The third time is just as charming

We need to learn to listen to God in all circumstances

I told this little girl some really important things the first time I held her.

 

“Third time’s a charm!”

You have, more than likely, heard this phrase uttered at some point when two previous attempts at something have fallen short.  I did a little bit of research (5 minutes of Googling) on the origin of the phrase and found out definitively that no one definitively knows where this phrase came from.

You’re welcome.

A few weeks ago, I became Grandpa for the third time.  No longer do I have a favorite granddaughter; I have two favorite granddaughters! My grandson, for the moment, has the distinction of being the favorite grandson.  We’ll see what happens over the next few years.

Mrs. Sweetie and I spent just over a week in the Texas panhandle taking care of big sister while parents and little sister were first in the hospital and then getting settled in at home.

Let me tell you something, my friends. I got a whole new appreciation for grandparents who are primary caregivers. Just a few days wore me out and made me glad that I was much younger when I was doing that full-time!

But I also discovered that holding a new grandbaby for the first time is just as charming no matter how many times it happens.  The first time I held her, I whispered in her ear and told her how much Grandpa loves her and how much Jesus loves her.  Those are the two most important messages any of my grandchildren will ever get from me.

Because both our grownup babies live in the same vicinity, we got to spend time with all our kids and grandkids during our time there.  Talk about charming!

But while my world was wrapped up in babies, people in other places were wrapped up in just trying to survive through hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and violence. 

Here’s something I don’t know: why things happen the way they do.  Anyone who tries to tell you they have it figured out should be approached with a lot of skepticism.

Here’s something I think is not a good use of our time: trying to figure out why things happen the way they do.  Is there an explanation for everything?  Probably.  Is it easy to discover? Hardly.  Could our time be better spent on other pursuits?  Absolutely!

Here’s something I do know: this is my Father’s world. And while He is ultimately in control, there is a destructive interloper to whom He has temporarily given freedom to wreak havoc in His world. Someday that freedom will end. 

Until then, we can find peace beyond comprehension. Philippians 4:7 – “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

That peace comes from a source beyond this world. John 14:27 – “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Here’s something I think is a better use of our time: Trying to listen to God for his guidance on how to respond to what happens, and until we get new guidance, doing the things He has already revealed in His word.

Our lives matter to God.  Remembering that is just as charming every time.

Rain, rain go away!

Weather happens. God's people should love and pray for people.

 

“Pray for rain.”  “If you are praying for rain, please stop.”

I’ve seen both of those signs.

Rain may be one of life’s most common and consistent topics of news and conversation. Maybe that’s because it is a safer conversation than politics or religion, though it can become a topic of conversation in both political and religious contexts. 

The topic of rain can even become a political conversation, as people blame politicians for their response (or lack thereof) to weather-related events.

The topic of rain can also become a religious conversation, as people begin to question the purposes (and even the goodness) of God when the weather is not perfect.

Rain is mentioned in the Bible 107 times (in the New International Version), so it is appropriate to talk about God and rain.  That reality doesn’t mean that we will figure it out.

The most common verse about rain that I hear quoted is when Jesus said of God, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45).

Do you understand that verse?  It’s actually not about rain.  Nor is it about whether a person on whom it rains is righteous or unrighteous.  It is about how God’s people should respond to enemies.

Here’s the context: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:44-46)

Jesus is not giving a lesson on why weather happens.  He is reminding us that weather makes no distinctions.  It should never be assumed that God is using weather to reward the righteous and punish the unrighteous.

People all along the coasts of Texas and Florida need to be reminded of that right now.  God is not mad at you.  God is not using weather to single you out for punishment.

No, I don’t know why weather happens.  I just know that it does.

Here’s what I do know: God’s people should love and pray for people.

I’m not going to suggest that weather-related prayers are not appropriate.  I am going to suggest that prayers for and loving action toward people who are affected (regardless of whether we see them as “good” or not) is more important to God than prayers about the weather.  Prayer may sometimes change circumstances, but more often it changes the person who prays.

It is easy to pray for more rain or for rain to stop.  It is not so easy to pray that God will show us how to love those who are at risk of either drowning or drying up.  That prayer calls for action on our part.

And that is the kind of prayer that acknowledges that our lives really matter to God.

Be a GEM to overcome the curse of perfectionism

Perfectionism is often the biggest excuse for procrastination

 

I’ve done several things recently that go against my natural tendencies. On trash day, I rolled two partially filled trash containers up to the street for pick up.  It would have been much more efficient to put all the trash in one container. 

