Choose your companions well

Who are the five people who are most influencing your journey?



He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.  (Proverbs 13:20)

For the past several years, I have been part of a Facebook Bible reading group.  The 202 (currently) members of this group live all over the world and are involved in a variety of ministries.  We read a chapter a day (determined by the group moderator) and are invited to briefly share how God spoke to us through the reading.  We are also encouraged to share prayer requests with the group and encourage each other.

Often the thoughts I share in this blog and with my own Facebook group, Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement are expansions of what I read as a part of that group reading assignment.  We usually read through Proverbs at least every other year, so thoughts on Proverbs show up in my writings.  I wrote a book in 2013 called 30 Days of Wisdom based on 30 wise sayings from Proverbs 22-24.

Being a part of these online groups, as well some in-person groups, is an example of the truth of Proverbs 13:20.  I am growing wiser and stronger by intentionally hanging out with people who are also on a journey toward growing wiser and stronger.

I have often quoted the phrase popularized by business leader Jim Rohn: “You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There is always push back with that perspective, especially among those who are in “helping” professions.

The logic seems to run this way: “I am called [either by God or by something else, depending upon one’s faith perspective] to help those in need, especially those who can’t help themselves and can offer me nothing in return.”

I actually embrace that same calling.

What I don’t embrace is the illogical leap that results in a Messiah complex.  My resources, energy, and wisdom are not unlimited.  I am not self-sufficient.  I need companions who are pouring into me so that I have the necessary resources to continue pouring into others.

Bottom line: Make sure you are spending more time with people who are where you want to be (spiritually, emotionally, intellectually) than you are with people who are where you used to be—those who fill your tank rather than those who drain it.

Sometimes that means spending time with them in person.  Sometimes that means reading or listening to them. Sometimes that means being a part of something like the above mentioned Facebook groups or other possibilities that today’s technology provides.

For followers of Jesus, it always means spending time with Him in prayer, interaction with His word, and worship—and doing so both in private and in community.  Our lives matter to God as much as those we seek to help.  It is not either/or.

Who are the five people who are most influencing your journey right now?

086 – What if it is my life that needs realignment? [Podcast]

Give yourself permission to be unplugged, bored, and unburdened.


Welcome to Season 2 of the Your Church Matters podcast.  In this episode (86), I continued on the theme of the previous episode concerning ministries out of alignment.  Sometimes ministries are out of alignment because we have allowed our personal lives to be out of alignment.

Previous episode recap of 3 step process for ministry reboot

Step 1: Review – Is it still needed?  Are resources still available?  Does it have a compelling purpose?  Is it consistent with the current vision?  If the answer to those questions is NO, then maybe it is time to set it aside for a period of time.  If the answer is YES, then we can move to step two.

Step 2: Realign – What is keeping this ministry from effectiveness?  How does it need to be adjusted?  What adjustments will be required in other areas? How does it fit in the big picture?

Step 3: Reboot – Perhaps a new emphasis or focus.  Perhaps a new schedule. Perhaps new structure or system.  Perhaps new input and fresh eyes/ears.

Click here to Access the full Episode 85: When in doubt, Reboot.


Clues that your personal life might be out of alignment

  1. Physical Fatigue:  Maybe you are not getting enough sleep.  Maybe you are getting enough sleep, but you still feel tired and sluggish.
  2. Mental Fatigue: You can’t turn the thoughts off.  You feel like you are on brain overload.  You don’t want to make any more decisions.
  3. Emotional Fatigue: You cannot exercise appropriate empathy for others.  You are either constantly sucked into their drama or you have unplugged emotionally.
  4. Spiritual Fatigue: Your prayer life has become perfunctory.  You become a worship service attender instead of a worshiper. You only read the Bible for preparing sermons, studies, and lessons.
  5. Schedule Fatigue: Your to-do list is out of control.  You have no margin between activities.  Other people are controlling how you spend your time.
  6. Performance Fatigue:  You can’t possibly do enough for God to make up for all He has done for you.  You are keenly aware of this, so you constantly try to work harder, do more, and get better.

For a Biblical example of fatigue, check out Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19.  My friend David Bowman often says, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is have a snack and a nap.”

Positive steps to consider

  1. See your physician to be sure that there is not an underlying physical or chemical condition.  There is nothing to be ashamed of.  Neither of these is a failure.
  2. Start a reasonable program of healthy eating and exercise.
  3. Empower and equip people for ministry rather than doing it all yourself.  (See Episode 2 – How to stay overworked and busy in ministry)
  4. Talk to church leaders about a Sabbatical.  Don’t immediately dismiss this.


