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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Don’t get crowded out

Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a pioneer medical missionary and explorer in Africa in the 19th Century. He was known for his steely determination in the face of suffering. Three famous quotes reveal that attitude:

“Cannot the love of Christ carry the missionary where the slave-trade carries the trader? I shall open up a path to the interior or perish.”

“I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

In response to a question asking if there was a good road so that his organization in England could send people to help him, Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”

That sense of persistence and perseverance is seen in the distinction between the crowds who came to listen to Jesus and the disciples who followed Jesus.

In the gospel of Mark, crowds form audiences for Jesus’ teaching and are the object of his compassion. However, they do not turn to Jesus in repentance and belief, as the gospel requires (1:15). In contrast, disciples do whatever it takes to follow Jesus. They do not let obstacles get in the way or prevent them from bringing people to Jesus.

The following chart, based on a study of Mark 2:1-12, illustrates the difference between the crowds who listened to Jesus and the disciples who followed him.

Crowds

Disciples

Stand/Sit – There was standing room only in Capernaum (2). The religious leaders were seated in the front row (6).

Follow – Disciples don’t have time to sit. They are too busy bringing needy people to Jesus (3).

Listen – The crowds were content to listen to Jesus preach (2).

Act – Disciples are active, living out Jesus’ instructions to be “fishers of men” (1:17).

Passive – The crowds see an obstacle and stop there (2).

Persistent – Disciples don’t let a crowd keep them from achieving their goal (4).

Doubt – The crowds question and challenge Jesus’ teaching and identity (6-7).

Believe – Disciples believe that Jesus can meet them at their point of need, and they live out their faith (5).

Block access – The single biggest thing crowds do is keep people from Jesus (4).

Bring people – Disciples go the extra mile to bring people to Jesus (4).

Hinder ministry – Ultimately, the crowds get in the way and stop ministry from happening.

Promote ministry – Disciples will do anything to make ministry happen, even if it means making a mess and tearing up the roof (4).

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Bible Study, Scripture

 

Where is the life God promised us?

Book Review: Rumors of God: Experience the kind of faith you’ve only heard about, by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson

In a hectic, busy, fast-paced life, God is often pushed to the background. We hear people talk about the abundant life he promises, but it all seems like a distant and vague rumor to most of us. How do you develop a deeper, richer, and closer relationship with God in a frantic world?

Most authors answer this question by encouraging people to practice spiritual disciplines—Bible study, prayer, fasting, journaling, and the like. Authors Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson suggest focusing on eight spiritual practices. Through the practice of generous giving, expressing love instead of indifference, demonstrating grace rather than judgment, enjoying the freedom that comes through letting go of resentment and forgiving instead, committing oneself to worship in a local church, sharing life in community, pursuing justice, and dispensing hope, we can experience the reality of God’s power and glory in our lives.

In essence, the main idea of the book is summed up in three words—“live as if.” Live as if Christianity was true, and your emotions will catch up with your practice. By obeying the commands of Scripture, you will experience a richer walk with God, and see him at work in and around you.

On the one hand, the book is a bit simplistic. There is no complicated, stair-step formula to achieve God’s power. There is no emotional, wrenching response. It is the simple challenge to live out your faith.

On the other hand, I found the book to be refreshing. It is written by two men who are bullish about the local church. That in itself is a rare commodity these days. Because of their commitment to Christ and his church, their instruction has a different degree of credibility. They also flesh out their points with numerous stories and illustrations from their church ministries, which demonstrate how they practice what they preach.

A short, but encouraging book. Well worth a read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Books

 

There was a man from God whose name was John

John Stott passed away today in England. Christianity Today has a lengthy and informative obituary. I always appreciated his books and commentaries. As a young man, I was particularly impressed and impacted by Christian Counter-Culture, his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, and by Christ the Controversialist, which laid out the essential of evangelical religion. Those two books greatly shaped my thinking when I was in my 20’s.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Books, News stories

 

Competing, clashing, crashing agendas

As the senior pastor and one of only two full-time staff members of a smaller church, I wear many hats and juggle many responsibilities in carrying out my duties. Over the course of the past five days, I fulfilled the roles of senior pastor, executive pastor, general staff duties, and head of the complaint department. Here are the things I have been asked to do in each area:

Role

Senior pastor

Executive pastor

General duties

Complaint department

Task

Prepare and deliver sermon

Mentor staff

Clarify vision for church board

Meet with worship leaders

 

Meet with insurance agent to discuss church coverage

Research previous church coverage—limits and premiums

Write new policy for safety & security for children and youth ministry to qualify for best coverage

Recruit new person for church board because one quit before term expired

 

 

Research anonymous gift check

Fix computer glitch for bulletin cover file

Solve AV projector issues

Refill paper trays in copier

Solve internet issues

Answer phones

Listen to crank, anonymous phone messages

Listen to request to book traveling musical groups

Listen to request to provide housing for international students

Answer question why church member hasn’t received recent prayer requests via email

Create PowerPoint for worship service

“We need better coffee.” (You should buy a commercial espresso stand.)

