| Reluctant Leader

Date archives 2009

Blog / Leadership / Missions

The Paralyzing Power of Fear

December 31, 2009

How many times do we make wrong decisions because of fear?

and Mary are engaged. Mary is pregnant. Joseph decides to dump her.
Then the Lord appears to him in a dream and says, "Joseph, son of
to take Mary home as your wife…" (Matt 1:18-21)

God dealt with the real issue that was pushing Joseph to make a bad decision – FEAR. 

many times do we make bad decisions because we are afraid of of what
people will think, afraid of how much it will cost, afraid we might

I don't really do new years resolutions, but if I did, I'd resolve not to listen to fear in 2010. What about you?

Blog / Miscellaneous

Christmas Blog: Sometimes God’s Will is Kinda Scary

December 24, 2009

To get in a Christmas
state of mind, I watched The Nativity movie last night. Love the way
Mary & Joseph seem like normal people – with questions, doubts
& fears just like the rest of us.

Why are Jesus, Mary,
Moses and other Bible characters usually depicted as hyper-spiritual
glow-in-the-dark white-robed weirdos in Hollywood movies?

I don't think real spirituality looks anything like those movies. I think
it's more like The Nativity. Here's one of my favorite scenes:

Mary: You've never really told me of your dream.
Joseph: My dream?
[pause, he is teasing her and also contemplating his response]
Joseph: No.
Mary: Please, tell me.
Joseph: An angel came to me. He told me the child within you had been conceived by the Holy Spirit and that I should not be afraid.
Mary:Are you afraid?
Joseph:Yes. [laughing]
Joseph: Are you?
Mary:Yes. Do you ever wonder when we'll know?
Joseph: Know what?
Mary:When he is more than just a child. Will it be something he says? A look in his eyes?
Joseph: I wonder if I will even be able to teach him anything.

Sometimes, maybe all times, God's will is kinda scary. How about you, every been afraid of God's will?

Blog / Miscellaneous

Bethel’s A Christmas Carol

December 20, 2009

At first glance, a parable about a
rich man who is tormented in hell seems like a bizarre choice for a
Christmas text. But, when you really think about it, well, it still
seems like an odd choice.

That’s why you’ve probably never heard a Christmas message preached from Luke
16:19-31, and probably never will – unless you attend Bethel tomorrow. 

Before I try to explain tomorrow's sermon, here’s my quick review of Bethel’s A Christmas Carol series…


Week 1: Ghost of Christmas Past.
We don’t have to be chained to our past. If we repent and forgive, the chains fall off.


Week 2: Ghost of Christmas Present.
Richer does not equal happier. Like Scrooge, lots of people are bound
by chains of materialism and live self-absorbed empty lives. But they
have really nice cars and clothes.


Week 3: Ghost of Christmas Future.
I don’t know if Charles Dickens intentionally copied the Parable of the
Rich Man and Lazarus, but his Christmas Carol has some interesting
similarities with the Bible story:


    – Rich man, poor man contrast

    – Rich man tormented in hell

    – Rich man wants someone from grave to warn his brothers

    – Scrooge visited by someone from grave (Jacob Marley)


Verse 26 is the heart of the parable and the central point of my Christmas message:

“between us and
you a GREAT CHASM has been set in place, so that those who want to go
from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

We’ve all experienced the separation between God and man, this GREAT
CHASM in the parable. We’ve felt it. We’ve tried to fix it. We know
that chasm is real. And it is huge.  


Isaiah 59:1,2 described the chasm like this:

Surely the arm of
the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But
your iniquities have SEPARATED you from your God; your sins have hidden
his face from you, so that he will not hear.


Separation. Great chasm. That’s the problem. What’s the solution, and what does this have to to with Christmas?


Find out tomorrow at
Bethel-Brentwood 9:00, 10:30 & 12:00.


Good News

December 10, 2009

“What do you give a person who has everything?” In this Christmas series, Steve Murrell shares the most important thing that we can give to God who owns the world and everything in it and encourages us to get busy thinking about what we can give rather than what we can get out of this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

Blog / Family

Top 10 Christmas Movies

December 8, 2009

Getting in the Christmas spirit is easy in the Philippines, because we
hear Christmas music and see Christmas decorations starting in
September. So, for those of you not in the land of eternal Christmas,
who need help getting into the spirit of the season, I suggest watching
a Christmas classic. Here are my current top 10:

10. Jingle All the Way (1996) – Sinbad goes postal.

9. Die Hard (1988) – Some doubt this is a C'mas movie, but the whole thing took place during an office Christmas party.

8. White Christmas (1954) – I'm still dreaming.

7. Elf (2003) – Opening scene with Sr Elf, Bob Newhart, reading the intro story is worth the price of the DVD.

6. Home Alone (1990)- The "Wet Bandits" are some of the best bad guys ever.

5. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) – Black and white classic that never gets old.
4. The Nativity Story (2006) – The REAL story of Christmas.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
(1965) – A new addition to my list. Had not
seen this one for about 30 yrs, until last year. Wish they still made
them like this. Special bonus: one of my fav soundtracks ever.
Schroeder plays a mean piano.

2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – another B&W classic. The color version does not make my top 10.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) – THE Christmas classic of all Christmas classics.

What's on your list?

