| Reluctant Leader

Date archives 2007

Blog / Miscellaneous

From Time to Eternity in ‘07

December 30, 2007

Last year I listed some people who died in 2006 with my comments. Here is my 2007 list. This is not necessarily a list of important people or world-changing people – just interesting people. Some are now in heaven. Some went into a Christ-less eternity. Here they are:

Evel Knievel – 69 – Hard-living bone-breaking daredevil who renounced the devil, and boldly talked about how Jesus changed his life in his later years.

Luciano Pavarotti – 71 – Tenor. Cancer.

Liz Claiborne – 78 – Clothes. Cancer.

Marcel Marceau – 84 – Mime.  Old.

Boris Yeltsin – 76 – Former Russian president who helped dismantle the Soviet Union. Heart failure.

Dan Fogelberg – 56 – Singer/songwriter icon of ‘70s soft-rock era. Prostate cancer. Danny F lived in my 8-track in my Camaro in high school.

Anna Nicole Smith – 39 – Celebrity. Drug overdose. Dead or alive – why is she always in the news? I just don’t get it. 

D. James Kennedy – 76 – Pastor, author, broadcaster and founder of Evangelism Explosion (EE). I got saved in ’76 when someone “EE’d” me. I had never heard a presentation of the gospel that made sense, until then.

Jerry Falwell – 73 – Mega-church pastor. Founder of Liberty University. Founder of Moral Majority political lobby with 6.5 million members. One of those love him or hate him kind of guys.

Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner – 65 – On-demand tears, big hair and mile-long eyelashes. Icon of ’70s & ’80s religious TV shows. 

Kurt Waldheim
– 88 – Former United Nations secretary-general accused of Nazi war crimes. The UN must have the world’s greatest PR machine to still have an ounce of credibility after all the scandals involving their top leaders.

Seung-Hui Cho
– 23 – Tormented student who murdered 32 students and faculty on the Virginia Tech campus. Stuff like this makes me want to be a campus missionary.

Paul Tibbets – 92 – Piloted the B-29 bomber that dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The plane, Enola Gay, was named after Tibbet’s mother. Who would name a bomber after their mother? Not sure my Mom would be flattered. 

Robert Cade – 80 – Univ of Florida researcher who invented Gatorade in ’65 to help to the Florida Gator athletes replace electrolytes lost through sweat. What if he had worked at Oregon or Oregon State? Not sure Beaverade or Duckade would have been as marketable as Gatorade.   

Benny Parsons – 65 – Taxi driver who became one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers, winning 21 races. I’ve seen at least 1000 Filipino taxi drivers could do the same, if given the chance.

One thing is for sure – sooner or later, we will all die.

One question: will we be ready?   

Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. – HEB 9:27

Blog / Church

Wake Up America!

December 27, 2007

The week before Christmas, Rice Broocks dragged me to one of those citywide pastors meetings that I rarely attend, because most are a waste of time.
Not this one. Glad I went.

This was a gathering of Pentecostals, Charismatics and Baptists at the Life Way building in downtown Nashville. (Life Way is like a Southern Baptist Vatican, complete with a massive statue of Billy Graham in front.)

When I arrived, I realized this was not just a city-wide thing, but a nation-wide call for the church in America to WAKE UP.

The meeting was led by Billy Wilson, former head of the Church of God of Prophecy denomination and the driving force behind the Azuza Street Centennial. Billy now runs the Center for Spiritual Renewal, which is calling for America to wake up.

I was shocked when Billy said that:
– only 9% of America goes to a Bible-based Pentecostal, Charismatic or Evangelical church on the average Sunday
– only 17% of America goes to any type of church on the average Sunday
– church attendance as a percentage of population is in decline in EVERY county in EVERY state in America (except for a few counties in Hawaii – go Norman!)

