Stop putting God first in your life!

In search of God-centeredness


What are your priorities in life? Let’s not even talk yet about the order of your priorities.  Let’s just identify the priorities themselves.

Let’s see … there’s work (gotta pay the bills, right?), family (they are the reason we have bills),  hobbies (“me” time), friends (we don’t want to get isolated), church (don’t want to get in trouble with God), education (we don’t want our kids being “ignernt), work (yes, we’ve already listed that one, but the bills were a little more than we anticipated), and God (church is not the only place we think about Him … hopefully).

Maybe we better throw in some community service (if it helps us look good and make some “connections,” makes us feel better about ourselves, makes our communities safer for our kids, or supports the causes that are important to us).

I hope that doesn’t sound cynical.  That’s not my intent.  I do think, however, that we tend to identify priorities based on a self-centered approach to life.  By self-centered, I don’t mean selfish or self-absorbed.  A person can be self-centered and generous towards others at the same time.

I think of self-centered this way: every decision is determined by my preferences, my values, my passions, my beliefs, my needs, my desires, my goals, my vision, my energy, my time, my priorities, my calling, my ministry …

So, if I am a person of faith and I start to order my priorities according to the way I have likely been taught in church, it looks a lot like this: God first, then family, then work, then self.  So, how does that work?

Well, God first means that I pray and read my Bible every day and go to church as much as possible. Perhaps community service falls under the “God first” category and I’ll support an organization that is consistent with my faith perspective.

Family second means that I will give as much time and attention to them as possible. I’ll put education under this and try to provide for their current and future needs.  I’ll also make sure that they are in church so that their faith journey is nurtured.

In my work life, I’ll work hard and long and give the very best to my employer so that I can advance, earn a good living for my family, support my church, and set aside something for retirement.

And then whatever is left, I can think about hobbies and personal needs, since self is last.

Sounds good, right?  Except God doesn’t want to be in first place in your life. 

What?  Heresy!  Blasphemy!

I’m not suggesting that anything other than God belongs in first place.  I’m suggesting that putting God in any place in your list is still self-centered.  Our lives matter too much to God for us to live by a list. I’m suggesting that our lives need less prioritizing and more centering.  And what belongs at the center is not a what, but a Who.


Our lives need less prioritizing and more centering. #godcenteredliving Click To Tweet


God wants to be the center of your life.  God wants to be your life and live His life through you.

“And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:4) [emphasis mine]

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) [emphasis mine]

So, what does a God-centered life look like?  I’ll talk about that next week.

When is it time to quit?

Debunking the myth of "Winners never quit!"

“Quitters never win and winners never quit!”  (Vince Lombardi)

“… never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in … “ (Winston Churchill)

“Never give up! Never surrender!” (Galaxy Quest)

I could speculate that more people are familiar with Tim Allen’s character in Galaxy Quest than with Lombardi or Churchill, but that is a whole different speech.

The point is that endurance, effort, determination, stick-to-it-ive-ness — TRY HARDER — is the secret to greatness and significance.

Try harder!  Give 110%!

May I offer another quote?  Thanks for your permission.

“When the horse is dead, dismount.” (Various)

You see, my friends, the real secret to greatness is not determined effort; it is wise and focused effort.  It is not giving 110% to every task; it is giving precisely the right effort to the right task at the right time.  It is not simply doing things right; it is doing the right things.

And sometimes the very best thing to do is quit. 

Quitting something doesn’t mean you are a “quitter.”  Putting “er” on the end of a verb and changing it to a noun indicates that the nature of the noun is to habitually do the verb. You can take the time to re-read that sentence if you need to.  The point is that if you are a quitter it means that you habitually quit.  That’s the part of the Lombardi quote that is absolutely true.  If all you ever do is quit, you won’t ever win.

Quitting something doesn't make you a quitter. It may be a display of wisdom. Click To Tweet

The little-known part of the Churchill quote continues, “never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  Sometimes continuing forward is dishonorable and foolish. (Click here for an audio recording of the entire speech)

Four suggestions to know when to quit

So how do you know when to quit? I certainly couldn’t give every scenario, but here are four suggestions (along with some hard questions):

  1. Quit when the only reason you can think of for doing this is that you have always done it this way and you don’t know another way. (So, you’ve decided to quit learning?)
  2. Quit when it is taking more and more effort and resources to achieve diminishing results. (So, you’ve decided that working harder is more valuable than working smarter?)
  3. Quit when you are more worried about what people will think if you change it than you are about what God will think if you don’t. (So, you’ve decided to be insecurely driven by the whims of self-centered people rather than confidently trusting in the faithfulness of the Eternal Father?)
  4. Quit when you know it is not working, but you are concerned that you will have wasted the resources you have already invested in it. (So you’ve decided to waste some more?)

