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Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

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A Tree Planted by the Water

Last week I painted a picture of the Mountain of God. On this mountain we are warmed and energized by the same light. On this mountain, we move closer to God, closer to each another, closer to truth. There is no “us” and “them.” There is room for everyone. The mountain of God is not a religion. It is the end of religion, the triumph of the Kingdom of God. The essence of the this Mountain is four relationships. The relationship between you with God. The relationship between you and your close...


The Mountain of God

Question Anything But Church In case you missed it, I am making an outrageous claim. I am saying that the church is not a natural extension of the message of Jesus but a radical departure from it. If you haven’t questioned my sanity, I question yours. I am taking a swipe at one of the fundamental building blocks of western civilization. People have debated the tenets of Christianity for ages: the nature of God, the divinity of Christ, what happens when we die, how to be saved, the right way...


A Kingdom Manifesto

Free at Last! Free at Last! I am free in a way that I have not been since high school. I’m not going to strip clubs, or drinking heavily, or driving down the wrong side of the road. I remain happily married to my wife. It is not my behavior that has changed. It is the world around me. It’s suddenly gotten bigger. God is no longer a small certainty but a vast mystery. I love questions for which there are no answers. I stretch my arms and wiggle my toes. I am becoming my uninhibited, undiluted...


Breaking up with Church Is Hard to Do

Buried Alive! I used to wake up from a nightmare in which I was buried alive. If it were just a matter of dying, suffocation would be no worse to go than many other ways. It’s wasn’t the dying that scared me, It was being confined to a small space, unable to m ove, running out of oxygen, alone in the darkness. This dream was no accident. Several years ago, my world started to shrink around me and start to choke me. I didn't understand this. I had a great family, a nice house, a loving...


Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Other Power Plays

Introduction It was five years ago when I first realized I had to leave the church. It’s hard to describe how completely devastated I was by this. The church defined my whole world, everything from my weekly activities, to the origins of the universe to the meaning of my life. All of this was shattered when I left the church. I tried not to. I thought that if I stepped back for a season, I would be able to step back in. Maybe I was just burned out. Maybe I was just misplaced. But when I...


If Church Is So Bad, Why Is It So Full of Good?

I began this summer series by giving seven reasons why I found it necessary to leave the church. Then, two of weeks ago, I showed that the word “church” is a very good word not found in the Bible to describe an institution not found in the Bible. Last week, I offered a definition of ecclesia that I consider in line with Jesus’ intent. If you haven’t picked it up already, I am conflicted about church. I would have no problem if it was all bad. I would kick it to the curb and move on. But it’s...


Ecclesia Is Everyone

The Rise of the Dones Good people are leaving church. They’re not leaving one church to look for another. They’re ditching the whole institution. It’s easy to write these people off as whiners but it goes deeper than this. In his book, Church Refugees, Josh Packard shows that these are not fringe people with petty gripes. They are pastors and staff, deacons and elders, ministry leaders and board members. People who have given their lives to church. They don’t leave easily, but when the do,...


Church: An Odd Translation with a Sketchy Past and an Outrageous Claim

“The contempt which I had to fear because of the novelty and apparent absurdity of my view nearly induced me to abandon utterly the work I had begun.” —Nicolaus Copernicus Shifting the Center of the Universe In the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus shook the world by demonstrating that the earth was not the center of the universe. Copernicus was a devout Catholic and knew his ideas would not go over well with the church. He was smart enough to publish them on his deathbed and avoid...


Seven Reasons I Left the Church to Follow Jesus

Introduction Why Church Can Never Be Fixed For as long as I can remember, people have been trying to fix the church. The idea is that if we find the right formula we can get things back on track. We modernize the music, reformat the service, put a finer point on the theology, change the meeting place, make it harder, make it easier, make it sexier, make it stodgier… In spite of endless tweaking, the statistics all point in the same direction: church is dying. The reason why no modification...


Habit #7: Rest – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Why God Took the Day Off In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey recommends “sharpening the saw.” The idea is that every now and then you need to take some time off to refresh. This will make you more effective than if you keep sawing away and never take a time to recharge. It’s good advice with which I wholeheartedly agree. But it has nothing to do with God’s rest. God did not rest to “sharpen the saw.” God rested because he was finished. God saw all that He had made,...


