Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


IS GOD SPEAKING TO ME? – by Lysa Terkeurst

Is God Speaking to me is written by a woman (Lysa Terkeurst) to women, yet I found it very encouraging and a good little read for me too. This 57 page booklet is an excerpt from Lysa’s book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. Lysa writes, “I am amazed and saddened by the number of people missing out on the most exciting part of being a Christian – experiencing God.” This booklet is a great encouragement to listen and hear from God. Check it out.

Pursuing Excellence: Plan Your Sermons a Year Ahead

Life happens at a pretty steady pace. In fact, unless you plan ahead, you will be dragging behind regularly, just barely keeping up. It is valuable to set aside time at regularly to do the work of looking ahead. For preachers, there is always another sermon to prepare. Unless you plan ahead, it is difficult to spend adequate time thinking through how to preach a biblically accurate, relevant, and creative sermon. The more you plan ahead, the more time you have to think through and improve each sermon.

1.Natural Blocks of Time

I begin by determining the number of Sundays between natural breaks. For example, if I was going to preach on Christmas through Advent, and typically think of the church “year” from September to June, that means I only have September through November for a longer series. I could preach through a book of the Bible with that many weeks. Or, I might do a series for September and make a change at Thanksgiving. After determining how many Sundays for natural blocks of time, I start praying through and listing what I feel I need to preach on in the next 12 months.

2. Congregational Needs

There are times in a church where it seems the congregation needs a certain topic addressed. For example, I am presently leading a church transition ministry, meaning I come into a church that is newly without a pastor and is looking toward hiring the next one. Sometimes the transition is a painful one, where people have been hurt by the pastor or each other. Many transition pastors preach a series on the “one anothers” of the Bible. (“Love one another” or “forgive one another” and so on). The hope is to help people to restore their relationships and trust in each other.

As you pray and think through the needs of your congregation, God will guide you to which books of the Bible or topics to address. You could invite your leadership team into the process by asking them to suggest needs they see in the congregation. If you know that most people are going to take holidays over the summer, you might want to plan a summer series in which each sermon doesn’t build on previous sermons but can be fully understood on its own. If people miss a sermon, they are not falling behind.

If you have a number of new people, you may want to address some of your denominational and local church beliefs and priorities. Or if your church includes many new Christians, you might want to introduce them to Jesus through preaching through one of the gospels over the next year. You could intersperse it with thematic series at Christmas or leading up to Easter, or just preach right through the gospel.

If there are themes you feel need addressing but don’t fit in your preaching schedule, you could address some of those needs in a class or weekend seminar.

3. Main Idea of Each Sermon

Once you have decided which of the books of the Bible or themes you want to preach on, begin breaking them down to what scriptures will be preached which Sundays. Make sure each independent sermon builds on the theme you have decided on. After identifying the scripture for each Sunday, develop the basic sermon idea. This will not necessarily be the final decision, because at this point you are just doing a quick survey of the material. You may adjust the main idea later, but you want an outline of the focus for each sermon so you can begin to collect supporting materials, ideas, and stories for that focus over the next year leading up to each week’s sermon.

Develop the main ideas well enough so that you can give the music and creative service planning teams about six months’ notice for them to gather material for that Sunday that will fit with the sermon.

4. Monthly Glances Ahead

Each month, spend time looking at the next month’s sermons, reminding yourself of upcoming themes and topics. This helps you watch for how things like the news or world events are speaking into what you will be preaching about, as well as how that sermon will speak to local needs. Keep in touch with those who will be leading music or adding other creative ideas into the service so you are working together and building one cohesive service.

Prayerfully start to define the main focus of each sermon more specifically. Ask God to give you and your team creative ways of speaking truth and applying it to each one who will hear.

5. Weekly Specifics

As you work through the details of planning the sermon and accompanying service for the next Sunday, work closely with any volunteers who will be part of the service. Communicate your theme clearly and make sure you are on the same page with all who will contribute. Pray about the applications you will include in your sermon, and ask God to direct your final preparation so that lives will actually be transformed through what God has helped you prepare.