Another evening, I ran a less-than-half-full dishwasher. I could have conserved water by waiting another day or two until I could run a full load.

Another day, I ran a load of laundry that only contained six white t-shirts. I could have waited another week and had a full load.

It seems that I am not making the most of every opportunity.  Full loads are much more efficient uses of time and space.  When I see empty spaces, I wonder what else I could put there.

Did I act too soon?  Could it have been better if I waited longer?  Would I have been better prepared?

As you can see, I’m being ridiculous in my examples.  But, do you ever hesitate to do something because you want it to be perfect? 

I do all the time!

Here’s a great perspective: every action has a cost and a benefit. We probably get that.  When faced with a possible action, I am pretty quick to determine what it is going to cost me in terms of time and effort.  And I’m also pretty quick to determine if I can do it really well right now.

Here’s a perspective that we often miss: every inaction also has a cost and benefit. If I don’t do it now, what is it going to cost me later?  Am I going to spend half a day doing laundry?  Am I going to make two trips to the street because the containers are too heavy to roll together?  Am I going to spend thirty minutes on dishes instead of five?

Am I going to have to apologize to someone for giving them no answer at all instead of the best partial answer I could give at the moment?

In my work with church leaders, I have often heard that we should eliminate “good enough” from our vocabularies.  We should never be satisfied with “good enough.”  We should always be striving for “excellent.”

The problem is that we often confuse “excellent” with “perfect” and we, therefore hesitate to deliver anything because we see the shortcomings.  Perfectionism is often the biggest excuse for procrastination.

 

Perfectionism is often the biggest excuse for procrastination. Click To Tweet

 

Here’s a little GEM to help us take action.  What is possible if we deliver Good Enough for the Moment? Here’s what I can do right now.  Here’s a starting point.  Here’s a baseline.  We have a long way to go, but here’s a first step in the right direction. 

Life is not nearly as much about accomplishments as it is about progress.  Good Enough for the Moment is not complacency.  It’s a springboard toward excellence.

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Your lifelong journey matters to God.  Take a step in the right direction today.  Be someone’s GEM.

Three hurdles you have to get over to win at anything

Barriers are everywhere. Don't let them have the final word.

 

I love track meets!  When the Olympic Games come around every four years, the track events are the ones that get my attention.  My favorite track events are the relays, the sprints, and the hurdles.

I love the relays because of the precision and teamwork necessary.  The winning team is not always the one that has the four fastest competitors.

I love the sprints because it is just flat out amazing to see people run that fast.

And then we have the hurdles – speed vs. barriers.  Many a pre-race favorite has lost a race because he stumbled over one hurdle.

Other than my 4th place finish in the 4th-grade elementary hurdles event in 1972, I have never run a hurdles race, but I’ve seen a ton of hurdles in real life and have stumbled over more than one.

Hurdles are everywhere.  In this post I want to mention three of them.

In a previous post, I mentioned my favorite son-in-law’s work in the mental health field.  He told me that he uses a three point process with many of his clients to help them move forward: (1) Develop hope; (2) Set a plan; (3) Implement.

We didn’t go into great detail in this conversation, but it occurs to me that this process identifies three hurdles that we all have to get over if we are going to reach any goal.

Hurdle #1 – Hopelessness.  Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Many a person has been defeated by hopelessness and the belief that she is destined to be a loser.  Part of the problem is that we don’t recognize the resources available to us.  Can I handle everything?  Of course not!  As a follower of Jesus, do I have resources far beyond what I can handle?  Absolutely!  But all the resources of heaven and earth in the hands of someone who has lost hope will result in nothing.

 

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” - Henry Ford Click To Tweet

 

Hurdle #2 – Aimlessness. Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” I have been known to fly by the seat of my pants, create on the fly, make it up as I go, and be proud of my ability to be spontaneous and flexible.  I have also been known to get lost.  The truth is that I am never going to embrace detailed plans (I’m just not wired that way). However, a clear vision of a desired outcome and a few clear action plans give me enough of a sense of direction to allow for flexibility and creativity that are actually strategic. As a follower of Jesus, my primary aim is to demonstrate His character in every thing I do.  That provides positive momentum.

 

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” - Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet

 

Hurdle #3 – Passivity. It never just happens.  It never works itself out. Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” The most optimistic and clearly defined goals will never happen without implementation.  At some point, you have to hit the launch button. If we wait until everything is perfect, we will never move.  Start it. Do it. When it’s wrong, fix it and get going again.  As a follower of Jesus, I’m reminded that my actions do not make me right with God, but they demonstrate that I am right with Him.