Maybe the most important thing to quit is worrying. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 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. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Your life matters to God.  He knows how where your effort would be best spent.  He knows what you should quit.  Spend some time listening to Him.

How about joining me for a cup each morning?

Membership open through June 30

Hey, Friends! During the month of June, I am opening membership in my private Facebook group, Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement. I post a brief and encouraging devotional each Monday – Thursday morning (most of the time). No whining or politics; just encouragement drawn from my own time with the Lord each morning. I’d love to have you join me at

What God has did, He done good.

The secret to contentment

There was a particular look in her eyes, a warmth of expression, a glow of deep and abiding contentment, a simple and plain elegance in an unexpected place.  That’s what I remember about her.

That, and one simple statement.

We were on the island of St. Maarten with the North Texas Singers and we had just presented a concert in a nursing home.  Our group of 45 had crowded into a small meeting room with as many residents as the staff could wheel in.  It was hot in that room!

Many of the residents wore the same expressions that you would find in any nursing home anywhere.  But she was different.

After we sang, we tried to interact as much as possible with the residents as we moved toward the exit and our awaiting bus.  I didn’t get to have a conversation with her, but Mrs. Sweetie did.  She reported later that this lady had been a resident of that facility for some time and was grateful to be in a wonderful place with actual windows and doors.  That had not always been her experience.

And then she said it – the statement that neither of us will ever forget.

“What God has did, He done good. And I am happy with what He did.”

In a world where many people spend their lives with a sense of discontent and disappointment, focusing on what they don’t have, feeling robbed and cheated by life and by those who have more, that statement may be the secret to really believing that our lives matter to God. 

“What God has did, He done good.  And I am happy with what He did.”

In a well known passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

You may not be as familiar with the first part of that.  Oftentimes, the focus is on verse 13, “I can do all things …” and the implication is that I can accomplish anything with the help of Christ.  I’ve got the power!

But that’s not what the verse means in context.  I do have the power, but what I have the power to do is live a life of contentment – a contentment that is not dependent on circumstances.  I can look at my life and say, with confidence, “What God has did, He done good.  And I am happy with what He did.”

An old hymn says, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; When you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one; And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

I’m thinking that today, in the midst of all the craziness in the world, is a good day to count some blessings.

“What God has did, He done good.”

Focus and Simplify with the 5 D’s of Response

It's not just for email

We are alike, you and I. Scary, huh? We don’t all do the same things, but since we live in the same world, here’s how you probably are like me:

You get more requests to do things than you can possibly honor.  If you tried to do them all, you would be constantly hopping from one item to the next—all on other people’s agendas—constantly pushing your own life to the back burner, hoping for time to catch up.

Oh, that’s not a hypothetical scenario?  You really are experiencing that?  I have good news for you (and me).  It is possible to focus and simplify our lives through the 5 D’s of response.  (Please note: I said “possible” not “easy.”)

This is not my list.  I’ve seen it from several sources (here’s one from Michael Hyatt), but it is usually presented in the context of managing email.  But it seems to me that it is an effective way of responding to requests that come in any format.

If you are not getting more requests than you can honor, feel free to stop reading now.  See you next time!

For everyone else, here are the 5 D’s of Response. 

