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Bob Young

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Thanks for visiting our website! The photo this month was taken during a seminar in Santiago de Chile, November 2016. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Seminar, Zone 11, Guatemala City

Ministry has always been a team effort--Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 47+ years! In addition to the customary "Brother Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. My favorite breakfast is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of quality coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and help develop "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by so many people around the world!

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The Jesus Story: What I Have to Understand

March 19th, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon series seeks to summarize what I saw when I studied Acts. We know these stories—do we really know these stories?
I see in this series a study of first steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? Lesson #4, the story of Jesus, what does it mean?
The fourth truth—the story of Jesus is a forgiveness story. There may be a better word, there may be a word that connects with the contemporary world, but the story of Jesus is a continuation of God’s forgiveness story for the world. I am not sure how we can tell the gospel story, the story of Jesus, the Easter story, without proclaiming that the story of Jesus is a forgiveness story.
There are softer words—redemption, reconciliation; there are related words and phrases that seek healthier living, better relationships, etc. etc. etc. But the message must not be forgotten. My greatest need must not be overlooked. The Easter story is meaningless without an awareness of sin. The importance of the Jesus story in my life depends on my understanding of my need for forgiveness.

Forgive–
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.
Acts 8:22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.
Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Save–
Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Acts 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Acts 2:47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
Acts 15:1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Acts 15:11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Acts 16:17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”
Acts 16:30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

The Easter story is the story of my forgiveness, of your forgiveness. God doing what we could not do for ourselves. A death and life story for everyone, because everyone is need of God, restored relationship.

Excursus:
• Creator God exists, evidence all around us. There is a God.
• He wants to be recognized, he wants to be known, and he wants to be known as he is, for who he is—holy, loving, just. Recognize him.
• He wants to be reverenced, worshiped. Respect him.
• He created humankind for relationship, he desires relationship, which relationship was broken by the entry of sin into the world. Respond to him.
• He desired restored relationship—-reconciliation, redemption, he has acted; his gracious action motivates repentance and changed lives; he makes possible restored relationship vertically, but also horizontally.
• He wants us to reflect his glory.

When we tell the story of Jesus, do we make it easy for others to see its importance? In my observation, we too often begin in the wrong place, or we begin without establishing basic fundamental truths that make the story important to every person.

No matter how well I live, how good I am, how much I do, how active I am, I need the story of Jesus. I am grateful for the story of Jesus. It is life-saving, it is relationship-building, it orients me for life. I am seeking God so I can share him. I am forgiven to forgive. He saves, he keeps me saved.
He places me in a safe place, a place where he keeps all of his saved ones. That is the church. That is not the subject of this series, but that is a biblical concept that we human beings have also messed up royally. I want to come to that after we study God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion
The story of Jesus is a story of forgiveness: help, hope, and home.

The Jesus Story Is To Be Told–Even to the Most Unlikely

March 12th, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon is basically a summary of what I saw when I studied chapters 6-10. I will not mention many details of those chapters. You can read them. Stephen—the sentence, the sermon, the stoning; the scattering of the saints spreads the gospel; Samaria; a proselyte Jew from Ethiopia; Saul-Paul, Cornelius. We know these stories—-do we really know these stories?
First steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? Lesson #3, the story of Jesus, what does it mean?
The third truth—the story is to be told to everyone in every place—even to the most unlikely!