“Not enough people attend prayer meeting.” (You should change the time & place, and tell people to attend. By the way, you should be there too.)

“You should attend the district family camp.” (Why isn’t what I think important, important to you?)

“The district family camp has changed—it’s not ‘spiritual’ enough anymore.” (You should fix this.)

“A person who left the church 18 months ago got into trouble.” (You should rescue this person.)

Importance

Important Important, but not urgent Urgent, but not important Neither urgent nor important

Why is it that columns 3 & 4 are longer than 1 & 2 combined? How do I say, “No,” to column 4, delegate column 3, put off column 2 until later, so that I can focus on my main responsibilities in column 1?

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

NFL needs a NASCAR opening

With the NFL open for business on Tuesday, and with the first week certain to be a frenzy of signing free agents and rookies to new contracts, not to mention potential trades, it will be like Speed Week at Daytona in February. Perhaps the NFL should consider employing a NASCAR-style opening to the new year. An announcer could make a conference call to all the NFL General Managers at the appropriate hour and announce in a commanding voice, “Gentlemen, start your spending!”

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in NASCAR, News stories, NFL, Sports

 

When life interrupts

Sometimes, life interrupts our trivial pursuits. We are blissfully consumed with the important issues of the day when life grabs us by the throat and forcefully turns our head to face the real issues that should command our attention. This weekend was no exception.

The Pressing Issues of the Day:

The Real Issues of the Day:

Now, I love sports and movies. But they are peripheral issues compared to the conflict, violence, and senseless deaths of the weekend.

The events of the weekend should drive us to our knees in prayer. We should pray for those who are grieving, who lost loved ones, and who search for answers as to why.

The events of the weekend should also cause those of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior to speak up about our faith and how Jesus can heal the hurting and hopeless. I realize anew how appropriate was the main point of my sermon yesterday on Mark 1:40-45, “Because Jesus touched us, we should tell others about him.”

 

Prayer – NASCAR style

I don’t normally laugh at prayer, but this pastor’s invocation at a NASCAR race is the funniest thing I’ve heard in years. As one writer said, “It’s straight out of Ricky Bobby’s mouth.” Watch the video, and you’ll laugh too as he praises God for his “smokin’ hot wife” and closes with “Boogity, boogity, boogity.” Too much fun!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in NASCAR, Prayer

 

Touching the Untouchable

Here is the outline for my sermon on Mark 1:40-45, where Jesus heals the leper.

God is able, but is he willing? (40)

  • Leprosy was more than a disease. It was a sentence.
  • Without presumption (If you are willing) and without doubting (you can make me clean), the leper humbly begged Jesus to heal him.

Compassion moves us to scandalous actions (41-42)

  • Moved by compassion, Jesus touched the untouchable. His response was no less scandalous than the leper’s request was audacious.
  • The healing was instantaneous, complete, and visible.

Cleansing + Obedience = Convincing Proof (43-44)

  • Jesus charged the man to keep silent.
  • Jesus told the man to follow the instructions of the law. Only then would he be allowed back into society.

“I can’t stop talking about Jesus” (45)

  • Instead of staying silent, the man spoke of his healing everywhere.
  • As a result of the man’s testimony, Jesus was inundated with people. Though he withdrew to remote places, people kept coming.

Because Christ touched us, we should tell others about him.

 

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2011 in Bible Study, Preaching, Scripture

 

A Leper’s Life

This Sunday, I will be using the following story as an introduction to a sermon on Mark 1:40-45. It is a dramatic retelling of the account of how Jesus cleansed a leper. It was written by Ron Peters and found in a sermon entitled, “God Touches,” by Rick Stacy. Powerful story!

There are two days that will forever stand out in my life, though they are completely opposite each other. The first day I will never forget was the day I woke up and found a small, white spot on the back of my hand. I had never had such a spot on my hand before, though I knew what it meant. I did my best to hide it, to prevent my wife and son from seeing it.