Billy and his friends are trying to get America’s spiritual leaders to wake up. Here are some who have joined Billy’s Awakening America Alliance:

General Council of the Assemblies of God
Aglow International – Jane Hansen
Bethany World Prayer Center – Larry Stockstill
Charisma Magazine – Lee Grady
Christ for the Nations
Church of God of Prophecy
Eagle’s Wings – Robert Stearns
Every Home for Christ – Dick Eastman
The Foursquare Church – Jack Hayford
Global Advance – David Shibley
Harvest Evangelism – Ed Silvoso
Moody Broadcasting
Open Bible Churches
Teen Mania – Ron Luce
The Call – Lou Engle
Tommy Barnett Ministries
U.S. Prayer Center
Wellington Boone Ministries
Youth with a Mission – John Dawson

I added Every Nation to the list because I want to stay awake, and I want to help America’s spiritual leaders stay awake.

Blog / Church

Un-Used Christmas Sermon

December 22, 2007

Here are my unedited notes of the Christmas sermon I never got to preach on “Black Sunday” a couple of weeks ago. Since I couldn’t preach it, I decided to post it.

I realize the my notes might not make sense to you, but if you think of them like some ancient secret code, maybe you can find the hidden truth. (FYI – I hand-write my notes on one of those double-sized yellow sticky pads and attach it to my Bible on the page of my text.)

SERIES: i-Witness Christmas

TITLE: (I don’t really do titles)

C’mas eve ‘89 story – hoped for “real arrows” & disappointed b/c gave up too early

– all have hopes, dreams, expectations that are not yet reality…
– So did Simeon, he waited his whole life…

–    I-witness series = 4 witnesses of 1st C’mas
–    Simeon had long-time hope that finally happened when he found Christ
–    Luke 2:25-32
–    V25 just b/c you are still waiting on your dream, does not mean something is wrong with you
–    V26 the HS has the final say about your future
–    V27 many look for God in the wrong places
–    V28,29 no matter how long you wait, God always keeps His promise
–    V30-32 are YOU an i-witness of C’mas? Do you know Him?

END – John 3:16 – You can be an i-witness today.

(You may notice I used a modified-Stanley-outline on this one.)

Blog / Miscellaneous

There is No Easy Button

December 21, 2007

I’ve had these thoughts on my mind and in my journal since my “Ever Feel Like Quitting?” blog about Joseph & Mary, but I’ve been too busy to post. So finally, here it

Easy and right are usually opposites. The easy choice for Joseph would have been to dump his pregnant fiancé and move on with his life.

The right choice was to listen to the Holy Spirit and stick with Mary.

It didn’t matter how many times Joseph tried to explain that the baby was from God, no one believed him. Most rolled their eyes or looked with a self-righteous smirk.

All his buddies thought Joseph was either guilty or stupid for believing such a wild story. And they all thought Mary was guilty. That much was obvious.

But sometimes the obvious is not the truth.

And, sometimes the easy thing to do, is not the right thing to do.

Lord, help us see beyond the obvious and help us do what is right even when it is not easy.

Blog / Miscellaneous

Ever Feel Like Quitting?

December 14, 2007

Ever want to quit – relationship, job, church – but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let you?

Even though it would be easier to walk.
Even though you were wronged.
Even though it hurts to stay.

Maybe the marriage is not all you dreamed it would be.
Maybe the job is not what it was promised to be.
Maybe the church really is filled with hypocrites.

But for some reason, God will not let you quit.

So what do you do?  Stay, or walk? Go for it on 4th and 20, or punt? Fight on, or tapout? All in, or fold?

What do you do when everything in you says to quit, but some faint barely discernible still quite voice says to hang in there?

If you ever feel like that, I suggest you read the Christmas story.

The one in Matthew 1:18-25.

Summary. A man discovers his fiancé is pregnant. The baby is not his. She claims it is God’s. Yea, right. I’m out of here. He wasn’t bitter or vindictive. Just hurt. Confused. And moving on with his life. But while he was sleeping, God sent an angel to tell him that the baby really was from God, and he better not quit.

I’m sure he still had questions. And doubts. And pain. But he stayed. He went for it. All in.

“When he woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded.” (v. 24)

Same question as before: ever wanna quit – relationship, job, church – but the Holy Spirit says not to?

We all have.

Aren’t you glad you listened to Him?

Blog / Family

My Day in the ER

December 10, 2007

Slept like a baby last night – woke up every 90 minutes screaming.