  1. Do it.  If the request is something that you can do right now and you can do it in two minutes or less, then do it and get it done.  Some things really are that simple and it keeps all those little requests from turning into a long list.  The two-minute rule is from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity.
  2. Defer it. If you are the right one to do it, but you can’t do it right now, then schedule the action.  Put a deadline on your calendar and schedule the time necessary to work on it. I mean put the work time on your calendar and treat it like an appointment with your most important contact.  Defer is not ignore or procrastinate.  Only things that get scheduled get done.
  3. Delegate it.  The fact that you could do it doesn’t mean that you are the one that should do it.  If there is someone else who could or should do it, then delegate without guilt.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “I’m not the best person to do that, but here’s a name of someone who might be able to help you out.”
  4. Delete it.  Some requests do not require action or response. You are not obligated to return calls or emails to people you don’t know.  You are not even obligated to return emails from people you do know if the email has gone out to a long list.  “Delete” is my favorite button on my keyboard.
  5. Designate it.  Some things don’t require an immediate response and don’t have a fixed date, but there is information that would be handy for future use. Create a filing system, either electronically for those requests that come via computer, or a notepad and file folder for those requests that come in other ways.  You want it to be easy to access. (Searching through 3000 old messages in your inbox is not a good way to do that). Then put a date on your calendar every 6 months to spend 30 minutes looking through your file to see what needs to be kept, deleted, or done.

Remember, I didn’t say this was easy, but I’m convinced that one of the biggest frustrations most of us experience results from the fact that our lives are just too cluttered with maybe’s and someday’s. Jesus said, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” (Matthew 5:37)

One of our biggest frustrations results from lives too cluttered with maybe’s and someday’s. Click To Tweet

Your life—the one God gave you—matters to God.  Live it wisely.

Don’t forget about the Real World

Don’t let “real world” reporting rob you of opportunities for real world living.

Never has there been a time when “news” was more in the news than it is today.  Of course, for the past few months, when “news” is in the news it is more often than not preceded by the word “fake.”

Our culture has been news-obsessed for awhile, but now we have added the obsession with fake news. What’s the definition of fake news?  Well, that would be news whose bias is different from my own.  (He said with tongue firmly planted in cheek)

So, what sources do Americans trust to get their real news about the real world?  According to a recent article from the Barna Research Group the top trusted sources are: TV news (69%), Local newspapers (50%), National newspapers (44%), Online news/content sources (42%), Social media news capabilities (34%), Magazines (25%).

May I give you a warning about ALL those news sources? Don’t get so wrapped up in keeping up with the “real world” that you forget about the real world.

That was confusing, wasn’t it? Let me explain. 

I can think of 4 reasons to limit the amount of time you spend engaging with “real world” news.

  1. There is no such thing as unbiased reporting.  Let me say that again: NO SUCH THING. That doesn’t mean that everyone is fake or can’t be trusted.  It means that it is impossible for anyone, including you and me, to be unbiased about anything that matters.  The only time we are really upset about bias is when someone’s bias is different from our own.  Unless you live in isolation, you are going to come in contact with biases that ruffle your feathers.  For the sake of your own mental, emotional, and spiritual health, it is good to limit the time you spend with your feathers ruffled.
  2. Every news source is going to highlight things that are predominantly negative. The old adage is true: if it bleeds, it leads.  We don’t have the option of living in a world of only sunshine and daffodils, but we do have the choice of the proportion of negativity we allow into our consciousness.
  3. We have no control and little influence on the situations that are reported.  In Stephen Covey’s classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he talked about the circles of concern and influence.  Your circle of concern is large and contains issues about which you are concerned but over which you have no influence.  The circle of influence is much smaller, but contains issues over which you actually have influence.  Don’t miss this great wisdom: giving more time and energy to your circle of concern actually shrinks your circle of influence because you only have so much time and energy to give. Giving more time and energy to your circle of influence actually causes your influence to expand.
  4. The real world is not found on tv or any other media outlet. It’s found in your house, on your street, at your workplace, at your church.  My real world starts every morning when I get up and spend time with the One for whom my world matters.  It continues when I give Mrs. Sweetie a good morning kiss and cup of coffee.  And it rolls on from there.

Don’t let “real world” reporting rob you of opportunities for real world living.

Don’t let “real world” reporting rob you of opportunities for real world living. Click To Tweet

How would you like to pay this debt?

You owe the world yourself


I owe, I owe, so off to work I go

Do you ever feel that way?  You go to the mailbox and find nothing but bills.  Or you have enrolled in paperless billing, so you find your email inbox filling up with those monthly invoices.  Then you choose whether to pay with check, credit, debit, the sale of your plasma, renting out your first-born, or something even more creative.


Bad news, worse news, and good news

Do you ever feel like you owe something to almost everyone? Well, actually, you do.  I’ve got bad news, worse news, and good news.

The bad news is that, no matter how financially secure you are, you will never have enough money to pay your debt to the world.  None of the above-mentioned methods will put a dent in your debt load.