We miss the unlikely aspect of Acts. The summary statements of Acts. Almost always focused on quantity.
6:8, the word spread, a large number of the priests (Jewish priests!) were obedient the faith. They gave up their livelihood, they gave us status, prestige, power, position, prominence. Perhaps not at the beginning—with the integration of Judaism and Christianity, but certainly in the future.
8:1-4, scattered to Judea and Samaria! Samaria! To the Samaritans, this is a new group, they believe and obey, they are baptized. The preaching was the good news of the kingdom, the result was baptism. Whoops! Samaria! Is this OK? Is this acceptable? This was not apostolic preaching. This was not the authoritative group of preachers, the witnesses. This is second generation preaching, preacher. Is it OK to preach to the Samaritans? Can they be accepted? These are Jewish by religion, but only half-Jewish by birth. We must put ourselves in the context of first-century Judaism with the coming of Christianity, and all of the first Christians were Jews. This is not easy. Did God withhold the Spirit (temporarily) in this case? If so, it was for the benefit of the Jews, so they would accept the Samaritans. Or, that they Holy Spirit was not yet manifest, and that such was only possible by the imposition of the hands of the apostles? This is a traditional interpretation. Regardless, our point today is that the gospel was being told to the least likely.
8:26ff, to an Ethiopian nobleman, servant of queen, Jewish proselyte, Gentile by birth, Jew by religion. Philip goes to preach to him, by Holy Spirit. This time there will be no problem, no coming of the apostles to bless the preaching of Philip, Philip has been approved, the message can go forth without hindrance to the world. This is not normal, this is the most unlikely, but the preaching bears results.
9:1ff, Saul. Perhaps never a more unlikely candidate. Jesus intervenes personally, Ananias still has doubts. But the gospel is received. And the church grew in number (9:31).
10:1ff, Cornelius. Gentile, God-fearer. Can gospel go to “pure Gentiles”? Peter preaches and the Holy Spirit comes early. In Samaria, the Holy Spirit came late. Here it comes early. Why? To convince the Jews who had accompanied Peter. The Holy Spirit’s coming was known by speaking in languages to praise God. Thus they were baptized.

This is not the end of the unlikely candidates. The process continues even in our day.
• Countless examples about which it was said, “It probably won’t do any good.” But it did!

The Jesus Story Is To Be Told

March 5th, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon is basically a summary of what I saw when I studied chapters 1-8. I will not mention many details of those chapters. You can read them—I mentioned them briefly last week. Pentecost, the church, conflict with the Jewish leaders, suffering, Ananias-Sapphira, following Jesus is costly; Stephen—the sentence, the sermon, the stoning; the scattering spreads the gospel far and wide.
First steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? Lesson #2, the story of Jesus, what does it mean?

The second truth—-the story is to be told! In this lesson, we will support this point with a study of a very few chapters from Acts, right at the beginning. I will not list the multiplied Scriptures throughout the New Testament that address the need to tell the story. (In the sermon, this is a detailed study, even though the notes are abbreviated here.)
In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the story was told.
In Acts 3, Peter told the story to those who had seen the crippled man healed. This is, as it were, the second gospel sermon.
In Acts 4, Peter and John, and the apostles, were proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection from the dead. When they were commanded not to speak, but their response was that they could not help themselves! What would happen in the contemporary church if we could not help ourselves, could not keep from speaking the good news of Jesus? They rejoiced to have the opportunity to speak, and they prayed for even more boldness. But it is only the apostles to this point that are mentioned as testifying to Jesus’ resurrection, perhaps because they are the only “witnesses” available.
In Acts 5, we may have a hint of this apostolic preaching, because it was the apostles who were arrested. But they were miraculously released, they returned to proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection that makes possible new life. Peter and the other apostles responded (v. 29), the apostles were flogged, and rejoiced to be counted worthy of proclaiming. 5:42 appears to refer to the apostles.
In Acts 6, the apostles chose a ministry in the word and prayer, the word spread, even to the priests.
In Acts 7, Stephen preaches the first gospel sermon not preached by an apostle so far as we know. We are seeing a change. Do not miss this. It was the apostles as witnesses who preached in Acts 1-6. Now we have a sermon by Stephen, the result of which is his death. The story of Jesus is a life and death matter.
In Acts 8, persecution comes to the church, all but the apostles are scattered, and all go forth boldly preaching the word, wherever they go!

