The Tiger in the Woods

24 02 2010

“I was unfaithful, I had affairs; I cheated…I’m deeply sorry.”[i]

-Tiger Woods

This past Friday (Feb. 19th) was another day in the history of disgraced superstars as famed golfer Tiger Woods apologized on every major media outlet for his serial infidelity.

But what made Tiger’s press conference unique was not the length, but the reference to his Buddhist religion. As his Thai-born mother sat nearby, Woods said part of his rehab would include a return to his Buddhist faith. Woods said his mother raised him as a Buddhist, and he practiced his faith “until I drifted away from it in recent years.”[ii]

In past interviews, Woods has referred to the practice of Buddhist meditation as giving him the focus needed in golf. “In therapy I’ve learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping it in balance with my professional life,” Woods said. “I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me, my marriage and my children.”[iii]

“He was reaffirming his own family’s tradition,” said Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University.[iv] In January, Fox News analyst Britt Hume, in a roundtable discussion about the controversy, said that Tiger should turn his life over to Jesus Christ for the needed forgiveness of his sins.

Tiger’s comments about his Buddhist faith seemed timed to counter the comments by Britt Hume. No one knows for sure, but what is undeniable is Tiger’s desire to rehabilitate his image and his life through the worldview, tenets, and structure of Buddhism.

The religion called Buddhism was founded by Gautama Buddha, a rich nobleman’s son, about 150 BC, Buddha abandoned his wife and son to become a wandering ascetic in search of truth.[v]  Buddhist historians tell us that after 7 years of wandering, inquiring, and meditating, he found “the true path to enlightenment,” under the legendary tree of wisdom.[vi]  The teachings of Buddha are embodied in “Four Noble Truths”: truth of suffering; cause of suffering; cessation of suffering; and the truth of the way to remove suffering. According to Buddhism, “Existence is pain…the cause of suffering is craving…and the truth to remove suffering involves a comprehensive system of moral cultivation [through an 8 fold path].”[vii]

In Buddhism there is no God to trust or believe in. Buddha placed man within the tension of the eternal “now.” Buddhism offers the opportunity to be Buddha, if we do the work. It’s already there, it’s who we are,” said Darren Littlejohn, a Buddhist and author of The 12 Step Buddhist, a book about addiction recovery. He said Woods’ comments reflected the Buddhist belief that “life is suffering. It’s based on attachment, anger and desire.”[viii]

If Buddhists do violate certain precepts — killing, stealing and sexual misconduct among them — then they are subject to the law of karma.

“What people need to understand about karma is that it is based entirely on volitional action,” said Charles Prebish, a Buddhist studies professor at Utah State. “If one chooses to do an act that is morally inappropriate, then one will reap the rewards. In Tiger Woods’ case, one could say that some of those repercussions seem to be immediate. The negative karma that he accrued is starting to bear fruit.”[ix]

Meaning? Tiger’s rehab will involve Tiger trying to rehab Tiger with Tiger power! The Tiger within must break through his negative karma. The Tiger who met the press on Friday is the same Tiger that slept with countless women and is the same Tiger who will look deep within to find the hidden “middle path” that will lead to enlightenment. Good luck Tiger.

I hope and pray the best for Tiger. Tiger will need all of our prayers. The path he is on will be profoundly difficult, albeit impossible.  For Tiger, luck and self-discipline will be key. He has no one but himself to depend on. 

Living a lifestyle of integrity is not easy for anyone. Even for the Jesus follower, let’s be honest—when we look in the mirror each day, we see what Martin Luther once quipped, “Iustus et peccator simul,” meaning “saint and sinner.” So, we don’t cast stones but rather we look at the poor state of Tiger Woods and we realize that there is a sinner within all of us. We are both saint and sinner, declared righteous in Christ, and yet encased within a sinful nature.

However, as Jesus followers we don’t believe in ourselves, we don’t believe in inner karma, middle paths, or the eternal now. We don’t look within; we look without!  We don’t look in the mirror each morning and chant, “I can, I can, I can,” rather we stare at the “peaccator simul,” and say “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” but, “Jesus can.” We look not at our suffering; we look at His suffering. We rely not on our power: we rely on His power. And this makes all the difference.



[i] AP sports story by Bob Baum in FoxNews Internet

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] AP February 20, 2010

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, p. 235.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Encyclopedia of Religion, p. 95.

[viii] AP ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

A Letter to Mountain Springs

16 02 2010

What a Year!

I’m writing each of you to share my heart with you.  This past year is one of the most redemptive of my ministry life, and has brought many transitions into the life of our church fellowship.  Some of these changes have been difficult, but most have brought great praise to my spirit and I believe all have brought glory to God.  I so appreciate the countless people who have shared, emailed, facebooked or called Liz and me and our pastoral staff to share their prayers and love.  Thank you for your friendship, love and prayers. 

God surprised us with some changes in our plans this past year.  We never anticipated this but eagerly welcomed God’s work in so many lives. 

