes from the praise of man. In John 5:44 Jesus rebuked those who were content to play the game and not “seek the glory that comes from the only God.”

There is a glory that comes from God and a glory that comes from man and I have tasted them both. Once you taste the approval that comes from God you can’t conceive of ever returning to the game.

As worship leaders, we have a particular challenge before us. Each Sunday our love for Jesus is put on a stage for all to see and admire. Add to this the honor that grows in people’s hearts as they begin to associate us with experiencing God’s presence. When this admiration and honor is expressed to us we have the option of either devouring it in an attempt to satiate our longings for validation and praise or we can graciously thank them for their kind words, turn around and lay each of them before the Father’s throne and receive the truly fulfilling validation and praise that comes from His glowing, Fatherly heart.

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it to your timeline or with someone you think might enjoy it as well. – LWL

Modified photo courtesy of Vera Reis.

The Greatest Weapon Against Self-Doubt

Of all the obstacles I’ve encountered on the road towards God and His purpose for my life, self-doubt by far has been the most frequent. I have grappled with this fiend more times than I care to remember but every time I do I leave the ring with a bit more strength and skill for our next match.

SPOILER ALERT! We will encounter self-doubt in our lives. And if we follow the One who habitually calls His followers to the impossible, we will encounter it often. Since this is a given, wouldn’t it be good to have the antidote on hand?

God’s remedy for self-doubt is actually surprising to me. Based on the consensus of our culture, and “common sense,” I would have thought it best to strike back at self-doubt with self-affirmation. But affirmation actually isn’t the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal.

Not that I’m minimizing the power of affirmation. Affirmation, granted that it’s true affirmation, is biblical and can be life changing. Untrue affirmation, on the other hand, can be incredibly destructive. For an example of the negative effects of false affirmation, just watch some American Idol auditions. You’ll see many “victims” of false affirmation (i.e. Tone deaf kids who have been told their whole lives that they can sing.)

I digress.

The problem with affirmation is that it only gets us so far and God is often calling us beyond that place. Let’s look at one of the many examples of this in Scripture.

In Exodus 4 God informs Moses that He is calling him to be His mouthpiece to His people Israel and to the Pharaoh of Egypt. In the moment of it all poor Moses experiences some self-doubt. He informs the Lord in v.10 that he’s actually a lousy public speaker and probably not fit for the job.

If Moses had been talking to a 21st-century life coach instead of God he might have heard something in return like, “No Moses! You’re selling yourself short, you’re actually a very, very good speaker. Different, but good in your own way.”

God, on the other hand, does not respond to Moses with affirmation but with revelation. In v. 11 He reminds Moses that He is the one who actually created his mouth and has the ability to make people mute or eloquent if He so desires. Then, in v.12 He tells Moses that He will be with him.

The answer to self-doubt that God offered Moses was the same answer He would offer Joshua (Joshua 1:9), Gideon (Judges 6:16), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8) and countless others for their self-doubt:  I will be with you. The creator of all that is seen and unseen will be with you. This is enough.

There is no greater weapon against self-doubt than the confidence that God is with you.

God has invited us to live with Him in the realm of the impossibility. Self-doubt is a natural response when faced with an impossible task. No amount of affirmation will convince us that we can do the impossible. Only the revelation of God’s promise to be with us will do that.

He is with us.