An unconventional boost – Declare a Lazy Boring Weekend (LBW)

I recently did this.  You will have to adjust the schedule to make it work for you.  I was fortunate to have Friday – Sunday because I was not scheduled to speak at a church on Sunday.  My wife and I attended special Sunday morning services with friends.


Rules for LBW

  1. Sleep as much as your body wants.  No alarm clock allowed (except to have enough time to get ready for church on Sunday morning).  I slept until 10:00 a.m. on Friday and 9:30 on Saturday.  I took a two hour nap both of those afternoons and a little over an hour nap on Sunday afternoon.
  2. Do only what you want to do.  No guilt allowed for all the things you are not getting done. No doing things out of compulsion or obligation. I sat in my chair and read.  I watched TV. I did some rearranging of my home office and closets.  I only left the house to go to the Post Office and grocery store on Saturday.  I did no work that was not related to our home.
  3. Disengage from multiple electronic stimuli.  I only checked email once a day.  Same with Facebook and that was only to send birthday greetings.  No cell phone playing allowed while standing in line at the grocery store or watching TV.  In Cal Newport’s recent book, Deep Work, he talks about how our constant need to avoid boredom by checking email and social media while doing other things has led to an inability to stay focused on one thing at a time.  Embracing boredom can actually be a useful tool for building focus muscles.
  4. Enjoy conversation more than activity.  My wife and I just enjoyed being together.  Talking, watching TV, snacking, hanging out around the house.  We talked about how I have allowed my life to get out of alignment and some adjustments I need to make.
  5. Don’t turn LBW into a task for yourself or a burden/guilt trip for others.  This is for you.  Allow others along for the ride and benefit, but don’t make rules for them.


LBW is not a cure

A Lazy Boring Weekend won’t fix everything.  It’s simply a time where you give yourself permission to be unplugged, bored, an unburdened so that you can create some breathing room.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

My experience may not exactly fit you.  It may not affect you the same way.

But, what are you expecting to get if you keep doing what you have always done?


Resources mentioned in this episode

Episode 85 – When in doubt, reboot.

Episode 2 – How to stay overworked and busy in ministry

Book – Deep Work (Cal Newport)


How you can help me help others:

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

1. Comment section below

2. Email:

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

Let’s get to work!

We don't need "busy" work. We need meaningful work that keeps us from being "busybodies."


photo credit: Pinterest


There once was a little boy at my house.  Now he’s twenty-five years old and 6’5” and is only at my house occasionally, but there really was a time when he was a little dude.  Way back then, his grandparents gave him this really cool toy John Deere tractor.  When you pushed down on top of the cab, it made a noise like a tractor engine starting up and this little mechanical voice said, “Let’s get to work!”  I think I actually had more fun playing with it than he did, but we won’t go into that.

“Let’s get to work!”  How compelling is that phrase?  I guess it depends on the nature of the work.  If it’s something we initiated, it can be invigorating.  If it’s something we believe to be valuable, we may have a sense of accomplishment.  If it’s something for which we have a sense of calling, we may even be passionate about it. “Work” is certainly multi-faceted.

Now, I’m a fan of “down time.”  I love traveling, reading, playing music, watching TV, hanging out with family.  I like being able to leave the office and feel like I am done for the day.  And I love weekends!  But I also have plenty to do.  When our youngest went off to college and the nest was empty, people asked us how we were handling it.  They knew how involved we always were in our kids’ lives.  The truth is that empty nest life has been so full that we don’t know how we ever managed to get to all their activities.  We find things we enjoy and things that we believe in and we throw ourselves into them.


There is a secret benefit to work

Would you like to know a secret benefit of that?  I hope you would, otherwise you have already stopped reading.  The secret benefit is that staying focused on things that matter to us doesn’t leave much time to criticize—or even pay much attention to—what anyone else is doing or not doing.  Our plates are full with the responsibilities and opportunities before us.

I have spent my adult life mostly interacting with “church people”.  For some strange reason, I have this crazy idea that those who have found grace, forgiveness, and purpose ought to be the most joyful and least critical.  And then I hear some of the critiques from those same people.  And do you know what I have noticed on a fairly consistent basis?  Those who complain the loudest tend to be those who are doing the least.

From that observation I have come to a solid conclusion:  People who are busy with the work of the kingdom of God usually just don’t have time to be busybodies.


