What If This Is It?

eric-parks-_sSYhR2yHq4-unsplash

Everywhere you look, people are searching for what’s next. 

What’s the next career for them where people will pay and respect them like they deserve? Where’s the next place for them to live that will suit them perfectly? Who might they meet next who will become their perfect mate for life? What next step might they take personally that will equal God’s will for them in the future?  What person, place, or career might be next for them and be the ultimate thing that will finally give them the fulfillment they are looking for?

People everywhere want to know what’s next. But what if it doesn’t work that way. 

What if what’s next is right in front of you? What if the next step for you is not found in searching the world to see what it might hold for you? What if the secret for your success and contentment is found in what you can bring to the world right where you are? 

What if this is it? 

What if the perfect job for you right now is the one you currently have? What if the home you’re living in is the one that can be perfect for you? What if you’re already serving the organization that will propel you to greater heights of success? What if you’re currently married to the person who is right for you now and will still be right for you in 50 years? What if God’s will for you is to be right where you are?

Think about it. If you knew for sure that where you are right now is exactly where you should be and is the catalyst that will launch you to greater things in your relationships, career, happiness, satisfaction, heck, your whole life… If you knew this for sure, what would you do differently? How would you treat people? How would you invest in yourself and others around you? How would your habits and attitudes change?

What if this it – your shot, your chance, your destiny, your opportunity to do and be something in this world? Whether you believe it or not, acting as if this IS it will move you forward in all of these areas because it will change your actions, your behaviors, and your results.

It’s your move. It’s your turn. You’re up to bat. It’s your big break. 

What are you going to do about it?

Miscast in a Bad Play

alberto-bigoni-1279372-unsplash

Ever feel like you’re playing a part you weren’t meant to play. I know I have. I must admit I’ve been confused at times when I’ve read Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

I know the Lord’s plans are good. I believe they are for my good. I have sung that His promises are “yes and amen,” but I think, like many others, I confuse them with other plans. The plans others have for us.

Think about it.

Our parents have plans for us.

Our teachers and professors have plans for us.

Our bosses have plans for us, often to give them a hope and a future.

Credit card companies and car dealerships have plans for us as well.

McDonald’s wants us to supersize. Burger King wants us to King Size.

But have you seen the Burger King in the last several years? He’s creepy.

Do you think he really wants us to have it our way?

But the Lord does know the plans He has for us. They are good. They are for our good and for the good of His kingdom. But I often confuse it with what I do. Solomon felt the same way in Ecclesiastes 2.

I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all of my hard work in this world… Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

In the world of Shakespeare, MacBeth felt this same way as he spoke to Danforth in Act 5 Scene 5. Upon hearing that his wife had died, MacBeth expounds on his own surprise at his indifference to her departing. He refers to death as if it might be the dreadful ending of a very bad play in which he is forced to act out a part of which he was never meant to be cast. 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,          To the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools, the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow. A poor player, who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Sometimes I’ve felt like MacBeth. Sometimes I’ve felt like Solomon. I learn and work and try and work some more and then do it again over and over before I stop and belt out “Who am I and what am I doing? Why am I playing a part I was never meant to play?”

I’ve met some people who even wish their play was over so they could rid themselves of their role.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Lord really does have the perfect role for you.

It may be hard. In fact, it will be. Everything worth doing is hard in one way or another.

But in Him, there is fulfillment.

Seek the Lord. Learn His will for your life. Don’t play a role you were never meant to play. Don’t end up playing the lead role in a very bad and terribly long play designed to end tragically.

Henry David Thoreau is credited with saying, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and die with their song still inside them.”

Don’t let that happen to you.

Sing your song.

Let your music out.

Live out the plans God has for you.

And never, never, never quit.

 

*Special thanks to Alberto Bigoni and Unsplash for the picture above.

 