The worse news is that the world owes you absolutely nothing, so you can never collect enough to pay down your debt.

The good news is that you already have everything you need to pay this debt.


Your debt and your resource

So, what is this mystical debt of which you speak, blogger boy?  I’m so glad you asked.  What you owe the world is … wait for it … yourselfYou, my friend, are a priceless, unique treasure and you bring something to the world that no one else brings because no one else is you.

There may be someone with similar skills, passion, knowledge, and experience, but no one else brings your precise blend of those.  Your blend of those is just as unique as your fingerprint or your DNA.

You existed in the mind of God before you ever showed up on the planet, and He had unique plans for you before you ever drew your first breath.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Your unique and significant contribution to the world—your legacy—is what you choose to do with the life you have been given.


Your unique contribution to the world is what you choose to do with the life you've been given. Click To Tweet


Does that seem overwhelming—the idea that you are a priceless resource that you owe the world?  The whole dadgum world?

So, what would it be like if you were to start where you are and work your way out?  What if you determined, starting today, that those who live in your house are going to get the very best of you?  What if you determined to bring the best of you to your work, your neighborhood, your church?  What if you determined that the limited time you have to give in each situation will be filled with the best of your attention, enthusiasm, and love?

And what if you found the source of your unique contribution to the world to be the One who gave you life—the One for whom your life matters?  “For in him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28)

You owe big time! How will you set up your recurring payments?


Do say this.

It will help. I promise.


In last week’s post I talked about some really common, but incredibly unhelpful, things we say to  people who are going through tough times. I won’t go over all the reasons, but here’s the recap of unhelpful things.


  • I understand what you’re going through.
  • That’s just like what happened to ________
  • Let me tell you about ___________
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • The Bible says everything happens for a reason.
  • God won’t put more on you than you can handle.


So, what should you say to someone walking through dark days? 

Here are my top six that I have found to be most helpful whether I have been on the receiving end or the delivering end.


“I’m so sorry you are going through this.”   I’ll admit that a few times I’ve made the mistake of just saying, “I’m sorry.”  That’s not bad or hurtful, but I’ve had more than one person respond, “Why are you sorry? You didn’t cause this.”  I wasn’t apologizing, but I didn’t communicate well that I was hurting because they were hurting.


When we say this, we don’t mean that we’re feeling their pain. We don’t understand what they are going through. We do understand that they are hurting and we want to acknowledge it without minimizing it through cliches or easy answers.


“That must really be painful.” Sometimes what people need more than anything else is to be heard.  They don’t want us to fix them or give them answers.  They just want to know that their struggle is not invisible or inconsequential.  More than once, I have had people say, “Thank you” in response to that simple acknowledgment.


“I’m here if you need me.” When we communicate to someone that they don’t have to walk through this valley alone, we give them an incredible gift.  Just don’t say it if you aren’t really available.  Saying those words and not meaning them is worse than avoiding the person entirely.


“I’m praying for you.”  Almost everyone appreciates prayer.  Even people who don’t care anything about going to church tend to be in favor of prayers offered on their behalf.  But like personal availability, the promise of prayers should be kept.


“Could I pray with you right now?”  That’s better than “Let’s pray.”  Unless the person came asking us to pray, it is best to give them the gift of asking for permission.  I’ve never had anyone refuse, but asking permission communicates that we are here for them and will take this to God on their behalf.  If anyone ever refuses prayer in the moment, my plan is to say, “That’s ok.  Just know that I will be praying for you.”


“I’ve been thinking about you.”  Whether spoken in person or delivered via written note or electronic communication, this reminds a struggling friend that they have not been forgotten.


I said in the headline of this post that I promise these words will help.  I cannot guarantee how a hurting person will respond in the moment.  Sometimes those in pain lash out at everyone.  But I really do promise that these words will help, whether we see immediate results or not.

How can I promise that?  Because our lives and our hurts matter to God and these words are strong reminders of that reality.

Don’t say this.

I mean it.

I was going to title this post “Things you should never say to someone going through a tough time,” but it was too long for a headline.  I might also call it, “Stupid things people say to hurting people,” but that seems particularly uncharitable and might actually qualify as something you shouldn’t say to someone. 

