At Cornerstone, I’m doing a series going through the Gospel of Mark. I’ve got several commentaries and study books that I’ve found helpful in preparing each week. I tend to gravitate toward study books that are more practical and application based. Here is a quick description of what I like.
Christ Centered Exposition – Exalting Jesus in Mark: This series is quickly becoming my favorite commentary series for preaching. It is practical and the Gospel is explained throughout. If you are preaching through a book of the Bible, I highly recommend this series to use in helping you develop outlines and ideas.
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: This is another series that I have enjoyed using. It is shorter in length, but it still has proved helpful in explaining tough passages.
Holman New Testament Commentary: The Holman series is a little light on explanation, but it includes several stories and application ideas for each chapter. I haven’t found the outlines particularly helpful, but it does give me ideas on how to incorporate illustrations each week.
Jesus the King: This book, formerly titled King’s Cross, is by Tim Keller, and is a great resource on the book of Mark. Keller does an incredible job explaining the purpose of the book of Mark.
Hopefully, these will help you as you study Scripture. And as always, remember nothing can replace your time spent studying and praying through God’s Word.
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From the beginning, Cornerstone has been blessed with a number of talented young musicians. Earlier this year, several of our youth won a local competition and were blessed with 30 hours of recording studio time with the Audio Lab run by Brett Sexton here in Galax. They have just finished up their first CD, with 6 tracks, and it is incredible. You can learn more about the band on their website at www.splittingcedars.com and you can also pre-order the CD. If you plan on purchasing a CD, it will really help us to pre-order so they can cover the expenses of having the CD’s made.
This has been an awesome experience for these teens learning about the recording process and learning more about leading worship. My son Luke plays guitar and mandolin on the album, so I may be a little biased, but I really think they have the talent to continue growing and recording as Christian artists. Fortunately, they also have the Godly character to match their talent. You can preview a couple of the tracks below. They will be leading worship this week at Cornerstone and they will also be opening for a Coffey Anderson concert on October 26th.
Today is the release day for the new album by Dogwood & Holly. If you have been following my blog for a while, you have seen several videos of their performances. This group consists of four students (and former students) from Liberty, including two of our young adults from Cornerstone, and their newest album is simply amazing.
I had the privilege of getting a digital copy last week, and I have been listening to this over and over on repeat. It reminds me of the new Nickel Creek album, with a touch of bluegrass, folk, philosophy, and fun. I know all the band members and I have seen them grow in their musicianship and their faith. I’m proud of them, and their second album really showcases their musicianship and their songwriting. The best way for you to get to know the band is for you to listen to one of their songs. This live clip was from a recent convocation service at Liberty.
Now, here’s the good part, you can download the album on iTunes and Amazon. Download it! You won’t be sorry.
I finished reading a pre-release copy of Perry Noble’s new book Overwhelmed a few weeks ago. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Noble preach, and I have been able to visit NewSpring on several occasions for conferences. This book really caught my interest because of where I’m at in ministry and life. I really liked that Perry is open and honest with his personal struggles. He shares about his battle with depression and anxiety. He shares from numerous Bible stories, like the story of Daniel. From Daniel he shares the theme of the book about our focus in life.
This theme runs through the entire book: what gets our attention will ultimately determine our direction. If we are obsessed with stressful circumstances, we will constantly be overwhelmed. But if we are obsessed with Christ, we will overcome.
In Christ we can overcome any situation, no matter how out of control things seem or how overwhelmed we may feel. Typically, we try to find a way out of stressful situations, instead of trying to find Jesus in the midst of our situation. As Christians, I think we know this, but we tend to be distracted by our problems. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life. Noble has the unique gift of challenging you in your faith while being humorous at the same time.
For me personally, this was a timely book. As a pastor, I am in a season of life where our church is growing. However, our staffing and leadership is still developing and growing to handle the increase. The expectations and demands of leadership do feel overwhelming at times, and I am growing physically and mentally tired. This book, in addition to several more I have recently read, have led me on a journey to simplify and to recharge. Our society rewards busyness and action, yet the Bible commands us to slow down and rest.