It is a privilege to weekly stand before a congregation who is waiting to hear from God. Put in the time necessary to be biblically accurate and creatively relevant to your congregation. God will reward your efforts as you continually listen to His guidance right from the time you determine what book of the Bible to preach on to the time you wrap up the conclusion of your sermon.

Keep looking up,

Andy

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


KEEP CHRISTIANITY WEIRD – by Michael Frost

Frost is encouraging the church to return to its counter-cultural beginnings. Instead of trying to blend in under the guise of being relevant, he encourages believers to be different. This is not about being strange to be noticed, but to do things differently than people expect. This is about actually caring for the needy, and being okay with doing things that the average person thinks is strange, if it means being more like Jesus. Frost writes, “Just as business and education is fostering greater creativity and innovation, the church is in a phase of rewarding compliance and conservatism and suppressing eccentricity.” (p. 16) We need to reward creativity, not “toeing the line”. We need out of the box thinkers and leaders.

Frost wants believers to come back to being different in a way that points people to Jesus and a proper understanding of God. “In a world of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, keeping Christianity weird involves recovering our strange belief in a scary God who can’t ever be fully known, who doesn’t need us, whose face we can’t look upon, and whose name we can’t utter.” (p. 158)

This is a great book for anyone who wants their mediocre Christianity challenged!

God Repels Sin

“God is not repelled by our sin.

Our sin is repelled by God.”

Tony Kriz (Aloof)

Somewhere, many followers of Jesus have gotten the unfortunate idea that when we sin we push God away from us. In this way of thinking, because God is holy and cannot stand sin, God will not be anywhere near our sin – much less near us, the sinner.

Don’t lose sight of God while desiring to be right with God.

This thought causes us to develop a perspective of “working really hard not to sin.” That is a tiring and fruitless endeavor. We become people of the law, people of rules.

We memorize the “thou shalt not’s” and make up others. We say we want to get closer to God and yet our focus is intently on our sin. We work so hard to prevent sin that we forget why we try to avoid sin in the first place. We lose sight of God by the very effort we hoped would make us right with God.

If we find ourselves viewing life from this perspective, that’s a sign that it is time to reorient our thinking. We need to realize that God is not repelled by our sin. In fact, he came to face it head on.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

-Romans 5: 6-11 (NLT)

Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins. He willingly took all our sin on himself so that he could pay the death penalty for it for us. God arranged this in order for us to become right with him.

In his book, Aloof: Figuring out life with a God who hides, Tony Kriz adds, “We do not experience God by avoiding sin, we overcome sin by pressing into God.” We need to pay less attention to how much sin we have committed and pay more attention to the one who loves us and sent his Son to die for us, even while we were full of sin. Instead of focusing on what not to do, we need to focus on what to do to grow in relationship with God.

Trade information for relation

We need to shift our focus onto God. Press in to a relationship with Him in any and every way we can and get to know him. Bible reading is one way to get to know God. It’s important that we don’t just learn information but grow in relationship with him. Let’s listen and watch for how scripture reveals God’s heart for us. Allow scripture to be our conversation together.

As we focus on God and our relationship with him, we can read biographies and learn from Christian leaders of the past who have pursued God and how they experienced a relationship with Him.

We can read about Corrie Ten Boom forgiving her German captors. We can read of George Mueller and his complete faith in God’s provision for his hungry orphans. We can learn from those who had a relationship with God that allowed them to live boldly and confidently in the grace of God.