But let me be clear: Words matter.  When we are speaking to someone who is struggling, we can either increase or lighten their burden.  And the fact that we meant it to be helpful and our heart was in the right place doesn’t really count for much if we add to their pain through careless words.

Some unhelpful things people say

“I understand what you’re going through.”  Simply put, no, we don’t.  We may have had a similar situation, but our situation was not theirs because we are not them. We can’t even understand their situation after walking a mile in their moccasins.

Here’s a related one: “That’s just like what happened to my cousin (or pick a relationship).”  No, it’s not, for the same reasons.

A variation on the same theme is when we start telling another story, either our own or someone else’s, that we think is more dramatic than the one being told.  Most of us would likely never say to a hurting person, “Well, that’s nothing!  You should hear this!”  We have a little more sensitivity than that (hopefully). But that’s what we communicate to them when we start another story.  Unless they ask for another story, this conversation is about them.

Here’s another one: “Everything happens for a reason.”  No one, let me repeat, NO ONE ever finds that helpful when they are in the middle of a tough time. Sometimes people console themselves with the thought that there must be a reason for this, but I’ve yet to meet someone who wishes someone would tell them that it happened for some vague reason.  Unless we know, definitively, the reason and can tell them with assurance (which we can’t, by the way), this statement is not helpful and may actually come across as an accusation.

And please don’t say, “The Bible says everything happens for a reason.” The fact that the Bible actually doesn’t say that should be sufficient reason for not going there. In fact, playing the Bible card right out of the gate (how’s that for a mixed metaphor) may not be the best way to demonstrate the character of Jesus and share the gospel.

Furthermore, let’s not throw God under the bus with “God won’t put more on you than you can handle.”  There are two problems with that.  First and foremost, the Bible doesn’t say that.  Anywhere.  Secondly, a drowning person doesn’t need to be thankful they are not wearing cement shoes.  They are still drowning and need to be thrown a lifeline.

a drowning person doesn’t need to be thankful they are not wearing cement shoes Click To Tweet

Having eliminated some of the most common things people say, by identifying them as unhelpful, I should probably tell you some helpful things.  But you are going to have to wait until next week for that. 

Me, too. The gift of going second.

When our courage encourages others.


Do you ever grow weary of people’s drama and complaints?  Do you avoid asking some people, “How are you?” because you know they are going to report their aches, pains, frustrations, and disappointments?  Do social media rants make you want to go on a rant?


If you answered “yes” to any or all of those, you and I are kindred spirits.


I would so prefer to hear someone talk about the good things going on in life.  I’d rather hang around with glass-half-full people or at least the-glass-is-refillable people.  And yes, there are people who I will deliberately avoid if possible, and put a time limit on if avoidance is not possible, because they are joy suckers.


But there is something that we all—especially the person whose face I shave—need to keep in perspective. There is a difference between a self-absorbed whiner and a person who has gathered the courage to cry for help.


One of my new favorite podcasts is the 200 Churches podcast.  Though I haven’t yet met them, the hosts of this podcast are kindred spirits of mine in many ways, particularly because they focus on resources for the small (under 200 in attendance – hence the name) church.  I also resonate with their light-hearted banter and general tone.


Recently, they did a serious episode that was a departure from the usual.  They talked about sexual abuse in the church and interviewed two women who kept their own abuse silent for many years, but who now have a nationwide ministry of hope for victims of sexual violence.


It is estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be victims of sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.  That’s staggering! I can’t begin to scratch the surface of this particular issue in a single post.


What I want to reflect on is something they said at the end of the podcast.  They talked about “the gift of going second” in reference to something that one person makes possible when they break the silence.  That first courageous person makes it possible for someone else to say, “Me, too.”  What a gift!


I’ve pondered the various ramifications of the gift of going second.  Whether a person is breaking the silence about something that was perpetrated on them, admitting a personal struggle with an addiction or harmful habit, or confessing that they don’t understand a perplexity of life or faith, they give others the gift of saying, “Me, too.


Twelve step programs learned the power of this gift long ago.  We all likely have a classmate to thank for asking a question no one else had the nerve to ask.  And James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”


The right kind of confession not only brings personal healing but gives others the gift of going second.



The right kind of confession brings personal healing and gives others the gift of going second. Click To Tweet



I confess that I don’t deserve it, but my life matters to God.  Go ahead and say it: “Me, too.”