Sunday, December 27, 2009


The Bible is written in ink. Everything else should be in pencil.

I say this because I found out something interesting on the way to the ball. People sometimes like to take what I say as gospel, as if it came off of Mount Sinai. For instance: Deliberate Simplicity. I wrote Deliberate Simplicity because I found the story of CTK to be virtuous and empowering. The priorities of CTK - Worship, Small Groups, Outreach - resonate with Jesus' prioritization: love the Lord with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. I believe we have found great benefit in "keeping the main thing the main thing." But Deliberate Simplicity is an application of the word of God, not the word of God itself.

Jesus asked us to love each other. The primary way we have applied that principle is to organize into small groups for friendship, growth, encouragement and outreach. But small groups are not the only way in which we can love each other. They are "a" way, and a great way, but not the only way. It would be a mistake for us to make small groups out to be a command of Christ. They are an application of the command. I have a friend who is very well connected to other Christian friends. Her family and two to three other families regularly "hang out." They pray for each other. They encourage each other. They meet each other's needs. It is very practical and profound. They are carrying out the "one-anothers" of Scripture. It would be a mistake for me to require her to "get into a small group." In fact, it would miss the point entirely. The point of small groups is so that we do life together. They are doing that; perhaps so well that we all could learn something from them. Small groups are our primary method, but behind the emphasis on groups is a Biblical principle of relationships. It is the principle that is paramount, not the program.

The word of God is eternal. We run into problems when we try to make things that are not timeless, timeless. We run into problems when we take our program and try to make it the formula. Formulism is fundamentalism applied to practice. Remember, if we wrote it, it's in pencil.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I have a low-cost solution to propose for our current health care crisis. A great awakening. Returning to God. Revival. That should solve it.

About 70% of health care costs deal with behavioral choices, from homosexuality to junk food. A physician might call it "lung cancer." Others might say it's reaping what cigarettes have sown. A doctor might diagnose it as diabetes. Another word that might work is "gluttony." A specialist might call it liver disease. A prophet would call it drunkenness. So much of what ails us physically has a deeper root. Unfortunately, our society has become sophisticatedly ignorant. We are experiencing moral amnesia. As I complain to my doctor about my aching knees, I conveniently overlook the fifty pound tummy that those knees are being asked to carry, and the late night bowls of ice cream that were penultimate. I am not the greatest example of taking care of myself. And I guess that's my point. We're asking our health care system to change, and do better. Maybe we should be the ones doing the changing. But first we have to wake up to what's really going on, and quit holding to the unscriptural idea that we can sow personal destructiveness, and somehow, someway have the corporate health care system get a different crop to come in (and by the way, we don't want to pay as much for this modern miracle).

When I told someone recently that I had a personal goal of taking better care of myself, they said something that was very politically incorrect. They said, "Food addiction is the only 'acceptable' addiction in the Christian community." Alcohol? Nope. Pornography? No way. Gambling? No go. Potato Chips? Now that's a tolerable sin! She went on to say that "it is only at a church potluck where a 350 pound person can go back for their fourth plate of food and no one will bat an eyelash." Ok, now you've stepped over the line! That is getting dangerously close to hurting my feelings. But all joking aside, the Old Testament prophets often scoffed at the futility of mankind trying to "perfume the pile" - to make sin smell better. In so many ways it is time for our country, but particularly God's people, to shake off our amnesia. Spiritual problems cannot be solved with political, medical, or psychological solutions. We simply can't come up with enough ingenuity to keep from reaping what we sow.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Was meeting with an associate pastor recently, who had been in business for himself prior to entering vocational ministry. He expressed interested in becoming a senior or lead pastor. When I asked him why he wanted to take that step he said, "Because I have some entrepreneurial instincts, and I'm afraid that if I am not in a position to take risks that those instincts will atrophy and I will lose them." I found that to be a very insightful answer. Faith is a muscle that needs to be exercised or else you'll lose it.

The way to keep walking by faith is to keep walking by faith. If you succumb to fear, you will become more likely to succumb to fear. Harry Truman said, "The worst danger we face is being paralyzed by doubts and fears." If fear takes over, paralysis sets in. There is actually a "fear cycle": Fear leads to Inaction; Inaction leads to Inexperience; Inexperience leads to Inability; Inability leads to greater fear, and the cycle repeats and reinforces itself. If you feel this cycle setting in (as this associate pastor did) you need to take action. You need to take a step of faith.

Jim Collins has written a book called How the Mighty Fall. A few years ago he wrote a hugely popular book entitled Good to Great, about how good companies became great companies. This latest book is about how good companies have become bad companies, that have trended downward instead of upward. Why? Because they were unwilling to take risks. Why? Because they were afraid. The president and the board went into protective mode and were no longer willing to step out. In the process, they lost it. Reminds me of what Jesus said, "Those who save their lives will lose it. The one who loses his life for my sake will find it." Fortunately there are warning signs. Before you die, atrophy starts to set in.