Trade monolog for dialogue

Rather than focusing on our sin and what we are not doing, we can shift our focus to God and what he has to say to us through regular conversations with Him. I learned how to talk to God from an early age. It started with a few memorized prayers for bedtime or before meals and graduated to imitating adults. Over time I learned how to express my needs to God with my own words, even pouring out my heart to God. But unfortunately, I was not taught how to have a conversation with God. To pursue God instead of living a life focused on “not sinning,” I need to be able to talk with him as a friend. Romans 5, above, says that through Christ we become friends of God. Friends have conversations. I needed to learn how to listen to God so that my monolog turned into a dialogue.

This does not mean I have quit sinning, but that I have quit dwelling on my sin and go quickly and regularly back to God and pursue Him. As I recognize sin – as God points it out – I confess my sin and renew my focus on God.

I encourage you to “press in” to God, dig deeper into a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and as you focus more on Him you will be less inclined to be drawn into sin. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to both remind us of what He taught and to remind us of our sin. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you deepen your relationship with God.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Church Has to be Different -But How?

A number of church leaders are declaring: Church has to be different now. Church has to change. While Covid has been an accelerator of this, leaders were already declaring this earlier.

I understand. As culture and society change, we need to adapt how we do the work of the church in order to connect with people today. But what changes?

I don’t feel I have the answers to what that change looks like. Instead, I will share my questions with you who follow me and hope you have some ideas to respond with. I would love to hear your comments.

Worship Service Changes

Do we need to change how we lead the worship service? I believe many churches need to plan for more audience participation and less performance at the front. I am passionate about creating interactive and transformational worship services – so much so, that I am in the process of writing a book about it!

Do we need to change from a monolog preaching style to more discussion? I know of one church that is attempting to do exactly that. People come to the service, gather around tables, and a table host leads the discussion. What else needs to change in the worship service?

Program Changes

What might be some beneficial changes to the type of programs we offer? Do we need to reduce the number of programs we offer? Should we plan more opportunities for people to interact with each other? Do we need to have more Biblical learning opportunities because people are biblically illiterate today?

Online Changes?

One positive outcome of covid restrictions was more churches provided an online worship service option. The church I presently serve is continuing this option, and usually have a number of people tuning in to watch. How might we improve in how we deliver those? Do we need to have people who can interact with those who are tuning in online? Maybe we need to hire staff to be the online church pastor in the same way multi-site churches hire a campus pastor?

How can we have a better online presence beyond just a one-hour worship service? Does this mean creating a presence on social media?

Discipleship Changes

How can we improve how we disciple new believers? In the past the emphasis was on teaching them “how to do” the Christian life. Should we move to an emphasis of “how to be” a Christian living in the world? While Bible teaching remains essential, especially for those coming to church with no prior Bible knowledge, I wonder if we need to help people move beyond living right to really connecting with Jesus, to actually listen and hear God?

Children and Youth Ministry Changes

Could we move beyond entertaining children and youth toward teaching them, even at a young age, how to live a life that is totally dependent on a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and tuned in to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Do we need to challenge youth with opportunities to serve both in the church and in the community and world? Do we need to add in more digital content, or do we deliberately reduce screen time in our programs to counteract all the time they spend online in their day? Would it be wise to help youth focus more on getting to know God rather on avoiding sin? I came across a great quote a while back that went something like this: “Sin does not repel God, God repels sin.” We often see it as the less we sin, the closer we can get to God, when it is probably better to grow deeper in our relationship with God and then sin will be repelled.

Philosophy of Ministry Changes

Should we refocus our energies on helping people to grow in relationship with Jesus and not just in information about God? Do we need to remind ourselves that God came to be “with” us (Emmanuel)? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to come live “in” us. It is about growing in relationship, not about growing in knowledge.

Outreach and Community Involvement Changes

As we think about introducing people to Jesus, our first realization should be that the mission field is not overseas, but right at our doorstep. There are many people living right next to us, who are just like us, who have never heard the message of salvation. And rather than thinking we need to go overseas, realize the world has come to us. Instead of taking a mission’s team to Mexico, maybe we need to reach out to the growing Mexican population down the street. Maybe instead of going to Africa, reach out to the many Africans from many different countries that now live in our cities? Even many small towns are seeing an influx of foreign workers and new immigrants. We need to reach out to them, welcoming them to Canada and sharing Jesus’ love with them.