In case you missed  my "accidental missionary" blog yesterday, here’s the story…

At 8:05 Sunday morning, while making final adjustments on my sermon, I was stabbed in the gut with a giant Rambo knife. Then someone started twisting it. At least that’s what it felt like.

By 8:30 I was racing to Medical City ER, where I would spend the next 7 hours. They wanted to admit me, but Joey B helped me escape. I prefer to suffer at home.

Kidney stone.

doc said it was a half cm, but it felt like a sea urchin or a bowling

Many of you know that I handle pain like a baby. Jack Bauer could
get me to talk in 10 seconds. Glad I was not around during the

don’t have the vocab to describe the pain, and all the words that come
to mind should not be blogged by a pastor, on a Sunday.

Thx to
all who prayed for me. Please don’t stop. That sea urchin shaped
bowling ball is still in there torturing me as it tries to get out.

friend called when he heard I had a heart attack or something like
that. I got a good laugh out of that one. And discovered that laughing
increases the pain by 10.

Blog / Family

Top 10 Christmas Movie List (version 3.0)

December 6, 2007

I post something like this every December – the Murrell family Christmas movie favorites. Since there have not been many good Christmas movies in the past few years, the list looks about the same as last year’s. If you need to get into the Christmas spirit just plug one of these into your DVD player, get a bowl of popcorn and relax. Here’s our current top 10:

1. It’s a Wonderful Life
– THE Christmas classic. We usually save this one ’til New Year’s Eve.

2. Miracle on 34th Street
– The 1947 black and white edition, of course.

3. Christmas in Connecticut
– Another black and white that puts Deborah and my sons to sleep, but I love it.

4. White Christmas
– Where we have lived the past 23 years, white Christmas means Bora, and that’s a good Christmas thought.

Die Hard 1 -The first color Christmas movie on my list. DH-1 qualifies because the whole movie took place during an office Christmas party.

Elf – I rarely like Will Farrell movies (Kicking & Screaming was the exception) but the opening Elf scene with Senior Elf (Bob Newhart) reading the intro story is worth the price of the DVD. The rest of the movie is pretty lame, but that first 5 minutes is classic.

Home Alone I or II – The "Wet Bandits" are some of my favorite big screen bad guys.

Santa Clause II – We love the Easter Bunny scene.

Jingle All the Way – Sinbad goes postal.

House Guest – This qualifies because Sinbad and Phil Hartman sang Christmas carols during the closing credits.


“Pride Led to His Downfall”

December 4, 2007

A blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago about pride, evolved itself into a sermon I preached at Victory-FtB last Sunday. Here are some notes that became that sermon…

Text: 2 Chronicles 26

v. 3 King Uzziah was a young leader who got off to a great start
v. 4 Uzi was good leader who did what was right in God’s sight
v. 5 He sought God – in part because he had a godly mentor named Zechariah who "instructed him in the fear of God"  (We all need mentors who teach us the fear of God!)

But later in life, something went terribly wrong. How does a good, god-seeking, righteous leader get off track and end up being judged by God?

One word: PRIDE.

v. 16 But after Uzziah became powerful,his pride led to his downfall.

Verses 6-14 describe the victories, growth, prosperity and favor that somehow led to pride in the heart of a godly leader. That’s a scary thought.

Here are 3 SIGNS OF PRIDE that caused a good man’s downfall:

1. Ignored the Rules.
Only the priests – descendants of Aaron – were allowed to enter the altar area and burn incense in the Temple. But Uzziah got out of his lane and did what he knew was off limits. Pride makes leaders think they are above the rules. Pride causes leaders to become one-man-shows who think they can do it all, because no one else can do it right. Pride is the root of the "man of God syndrome" that is crippling much of the church today.

2. Unapproachable.

It took 80 priests (v. 17,18) to confront Uzziah after he got out of his lane. EIGHTY people! Why not just one? I hope I do not become the kind of leader that it takes 80 other leaders to pin me down when I am wrong. I guess Hillary was right, it does take a village…to confront a proud leader. But it shouldn’t.