  • 2 spontaneous weekend baptisms that led to 200+ men, women and children giving their hearts more fully to Jesus
  • VBS in June was another huge surprise with over 1100 children attending, making it our largest VBS ever
  • Josiah Dangers transitioning from youth ministry to becoming our Worship Life Pastor
  • Welcoming Chris Fetters as our Student Life Pastor

These changes have led to greater intensity, focus and vision for your ministries. 

It’s exciting to see the growth throughout our Church. From Family Life coaching and support, to Community Life Small Groups, changes are happening that are bringing both growth and transformation.  As we add a fourth service to accommodate what God is doing, please keep the Pastoral Elders in your prayers.  These changes are exciting and they will take much planning, creativity and leadership.

The Right Type of Change

Change can be difficult.  But the right kind of change can be transformational.  Change is good if it draws us closer to Jesus.  Change is wonderful when we allow it to create a deeper hunger for more of God’s power, influence and love in our lives.  Change is important in our growth as Jesus followers.  Change has the potential to sharpen and develop us.  This past year was like many of the seminal events of my life.  Throughout my life, change has been orchestrated by God to transform me.  All of these transitions, though hard at the time, have turned out to be a deep blessing later.  Let me recount a little of my journey.

Jesus Saved Me

Jesus saved me in my freshman year at the University of Georgia.  At the time, I was a happy, pagan jock that loved gymnastics, girls, southern rock music and having lots of fun.  God apprehended me in my self-satisfied pride, showed me my sin and gave me a hunger to follow Him (but God has yet to deliver me from southern rock).  The cross of Jesus revolutionized my life forever.  When Jesus saved me, I gave up everything I knew at the time to follow Him.  The day after I surrendered my heart to Jesus, everything changed.  I started sharing my faith with anyone who would listen and before I knew it, God opened up Bible studies all over the campus.  I began to devour any Christian book I could get my hands on.  My life on the gymnastics team was turned right-side up and over the next few years, half of the team gave their lives to Christ.  Jesus rocked my life with a radical change.

This new-found faith led me to the mission field in China, smuggling Bibles.  That’s where I met a foxy blonde from UCLA who looked like she needed a man like me in her life!  It took her three years and two continents to finally acknowledge that need.  This was a wonderful change in my life.

Our Adventure

Our adventure led us to Okinawa, Japan, and later to Pasadena, California.  It was during our three years in southern California that God spoke through visions, dreams and many prophetic encounters that He was guiding us to plant a church in Colorado Springs.  After much prayer, seeking advice and receiving God’s confirmation, we made the move to Colorado.  We had no team and no money, we moved to a city where we had never lived and had no equity.  But we did have faith in a great God who does the miraculous.  And we believed that Jesus had called us and anointed us for this new pioneer effort.  It was a scary but exciting change.

God Built a Church

Over the next fifteen years God gave us favor.  From the beginnings in our basement, with no money and no people, God built a church.  Yes, He built Mountain Springs even as we struggled through the internal, spiritual and relational battles that go with planting a new body of believers.  Hundreds of people were saved, hundreds of people thought I was weird, hundreds became leaders, and over time the family of Mountain Springs grew and matured.  Leaders came and went.  We planted thirteen other churches during this time.  Ministries were started, stopped and redesigned.  Pastors came and moved on.  Change was the air we breathed. 

Exhaustion was the atmosphere I lived in—perpetually.  It was during these years that I came close to a mental and emotional breakdown.  Panic attacks and depression were constantly knocking at the door of my life.  Jesus, Liz, my family and friends sustained me.  Liz is my best friend and she always stood strong even when her husband wasn’t too much fun to live with.  Pastor Daniel and Laurie, Dan and Beth Balch and countless others who have never given up on the original vision of Mountain Springs have continued to be strong arms that have picked Liz and me up over these years.  Change was hard, and even when we wanted to give up, God never quit.  I am so grateful.


The past seven years have been the busiest of my very busy life.  The growth of the church has been amazing and surprising.  We never expected nor planned to grow from 500 to 3500 so quickly.  It has been difficult but exhilarating.  The constant need for more staff, more buildings and more ministries to accommodate the needs of a growing body of believers has taxed us all.   Not to mention the pressure of a growing family—God blessed the Holt family with two more children during these years (#6 and 7).  The constant need to identify and deploy new leadership and new programs has been more than overwhelming.  We have been in a proverbially “over-our-head” mentality for seven years.  These changes have been simultaneously thrilling and tiring. 

Just to put this in perspective:  in a five year span, we built three multi-million dollar buildings, increased our staff from 7 to 40, and watched our budget grow from $600,000 to over $3 million!  We developed programs that failed, thrived, stopped and started.  As I spoke regularly for five services every week, I developed tendinitis in my ankles, planter-fasciitis in my heels, regularly lost my voice and struggled to keep up. 