As we reach out to those around us, this often requires an improved sense of community involvement and community connections. Some churches do well at this. Some churches offer English classes or homework help. The church I serve has an annual free Clothing Bonanza, clothing many children as they head off to school. They also give away free Bibles, so many that one year they started grabbing the church’s pew Bible to give away. Unfortunately, other churches are so caught up in their own church they hardly even know any people who don’t already know Jesus.

Let’s help people practically, and ensure we share the gospel as well. What else needs to change in how we reach out?

Facility Changes

What needs to change about how we build and set up the places where we meet? Many churches have done a good job equipping their facilities to be more accessible for those physical limitations, for example, by building ramps and elevators. We also have screens with the words on them so people don’t have to flip through hymn books. Additionally, many churches have recognized the needs of their communities, and replaced pews with chairs to allow their spaces to serve in varying purposes throughout the week. Are there other changes? Do we need to add more coffee bars?

Other Changes?

What else needs to change in how we do church? How do we update and adjust our ministries to have a greater impact for God’s kingdom? What “sacred cows” need to be chucked in order to head in a more effective direction?

I’m guessing that many changes will be different from church to church. Every church needs to mull over this issue of how to change to be the best they can be in reaching out and discipling people in their walk with Jesus.

What else needs to change?

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

The Thirst of Humanity

One of the fundamental questions of life is this: Does my life have meaning?

Wrapped up in that question are others. Why am I here? Do I have a role to play? Where do I fit? Can I do something of meaning? What is my purpose?

There is a basic thirst in all humanity to find meaning in life. Everyone wants to find some meaning and value in what they do. And they look for answers in all kinds of places. Some try to fill that thirst with experiences and so they do all kinds of things hoping something will satisfy. They may choose to enhance or even remove the feeling of reality with drugs and drinking. Some chase achievements, some look to “just provide a good life for my family.” Others look to fame. Some look to “leave a legacy” so their name will remain alive long after they are gone. Everyone is searching for that satisfaction that will finally quench their thirst.

The search is on for that elixir that will truly satisfy. This search has carried people in many different directions. If you have attended college or university you will probably have come across some of the following people and their ideas.

  • Albert Camus wrote in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” According to Camus, life is entirely without meaning.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre argued for dealing with the meaninglessness of life by creating our own meaning. We decide, not God, or any other person, what we find meaning in.
  • Augustine of Hippo and Blaise Pascal, though many years apart have both been connected to the idea of a “God-shaped hole” in mankind, or an “infinite abyss”, that Pascal wrote in Pensées, “this he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are...” Looking for something that doesn’t exist, outside of God.

Solomon, King of Israel, declared in his book, Ecclesiastes, “Everything is meaningless… completely meaningless! …I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 14).

Solomon’s journey for meaning led him to seek pleasure and wisdom and hard work, and found none of these pursuits were fulfilling. In Ecclesiastes 3: 14 he says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” There is something in the human heart that longs for more. This is reminiscent of the “God shaped hole” or “infinite abyss” that is longing to be filled, to be satisfied. This thirst that is longing to be quenched.

Solomon journeys on, looking at the injustices of life, the futility of political endeavors and chasing after and gaining wealth. He points out that everyone dies. So what is the value of the time of our existence?

In chapter 11 Solomon encourages both the old and young to treasure their days, and reminds them that God is part of the answer to our thirst for meaning. Yet he still views life as meaningless.

When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.

Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 11: 8-9)

In the end Solomon concludes “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14.)

His final conclusion is we need to recognize that God has the final say about our meaning and value. He is the final judge. Our job is to obey him and find meaning in that obedience to God. There is no meaning in all other pursuits, except in honoring God in those pursuits.

