Monthly Archives: July 2009

Deep Change Again

Deep Change is going to be one of those books that I’ll read again in a few months. It is one of those convicting books that points to things that are wrong within and without. That is, within me (unfortunately) and outside of me (easier to see? maybe. For sure, easier to accept).

It is also one of those books with unexpected insight in pithy sentences and passages like:

“Excellence, by definition, requires continued deviance from the norm” (174).

Or this one regarding an organization that said they wanted to be a high performance team. A group of bright, well-intentioned people who very much wanted to fulfill the objectives of their company:

They were initiating a number of rational steps on the hard side of the change process. The tasks they were performing included rearranging boxes on the organizational chart and writing new policies. They were not, however, acting like a team. (182)

Which leads to an extended consideration of “talked-about” behavior; desired behavior, and actual behavior. Guess which one matters according to the author.


Deep Change

  • Most people like change as long as it doesn’t mean that they have to change. The challenge for organizations is that deep change in most situations will require significant personal change on the part of leaders, yet those leaders may often be the last to embrace the need to change because it is uncomfortable.
  • Leaders often think that they are where they need to be and everyone else must change to be like them. We are often wrong.
  • The more we are committed to personal survival (or personal convenience or personal comfort) in an organizational setting the less we will embrace deep changes that may be required. The more we are committed to realizing a vision the more likely we will be a significant instrument of transformation and change.

I jotted these notes in my journal this week as I read the first half of Deep Change by Robert E. Quinn which is one of the books recommended at our  SonScape retreat. It is not a “Christian book”, but I’m finding it quite applicable to my life and to the church. A bit convicting and challenging. Dang. That probably means I will need to be changing, growing, repenting of immaturity and more. Glad I’ve got the power of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.

God’s Will

Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung is sub-sub-titled “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.”  The book not only hits it target, it makes some great points along the way. And it has much to offer to Christians of all ages … not just students and young adults.

The basic message is the same as found in MacArthur’s small book but fleshed out, somewhat expanded and updated. It is more accessible than Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God. Essentially we need merely to do what God clearly reveals as his will in Scripture, and then do what we want. We need to use wisdom rather than magic to make choices. We are to walk by faith.

We must renounce our sinful desire to know the future and to be in the control. We are not gods. We walk by faith, not by sight. We risk because God does not risk. We walk into the future in God-glorifying confidence not because the future is known to us but because it is known to God. And that all we need to know. Worry about the future is not a character tic, it is the sin of unbelief, an indication that our hearts are not resting in the promises of God (48).

I particularly like the author’s insight that having so many choices in America today might feed our preoccupation with the will of God. “People living on a dollar a day just don’t have that many choices to make” (33). And the rebuke that often we want God to tell us what to do rather than make courageous decisions that will commit us to something while cutting off other options. I’ve made a similar point with my former staff, but DeYoung writes,

Let’s not spiritualize our inability to make decisions in the quest to discover God’s will (36).

“Decide” comes from the Latin word decider, meaning “to cut off,” which explains why decisions are so hard these days. We can’t stand the thought of cutting off any of our options.

Give this book to anyone facing decisions … particularly high school and college students. They will thank you.

Wedding With a View

View from Newcastle

I had the privilege of officiating at a wedding this past weekend at a local golf club. The groom was beaming, the bride was radiant and beautiful as all brides are. And the day was one of those “chamber of commerce” days where you could see forever and realize how big even our local “world” is.

In my remarks to the couple I mentioned that the traditional vows they were making went back hundreds of years and that in making them they were linking to a much larger picture, a larger community, made up of those who have painted the metaphorical landscape of Christian marriage and commitment. Several in the audience had made similar vows as well and smiled as as the couple repeated the oft-heard words.

In fact, they were the very vows exchanged by Linda and I almost 38 years ago (August 7). I did not wish to lecture, but could almost hear myself saying to them that from our viewpoint, much farther along in life and marriage, that these words which are such a brief moment in the ceremony are the most important. They establish strength and confidence for those days that might not hold so much beauty.

Life Update: Against Common Sense

“What were you thinking!?” seems to be the primary response I get when I tell the story of our recent life choices. I understand the reaction since very little of what we are doing seems to fit with common sense. And these are big decisions that include resigning a nice position, and selling our home in the midst of one of the deepest recessions in 70 years.

I have to admit that it is a tad scary. Yet we have a settled confidence that God is working in the midst of the changes in our lives. We are well aware of the fact that our choices may bring difficult consequences, and we hope to remember well lessons learned in our early years of marriage and ministry:

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Philippians 4:11-12, ESV)

While I don’t like revisiting the lessons that may come, I hope that we will continue to remember the simple secret:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13, ESV)

Ordinarily Poor Preaching?

“Part of me wishes to avoid proving the sordid truth: that preaching today is ordinarily poor. But I have come to recognize that many, many individuals today have never been under a steady diet of competent preaching. As a consequence, they are satisfied with what they hear because they have nothing better with which to compare it. … As starving children in Manila sift through the landfill for food, Christians in many churches today have never experienced genuinely soul-nourishing preaching and so they just pick away at what is available to them, trying to find a morsel of spiritual sustenance or helpful counsel here or there.

I was somewhat stunned by this quote from Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon. Ordinarily poor? Somehow I think that’s even more damning than being extraordinarily poor.

Gordon is passionate about his topic, and possibly overstates his case at times, but, sadly, his words ring too true. I know that I’ll be more aware of some of these issues as God give me opportunity to preach.


It’s been said that Hollywood is brilliant at making fake things look real and Christians are brilliant at making real things look fake. Phil Cooke. HT: Kem Meyer.

Why does this strike so many of us as true? How is it that many believers play at being Christians … the most amazing and real thing that there is.