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Thanks for visiting the website! This month’s picture was taken in Bogota in September 2019. In addition to teaching, preaching, personal Bible studies, and presenting training seminars, I was privileged to preach at a Confraternidad -- a gathering of about a dozen churches in Bogota. [Click picture to enlarge.]

preaching in Bogota

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 years! Countless people have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob" or "Hermano Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw in my family. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! The greatest joy of my life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature as disciples of Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!

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It’s Sunday Again: Three resolutions that will change your life

December 26th, 2019

We come to the end of another year. Thinking about 2020–thinking about spiritual growth and development in 2020. We have done something; we have not done everything. We could have done more. Why have we….why have we not? I share three resolutions that will change your 2020!
We have worries and fears because we are human. Faith in a God who is too big to allow fears to take over will see us through. Consider four Bible examples. (1) 2 Kings 6, Israel is surrounded by the enemy. “Open our eyes” to see the protection and care of God. (2) John 2, Jesus’ mother turns to Jesus in faith when they run out of wine at the wedding in Cana. “Do what he says” to see the power of God. (3) Acts 1-6, the compelling story of the early church. Accept individual responsibility. “You decide for yourself, but we must speak and we will speak.” In the midst of challenges, we are responsible for seeing and being the presence of God. (4) Phil. 3:12-14, we will pursue what can only be seen with spiritual eyes. The Christian life requires some forgetting, some straining, and some vision, so that we can see the provision of God.
Three resolutions are suggested by these passages, with the primary reference being Phil. 3:12-14.
I WILL NOT BECOME COMPLACENT. We are too satisfied. Mediocrity is sufficient. We are happy to repeat the past — doing the same things, hoping for different results. We must change, we must keep up. We must learn, grow, develop, dream, expand, plan, escape. Passion must burn ever brighter. Complacency will stall you, bring you struggles, and silence your heart. When complacency sets in, we stay where we are and repeat the same things. Here is a helpful prayer — “God, make me dissatisfied!” I will escape complacency.
I WILL LET GO OF THE PAST. The future is often hindered by the past. What we have done in the past will never be good enough again! You do not move forward effectively by looking in the rearview mirror. We do not move forward by repeating what we have always done. We do not move forward without developing spiritual vision that gazes longingly at the things of God and seeks the way forward. You will struggle to move forward if you purposefully limit your vision and fail to plan. Some fail to plan because it was not necessary in the past. Sometimes churches swell without doing much, they get by without planning. What a tragedy! What could have been! How much more would have been accomplished in the kingdom by aligning resources and focusing on God’s priority? You can count on this – to fail to plan is to plan to fail. The past is like an anchor, weighing you down and holding you back. The past can inform my future, but the past must never define my future.
I WILL PRESS ON TOWARD GOD’S GOAL. Pressing on requires consistent energy, purpose, priority, planning. The goal must be visible, the way to reach it defined. I repeat, planning is essential. What is the goal? What is the path forward? I identify the path and I press onward, letting God guide me forward. Knowing Jesus is our aim. He compels us. He holds our future.
If I could sum up these three ideas in one concept, the goal is to LIVE INTENTIONALLY! I will be intentional – each day focused, looking forward, anticipating the future.

Study Eight: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Unity

November 19th, 2017

The presence of the Holy Spirit among God’s people is to be a source of unity. Christians are to maintain the “unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). The HS binds God’s people together in a bond of peace.

Every Christian has access to God through the same Spirit (Eph. 2:19), another evidence that all are equal in Christ, that the body of Christ is a place of peace and unity, because Christ is our peace (2:14). Barriers, divisions, and enmities are destroyed in Christ, and the Holy Spirit is part of that process. God dwells in the church, the peaceful body of Christ, so the church is described as the dwelling place of God through the Spirit (2:20).

The Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian individually (see previous lessons, also 1 Cor. 6:19-20). The Holy Spirit also dwells in Christians corporately, that is in the body or the church (1 Cor. 3:16).

In John 17, the Father and the Son are one (a unity) because they share the same thinking, goals, and glory. The unity of believers depends on their receiving the word (17:14), which is truth (17:17). That word empowered the testimony of the early believers so that even more came to believe (17:20). There is no explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in John 17, but the principle is clear.