 

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” - Wayne Gretzky Click To Tweet

 

Your life matters. Don’t spend it lying on the track in defeat. The hurdles are bigger than you, but they are not bigger than what God wants to do in and through you.

110 – How can my church respond to tragedy at a distance? [Podcast]

Engaging and igniting the whole Body of Christ

 

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcastIn this week’s episode, I’m sharing some reflections on how churches may respond to tragedy when it’s not in our community.  How can we engage and ignite the whole Body of Christ in joining hands across the world?

 

 

When tragedy strikes elsewhere

A couple of weeks ago it was racially motivated violence in Virginia.  This week it is Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf coast of Texas.  Who knows what and where it will be next?  We live in a world where tragedies happen frequently.

That brings some particular risks for churches that we must guard against:

  1. To be spiritual “sympathizers,” who only feel bad from a distance, but don’t believe they can really do anything.
  2. To be spiritual “huddlers,” who only think about our own needs.
  3. To be spiritual “doomsday-ers,” focusing only on the fulfillment of prophecies and “signs of the times” to the neglect of the amazing work of God that is going on in the world.
  4. To be spiritual “sunshine and daffodil-ers,” focusing only on things that make us feel good, to the neglect of the legitimate suffering in the world.
  5. To be spiritual “bandwagon-ers,” jumping from one need to the next and not truly engaging with anything.
  6.  To be spiritual “pseudo-prophets,” making proclamations on God’s behalf, rather than extending Christ’s compassion.

That list could get longer, but I’ll stop there.

So, what can we do to engage and ignite the whole Body of Christ?

  1. Remember that our congregation cannot BE the Body of Christ in its entirety. We are part of the Body that includes all the people of God in all places and expressions.
  2. Pray for God’s glory to be revealed through the Body of Christ. How God’s people respond in crisis often gives observers their strongest impression about Christianity.
  3. Don’t wait for a crisis to develop ongoing prayer and support partnerships. It is easier to mobilize people who are already engaged through systems that are already in place.
  4. Be wise in contributing material, financial, and manpower support.  Let trained first-responders do their work.  Send materials and financial support through established and reputable channels.  If you go to help, go to serve those who have boots on the ground and systems in place.
  5. After the initial crisis, there may be ongoing needs for months or years.  Stay connected.

 

What I loved about the church where I worshiped last Sunday

Church: FBC Argyle (Texas)

What I loved:

  • Formal greeting system
  • Informal greeting atmosphere

 

How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
  • We are also on Stitcher.com and Google Play, so if you prefer one of those formats, please subscribe there.
  • Share the love by clicking on one or more of the social share buttons at either the top or bottom of this post.

To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

1. Comment section below

2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music for intro)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music for outro)

We are our own worst enemies!

Who you gonna listen to?

 

“You are never going to get this finished on time.” “You are so incredibly unqualified for this.” “You are a train wreck.” “You don’t deserve to be here.” “You are a mistake waiting to happen.” “What are you going to do when they find out?” “Idiot.”

Those are not very encouraging statements, are they?  I didn’t think so either when I heard them.  If they were supposed to motivate me, they didn’t work.  In fact, they had the complete opposite effect.  They discouraged me and left me feeling unmotivated and tempted to quit.

Who would make such disempowering statements?  That guy must have been a real jerk.

Well, that jerk was me.

I didn’t say those things out loud.  Well, most of them I didn’t say out loud.  I do have a bad habit of calling myself an idiot out loud when I make a mistake. I have to be careful about that and clarify that I’m not calling the person I’m with an idiot.  I try to do that before they punch me in the nose.

No, those voices are typically heard by no one but me.  They are inside my head when I feel over my head.  I may look like I have it all together on the outside, but inside I can be a big bundle of insecurities, trying desperately to make sure no one else finds out what an imposter I am. 

And while it may motivate me to try harder to do and produce more so that I can prove my worth by achievement, it doesn’t motivate me to be all that I have been created to be.

My favorite son-in-law is a mental health professional.  He told me awhile back that he often tells his clients that the accusing voices in their heads would sound absolutely ridiculous if they were to say those things out loud.  Then he has them try it out loud to see that it’s true.

When I call myself an idiot in Mrs. Sweetie’s presence, she always intervenes. “Don’t you dare talk to my husband that way!”  I am so blessed to have a best friend and partner when my worst enemy starts mouthing off.

