Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Read through the Bible

Tomorrow the page turns and a new year begins. Happy New Year!

I want to invite you to read through the entire bible—from Genesis to Revelation—in 2014! How about that for a hefty challenge?

Someone has observed that there are three stages of Bible reading that many students of the Bible pass through. The first is the “cod-liver” oil stage where they treat the reading of the Bible like taking medicine. Although it tastes terrible, they swallow it anyway because they know it is good for them. The second phase has been called the “shredded-wheat biscuit” stage, dry but nourishing. And the third is the “peaches-and-cream” category, where reading and studying the Bible is eagerly anticipated and sincerely enjoyed.”

Speaking from experience,  I have been through all three stages. I just finished reading through the bible on December 28th and I did experience the “peaches-and-cream” stage.

Why should you read through all of Scripture?  God did not give us a comic book. But precisely because the Bible is so challenging, it's satisfying. God treats us like adults.

Why read through the bible? Let’s face it, there’s much about our culture that leaves us feeling deeply trivialized: our indulgence with video games; mind numbing TV; addictions to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

Instead of engaging in social media, engage Scripture. Scripture gets us reading and thinking and studying and discussing and going deeper than we've ever gone before, deeper than we've ever dreamed of going.

So let me suggest three methods for getting through Scripture in 2014:
1. Use a bible reading guide. Click here for many fine reading guides from Ligonier Ministries.
2. For the last four years I use a reading plan called Youversion. You will need to sign up. But the advantage is you can access your reading plan from your phone or computer.
3. Read the old fashioned way. Simply pick up your bible and read it 20 minutes per day.
Thank God for the Bible. Difficult to read, but not impossible. If you decide to accept the challenge for 2014, let me know.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Tomato Effect

In reading through the book, Healthy Congregations, I came across an interesting phenomenon called the tomato effect that I want to share with you. This is what the author says:

Even if evidence steers us in the face that something is needed or effective, we may reject it. If it does not fit our ideas or if we do not want to change course, we can deny, neglect, or trivialize the evidence. Information always has an emotional side to it. The phenomenon has been called "tomato effect."

The tomato was discovered by the Europeans in the New World. Explorers brought it to Spain and from there it spread quickly to Italy and France. The Italians called it pomodoro; the French ascribe aphrodisiac properties to the tomato, pomme d'amour. By the end of the 16th century, the tomato had become a regular ingredient in European meals.

Strangely, the South American fruit transformed European cuisine but had minimal acceptance in North America. Belonging to the nightshade family of plants, some of which are poisonous, the tomato was not grown in North America. Cultivating tomatoes was cultivating death. Despite the fact the Italians and French were harvesting and in and ingesting tomatoes in larger and larger quantities, the belief persisted that tomatoes induced death.

Harvard business professor Theodore Levitt wrote a classic article on the tomato effect he focused on the demise of the railroad industry in America. At the turn-of-the-century, railroads did not cease growing because people and freight no longer needed transportation. According to Levitt, the railroads declined because they believed they were in the railroad business, not the transportation business. Alternative means of transportation developed. Railroads stayed mired in their narrow view. They confused means-railroad with ends-transportation.

In contrast to the story of the railroads is the genius of the Stanley Tool  Company. They train their sales people not to sell electric drills but to sell holes. Stanley is in the  hole business. They keep a purpose, a goal, or an end in view. The means are simply ways to get there, not the ends in themselves.

How many congregations believe they are in the we exist for ourselves business rather than the we are in business to the community, even the world business? How many congregations confuse the way we have done things for decades with the larger apostolic purposes? How many congregations mistake the means for the ends? Something to think about! (Healthy Congregations by Peter L. Steinke)