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.



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:


Senior pastor

Executive pastor

General duties

Complaint department


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.)


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