The thirst of humanity cannot be satisfied with any other pursuit than that which brings us into a relationship with the One who made us. God created us to have a relationship with Him. Any pursuit that looks for satisfaction outside of that relationship will never satisfy. To look for contentment outside of what we were created for will only bring more dissatisfaction and frustration.

To use a drill to pound a nail or a file to chop wood is ridiculous and frustrating. We need to come to God who created us for relationship with Him, and as we honor and worship him our craving will find relief.

Your thirst can only be quenched as you drink deeply from God who created you and loves you!

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Pursue Excellence with Constant Evaluation

“CANEI is an acronym that stands for constant and never ending improvement. If you really want your services to soar, you have to commit to CANEI. You can never be satisfied with what you did last week, even if it was a great week. Always keep moving forward; always be working to reveal God’s excellence in a new, more powerful way.” 

– Nelson Searcy and Jason Hatley, Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services.

To become better we need to evaluate. Everything we do can be improved through taking the time to reflect and evaluate when completed. An effective way to guide post-event evaluation it to use established systems and processes, whether these are adapted from other leaders or organizations, or created internally.

Recently I was reading Leading in a Culture of Change. Michael Fullan, in talking about evaluation, refers to Army After Action Reviews. These AARs have three key questions: What was supposed to happen? What happened? And what accounts for the difference?

I like that. While many evaluation systems include many questions about every aspect of the event, they really all come back to these three questions. All the questions on a long evaluation form probably come down to these three questions.

What was supposed to happen?

This question is effective because it assumes there was a clear plan from the beginning. Every person involved in making it happen knew what was expected. They likely talked through each aspect ahead of time, and maybe even rehearsed parts of it. Your evaluation needs to begin with a reminder of what you hoped to accomplish. In this way, everyone is reminded of what their goals were.

What happened?

This is where you work through the event in hindsight and remind yourself  what actually happened. Did those leading know what they were doing? Did the people involved enjoy the experience? Did it end up being close to the original goal and plan? Were you able to work the vision well, meaning did your effort move everyone toward the envisioned goal? This is the opportunity to consider each aspect and identify what went well and what did not.

What accounts for the difference?

Once you’ve identified the expectations and actual outcomes, it is time to look at how closely your event matched what you had dreamed and planned for. Focus in on what happened differently than expected. Point out any surprises or missteps, and then try to figure out why things did not go as planned. What are some reasons for what went wrong? And just as important: what are some reasons for what went right or better than you had planned?

With this in mind, brainstorm what needs to change to be better next time. There might be all kinds of actions to take to improve:

  • Better training
  • Clearer directions
  • More rehearsing
  • Better equipment
  • And on and on

An After Action Review (AAR) may take a few minutes or may last an hour. It depends on how complicated the event was or how many items were identified when answering the third question. I like these three questions because they really focus in on CANEI. You can zero in on what needs to improve for next time.

Evaluation always needs to lead to action. Everything that needs improvement must be worked on until a satisfactory change has been defined and developed.

Incorporate regular evaluation into your routines. Ask God to help you see where you may have fallen short of His hopes for the event, and the Holy Spirit to make it clear on how to continue to improve. As a follower of Jesus Christ, do your best for the Kingdom of God, no matter what you are doing.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Leading Well When the Unexpected Happens!

We think we have a lot more control on things than we really do. We plan and prepare, but there are many things out of our control. We cannot control the weather, so it is not really all that unexpected when a picnic gets rained out. We cannot control people so it should not surprise us that people do things we hoped they wouldn’t, or don’t do things we wish they would.

Parents have hopes for their children but children choose their own paths. Business owners have dreams for their business but sometimes the market has more influence on how well they do than anything they could prepare. You plan for a big event only to have a small crowd because there were other more interesting things to do.

Most people like to be optimistic. We have to be if we want to make plans or develop anything. We have to believe that things well go well and get better. Reality sometimes chips away at that optimism.

So, what can we do when the unexpected happens?