But in a few days, the single spot became several spots. I couldn’t hide it from my wife anymore. The pain in her eyes as the realization dawned on her was more than I could bear. My son was still too young to know what was going on, though he sensed the mounting tension in our family. We all did our best to carry on as though nothing was wrong, until one day when my son was helping me sharpen the sheep shears. He was playing nearby, when I heard him let out a cry. I turned to see a look of horror on his face as he looked at my hand which was holding the sharpening stone. At first I thought he was looking at the spots, but then I felt something drip onto my sandal. I looked down to see a pool of red. I had sliced my hand with the shears, and blood flowed from the deep cut. But it was not the wound that made my heart freeze with fear; it was the realization that I hadn’t noticed the cut – the realization that the leprosy had left my hand completely numb. I looked again at my son, whose face was now splattered with tears as he ran to get me a bandage for my hand. As I wrapped the wound, my heart ached at the thought that this would be the last memory my boy would ever have of his father.

That night, my wife and I discussed what to do. The course of action was the obvious – I was to present myself to the temple priests for inspection; but we both knew they would only confirm what we were already certain of. After that, I would be forced to leave the town where I grew up, the friends and family I knew and loved, and sped the rest of my life surrounded only by those suffering the same affliction.

The next morning, I made ready for the journey. For the last time, I embraced my wife. For the last time, I clutched my son, holding him up with my good arm, looking into his face and desperately choking back tears as we said good-bye. He didn’t know I would never be coming back, didn’t know that he could never see me again, and that if he did, he might not recognize me. I studied his face carefully, noting every freckle and dimple, burning them into my memory. Then I put him down, hugged my wife one last time, and walked out the door.

As the priests sent me away, their words echoed over and over in my ears. “Unclean! Unclean!” they cried as they covered their faces and turned their backs to me. And so it began – the isolation, the loneliness, the craving for companionship that was just beyond my reach. “Unclean, unclean!” I was forced to shout if anyone passed by. And so it was. The days turned to weeks, and the weeks to years, every day calling out “unclean, unclean” lest someone should come too close, lest they should be touched with my disease. With each passing day, my affliction spread over my body, forcing me deeper and deeper into exile.

And then, after the years of seclusion, the years of yearning to once again be in the company of those I knew and loved, there came another day I shall never forget.

I awoke that day to the sound of a crowd of people passing nearby. Fearing retribution for being too near, I quickly retreated a safe distance away, but I was intrigued by what might be going on. Staying hidden, I watched as the vast throng moved slowly along. Their attention seemed to be centered on a Man who was speaking to them. As I heard the words He spoke, something long silent stirred within me. I had heard of One whom people were saying was the Messiah, One who could perform miracles. I had even heard He had cured ten men of leprosy, though at the time, it seemed impossible. Not since the days of the prophet Elisha had such a miracle been performed. And yet as I stood there, outcast as I was, and listened to the words He spoke, I became more and more certain that this was more than a mere man, and indeed, more even than a prophet. And the stirring in me grew stronger with each moment, until I suddenly felt myself being drawn to Him, my feeble legs carrying my decaying body closer and closer to His presence.

As I approached, the people scattered in terror. In my eagerness to reach Him, I had not called out the warning, and now the crowds were clamoring over one another to escape coming into contact with me. Some stood between me and my Lord, shouted at me to leave. But He turned and looked at me, and in His eyes I saw a power and a compassion that I could not resist. Weak from the strain and excitement, I fell at His feet, and cried out to Him, “Lord, if you are willing, I know you can make me clean.” At that moment, my strength gave way, and I collapsed on the ground, trembling for what might happen next.

And then I felt the strangest thing. Not strange because it was new, but strange because it was all too familiar, something I had ached for but was certain I would never again experience. I felt His hand upon my shoulder. It was the first human touch I had felt since I embraced my wife and child for the last time years earlier.

He let His hand rest there, and I heard the words, “I will; you are made clean.” From that touch poured healing that brought new life to my whole body. Feeling returned to my fingers and toes, and the scales and spots that had riddled my skin disappeared. I stood up, and felt new strength flow through my body. I was healed! No longer would I have to warn others away; no longer would my days be filled with loneliness, sorrow and longing. Once again I could embrace my wife; once again I could hug my son. With one touch, the touch I had been craving for years, He brought life back to me. With one touch, He gave me a reason to live again.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Bible Study, Preaching, Scripture

 

The 78-Minute Summer

Scott Sistek, staff meteorologist of KOMO News in Seattle wrote a blog post, “Seattle: Home of the 78-minute summer.” Based on the statistic that a true, warm summer day is when the temperature reaches 80 degrees or better, Seattle has enjoyed 78 minutes of summer in 2011. Now, that’s just sad!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in News stories, Seattle

 
 
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