Blog / Family

Thanksgiving ’09 Top Ten List

November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving. America's national day of gluttony. And football. And family reunions.
I'm visiting the family – brothers & sisters, in-laws, cousins – at the Murrell family lake house in Mississippi.

Here’s my 2009 top ten Thanksgiving Day list:
1.   My Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ
2.   My wife
3.   My 3 sons
4.   My parents – both deceased
5.   My friends all over the world – mostly alive
6.   My home churches – Victory-Manila, Bethel-Nashville
7.   My job – Every Nation Churches & Ministries
8.   My U.S. passport
9.   My Philippine Permanent Resident card
10. My 1200GS – finally!
What are you most thankful for?

Blog / Discipleship

A Simple Job Description for All Christians

November 24, 2009

The Christian life is not as complicated as most preachers make is sound. It’s actually quite simple.


What’s a Christian supposed to do?


Honor God. Make disciples.

Let me explain.

Honor God
means that we live to please Him. Not ourselves. Not our parents. Not
our peers. Please Him and Him alone. Living to please Him is not just a
Sunday thing. It’s an all week thing. At home. At work. On campus. With
our time. With our money. With our minds. With our bodies. In our
relationships. All the time. Everywhere.

Make disciples
means we follow Jesus & carry the cross, we help others follow
Jesus & carry the cross, and we follow him in community with other
cross-carrying followers.

 There. I hope that helps simplify your life.

Blog / Discipleship

Everything God Does is Relational & Redemptive

November 21, 2009

I read the whole book of Ezekiel on my recent Manila to Nashville
flight. I also watched a couple of forgettable movies. As usual, I
didn’t sleep – never been able to seep on planes.

Here are some of my notes from Ezekiel, from 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean:
1. Open heavens, visions of God, word of the Lord, hand of God, brilliant
light, supernatural fire, lightening from heaven, glowing metal… and
’s just the first 4 verses of Ezekiel.

2. The phrase “then they will know I am the Lord” – or something like it –
appears over 65 times in Ezekiel. The basic message of Ezekiel is that
everything God does, from blessing to judgment, is SO WE WILL KNOW HIM
AS LORD. In other words, everything he does is ultimately relational
and redemptive.

3. God wants to “recapture the hearts” of his people who have deserted him for idols. (Ez14:5) Is your heart captive, or wild? Is your heart pursuing God, or idols? God wants your heart!

4. We all know that Sodom was a wicked place, but why? “This was the sin
of Sodom: she did not help the poor and needy.” (Ez16:49) If helping
the poor is the standard, then there are a lot of wicked people in our
churches today.

5. God is concerned about how his leaders treat weak, sick, injured, stray and lost sheep. (Ez34:4)

6. Seems like every time Ezekiel “fell under the power” in the presence of God, that God
immediately told him to stand up. I guess falling down is OK, as long
as we get up and move on right away. (Ez1:28,2:1 and Ez3:23,24)

7. Wealth and beauty can cause hearts to be proud. And a proud heart is not really a good thing. (Ez28:5,17)
If you are interested in further study of point #2, here are few of the 65+ verses about knowing God as Lord:


How to Make Good Ministry Decisions

November 19, 2009

Leaders make decisions. Lots of them. Some good. Some bad. The best decisions are value based.

The worst ministry decisions are based on:

         – random open doors

         – the latest get-big-quick scheme

         – what worked for someone else

         – how much it costs (just because it’s cheap, does not mean it is a good decision)


The following 4 questions help our
Victory leaders make good decisions:

1.   Does it help us ENGAGE our culture and our community?

2.   Does it help us ESTABLISH spiritual foundations?

3.   Does it help us EQUIP all believers to minister?

4.   Does it help us EMPOWER all disciples to make disciples?


No matter if the decision is big or small, no matter if it effects the
whole church or one department, no matter if it requires millions or
hundreds of pesos – all good decisions run through this grid. Bad
decisions don’t. 


How do you make decisions?

NOTE: All of my astute blog readers realize from the above that good decisions are those that help us MAKE DISCIPLES.

Blog / Discipleship

Suffering for Christ: Radical or Reasonable?

November 16, 2009

I had a cup of coffee this weekend with a friend who suffered in a
Middle Eastern prison for six months. His crime: following Christ. Oh
yea, and he led hundreds of Muslims to Christ in a nation where that is

He spoke of his suffering as a “gift” from God.
If someone gave me the “gift of suffering” I’d probably say, “no thanks,
already have one” – or I’d re-gift it to that person who writes
critical comments on my blog.

My friend never once complained
about his suffering. To him, it was just part of following Jesus and
carrying a cross – nothing radical, unusual or unexpected.

I’ve heard preachers challenge people to “make a RADICAL COMMITMENT” to Christ.
Why do we think the willingness to lay it all on the altar is RADICAL?
Real followers of Christ have offered their all as living sacrifices for
thousands of years. The Bible presents this as the normal Christian
life. But we call it radical, the turf of a few special chosen ones.
For the rest of us, as long as we show up at church a couple of times a
month and drop a dollar in the offering we think we're in the game.

Here’s a one-sentence summary of my sermon yesterday at Victory-Fort:
“I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a
living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your REASONABLE service.”
– Romans 12:1 (English Revised Version)

I want to challenge all of you to a reasonable commitment to Christ – which means everything all the time forever.