  1. Pray

Too often we think that we need to find our way through a situation. We have worked hard on a project and want it to go well, so when the unexpected happens we feel that we need to come up with the solution. Instead, we need to remember that God is greater than any problems we come across. And God is never surprised. When challenges surprise us, why not go to God with them?

God will help you through it. He may give you an answer to quickly figure out a solution. He may give you strength as you struggle to find answers and push your way through. But God wants to be part of our lives. And if we are dedicated to serving God, then all that we do in some way should help to build God’s kingdom. If that is our goal, then the God of that kingdom would probably want to help us find our way through.

Remember to Pray.

2. Manage your Responses

An emotional response to the unexpected is not unusual, but obviously not very helpful. If we respond in a negative way to something that surprised us in a negative way, we are only compounding the problem. That is not going to help save the situation or fix what went wrong. Unfortunately, this is my natural response when a car darts in front of me in traffic. Maybe some of you can relate?

If we have enough bad unexpected things happen, when we get to that tipping point or that final straw that breaks the camel’s back, some of us give up. Whatever we were trying to do may just seem like too big of a task if too many unexpected things interfere.

Often it is our emotions that drag us down. We need to find a way to manage our emotions and push on.

3. Determine to Persevere

Some of us are resilient and continue to push ahead, looking for ways to overcome unexpected challenges. While some give up, others find a way through. Don’t immediately let the unexpected stop you from what you were planning to do. If your pursuit is of any value to you, then determine to find your way through.

These first three actions quickly lead you to the fourth one.

4. Triage the Situation

Good leaders will learn to assess the situation quickly and prioritize the needed response. When you go to the Emergency Room at the hospital, you are first taken to triage, where they assess your level of need so they can make sure that the greatest need is served first.

When the unexpected happens, you need to be able to determine the correct response by assessing if the unexpected situation needs to be dealt with first before going on with your plans.

For example, if you are planning a wedding and the hall floods on the week of your special day, you need to determine if the flooding can be dealt with or a new hall needs to be booked. This may take priority for the moment while you put aside the planning of the rehearsal to deal with the unexpected. In the same way, when something unexpected comes up at work or in your personal life, assess the situation to determine where to focus your attention for the best result.

5. Plan the Solution

Once you have triaged to identify your priorities, use that list to guide you through to a resolution. Figure out who can deal with which part of the problem and who can continue to work on the original project. Maybe part of the solution is to shut down your project or event for now and figure out how to reschedule with more planning in the future.

6. Delegate or Recruit Help

The unexpected often means that your time and resources are disappearing more quickly than you had planned. Can you hand off some of the responsibilities either in addressing the unexpected challenges or in the original project? Find someone who can step in to help. Don’t feel that you have to be limited to your abilities or that of your present team.

7. Pray and Trust God to Intervene

Continue to pray throughout the process. If you are a Christian leader, you have access to the God of Heaven. Our creative, miracle-working God can help us when we feel completely overwhelmed. I like seeing where God steps in and does the unexpected. I was just reading in 2 Kings 3 where the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom were facing an army of Moabites. They thought they were hopelessly defeated, but then God stepped in. Water ran into the valley and onto the plains. The morning sun made it look like blood.

But when they got up the next morning, the sun was shining across the water, making it appear red to the Moabites—like blood. “It’s blood!” the Moabites exclaimed. “The three armies must have attacked and killed each other! Let’s go, men of Moab, and collect the plunder!”

But when the Moabites arrived at the Israelite camp, the army of Israel rushed out and attacked them until they turned and ran. The army of Israel chased them into the land of Moab, destroying everything as they went. (2 Kings 3: 23-24)

God can do the unexpected. Leading well when the unexpected happens depends to a large extent on how much you depend on God.

Keep looking up,

Andy

How to Set Plans that Work

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,” goes the saying. I like dreaming and planning. I like looking ahead and doing strategic planning with churches. I get excited about the possibilities of what could happen if things worked out right. The problem is, many good plans do not bear the fruit we had hoped. So how can you set plans that will not fail?