This next step in the story never ends—-in Acts or in the centuries thereafter. It continues today. The focus in Acts is mostly on special events, we will talk about those next week. From Acts 8 onward, the story is about Christians sharing the story. Peter will get attention, Paul will get the majority of the attention along with his companions, but a quick reading of Acts reminds that the power that took the gospel to the Roman world and to the then-known world in the first century was not centered in a few powerful preachers or unique personalities. It was a power that brought the gospel to Samaria through Philip; to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch by those who were scattered (11:19); to Galatia as those who heard the message continued to spread it; to Asia Minor (several of those who led in the proclamation are mentioned in Paul’s letters); to cities in the Roman Empire through Aquila and Priscilla; through Apollos…and the story goes on and on.

Takeaways—
The story is to be told
It was first told by the eyewitnesses, the apostles
Afterward, it was told in every place by every Christian
The key phrase: We Cannot Help Ourselves! May that become a reality in your life during this Easter season.

The Jesus Story: A Life and Death Matter

February 26th, 2017

Hearing the Jesus story (the Easter story, the gospel) is a life and death matter
I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon is a summary of what I saw when I studied chapters 1-5. I will not mention many details of those chapters. You can read them. Pentecost, the church, conflict with the Jewish leaders, suffering, Ananias-Sapphira, following Jesus is costly. First steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How?
The first step is hearing the story correctly. Getting the story right, hearing the story, the Easter story, the Jesus story, is a life and death subject. I purposely said “life and death” rather than “life or death.” Hearing the story correctly requires hearing it again and again. Hearing it afresh. Reading, studying, thinking.
We have oversimplified the gospel, the contemporary version that exists among “us” is not the whole truth. Because it is not the whole truth, it is lacking in power. It is simplistic, it is not the result of intense Bible study. Jesus came preaching the gospel (Mk. 1), the gospel was announced in advance to Abraham (Gal. 3), those who fell in the wilderness had the gospel preached to them (Heb. 4). The gospel that Jesus is the Messiah is rich, fulfilling, challenging (Ac. 18).
The world does not understand the story, the story must be told again and again. (Perhaps we do not understand the story.) The world focuses at Easter on resurrection life. The Jesus story says that life comes only through death. The “old man” is gone so the “new man” can exist. But that is getting ahead of my story.
In Acts, Luke uses a code word for the process of moving from death to life; that word is “saved.” We use the word in the same way today: he was saved from the swirling flood waters, the firefighters saved her, the doctors were able to save the boy. These are descriptions of life and death situations.
Listen to Luke–
• Acts 2:21, And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
• Acts 2:38, Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins. [In this text, remission of sins is equal to saved]
• Acts 2:40, With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
• Acts 2:47, And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
• Acts 4:12, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
• Acts 11:14, He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.

Look at some other life and death references from Acts. Acts makes clear that this life and death content. First, the Jesus story is a life and death story as it tells the history of Jesus. Second, it is a life and death story of every human being, because Jesus is the only source of life.
• Acts 2:32, God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
• Acts 3:15, You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
• Acts 5:20, “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
• Acts 11: 18, When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

The content of the story of Jesus (the Easter story, the Passion) makes it a life and death story
Acts 2:23, 24, This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
The preaching of the early church was the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Near the beginning of this century, the movie “The Passion” made clear that the story is a life and death story.
Because it is a life and death story, it seems to have less appeal in today’s world. People want the life story without the death story. People want the blessing without the sacrifice.

The story of Jesus as reflected in the lives of his followers has always been a life and death story
Acts 5:33, When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. The early followers of Jesus understood well that this was a life and death story, because their lives were threatened.
Acts 7 tells of Stephen’s death. Acts 12 records the death of James the apostle.
Church history and church tradition tell the story of martyr after martyr.
Even today, some are martyred for their faith.