I highly recommend this book to people who are struggling with the circumstances of life. Noble continually points us back to Jesus as our hope and strength. Read through the following highlights to get a better understanding of the book.
Are you willing to settle for being overwhelmed by circumstances forever, or do you want to step up and overcome what is robbing you of joy and life?
Change begins with a decision: overwhelmed or overcome?
As crazy as it may seem, the best way to conquer feeling overwhelmed is to take our eyes off what’s consuming us and get a bigger picture of what’s really important.
God is bigger than any difficult circumstances we face, any struggles we experience, any mistakes that threaten to define us. We embrace our true identity when we stop identifying ourselves by our slavery and start identifying ourselves with our Savior.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed – whether as a result of our own sin or simply from living in a fallen world, church is exactly the place we need to go for healing, not the place to hide out in camouflage, pretend we’re perfect, or leave because we don’t feel we measure up to the people around us.
Church shouldn’t be the place we run from when we’re feeling overwhelmed; it should be the place we run to. After all, church is the place where Jesus meets us and changes us into who we need to be.
My prayer for you is that no matter what you’re going through, you will experience hope. God can and will walk with you through this, but you must have the courage to admit you have a problem, accept help, and then ask God to reveal what’s broken inside of you.
The devil doesn’t want to make you bad; he wants to make you busy. Because if he can make you busy, then eventually he can make you bad. Busyness always keeps us from recognizing Jesus.
Most anxiety and stress in our lives can be traced back to a point where we decided we were going to take control rather than believe that God is in control.
The weight that is pressing down on you doesn’t have to define you, because no matter what you’re facing right now … Jesus is greater than your biggest doubt. Jesus is greater than your deepest regret. Jesus is greater than your impossible situation. Jesus is greater than your most overwhelming circumstances.
Disclosure: I received a free digital pre-release copy to review. See my full disclosure policy here
I finished this book a few weeks ago and wanted to share my thoughts. This is the type of book I really enjoy. I love learning from other experienced pastors, and this book is full of practical wisdom and advice. I was especially interested in this book since I recently finished up my seminary degree. The author, James Emery White, is both a successful pastor and a former seminary president, so he knows what he is talking about. I fully agree with his reasoning behind the book.
We need seminary. But in fairness to a seminary education, there are certain things it will never be able to impart, even if it tries. God bless professors, but most of them have never been the pastor of a church. They may have been interim pastors or had a short-term pastorate while in seminary, but they are, in truth, academics. They are not practitioners.
I saw this first hand in several of my classes. There was a disconnect between the academic world and real-life ministry. Seminary really doesn’t prepare you at an emotional level to lead a church. It is not always easy helping people in crisis situations or resolving conflict within teams and ministries of your church. This book shares principles that will help any pastor lead their church. The author shares about church structure, leadership, boundaries in ministry, parenting, conflict resolution, preaching, team-building, vision-casting, and much more. Again, I really enjoyed this book. It’s the perfect blend of practical instruction and Biblical wisdom.
Here are a few passages I highlighted from the book
First, the bad news: there’s not a quick fix. Ministry is just flat-out tough and often emotionally draining. You won’t ever escape the hits and the hurts. They come with the territory. Now, the good news: you can develop a way of life that protects, strengthens, and replenishes you emotionally. You can cultivate a set of activities and choices that allow God to restore your soul.
There is a myth that churches are successful because they do certain things; in truth, churches are successful because they know why they do certain things. In other words, they have a clear missional target on the wall.
Leaders must look deeper than the latest model or program, conference or style, and realize that the process inherent within a thriving church has not changed in two thousand years: you must evangelize the lost, then assimilate those evangelized, then disciple those assimilated, and then unleash those discipled for ministry.
Do ministry not from memory or mimicry but from imagination. This means you are the originator, the creator, the one who is fashioning new solutions and opening new vistas.
What are the consequences of my decision in ten minutes, in ten months, and in ten years?