You’re Never Too Old To Try Something New

Guadelupe Palacios
Guadelupe Palacios was born in a small Mexican village in the state of Chiapas. She grew up without the opportunity to go to school, so she worked at home in the kitchen and garden and then later in the fields. As a young woman, she married and raised six children. For money, she sold chickens, learning math along the way. Years later, after her children were grown and her husband had passed away, she decided it was finally time for her to learn to read and write, so Guadelupe enrolled in a locally sponsored literacy program.
She was 92.
When asked why, after all these years, she wanted to learn to read and write, she replied, “Now I can write notes to my boyfriends.”
Guadelupe did learn to read and write, but she didn’t stop there. Within 4 years, she successfully completed the course work through Middle School. She still wasn’t satisfied.
She searched for a high school equivalency program but found none in Chiapas that were convenient and inexpensive, so in 2018, at the age of 96, she enrolled in the local high school in Tuxtla Gutierrez. She has a goal of graduating by the time she turns 100. She dreams of continuing her education and becoming a Kindergarten teacher.
You’re never too old to learn something new.
Guadelupe isn’t alone in her late bloomer efforts:
  • Susan Boyle was 47 when she entered Britain’s Got Talent.
  • Julia Child didn’t publish her first cookbook until she was 50.
  • Vera Wang didn’t enter the fashion industry until she was 40.
  • Colonel Sanders didn’t franchise Kentucky Fried Chicken until he was 62.
  • Stan Lee didn’t publish her first comic book until he was 39.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first novel until she was 65.
  • Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was past 75.
What about you? Do you have a desire (or need) to take a course, learn a new skill, travel to a new place, or study a new language? Have you ever thought, as I have, “That’s crazy. I’m too old to try that. Why would I even let a foolish notion like that enter my mind?”
I can almost guarantee that 99% of us reading this blog are not as old as Guadelupe Palacios.
You’re never too old to try something new.

10 Reasons You Should Go To Church

ben-white-292680

When I was young in ministry, I used to pray Psalm 27:4 which says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

I had no idea He would take me so literally. Since coming to Christ more than three decades ago, I’ve spent most of that time serving in churches and ministries, mostly in worship ministry.

One thing I’ve noticed during that time is that often, even the most devout Christians, for one reason or the other, fall away from attending worship services or small group meetings on a regular basis.

So, in response, here’s my list of ten reasons why people should go to church:

1. Christian Fellowship goes two ways: with God and with others. (1 John 1:3)

2. It’s one of the greatest habits (Hebrews 10:25)

3. For the opportunity to use your spiritual gifts to help others. (1 Peter 4:10)

4. Accountability. (Hebrews 13:17)

5. There are no self-sufficient Christians. (1 Corinthians 12:21)

6. To make a joyful noise unto the Lord! (Psalm 100)

7. To “devote yourself to the apostles teaching, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

8. To pray for others and to be prayed for (Matthew 18:19)

9. To express your love for God publicly (Psalm 22:22)

10. It’s what Jesus did (Luke 14:6)

There are possibly hundreds of other reasons to attend worship services and small group meetings. Any that come to your mind today? If so, leave a comment below.

P.S. If you have fallen away from church, Easter is a great time to come back. If you live in or around New Orleans, South Baton Rouge, or even if you live in Turrialba, Costa Rica, let me officially invite you to join us at Celebration Church. This year, we have 58 services across all of our campuses. Check it out at http://www.celebrationchurch.org/easter.

*photo courtesy of Unsplash

Land Iguanas, Predators, and Spiritual Warfare

Land Iguana
Female land iguanas of the Galapagos islands typically lay between two and twenty eggs. When the young iguanas hatch, close to three to four months later, their parents are nowhere to be found. It takes the hatchlings about a week to dig their way through the debris piled above the eggs by their parents. Almost as soon as the iguanas take their first step from the nest, large snakes, hawks, and herons often stand ready to rob them of their lives. The young iguanas must continue to be on their guard for the first year of their lives until they have grown large enough to defeat these predators.
As terrifying as that sounds, it is not much different from the way Satan attacks young Christians. He stands waiting to attack them from all sides. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop attacking once young believers are a year old (in the Lord). The devil will continue to attack us as long as we have breath, trying to destroy our witness and demolish our confidence in the Lord.
In 1 Peter 5:8-10, the Apostle Peter writes, “Stay alert! Watch out for your greatest enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In His kindness, God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.”
How can we survive the attacks of the devil?
 
First, the scripture above indicates that we are to Watch. We know that Satan is sneaking around ready to pounce on us at any time. We have to keep a watchful eye out for him wherever we go and in whatever we are doing. He’s sneaky and is out to trick us.
Second, we need to Stand firm and Be Strong. When Satan attacks and tempts us, we need to hold fast to Jesus and move forward in our faith with boldness. We need to not let the devil steal from us whatever spiritual ground we’ve already gained.
Finally, we should Remember we are not alone. When Satan attacks, it’s easy for us to believe that we are the only one suffering for our faith. It’s comforting to know that other members of God’s family around the planet are going through what the same attacks and consequences as we are.
Young Galapagos island land iguanas have it tough, but if they make it through their first year, they are safe. We, unfortunately, don’t have it as easy. We need to continually heed these words of Peter to Watch, Stand Firm, Be Strong, and Remember. If we do, the Bible says that God will restore, support, and strengthen us, and He will place us on a firm foundation.”