The story of Jesus is a life and death story today
Even today, some are martyred for their faith.
Too many Christians have forgotten that the Jesus story, the gospel, is a life and death question, a life and death decision. We choose death to self to live to him, we choose death to sin to live to him. The old gives way to the new. Rom. 6; 2 Cor. 5.
It is easy for us to forget. Christianity is for many of us today easy, comfortable, undemanding. We easily fall into habits that keep Christian commitment on the fringe of life. Life is not intentionally Christian, purposefully Christian, focused, discipleship-demonstrating.
We may never be called to give our physical lives for Jesus, but the Jesus story, the Easter story, the gospel story, is still a life and death story. It is a story of dying to self to live to Christ. Gal. 2.
Baptism illustrates that following Jesus is a life and death proposition.
Christian living, biblical discipleship, demonstrates that following Jesus is a life and death proposition.
The story of Jesus is a life and death story for me, for you, for this church, for every person.
Deciding to follow Jesus is costly, demanding, sacrificial, life-changing.

It All Begins with God–“Before” [#5]

January 29th, 2017

In this final sermon in the series, we look at what God has accomplished in Jesus, using three New Testament descriptions of Jesus. Jesus is–
• Pioneer or trailblazer, he enters the holy place with his sacrifice, he blows it open so we can also enter
• Example, we follow in his steps
• First fruits, he is the promise that God’s plan works

Why this idea is important–
• The opposite idea would be that God is behind us, the idea that we just need to stop all progress and go back to the way things used to be, the idea that we somehow get closer to God in reverse than in forward gear. Many in my tribe have tried to find a way forward by focusing on the past.
• For me, the Jesus narrative is a story that pulls me forward rather than pulling me backward. God has in mind a future that is unimaginable. Jesus has already walked the road that he now calls me to walk as his follower.
• We are not committed to going back and making things like they used to be.
• We are committed to an inspiring vision of what can be, what the future holds, what is beyond our imaginations, more than we can ask or think.
• I am describing two options–forward or backward. Which is the right view of God? The “old paths” passages are Old Testament. God sent Jesus to walk a new path. Now he calls us to follow where he has already gone. He gives us principles to guide us. What contributes mightily to the backwardness of religion in our world today is the idea that we need to go back, when God is calling us forward. This is the God who is “before us.”

Expanding these three concepts–
• Pioneer and trailblazer that makes possible our salvation (Heb. 2).
• Pioneer and example in life. Jesus demonstrated compassion, humility, service, sacrifice. He calls us to follow. This is God before us, calling us forward (1 Peter 2).
• Pioneer and first fruits He is promise of resurrection, he is promise that the process works (1 Cor. 15). We follow him—-in service, sacrifice, suffering, death, life, relationship with God.

How will we discover what God is up to without a careful rereading of the Bible, about the God who wants us to move forward at warp speed. He has a vision for humanity–joyous, fulfilling, possible. How can we simply plod along? The dominant view in the majority of churches holds us back from the kind of growth God intends. We are too self-centered (it is not about us, about our group). We are too self-confident (we cannot solve the problems). We are too self-contained.

Let us go forward–because God has come to be “with us,” has accomplished a saving work “for us” in Jesus, now lives “in us,” promises to be “beside us” always, and is constantly “before us” leading us forward.

It All Begins with God–“Beside” [#4]

January 22nd, 2017

Life is often a lonesome journey. Moving forward is challenging, difficult. At times we face seemingly impossible odds. We experience problems, setbacks, failures. We want a companion, someone who understands our needs and the nature of the journey. The last two sermons in this series show how God meets that need in Jesus, in the promise of Jesus to give us a Comforter to be at our side, and in Jesus’ presence with the Father.
Time for a quick review–

  • The God who promised again and again, “I will be with you,” in Jesus’ birth and ministry came to be “with us.”
  • The God who is “for us” has done everything necessary to assure the victory, he has indeed fought on our side against the enemy. In Jesus’ ministry and death, we clearly see the God who is “for us”, a concept so powerful that no one can stand against us.
  • This God–Father, Son, and Spirit–takes up residence, dwells, is at home, “in” us. This truth changes everything about our lives as we listen to, focus on, respond to, and anticipate the glory of our God.
  • Why is it important to know that God is “beside us”? That God is beside us leads to two important Bible teachings.