I made a vow: we will not die of old age! If the natural flow of the church is to skew older, then that means the leadership of the church has to invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young adults.
Committee: The unwilling picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary.
Church structure may be the single most underrated dynamic of effective church ministry. I’ve even called it our biggest “secret” to success. Why? Because church structure either releases the gift of leadership or stymies it. And churches rise and fall on leadership.
For example, committees keep the people who are doing the ministry from making the decisions about the ministry. Authority and responsibility become separate from one another. An effective structure lets the individuals who are the most intimately involved in a particular ministry, and the best qualified, make the day-in, day-out decisions regarding that ministry.
Do only what only you can do. Delegate everything else.
I finished reading through the book Leading on Empty last night. It’s been on my reading list for a while, and I’m glad I finally read through it. Wayne Cordeiro, Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii, wrote this book based on his personal journey through burnout and depression while leading a growing church. While I’m not to the point Cordeiro reached, I do see warning signs in my life that I need to address.
Our church has been blessed with growth, but that also brings leadership challenges. For our church size, we are understaffed, and that means there is always more to do than time to do it. The last year has been tough for me, both physically and emotionally. Quite simply, the work of a Pastor is never done, and you are never truly off. Cordeiro shares some statistics that are frightening.
In H. B. London Jr.’s great work Pastors at Greater Risk, we find these startling statistics:
80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
90 percent feel they’re inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
25 percent of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members.
The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions.
80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
56 percent of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
45 percent of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
52 percent of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
45.5 percent of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
This book has really reaffirmed my commitment to and my need to honor the Sabbath. I am also planning an extended time of rest later in the year for a sabbatical. I started at Cornerstone almost seven years ago, and it has been non-stop ever since. This book shares several practical principles to help you stay connected to God so that you can lead with a full tank. I plan on implementing a personal retreat day each month to help me stay focused on my calling. This is a book I highly recommend to other pastors and leaders.
Here are a few quotes from the book
Congregants expect pastors to preach the finest sermons in town, and when one weekend’s message is completed, it’s time to start work on the next one. One pastor told me it’s like giving birth on Sunday; then on Monday you find out you’re pregnant again!
Long-term stress depletes the normal fuel produced biochemically by hormones and secreted into the brain and nervous system. These endorphins and other peptides produce an analgesic effect. Once these serotonins are exhausted, adrenaline has to be produced to take their place. Soon an addiction to adrenaline puts a demand on your body for greater amounts. Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is secreted in increasing rates, and your body becomes dependent on this powerful chemical to meet deadlines, get reports ready, and rise to the expectations of others—or your own.
It may be a legitimate concern, but it is not our responsibility. Don’t rush past that last sentence. Learning the difference between a concern and a responsibility may save your ministry, your family, and your sanity.
What has God called you to do? What will He hold you accountable for at the end of your life?
Life is all about choices. When you cut away all of the junk, every situation is going to be a choice. You choose how to react to certain situations. You choose to be thankful, or you choose to be worried. You choose to gain God’s insight, or you choose to be blinded by anger. You choose the life that you will live.
The leader who is running on empty has just enough energy to sustain himself for the next step; the emotional reserves are thin. He must know how to keep his stride and not deplete his resources. To do so once is a lesson hard-learned. To repeat it again is just plain dumb.
of the greatest lessons I’m learning (and yes, I am still learning it) is that rest is not sin. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’re lazy or that you’re not as valuable. Catching your breath now and then doesn’t mean you’re not carrying your load, or that you are somehow less than committed to your church, your company, or your calling.
Amazon launched their new Kindle Matchbook service today. I’ve already picked up a couple of kindle books. Check it out, you can find some great deals on books you have previously purchased in hardback or paperback.
Each week, the Christian book publisher David C. Cook makes available at least one of their eBooks for free. So if you have a Kindle, Nook, iPad or other eReader, this is a great opportunity to pick up some great free books. You can go to www.dccebooks.com and signup for the weekly email reminder. They also share the weekly deals on their Facebook page.
I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 19 years, and we have three awesome kids, Emma, Luke, and Drew.