People who are busy with the kingdom work of God usually just don’t have time to be busybodies. Click To Tweet


I love this translation of James 1:22-25 from The Message – “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God — the free life! — even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. “

So, because our lives matter to God and because there is so much to do that matters … let’s get to work!  It’s good for what ails us.

085 – When in doubt, Reboot. [Podcast]

A three step process for ministries out of alignment



Welcome to Season 2 of the Your Church Matters podcast.  In this episode (85), I shared how sometimes a ministry needs to be reviewed, realigned, and rebooted.  Part of this episode is a personal testimony of getting out of alignment.



How do you know when a ministry might need a reboot?

  1. It is not being resourced effectively (time, energy, focus).
  2. It is becoming a burden, rather than a joy.
  3. It is draining resources from other ministries.
  4. It has lost its “why.”


A three step process

Step 1: Review – Is it still needed?  Are resources still available?  Does it have a compelling purpose?  Is it consistent with the current vision?  If the answer to those questions is NO, then maybe it is time to set it aside for a period of time.  If the answer is YES, then we can move to step two.

Step 2: Realign – What is keeping this ministry from effectiveness?  How does it need to be adjusted?  What adjustments will be required in other areas? How does it fit in the big picture?

Step 3: Reboot – Perhaps a new emphasis or focus.  Perhaps a new schedule. Perhaps new structure or system.  Perhaps new input and fresh eyes/ears.


What ministries in your church may be in need of a reboot?  How can I further assist you?


A risky move

I’m seeking your input.  I can do most of the internal processing, but I can’t put fresh eyes and ears on this podcast.  What suggestions to you have for me?  What am I doing right?  What am I doing wrong? What is missing or confusing? Please leave your helpful comments below.




I have an answer

And I would love to hear your questions



“I have a question.”

It is not at all uncommon for my conversations to begin that way.  Someone says to me, “I have a question.”  Since that, in itself, is not a question, but a statement that a question exists in the mind of the speaker, what should my response be?

Good for you! Questions are an important part of learning.” Probably not, though I might try it sometime.

Ok …” That seems a little tentative.

So, ask it already!” That seems a little pushy.

Here’s my standard, go-to response: “I have an answer.”  It may not be the right one, but I’ll give it my best shot.


Life is full of questions, but sometimes people are either hesitant to ask:

  1. because they don’t want to look foolish (remember in school when you were afraid to ask because you thought everyone else already knew the answer)
  2.  because they are afraid of the answer (it may require a change in behavior)
  3. because they don’t have a safe forum where they are comfortable asking (fear of ridicule, argument, bullying, etc)
  4. because _______ (you fill in the blank).

I recently asked my email subscribers (use the link on the right sidebar to join my list) what topics they would like me to address in a future blog or podcast.  I’ve been blogging for 7 years and podcasting for almost 2 about whatever topic comes to mind.  I think my topics are timely, but I want to know what questions people have for which I might be able to help provide some thoughtful and gracious perspective.


Here are some of the responses:

  • Church vs. the recliner, how do we get people to feel comfortable coming to our time of Praise, Worship & Bible Teaching?
  • The Things that we can’t get wrong – the essentials.
  • How to find a good church.”
  • Avoiding temptation.”
  • There are so many people out to scam others so how do you know when to help people. I have heard different takes on this but no one wants to be taken so how do you handle this?
  • Balancing truth and grace in today’s culture – applying this perhaps in a series on different real-life issues today.”


Now that’s some good stuff!  I’m excited to dive into some of those in the weeks ahead.  But since my blog also appears in 3 local newspapers, I’d love to hear from those of you who read my thoughts each week with a newspaper in your hands.  I hear from you often when I run into you in person, but you are not likely to share your questions at that point.  I’m not likely to remember them even if you do.

So send me an email at or use the comment section below. It’s a safe place where you won’t be ridiculed and you’ll get an honest and gracious response to the best of my ability and you’ll be reminded that your life matters to God.

Two rules:

(1) No “gotcha” questions.  That’s where you have already made up your mind and you are looking for an argument.  I don’t play that game.

(2) Understand that your question will be answered in the public forum of a blog/column or podcast.  My current commitments do not allow me to engage in a private email conversation with everyone who has a question—as much as I would love to.  I won’t identify you by name publicly, but I will answer your “reader” question.

So, let me hear from you and let’s continue this amazing journey together.  Go …

Have you ever been to the most beautiful place on earth?

What about YOUR most beautiful place?



Have you ever been to the most beautiful place on earth? I have.