  • Walking beside us is a comforter–the Holy Spirit. In John’s gospel, the Holy Spirit is also known as the Paraclete. This word comes from a Greek verb (parakaleo) that means to comfort or console. The word is sometimes translated exhort or encourage.
    • The Spirit comforts us
    • The Spirit encourages us
    • The Spirit exhorts us, guiding us
  • Standing beside us is Jesus Christ–our advocate with the Father
    • Jesus Christ as our advocate, 1 John 2:1-2
    • Jesus Christ presents our case based on his continued action on our behalf, 1 John 1:6-10
    • Jesus Christ intercedes, Heb. 9
  • God is “at our side” in every part of life. You cannot think of any time in your life when God is not at your side. It does not matter how far you have wandered or strayed, God through Jesus and the Spirit can be at your side. It does not matter how difficult the stretch of life you are going through, God is beside you. Problems–God beside you. Failure–God beside you. Overwhelmed–God beside you. Confused, doubtful, struggling–God beside you.

    Three takeaways–
    • God stays put. God never gives up on us no matter what we have done or are doing.
    • God empowers us. He encourages us and enables us to experience the power and presence of God
    • God supercharges us. We come to understand that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

    It All Begins with God–“In” [#3]

    January 15th, 2017

    We struggle to understand God. The challenge is even more apparent as add another dynamic: God in us.
    A brief review. Everything begins with God. In the beginning, God. In the beginning, the Word. Eternal existence, no beginning, no end. Above and beyond human concepts of space and time. Above matter, speaking matter into existence. Creative power, creative genius, sustaining the universe. This is God; this is Jesus pre-incarnate.
    Then, the Incarnation. At the Christmas season, many think about Jesus and the beginning of his physical life on this planet. This is God with us. The baby in the manger is popular, non-threatening, lovable. But the story of Jesus’ life among us is not complete unless the story of his birth leads to the story of his death. Easter, as a religious event, even more popular than Christmas. Who doesn’t want to be saved? Who cannot sympathize with a suffering Savior? Who is not touched by the passion of Christ? God demonstrates love, he clearly shows how much he is for us.

    I wish I understood more fully the significance of eternal existence–the One who is the very image of God, for whom all things were created, the One who now sustains and has always sustained this physical creation (Col. 1; Heb. 1). I wish I understood better the “God with us” dimension of Jesus’ coming. I wish I understood better how powerful is Jesus’ presence right now before the throne of God, the clear declaration that God is for us. I think clearer understanding of “with” and “for” would be helpful in the third dimension of this series.
    I also want to understand what it means that he is “in us” or “within” us. Wow! God in us!

    Seven well-known texts show us different dimensions of “God in us.” Here are the passages: John 14:23; Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:17; Col 1:27; 2 Timothy 1:14. What should we see? What conclusions should we draw?

  • Before he left the earth, the promise of Jesus to his followers was that God and Jesus would take up residence in those who keep his words.
  • The Spirit (of God, of Christ) lives in Christians, as evidence that we are in the Spirit and that we belong to Christ, and as promise that we will be resurrected.
  • Christians collectively are the temple (dwelling place) of God, where the Spirit of God dwells.
  • The church is the dwelling place of God through the Spirit.
  • Christ dwells in human hearts by faith.
  • Christ in us is the hope of glory.
  • The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians.
  • Since God is “in” us, “within” us, how shall we then live? Four truths can be distilled from these seven passages. We live….

  • In the Word. Paying attention to, obediently keeping, his words (guarding the sounds words)
  • In the s(S)pirit. Meditating on and focused on spiritual things
  • In relationship. As belonging to God, as belonging to Christ, in his presence
  • In expectation. Expectantly, hopefully

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