3. Angry when Corrected.
How did this proud leader respond to the confrontation by the 80 priests? He became angry and was raging at the priests… (v. 19). This guy who once was a young, righteous, good, godly leader – became an angry, intimidating, arrogant tyrant. What happened? PRIDE led to his downfall.

James 4:6 is perhaps the scariest verse of all on this topic: God resists the proud.

So, what do we do about this deadly pride?

There is a simple solution. James 4:10 says, humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.

Quickest way I know to humble myself is to admit when I am wrong. And we all face countless opportunities to do that every week.

***New post on my accidental missionary site: "Gifts for the Poor – You can Help"

Blog / Church

The Power of Preaching, for Good and for Evil

November 29, 2007

I’m back in Manila and back online, after a 2 week trip.

While reading The One Year Book of Christian History this morning, I was struck by the power of preaching, for better and sometimes for worse.

The book had a long quote from “the most effective sermon of all time” preached by Pope Urban II more than 900 years ago, but still remembered and acted on today. Perhaps no sermon ever preached has done so much to shape modern history, except for sermons preached by Jesus himself.

Imagine a sermon that was not even available on a podcast, still having an impact 900 years later. Most sermons today don’t have an impact 90 minutes later.

In the sermon, Pope U2 (that’s Urban the 2nd, not the Irish rockers or country singing cousin Keith) used a brilliantly evil combination of racism, pride, greed, exaggeration, heresy, hatred and fear to rally the “Christians” to take up arms and to go battle against the accursed Turks to…

…avenge these wrongs…if you would save your souls, then come forward to the defense of Christ. Labor for everlasting reward…you will earn the right to absolution from all your sins, and heaven is assured to any who may fall in this worthy undertaking…the wealth of your enemies is  yours…

This sermon started what was probably the lowest point in church history – The First Crusade.

Those Crusaders were doers of the word. Problem was the “word” they responded to was twisted and distorted by the preacher.

I wish modern believers would be doers of the word like those Crusaders who were willing to sacrifice all to obey what they thought was God’s will.

But first I wish they would be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who, …were more of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

May God make us all the kind of believers who eagerly receive and act on
the Word, but also who study and examine the word daily.

How do you know if the pastor or TV preacher is preaching truth? By examining the Scriptures yourself daily. You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, and He will lead and guide you into all truth as you study and obey God’s word.



My Greatest Fear

November 13, 2007

Know what scares me most these days?


Here’s why.

I am part of a growing church and ministry that seems to have God’s blessing. Open doors abound. Opportunity are everywhere. Favor. Blessing. Expansion.

Yea, we’ve been through some tough times – made some mistakes, faced some hard decisions. Learned a lifetime of lessons. Had to cling to the grace of God.

But now, so many people are getting saved. Changed lives. Restored families. Redeemed relationships. Live and ministry is good.

Right now, we are starting over 50 new churches in a dozen nations. I know that’s nothing compared to the Baptists, AoG, Foursquare and others. But for us, that’s huge.

Our missionaries and church planters are dedicated to the Gospel of Christ. They are humble, and they are bold. And more and more men and women are signing up to plant churches all over the world.

We have talented young leaders – lots of them.  They are so smart and creative. Their hearts beat for the campuses of the world. I love working with next generation leaders.

But I worry about pride – not an obsessive worry – a deep concern. I am concerned about pride in my life. Also in our young leaders, in our old leaders and in our future leaders.

Pride, the invisible killer of all things spiritual.

There are so many varieties: self-righteousness, arrogance, insolence, spiritual pride, conceit, boasting, and more.

Pride is elusive – hard to detect, harder to catch. Unless, of course, we see it in someone else – then it’s easy to spot. It’s only elusive when it’s in us.

That’s why we need to constantly and deliberately humble ourselves before God and one another. We need to stay open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the correction of

In tough times we tend to stay on our faces before God. But when all seems well, we act like we don’t really need God, and pride sneaks up.

Beware, especially in times of promotion, peace, blessing, abundance and growth – the invisible killer is lurking and stalking.

*** Pix of our latest Metro Manila church plant HERE***