The unity of the Father, Son and Spirit is the model for the unity of the church today.

Study Seven: The Spirit Promises, a role in expectation

November 12th, 2017

In Acts, the HS clearly has a role in expectation, a role that continues throughout the New Testament since the new Christian era is to be characterized by the continuing presence and work of God’s Spirit. The HS is connected with water baptism (2:38; 19:1-3). The promise of the HS is connected with baptism and the presence of the HS in the life of the believer is affirmed in various NT texts (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:18-20; Eph. 2:20-21; et.al.).

The presence of the HS in the life of a Christian is accepted and considered sufficient in the early experience of the church without a special emphasis on or evidence of the presence of the HS. The HS is described as a seal and as a down payment on the promise of God (Eph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:20).

The work of the HS in expectation relating to the promises of God is to insure the security of the promise. This work of the HS in the book of Acts continues past the initial events of the new Christian era so that the presence of the HS is security of the certainty of the promises of God. The new Christian era is to be characterized by the continuing presence and work of God’s HS. This is signified in the reception of the HS at baptism, and in the promise that the HS is for all obedient believers (5:32). Sufficient as security for the promise (the HS as seal or promise in 2 Cor. 1:20; Eph. 1:14) is the presence of the HS in our lives, guaranteeing the certainty of God’s eternal intention as reality in our lives.

Study Six: The Holy Spirit Guides, Leads, and Influences

November 5th, 2017

In Acts 16, positive direction from the Spirit came by means of a vision to Paul. The text says that a conclusion was drawn based on various factors that converged in Paul’s second missionary journey. Did Paul know that the Holy Spirit was involved? Did Paul recognize the leading of the Holy Spirit? Luke, who joined the missionary group at Troas, is the one writing the report, several years after the events occurred. What principles can we legitimately draw from Paul’s experience to help us know that God is guiding us?
To answer these and other questions of the same type, we will turn to some New Testament passages that Paul wrote later in his life, several years after he had received the Macedonian call and expanded the gospel to Macedonia and Achaia.

Acts 16:6-10
o This text hardly serves as a model to be applied to every Christian today. The questions raised above are not satisfactorily answered in the text. How Paul was prohibited by the Holy Spirit from speaking or from entering the locations mentioned is not made clear. The vision was recognized by the missionaries as a communication from God, and Luke does not mention the Holy Spirit with relation to the vision.
Romans 8
o Every text must be studied and understood in its context. In the book of Romans, Chapters 1-8 deal with the question of salvation, specifically the salvation available to the Gentiles. The primary point is that a righteousness from God has been revealed apart from the law, and that this new righteousness of God motivates faithful living and negates God’s wrath (compare 1:17-18 with 3:20).
o In Romans 4-8, Paul describes how this righteousness by faith connects to justification in Christ and enables the Christian to avoid the sinfulness that was unavoidable under the Old Testament law. In Romans 6, Paul makes clear that we Christians no longer serve sin but that we serve Christ and that the result is righteousness. The former person (literally, old man) with the body of sin has been destroyed. What the law could not do, Christ has done, making possible life in the Spirit with no condemnation.
o Romans 7 must be understood in context as the transition between the promise of Romans 6 that Christians are freed from sin and are no longer servants of sin, and the reality of Romans 8 that those who life according to the Spirit do not live according to the flesh. What was not possible “then” under the law is “now” possible in Christ.
o Romans 8 explains what it means to walk according to the Spirit and to put to death the deeds of the body. In the context of Romans 8, being led by the Spirit of God is synonymous to living according to the Spirit. Being led by God brings adoption and freedom from sin rather than slavery, powerlessness, and fear. Romans 8 suggests that one way to know whether one is led by the Spirit is by the way one walks according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh.
o To repeat, in the context of Romans 8, being led by the Spirit is the same as living according to the Spirit, choosing the desires of the Spirit rather than the desires of the physical being. There is nothing in the passage that says how this is done. Perhaps the closest reference is to the pattern of teaching in 6:17, so that being led by the Spirit means following the teaching.
Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:18. These two passages are related to prayer and the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Romans 8:26-27 says the Spirit helps our weakness, literally our infirmity or debility. We pray in the Spirit—the probable meaning is according to what the Spirit desires, and we are helped in our prayers when we can hardly understand what life according to the Spirit demands. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is a factor as we pray because we are seeking spiritual life and spiritual realities. The Holy Spirit is also intercessor when we cannot unravel life’s mysteries so that we do not know exactly which direction we should go.