My Last Drink of Alcohol

ben-white-292680
My last drink of alcohol was New Years Eve, 2002. I was on a mission trip in Indonesia standing between a seminary professor and an international missionary in a worship service. Since I didn’t speak the language, I had no idea the church was actually using real wine for communion that evening. I was given a small piece of bread and a small glass of what I assumed was grape juice.
It wasn’t.
I realized as it was halfway down my throat.
Ironically, my last drink was also my first. That’s difficult for most people to believe, especially since I live in New Orleans. Let me explain.
As a child, I was never really around alcohol. My parents didn’t drink, so it was really a non issue for me. When I was in Middle School, we moved to a dry county in Arkansas where the closest alcohol for sale (legally) was across the Texas or Oklahoma line at, what my grandfather affectionately called, the beer joint. Even though it was popular, I never really had the desire to put forth the effort to get to one of these establishments. They were far away, I never had the money, and quite frankly, I would have rather had a Coke.
It was about that time that I began hearing about others I knew who had problems with alcohol. I even heard one of my relatives tell my dad, “I just can’t stop. It’s got a hold on me.” As a young teen, I vowed that I would never let alcohol or drugs control my life.
Then, at 16, I gave my life to Jesus and started reading the Bible seriously. I learned that the Bible actually doesn’t condemn drinking. Paul writes the following in Ephesians 5:18: Do not get drunk with wine. That leads to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. That floored me. Had I been wrong? Should I have joined the drinking crowd? I wasn’t sure.
 
This actually created a mental and moral crisis for me as a teenager. The Bible actually seemed to condone drinking in this scripture. As long as someone didn’t get drunk, what was the problem with drinking alcoholic beverages? Then, to make matters worse, Jesus changed water in wine at a party where scripture seems to share that a few of the people attending (not Jesus) might actually be a little hammered.
I wondered at the time, should my situation determine my convictions? I wasn’t sure if the right decision was found in a cultural thing or a context thing or something else completely.
Then, a friend showed me Colossians 2:16-17, where Paul writes: So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ Himself is that reality.
I told him that I understood his point, and that I would try not to condemn or criticize him if he chose to drink alcohol. However, I also to him that I didn’t think he was really concerned with this because of his relationship with Christ, but was trying to justify his life choices.
To my surprise, he agreed.
Later, I came across 1 Corinthians 10:23. In that scripture, Paul writes: You say, “I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial.
 
I decided once again, as an older teenager, that for me, drinking alcohol was not beneficial. I’ve held that conviction now for 30 plus years. I understand that many others, probably most people, don’t share my personal conviction. That’s fine. I still want to be friends and won’t let this issue stop us.
However, since I’ve taken my last (and first) drink of alcohol, it’s time to move on to other dilemmas which can be spoken to from 1 Corinthians 10:23. Most of them have to do with what I put into my body (junk food, soda, cake) and what I put into my mind (certain movies, books, videos). As I wrote earlier, alcohol has really always been a non-issue for me. However, I don’t have quite the same tenacity when it comes to donuts, Coca-cola, and sit-coms.
Praise the Lord for His grace and mercy.

I Ain’t No Professional Ain’t Cuttin’ It No More

I saw a sign in a restaurant the other day proclaiming “The Only Thing Worse Than Our Food Is Our Service.” Unfortunately, I’d already ordered the pancakes.

reverse-marketing-tic-toc-diner

By the way, the sign was right.

“I ain’t no professional” is a phrase I’ve heard once too often in my life in various capacities. I think it’s safe to say that if “You ain’t no professional then there ain’t no need to say it. Everyone already knows.”

The difference between the amateur and the professional is simple. The professional is willing to roll up his sleeves and go to work.

photo-courtesy of Unsplash - Matthew Wiebe

The word professional is defined by Google dictionary as someone engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” This means the person is serious about it and is willing to work hard.

My profession for most of my life has been ministry. In some of my positions, I haven’t always acted professionally for various reasons. I sometimes I didn’t know what to do or who to trust and I often let my insecurities keep me from doing the work that needed to be done. In those moments, I was allowing myself to become an amateur.

The author of Proverbs 22:29 once wrote: “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.”

Some people want to reference the above verse and say that we shouldn’t associate with certain people. Believe it or not, they may be right, but not in matters of race, socio-economic status, or sports team affiliation. However, we should be careful with associating with those who are going to wastefully absorb our time and keep us from the professionalism we should strive to achieve.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes:

“Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”

It’s time to quit whining. It’s time to do the work that’s set before us. It’s time to be professional.

Dustin Lee - Unsplash 1

The Biggest Problem With Creativity

At a recent conference, I learned about the biggest problem with creativity. Here it is:

People want creativity to be like this

FullSizeRender (3)

People most often want creativity to be linear – straight from the need to the end result. Archimedes said that the shortest distance between two objects is a straight line. That seems to make sense, right? If that is so, creativity should work like that too, correct? We should have the ability to be creative on demand with our best ideas, right?