Mrs Sweetie and I recently returned from a week in beautiful British Columbia.  Two of our days were vacation days in Whistler, where many of the ski events were held during the 2010 Winter Olympics.  The rest of our time was spent in Vancouver, where I serve as the international advocate for church planting among Farsi speaking people, in partnership with West Coast Baptist Association.

The Metro Vancouver region is an amazingly beautiful and cosmopolitan region, with around 3 million residents from all over the world speaking more than 200 languages.  In the particular area of my advocacy focus, there are over 50,000 Farsi speakers.

We spent an evening in the home of our dear friends, Amin & Sepideh, who came to Canada 10 years ago as United Nations refugees from Iran.  They spoke no English at the time and knew no one.  Amin now is the pastor of Zendeh (Living) Church and Sepideh is pursuing a degree in psychology and works as a translator.

I should probably clear up some confusion.  I don’t believe Vancouver is the most beautiful place on earth, though I love visiting.

I believe the most beautiful place on earth is the place where God sends us.  Wherever Mrs. Sweetie and I are together and serving Him is the most beautiful place on earth.

The church planters we met with last week are serving Him in their most beautiful place.  Many of them (including one from Henrietta, TX) have left home, family, and support systems because they have embraced a mission from God. They see themselves as sent to serve in that place.

I’m currently reading “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society” by Eugene Peterson.  Here are some snippets from what I read this morning:

“Too often we think of religion as a far-off, mysteriously run bureaucracy to which we apply for assistance when we feel the need. We go to a local branch office and direct the clerk (sometimes called a pastor) to fill out our order for God. Then we go home and wait for God to be delivered to us according to the specifications that we have set down. But that is not the way it works. And if we thought about it for two consecutive minutes, we would not want it to work that way. If God is God at all, he must know more about our needs than we do; if God is God at all, he must be more in touch with the reality of our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies than we are; if God is God at all, he must have a more comprehensive grasp of the interrelations in our families and communities and nations than we do … If we want to understand God, we must do it on his terms … The Christian is a person who recognizes that our real problem is not in achieving freedom, but in learning service under a better master … A servant Christian is the freest person on earth.”

Do we see ourselves as sent to serve?  Do we see our neighborhood as our most beautiful place?


Would you be willing to pray for our church planting efforts among Farsi speakers?  Click here for more information and to join our prayer support team.

How to have certainty in the midst of life’s uncertainties

In whom do you trust?



In over 28 years of full-time vocational ministry, I think I have only missed two Sundays because of illness.  On one of those occasions, because I was afraid to leave the house, I had to find a pinch hitting preacher on short notice.  One of my preacher friends gave me a new term for the ailment that I was experiencing: “intestinal uncertainty”.

Now you know why I was afraid to leave the house.

If you have been reading my blog for more than a week or two, you know that my mind sometimes goes in unexpected directions.  That’s a nice way of saying that I may not be exactly normal in my thinking.  Armed with this new terminology, I started thinking about other “uncertainties” that might make you want to just stay home in bed.


Some of life’s “uncertainties”

First, there is “educational uncertainty”.  This happens when you choose to hang out with friends instead of studying on the night before mid-terms.

Then there is “vocational uncertainty”. This happens when you have a difference of opinion with your employer.  And you realize that only one of those opinions matters.

There might be “relational uncertainty”.  This happens when you suspect that your in-laws might be coming for an extended visit.

That could result in “matrimonial uncertainty”. This could happen when you make too many in-law jokes.

Finally, and mercifully, there is “compositional uncertainty”.  This happens when you think you may have exhausted the patience of your readers.

The remedy for uncertainty

Life is full of uncertainties.  Sometimes we are keenly aware of them. I have had conversations with people who are not making any significant decisions until after the presidential election.  They are almost paralyzed with uncertainty over the future.

For those who suffer uncertainty paralysis, I am reminded once again of a passage of Scripture that I have often used as an anchor.  Psalm 20:7-8 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.”

The upcoming election is important and there will certainly be consequences that accompany either candidate’s election.  But neither of these candidates holds the world together.


God does that.


There are also uncertainties that are not so obvious.  James 4:13-15 says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'”

There is nothing wrong with making plans.  But what do you do when the life you planned doesn’t happen?  The answer is the same.  Trust God.  Your life matters to Him.

You can be certain about that.