Habit #6: Shine – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

This week is pure fun. Shining is not a chore. It’s not a task on your to-do list. It’s not cranking up a factory to produce something. It’s more like breaking up a log jam to let a river flow. The first five habits are about breaking up the log jam. When you practice them, it is impossible not to shine. Let’s review: Habit #1 Make brokenness a door You admit your need. You don’t pretend all is well. You declare bankruptcy and throw yourself on God’s mercy. Habit #2 Trust Jesus You take...


Habit #5: Love Everyone – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Rejected! How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best Dr. Seuss movie ever. In the 2000 version with Jim Carey, the Grinch lives in exile and on a snow-covered mountain. Every day he wallows in his hatred for the people of Whoville. How did this situation arise? Rejection. The Grinch was different from the other kids so they were cruel to him. He packed his bags and went into exile. The story is about how a little girl named Cindy Lou softened his heart with love and brought him back to...


Habit #4: Let God Love You – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Dueling Billboards As Julie and I travel around the country, we see many billboards and church marquis. Most of these say in one way or another that God loves us. But along with these glad tidings of a loving God stand others, which tell a very different story. One of these, for example, has a picture of glowing clouds on the left and wicked flames on the right. It read, Where will go when you die? Heaven or Hell? An 800 number was given to find out. Another warned in giant, capital letters,...


Habit #3: Hope in God – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

We Owe the IRS. What’s Your Story? Julie and I just got our tax information. We were hoping to get money back this year but due to some stupidity on our part and bad advice we owe $5136. The real challenge is not coming up with $5136. The real challenge is not letting the bad news sink us in a pit of despair. What did we do wrong to bring all this on ourselves? Why can’t we live on easy street like other people? Is God punishing us? These are foolish questions. The truth is that no one lives...


Habit #2: Trust Jesus – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Shooting Star The summers of my college years were spent working with youth at a big church in Richland Washington. I loved all of the kids but there was a special connection with a few. Jeff was one of those. He showed up early to help me set things up and was one of the last to leave. Some mornings we met to go jogging together. That’s why, one evening, when we couldn’t find Jeff, I was worried. We had been waterskiing on the Snake River. The boat would take five or six kids out at a time,...


Habit #1: Make Brokenness a Door – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

How I Lost It Like most young people, I started life optimistically. I married a beautiful girl, started a church, built a house and raised three kids. Everything went according to the script, except that somewhere along the way I developed a slow leak. Julie and I went from a tiny apartment, to a condo, to a small house, to our dream house on an acre. It was an exciting trip that took over 20 years, but suddenly, it was over. All that was left was maintenance and repairs. My youthful...


Wholeness – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

The Night I Met God This is one of my first childhood memories. My mom had tucked me in and I was staring at the ceiling when, suddenly, I was in the presence of God. I felt loved. I felt safe. I felt happy. I felt things too wonderful to describe. I wasn’t lying in bed. I was lying at the end of the rainbow. The sensation was so intense that I had to tell someone. I got up and shuffled across the hall to my parents’ room. They looked at me bleary-eyed, probably wondering why I wouldn’t go...


Happiness - Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Happiness “What has happened to Walker?” asked Susan. Connie’s friend from work had come over to sit on the porch and watch the sun set. “What do you mean?” asked Connie. “I saw him yesterday at the Lumber Depot,” said Susan. It’s like he’s a new man. So full of life. Don’t get me wrong. He’s always been a good guy. But lately it seems like he really enjoys his job. Yesterday I was looking for some light bulbs and he greeted me like I was his long lost friend.” Connie laughed. “I know! I...


The Meaning of Life – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Chapter 6: The Meaning of Life It had been nine months since Lizzie’s death. Walker was working in his aisle at the Lumber Depot, rearranging extension cords. His old depression had set in. He stared at the coil of orange extension cord in his hand. Everything seemed so meaningless. It wasn’t that his life was all that bad. Lizzie’s death was still a wound but there were days when it was becoming tolerable. Angela was right. Every now and then he even smiled. Amy and Angela’s gift had taken...


The Good Samaritan – Curb Your Dogma: Where we leave the beaten path to follow Christ

Chapter 5: The Good Samaritan Three weeks later, Walker was eating lunch in the break room. Angela sat down across the table and opened her lunch sack. They discussed the new company policy of wearing hot pink targets on the front of their work aprons that proclaimed “Ask me! I’m your man!” “I’m not even a man!” laughed Angela. “And I look terrible in hot pink,” shot back Walker. “Who comes up with this stuff? “Corporate I suppose,” answered Angela. “I’m sure it sounded great at the company...