It may work that way for some, but most often not.

Creativity is really more like this

FullSizeRender (4)

The best creativity comes from a crockpot instead of a microwave. The best creativity involves starting with an idea, allowing your to marinate (ponder) what you have, making adjustments along the way, and finally coming to a finished product.

The secret is giving yourself time to ponder, edit, soak, and revise.

 

The Pterois That Infects Us All

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. Among the victims was the owner of a waterfront exotic fish aquarium. The man loved his fish and, not wanting to see them perish, released them into Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

Sounds reasonable and humane, right?

However, among the fish he set free were six carnivorous Pterois native to Indo-Pacific waters, better known as Lionfish. These six fish multiplied at an enormous rate. As a result, there are now millions of Lionfish spread from Bermuda to North Carolina across the Caribbean and hundreds of miles up the Amazon River. These carnivorous fish are wreaking havoc on native populations of fish such as snapper and grouper, eating their young before they have the chance to mature. Unless something happens, certain Atlantic based species of fish may become extinct.

lionfish

Here are some facts about Lionfish:

  • Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
  • Adult Lionfish have 18 poisonous spines.
  • Female Lionfish produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs every few days.
  • Lionfish are sexually mature in one year.

Who would have thought releasing six fish would have such a devastating impact on the waters surrounding two continents?

As I pondered these facts this past week, I realized that there is another Lionfish with another name in the church, in politics, and in society today. The name of this Lionfish is gossip.

Gossip is something that cannot be contained once it is released. It often does it’s damage and then continues to spread until people grow bored with it, despite the facts.

Here’s one example:

One year before Hurricane Andrew prompted the exotic fish tank owner to dump his Pterois into Biscayne Bay, a rumor surfaced that Tropical Fantasy Soda Pop was actually manufactured by the Ku-Klux-Klan and contained a unique formula which caused sterility among African-American men. Sales dropped 70%. Even though the rumor was discounted, sales never fully recovered and smaller rumors continue to this day.

tropfan

Here are some facts about gossip:

  • As long as there have been people, there has been gossip.
  • Percentage wise, men gossip almost as much as women. They just call it marketing.
  • People often begin false rumors about themselves. Oscar Wilde once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

A pastor I know once said that spreading gossip is like cutting the paper from a notebook into tiny pieces and setting them out for the wind to blow them where they may. No matter how much you try, you’re very unlikely to regather all of the pieces.

gossip

How do we stop gossip? It’s doubtful gossip will ever fully be stopped this side of Judgement Day, but here are some steps we can take to remove it (or at least reduce it) in our own lives:

 

  • If possible, don’t be an audience for gossip.
  • Make the rumor stop with you.
  • Share positive information.
  • Pray for yourself and the victim of the gossip.

The Apostle Paul wrote the following advice in Ephesians 4:29:

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

I’ve read that the suggested way many governments are requesting fisherman to deal with Lionfish in the Atlantic is by removing them one at a time. Perhaps this is the best way to deal with rumors and gossip as well.

It’s time for us all to spread good news and speak life to those around us. The world needs our encouragement much more than it needs the Lionfish of gossip.

Dustin Lee - Unsplash 1

What Christians Can Learn From The Life of Prince

Purple

As a teenager, I had a love hate relationship with Prince’s art. I never saw Purple Rain, but I knew every lyric on the soundtrack. However, I was once so convicted when I caught myself singing some of his unsavory lyrics by my high school locker that I pulled all of the tape from the cassette (yes, I’m old) and burned it in our fireplace.

But now, hearing of his death, decades away from that moment, I find myself once again perplexed by this man, but for a different reason.

In his song Raspberry Beret, Prince states his boss, Mr. McGee, didn’t like his kind because he was a bit too leisurely. That’s an interesting line in the song, but apparently, the opposite was true of Prince. He worked hard, writing songs and recording music at all hours of the day and night. He was known for waking up sound engineers in the middle of the night, requesting they come right away to record a song he had just perfected.

I read yesterday that Prince has a vault with so much unreleased recorded music that if his estate were to release one album per year of completely original music that the world could have new Prince albums for the next 100 years. If an average album has twelve songs, that means he could have around 1200 unreleased songs.

Prince apparently was never really known for doing something close to nothing.

In the book of Colossians, Paul encourages Christians to work hard as well. He writes, Work willlingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

At the end of our lives, we may not have a century’s worth of unreleased recorded music, but if we serve God faithfully and do the work he’s called us to do, we’ll have something even better, the pleasure of our Lord and Master.

Dustin Lee - Unsplash 1