084 – The #1 question you MUST ask when planning a church event [Podcast]

Spoiler alert: It is the question that is most seldom asked



Welcome to Season 2 of the Your Church Matters podcast.  In this episode (84), I shared 6 important questions to ask when you are planning a church event. I wrapped up with the #1 question that MUST be asked, but seldom is.



6 Important Questions:

  1. The Why Question: why are we doing this event?
  2. The Who Question: who is our target, who do we need, who are our partners?
  3. The What Question: what kind of event is it going to be? (traditional, annual, seasonal, fellowship/community building, outreach, spiritual growth, etc)
  4. The Where Question: where is the best place for us to hold this event?
  5. The When Question: is there a particular time of year, day, week that is the best time for this event?
  6. The How Much Question: how much is it going to cost?


The #1 question that MUST be asked, but most seldom is: HOW does this event fit within our mission/vision journey?

Think of mission as the map of where you are headed and vision as the picture on the front of the travel brochure. (Based on concepts from Will Mancini’s Church Unique)

Events aren’t effective in isolation.  They are steps, not goals.  They are means, not ends.  Keep your events vision-centric.


Events are steps, not goals; means, not ends. Keep them vision-centric. Click To Tweet



Resources mentioned:


New Small Church

Book: The Grasshopper Myth (Karl Vaters)

Previous Podcast Episode 09 – How to have a church failure … And why you should try to

Book: Church Unique (Will Mancini)


Would you like to join me on an amazing Alaskan Cruise with a mission?

Click on the graphic below for more information.  FINAL Registration deadline has been extended to October 1 2016.

ALL-INCLUSIVE prices start at $2,199 and include:

7 Day Cruise on the Ruby Princess
Roundtrip Air Fare – American Airlines
Hotel in Seattle – Bellevue Marriott
Motor Coach Transfers
All Taxes and Fees


How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
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A Pikachu in the hand is worth two Angry Birds in the bush

God is looking for a few good Songbirds



This Pokemon Go thing is nuts! I don’t mean that in terms of mentally unbalanced (though there are certainly those who would be with me on that assessment). I mean that in terms of how it has taken over the world.

This smartphone game app, released on July 6, 2016, hit 100 million downloads by August 1, is played over 30 minutes a day by the average iOS user, is used daily by over 23 million people in the US, and is generating more than $10 million in revenue per day.

This reminds me, albeit on an even larger scale, of the Angry Birds craze from a few years ago. In the height of the hoopla over that one, I wrote a post pondering the Angry Birds phenomenon.

I have never been much into video games, even back when all my friends were popping their quarters into the machine to play Pac-Man and Asteroids at the 7-Eleven, so I just kind of notice things that are going on in the world, ponder them, and offer some commentary. Here’s a little trip down the Angry Birds memory lane as my pondering led me to think about the non-gaming version of Angry Birds—that is to say, the Angry Birds we often encounter (and sometimes become) in life.

I first thought about the Mocking Birds. You know them. They have a remark for every situation. They are experts at making others feel small and insignificant. They know how to point out how people are inferior or unusual. They notice weaknesses in others and know how to exploit it to their own advantage. They love to offer “constructive” criticism and never seem to notice how rarely it is genuinely constructive.

Then I thought about the Birds of Prey (I hesitate to use the word “vultures” but that is probably an appropriate label). These birds go beyond simply mocking. They actually feast on the wounded. They can be mean-spirited for the sake of being mean-spirited. They sometimes even enjoy seeing others in pain. They may even find justification for how someone else “deserves” the pain that they have experienced. Their criticism has no constructive agenda; they just like to “put people in their place.”

Then I thought about the Hummingbirds. They seem so busy. They flit from bloom to bloom and make a lot of noise, never really causing harm, but not really staying in one place long enough to do any good. Once the sweet nectar of a situation becomes depleted, they zoom off to find the next “happy place.” They don’t really mock or prey on the misfortune of others; they just don’t hang around long enough to notice.

You notice that I keep using the word “they.” I wish it were always “they” and “them” who act like Angry Birds, but I am afraid it is sometimes “me” and “we.” So, what are we to do?

Here’s my suggestion for all of us: how about trying to be Songbirds? I’m not just talking about those with a musical talent. You may have a voice like a raven. When you sing, those close to you may plead that you do it nevermore. (Ancient video game references AND Edgar Allan Poe references in the same post!) But, how about letting our lives, our words, our attitudes, and our actions “sing?” How about “singing” over the wounded and weary? How about helping those around us to see and experience the beauty of a life that matters to God?

Psalm 150 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Are you breathing? Let’s tune up and “sing”.