What is the difference between being controlled by a human spiritual leader and being controlled by the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? How can it be true that those who live in the Spirit do not fulfill the longings of the fleshly human being?
Ephesians 5:15-21. How is control or influence exercised? The answer always has to do with words—actual or implied. Control over human beings is exercised by influencing the mind or thinking. We respond to others (in a sense, are controlled by them) through our thoughts. This is the primary method of control or influence. Why would we understand that the influence of the Holy Spirit would somehow come to us mysteriously, supernaturally, or even miraculously. How does the Holy Spirit influence us? Is it not through his words?
o The text of Ephesians 5 speaks of being filled with the Spirit. One who is filled with the Spirit exhibits at least five actions—speaking to one another, singing and psalming in the heart, giving thanks in the name of Christ, and submitting to one another.
o Those who live in the Spirit are able to control their actions. Those who live in the Spirit are obedient. The idea that we cannot control ourselves by God’s Spirit makes obedience or disobedience a moot point. Why would we be urged to obedience if it is not a possibility and we cannot control what we do?

Study Five: The Holy Spirit Empowers and Equips [various NT texts]

October 29th, 2017

When people in Acts were filled with the Holy Spirit, the first thing they did was speak!

An important part of the work of the HS in Acts and in the NT deals with the need to equip the early church with special gifts to assist with the spread of the gospel. This may be a confirming work, but given the intense interest and emphasis in today’s religious world on the gifts of the HS, this theme must be explored and explained. The gifting work of the Spirit is certainly in view in the NT, but there may be fewer texts than one would be led to believe given the contemporary emphasis on the HS. The gifting work of the Spirit provided support for any or all of God’s purposes in the early church — especially in fulfillment, confirmation, and expectation. The gifting work of the HS always corresponded to the what the church needed to accomplish God’s purpose, and in the NT the HS supplied many spiritual gifts that were non-miraculous.

A word must be said about modern claims of miraculous gifts. There is little justification in the NT for the contemporary focus on spiritual (miraculous) gifts. If modern day miraculous gifts serve as confirmation, one might legitimately inquire why the revealing, speaking, and communicating function of the HS cannot serve as confirmation today as it did in the first century. There is even less justification for seeing the modern church as ill-equipped for ministry without special visible endowments of the Holy Spirit. The presence of God in this world has never depended upon his visibility in supernatural manifestations.

What is most surprising is how few NT references there are which can be certainly applied to the gifting or equipping role of the HS. What activities may be thought to involve the HS, even though there are not specific references to the HS? Did the HS inspire preaching? If so, how? How did the HS guide in selecting the apostles and Judas’ replacement? What was the role of the HS in working miracles? What part did the HS play in providing wisdom? How did the HS help people speak boldly? How did he comfort or encourage? The list of questions may also be brought into the present to provide profitable reflection upon what it means that the HS is involved in the work of God’s church today, e.g. does the HS inspire preaching? etc.

While the HS has a role in gifting God’s people, the task of equipping the early church with miraculous or non-miraculous gifts is not as visible as we are often led to believe. This emphasis is more read into the NT (eisegesis) than out of the NT (exegesis).

The Spirit Empowers
Acts 6:1-15; 7:54-60

The Spirit Equips
1 Corinthians 12 (2 lists), Romans 12, 1 Peter 4, various other NT texts

Study Four: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Salvation [various NT texts]

October 22nd, 2017

The role of the Holy Spirit in salvation can be summarized in three concepts: Renewal, Transformation, and Liberation. These three concepts we will study, using three pairs of NT texts.