“The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

John Steinbeck

In James 4:14-15 it says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’” 

James reminds his readers that no one knows what tomorrow brings. We can do all kinds of planning and scheming and base it all on good research, but in the end, no one knows what will really happen. There are always many unknowns that we cannot prepare for. We can do our best, and often plans work out, but not always. The only one who knows what tomorrow will bring is the Lord God.

God is not bound by time, so He knows what will happen tomorrow and the next day, and the next year. So as events happen, He is not surprised. Maybe we need to ask Him to help us make plans that match His for us.

In Jeremiah 1: 4-5, we read:

The Lord gave me this message:

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was born, even before he was conceived. That is quite the theological issue to work through at another time, but the point is that God knows us and has plans for us. He had a plan for Jeremiah. He appointed him to be a “prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah didn’t need a career counselor or an aptitude test of some kind to help him discover what he wanted to do with his life. God told him exactly what he should be “when he grew up.”

This morning I was reading in Psalm 138 when I came across a line in verse 8: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life.” The psalmist believes that God has a plan for his life. He trusts that to be true. I felt comforted as I read that verse. My life and my plans are not dependent on my own abilities or lack thereof. If King David is right, and I believe other scriptures agree, then God has a plan for MY life, and a plan for YOUR life.

I don’t think God has every detail of your life planned out in such a way that you need to be constantly afraid that you are making the wrong decision. I don’t think God was disappointed that I chose the Mexican Bean soup at lunch instead of the Butternut Squash soup. And honestly, I don’t know if there is one specific girl for each guy or if God leaves that up to us. What I do know is that God is intimately aware of who you are and who I am. He has plans for us as one person of humanity and plans unique to each of us as an individual.

God’s plan for all humans is that they would come to faith in Jesus and a relationship with God the Father through Him. God wants all people to join him in living in His kingdom here on earth. God desires for all people to join him in the afterlife, in His new kingdom. But I believe he also has plans unique to us. These plans are more like the plans of a coach for each individual player. He puts the player in goal who has been playing that position all his life and is best equipped and prepared for that role. He will probably put the fastest skater and best player on the first line, maybe even at centre. God knows each of us, after all, He created us. Like Jeremiah, God knew you and me before we were even born. He has observed us all our lives. He knows how we are equipped to handle situations we will face in life. And I believe that he has certain roles He wants us to be in.

If I want to make plans that will work out, I had better talk with God about those plans. Whatever the plans, we can talk to God about them as we make them. There is generally good value in involving others on our team in plans we make for organizations we are part of. We can benefit from the input of good friends. Yet the best input is to ask God to help you in the dreaming and planning. Ask Him to guide your thinking. Ask Him to help you get the best research and information to base your planning on. Ask Him to tell you what He wants done. After all, if God has plans for me, I will be better off doing what he has planned.

There are many different steps that experts could suggest as you desire to make plans that work, but if you believe in God, your first step needs to be to check in with Him. Sometimes it takes hard work and effort to accomplish meaningful plans. Again, God is the one who can help you persevere to the end.

You want to make plans that work? Then ask God to guide you in making your plans.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


PATHWAYS TO THE KING – by Dr. Rob Reimer

Pathways to the King: Living a Life of Spiritual Renewal and Power, is another on the Spiritual life by Dr. Rob Reimer. If you want to live a live of Spiritual Renewal and Power, then this book will help you as you move toward that. He uses a number of personal examples to show that it has been quite a journey for him. You will be able to identify with him, no matter where you are at in the journey right now. He helps the reader to get a better understanding of who we are in light of our relationship with God and his Spirit at work within us. Each chapter walks through a way to open ourselves up more to the filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit for personal growth and kingdom effectiveness. Learn to live with a fresh and deepening relationship with the Spirit.