Self-Discovery Means Change

As the pressure of ministry has increased, so has my need to understand the limitations of my gifts, talents and skills.  Starting in the fall of 2008, under the guidance of Pastor Daniel and Nathan Baxter (our consultant), the Pastoral Staff Team began to evaluate our gifts, talents, skills and ministry areas in order to better discover God’s specific bulls-eye purpose for our church.  This has been a time of constant study, discussion and testing to find what God has “hardwired” us for.  All of us are growing in our personal discovery of God’s specific and targeted gifts for our pastoral lives.

Over the past two years through much prayer, counsel, reading and discussion with respected leaders, I have been gradually moving away from the day-to-day leadership of the church.  It has become increasingly clear that I’m not a great manager or a very good administrator.  The church has long outgrown my ability to lead all the details.  Everyone has known this—but it’s taken me a while to realize that my need to oversee and lead almost every sector of the church has hampered growth and productivity.

So, this year I have given the day-to-day leadership responsibility to Pastor Daniel.  His leadership, character, detail-orientation, people-skills and passion for Jesus are clear for all of us to see.   His loyalty to the vision and values of Mountain Springs are unquestionable.  His ability to make things happen through leaders has been tested for almost eleven years.  Daniel and Laurie’s friendship through all of these years of highs and lows is truly amazing.

A month ago, I resigned as the chairman of the Board of Elders and handed the chairmanship over to Denny Yoder. Denny and his wife Deb have been supportive members of Mountain Springs for over ten years.  His expertise in managing and overseeing a large organization as well as his love for our vision makes this an ideal transition.  Denny is a retired Air Force Colonel and is currently special adviser to the President of International Students, Inc.  His loyalty, coupled with his gifting as a coach and manager, have made him a perfect fit for taking over the Elder Board. 

The Next Twenty Years

In the first letter to the Corinthians we read, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (7:17). As I have sought the Lord for His vision for Mountain Springs and my life as the senior pastor, He once again reminded me of the following five things that He spoke and assigned to me: 

•             “marry Liz” – 1983

•             “plant a church in Colorado Springs” – 1991-1994

•             “build and rebuild the Church” – 1992

•             “build and rebuild the Family” – 1992

•             “plant 1000 churches” – 1994

God has uniquely hardwired me to be a visionary leader and teacher of God’s Word.  As I gaze into the next twenty years of ministry, I am asking God to position me in the place where I can make the most impact for the Kingdom of God.  As I meet with pastors, leaders and friends, it becomes evident that I am in a transition from working more in the church to exclusively working on the church.  I am called to move from being the pastor of one church to being a missiologist-overseeing leader who is guiding many churches.  My job description will now have five key aspects: 

1.            Visionary Leadership | One of my main responsibilities as Senior Pastor at Mountain Springs will continue to be seeking and leading the missional vision of MSC.  To accomplish this better, the day-to-day leadership will continue to be led by Pastor Daniel and our Pastoral Elder Team.  This change, since the summer of 2008, has been a good transition for all of us.  Pastor Daniel’s leadership has led to a very healthy Pastoral Elder team.

2.            Connecting the Bible to our Culture | I love teaching the Bible and connecting the scriptures to our culture.  I consider the study of the Word of God and theology as one of the most important responsibilities for the overall health and growth of our fellowship.  I believe that the power of the Spirit flows most effectively to change lives through the practical teaching of the Bible.  Our style of teaching God’s Word book by book lends itself to the need for much study and preparation, which will continue to occupy much of my time.

3.            Leading a Revolution of Love for our City | God has given us a vision for a revolution of love for our city.  We believe that God wants us to plant new campuses of Mountain Springs Church.  Through strategic prayer, planning and raising up leaders, we endeavor to establish new MSC campuses in the years to come.  My role will be the central teacher for all new campuses through video broadcasts. Pastor Daniel, along with a select leadership team, will be developing the key strategic plan for this expansion.

4.            Leading a Church Planting Network | God has reignited my heart for church planting.  Though MSC has planted 13 churches, the past few years have been a time of missional drift in this area.  Many years ago God spoke to me to plant 1000 churches.  God is rekindling that vision and I will be focusing more energy on the development of the Word and Spirit Network, our church planting/church networking ministry.  This new role will mean connecting with existing church planting networks and setting a strategic plan for WSN over the next twenty years.

5.            Writing Materials for MSC and the Body of Christ | Currently I’m working on a book on marriage and I have a deepening vision to write articles, materials and books on the family and the purpose of the Church.  Taking the needed time for writing will be increasingly important in my role of building up the Body of Christ.

Get Ready!

I’m excited about the future!  The wind of the Spirit is blowing and we are setting our sails.  The church over the past six months has been growing and we will have added another service (Saturday night 4:30pm) to facilitate what God is doing.  New small groups are being developed, many people are getting saved and Easter is just around the corner.  We are beginning a revolution of love in our city!  It doesn’t get much better than this!  Get ready for the adventure of your life.