The Spirit Renews
In John 3, Jesus talks about two births — the first a birth of the flesh (a fleshly birth), the second a birth of the spirit (a spiritual birth). The Holy Spirit plays an important role in the new birth. If that truth is less than obvious in John 3:1-8, it is abundantly clear in Titus 3:4-7. Salvation is regenerative; newness comes and the Holy Spirit is an important part of that renewal.
• John 3:1-8
• Titus 3:4-7

The Spirit Transforms
Salvation is transformative. As Christians, we have been set free in Christ. Biblically, liberty in Christ includes limitations. How is that possible? The presence of the HS in the life of a Christian is both transforming and liberating (2 Cor. 3:16-18). Living in the HS is God’s antidote to ungodliness: “live in the Spirit and you will by no means fulfill earthly desires.” The spiritual life is lived “in the spirit.” The HS is the transforming power needed to win the struggle between the carnal being and the spiritual being (compare 1 Cor. 2-3).
• 2 Cor. 3:16-18
• Gal 5:13-26; 6:1-6

The Spirit Liberates
The Spirit of God liberates the human spirit from bondage to the old masters of sin and death. If we are no longer under obligation to the previous masters, why do we choose so often to recognize their authority? The liberating presence of the HS is essential to our continued experience in salvation.
• 2 Cor 3:16-18
• Romans 8:1-27

Study Three: The Holy Spirit Brings Spiritual Words [1 Corinthians 2-3]

October 8th, 2017

A careful study of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts focuses on three aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit — confirmation, empowerment, and expectation. This lesson explores the way the Holy Spirit worked in fulfillment, to confirm and validate God’s word for the first century believers.
[If you have not already done so, now is time to read my extended essay about the activities of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts: Role of the Holy Spirit in Acts and in the Early Church.]

One aspect of the confirming role of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts is fulfillment—-the Holy Spirit speaks with God’s authority to confirm, to reveal, to communicate, and to instruct.

The HS is a divine person. When the HS speaks, God is speaking. The words of the Father, the words of the Son, and the words of the HS are the same words. Therefore, the words of the HS have authority. The words of the HS were given to the apostles. Since the apostles are not physically present to speak to us directly, where do we find the “words taught by the Spirit?”

Many today expect the HS to speak directly. Some believe the HS will somehow be understood by carnal people who are controlled by natural impulses. In 1 Cor. 2:11-16, Paul says that the only way to know and understand God’s wisdom is by the revelation received from God, which God has freely given by giving us his Spirit. The spiritual things of God cannot be explained by human wisdom. The context of 1 Cor. 2:13 clarifies the meaning: explaining spiritual things to spiritual people, in spiritual terms or concepts, i.e. with the words the Spirit gives. Considering the contextual reference to the natural person, v. 13 is most likely a reference to spiritual people. The natural (unspiritual) person does not receive the things of the Spirit because they are foolishness to such a person. The lack of understanding is because the things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person evaluates (discerns) all these things, and is not evaluated (discerned) by others.

When Paul describes the work of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2-3, he uses a powerful contrast between carnality and spirituality. He answers the question raised above: “Since Paul and the other apostles are no longer here to speak to us directly, where can we find these ‘words taught by the Spirit’?” We turn to Scripture, seeking understanding.

In 1 Corinthians 2-3, Paul explains the contrast between the spiritual and the natural (physical, carnal). (See also Gal. 5:16-18). The basic idea of the adjectives is that of sharing the nature of something, or having the characteristics. Spiritual and carnal relate to one’s nature or characteristics.
• The Spirit’s power is demonstrated in the message and preaching, 1 Cor. 2:4
• The powerful words that reflected the Spirit’s power were the basis of a faith that rested on God’s power and wisdom, and not on human wisdom, 1 Cor. 2:5
• The Spirit participates in God’s communication, giving words that communicate spiritual meaning. These words communicate God’s truth, and are authoritative because they are divine. They reveal and instruct, 1 Cor. 2:6-10
• The words of the Spirit are not understood as long as one tries to understand them with human wisdom or in physical, natural thought patterns. In fact, such spiritual things are considered foolishness by the natural or unspiritual person, 1 Cor. 2:12-14
• The lack of understanding is due to the fact that spiritual things are discerned with spiritual concepts or orientation, 1 Cor. 2:14-15
The early believers saw in the work of the Spirit the confirmation that Scripture was being fulfilled. They saw the confirmation of God’s purpose and plan, and the confirmation of God’s word as revealed in the prophets.

Spiritual vs. carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-4)
• Solid food or milk
• Ready to receive, or incapable of receiving
• Spirit of Christ, or worldly striving
• Spiritual character, or that of mere men
• Christ followers, or followers of men

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