Here’s the thing about being our own worst enemies: we are not intended to be so.  God didn’t give us internal accusatory wiring. When we find ourselves speaking those disempowering and accusing thoughts to ourselves, we can know that they don’t originate with the God who created us in His image and sent His Son to die for us.

The God for whom our lives matter will never, ever, call us idiots, mistakes, and train wrecks.  He may allow us to fail so that we will learn to rely more on Him and less on ourselves, but His voice is not one of angry accuser.

 

The God for whom our lives matter will never, ever, call us idiots, mistakes, and train wrecks. Click To Tweet

 

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Let the voice of your Friend speak louder than all your enemies.

109 – What I learned about church from “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” [Podcast]

A foodie's take on why someone would want to come to your church

 

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcastIn this week’s episode, I’m sharing some reflections from one of my favorite TV shows – Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. I’ve had a lot of conversations with church leaders who asked, “Why aren’t people coming to our church?”  It occurs to me that we need to be asking, “Why would anyone come to our church?”

I think we can learn something from the restaurants featured on DDD.

 

 

Top 5 Lessons for Churches from DDD

  1. The Restaurants featured on DDD are not trying to be like any other restaurant.  They have found their unique voice in the community.
  2. The Restaurants featured on DDD focus on great food in a welcoming atmosphere.
  3. The Restaurants featured on DDD are not afraid to try something new. In fact, they are always creating.
  4. The Restaurants featured on DDD are neighborhood hangouts. (Unless they are food trucks. In that case, they take the hangout to where the people are).
  5. The Restaurants featured on DDD let their patrons be their voice.  Often, Guy Fieri checks a place out because he got an email from a regular customer.  (Here’s the email address: storyideas@tripledinfo.com)

Here’s the iPhone DDD locator app I use.

Questions for Churches

  1. Have we found our unique voice in our community or are we trying to (A) be a copy of another church or (B) fit into the mold of our “chain” (denomination, etc)?
  2. Are we trying to do too many things to the detriment of clear Biblical teaching and true Biblical fellowship? When people come the first time, are they welcomed as friends and fed a delicious spiritual meal?
  3. Are we settled into a rut, or are we constantly evaluating the quality of our ministries and seeking to enhance them?
  4. How are we engaging our neighborhood?  What are people outside the church saying about us?  Are we making “hangout” connections?
  5. What are our members saying about us?  Are they enthusiastically inviting their friends and neighbors?

 

What I loved about the church where I worshiped last Sunday

Church: FBC Newark (Texas)

What I loved:

  • Teenagers on the platform
  • Family atmosphere after the service

 

How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
  • We are also on Stitcher.com and Google Play, so if you prefer one of those formats, please subscribe there.
  • Share the love by clicking on one or more of the social share buttons at either the top or bottom of this post.

To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

1. Comment section below

2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music for intro)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music for outro)

I am not innocent.

But I refuse to be part of the problem.

 

I got up with a heavy heart this morning. I’m experiencing an inner compulsion to speak to the ugliness and evil of racism, in light of the weekend events in Virginia.

I want to be clear in identifying evil without being guilty of self-righteous finger-pointing and name-calling. I want to speak the truth in love and honor Christ.

I want to call the people of God to BE the Body of Christ publicly and display an accurate and mature reflection of the character of Jesus.

In my work as a coach, if someone were to tell me, “I want to say …,” I would ask that person, “So what’s preventing you from saying just that?”

So, here’s what I want to say and I’m going to say it:

Racism is evil and sinful, no matter the source. When ANYONE denigrates another person because of the color of their skin, their country of origin, their socio-economic status, their native language, their ethnic or religious heritage, or anything that makes them “different” – whether in a tense public demonstration, a quiet break room conversation, a Sunday School class, or any other place – it is evil and sinful.

 

Racism is evil and sinful, no matter the source. Click To Tweet

 

Racism on the part of one person or one group is never – I repeat, NEVER – a legitimate reason for another person or group to respond with racism.  None of us gets to excuse our own sinful behavior by claiming that it is only a response to someone else’s worse behavior.

 

Racism on the part of one person or group is NEVER a legitimate reason to respond with racism. Click To Tweet

 

People who truly believe that they are superior because of the color of their skin, their ethnic or religious heritage, or their citizenship (that one’s going to tick some people off) and that seek the advancement of their kind to the detriment of others that they truly believe are less deserving because they are different should be made to feel less welcome at the table of public discourse and more uncomfortable in the gatherings of followers of Jesus.

But, I also need to be clear about some other things:

All racially focused discussions are not racist. When a marginalized group seeks equal treatment and respect by focusing on how their race has been treated, it is not racist, unless they are seeking advancement to the detriment of others.

A person who makes a racially insensitive statement is not a racist.  The statement should not be excused – and sometimes the legitimate consequences may be serious – but a person’s life and work is defined by character exhibited over time, not by statements in isolation.  So, let’s be very careful in painting people with incendiary labels. The true evil of racism is minimized when the labels get thrown around indiscriminately.

The church must not be a place where racism is tolerated.  I actually heard about one pastor who was fired yesterday after he preached a sermon on racism.  I know that kind of racism exists in a small minority of churches.  But keeping racism out of the church is not enough.

 

The church must not be a place where racism is tolerated. Click To Tweet

 

We, the people of God, are not simply called to comment on life’s circumstances. We are called to engage in life’s circumstances.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who was martyred in Nazi Germany) said, “Our relationship to God is a new life in ‘being there for others,’ and participation in the being of Jesus. The transcendent does not consist in infinite, unreachable tasks, but in the currently available reachable neighbor. God in human form! … The church is only the church when it is there for others.”

Knowing our lives matter to God should result in our conviction that every life matters to God and that we stand with the different, the marginalized, the immigrant, the refugee, the outcast, the broken, the wounded and say, “We are here for you and we will make the first move.”

None of us is innocent.  But let’s decide to be part of the solution.

108 – We cannot keep silent anymore! [Podcast]

A heartfelt response to racism

 

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcastIn this week’s episode, I’m sharing a heartfelt response to the ugliness of racism as demonstrated over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA.  The church must stand with one voice and say, “No more!”

 

 

How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
  • We are also on Stitcher.com and Google Play, so if you prefer one of those formats, please subscribe there.
  • Share the love by clicking on one or more of the social share buttons at either the top or bottom of this post.

To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

1. Comment section below

2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

What happens if we succeed?

The question no one asks

 

I think life is full of “what if” questions.  What if I lose my job? What if the economy tanks? What if I get sick?  What if my plans don’t work out?  What if I miss my big opportunity?

In fact, much of our culture is driven by these kinds of questions and the fears that cause them.

This is not intended as a political statement, but an observation of reality: I have yet to meet one person who voted for President Trump because they were convinced that he was the best and most qualified presidential candidate and they were excited about the possibility of what his presidency would mean for the United States.

Without fail, every person who has told me that they voted for him has indicated that they were more afraid of the alternative.  So, the question that motivated many of his supporters was, “What if Hillary Clinton becomes president?”

Again, my point is not politics, but the underlying questions that motivate our decisions. 

This is also the motivation behind things like insurance, retirement annuities, and business contracts. We want to be sure we are covered for unplanned contingencies or unforeseen setbacks.

I’m not against any of those things.  In fact, I intentionally participate in them. But what I’m pondering today is a question that rarely gets asked:

What happens if we succeed?

Think about it for a minute. (No, that wasn’t a minute; take a few more seconds). When was the last time you set a goal, made a plan, shared a desire, cast a vision, and actually spent time intentionally considering what would be next if success happened?

We simply don’t ask the question.

Is it because we are deeply convinced that the deck is stacked against us? Or that there is only so much success allowed in the world and it is obviously going to others?  Or that success only comes to those who either have resources beyond ours or who step on others to get it? Or even that God doesn’t want us to have success because we will be less likely to depend on Him?

Or is it that we are using the wrong scorecards to define success?  I certainly don’t have all this figured out, but I think I may be onto something that is worth pursuing.  What if we had some questions to use to help us in this pursuit?

Questions like …

  1. Is success in this possible? If not, maybe our efforts would be better spent elsewhere.
  2. How will we know when we have succeeded? This helps us to make plans and set goals that are specific and measurable.
  3. How will we celebrate the success?  This includes successful steps along the way as well as reaching the ultimate goal. If it’s not worth celebrating, is it worth doing?
  4. How will we reinvest what we have gained? In other words, what’s next?  We have new resources or new learning.  How will we use them as a launching pad?
  5. How does our view of success measure up against God’s view of success? This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8)

 

If it’s not worth celebrating, is it worth doing? Click To Tweet

 

Our lives matter to God. Our successes are found in His purposes.  How does that help you make your plans?