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Bob Young

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Thanks for visiting the website! In this month’s picture, I share a flashback to the early days of Latin America Leadership Development, special Quito memories with Bob and Ridglae Stephens (2008). [Click picture to enlarge.]

Quito memories with Bob and Ridglae

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared 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 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 so many people around the world!

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What Does God Want? (4)

August 16th, 2020

This is the last (for now) in a series of thoughts about how we can more effectively take the gospel to our world.  How can we make clear what God wants from human beings, his creation made in his image?  We have written that God desires that we recognize him, respect him, and respond to him.  These are broad categories worthy of more thought.

Finally, God desires that our relationships reflect his presence in the world.  For the Jews, as Jesus summarized the law, the two great commands were love for God and love for one’s fellowman.  That God puts his image within us changes how we react and interact with others.  Relationships established on the basis of God’s presence in the world and in our lives as disciples shapes every relationship–with other disciples, in our family, and even with those who are not disciples.  These relationships are properly guided by recognizing the nature of God, and his desire for respect and response.

What Does God Want? (3)

August 15th, 2020

I am thinking about the message the church is called to share. I am thinking about mission work. I am thinking about local evangelism. I am attempting to sharpen my understanding, and thus to sharpen the message. How do I effectively communicate the message of God for the world? How do I help others know God and the salvation he provides through Jesus Christ?

I have suggested that God desires that human beings recognize him and respect him. God also desires that we respond to him. This response is multi-faceted. Perhaps I should include respect for God as response to God. Churches disagree and divide, churches are distinguished, by how they define the responses God desires.

At the heart of our response is that we become like him, that we fulfill his purpose when he made us in his image. This suggests that we imitate him and become like him (a theme often found in Scripture), and that we follow him (discipleship). Interestingly, imitation of Jesus begins even before we are able to perfectly imitate him in life. Our imitation of Jesus begins as we reflect his death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) in our own baptism. This response is imitation, and initiates God’s promise that imitation is possible, not only in becoming like him in his death, but also in his resurrection (Rom. 6:3-6). Also interesting is that our baptism is not an imitation of his baptism, but of his death and resurrection. Nor is baptism a mere symbol of a commitment to be an imitator–baptism as the response and pledge of a good conscience is imitation.

The response God desires must not be limited to baptism. Christianity cannot be defined exclusively by whether one has imitated Christ in baptism. Nor can response be limited to weekly worship. Discipleship is the most common word in the New Testament to describe the imitation God desires. Whoever will not take up his cross and follow cannot be my disciple. This view of discipleship demands daily response. (I wonder if we should use disciple more to describe responsive followers, while limiting the use of church member, Christian, and other less common biblical descriptions.)

God honors his desire that we respond to him and become like him by his participation with us. He honors our commitment to be responsive disciples with the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit empowers our response.

I plan to write tomorrow about the fourth item in my list–relationships. Will you help me think through what God wants from his human creation? I would like to hear from you.

What Does God Want? (2)

August 14th, 2020

Yesterday, I asked the question, What does God want from his human creation? As we attempt to make people aware of God and his plan for their life, what should we share? What should we say? Is what we are doing working? Is there a better way? I suggested that the first desire of God for his human creation is that people recognize God for who he is. We need more thinking about how we communicate the reality of God’s presence and involvement in our world, how we communicate his nature, and how we communicate his purposes for his creation.

Respect Him. God wants people to respect him. This reflects his desire that his creation honor him and worship him. The respect God desires is based on and consistent with who he is. God does not want us to honor false gods, or false ideas about him. He wants us to worship him for who he is. Perhaps I have #2 (respect) and #3 (response) reversed. I am thinking that at some level, worship and respect are possible before a committed response (Romans 2; Acts 10). Many churches have distinguished themselves by emphasizing various aspects of worship. We worship in this way, and not in that way. We are for this and against that. Many of the ideas about worship are based in human desires and preferences. Others are based in a strict reading of and obedience to the word of God. The kind of worship that is acceptable to God is based on who he is, what he is like.

God is not seeking ritual nor liturgy. He cannot be pleased with heartless worship. Nor is he pleased with worship that does not reflect a total sacrificial commitment to him as God, Lord, and King. Respect demands worship to God consistent with his nature. If we have not properly proclaimed the nature of God so that people might recognize and understand him, we will have an empty message concerning what it means to respect or worship God.

What Does God Want? (1)

August 13th, 2020

I have spent a lot of time over the last three weeks thinking about a single question: What does God want from me? The question has many applications. What does God want from the Guatemalans with whom I have been visiting and interacting? What does God want from people around the world? What does God want from his church? What does God want from me today?

I feel the need to simplify the answer. We have made Christianity very complex. We have drawn distinguishing lines based on minutae. My first “stab” at an answer suggests God desires that we recognize him, respect him, respond to him, and relate to him and our fellow human beings. I plan to expand these in future blogs. Today I am thinking about what it means to recognize and understand God.

Recognize Him. God desires that his human creation, made in his image, recognize him. He wants us to be able to see him and to know him, for who he really is. The gospel, good news, begins with who God is. If we are image of God people, who we are depends upon who God is. Who is God? What is God like? God is above nature, he is not a part of nature. God is Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. Much of who God is is summarized in his love, but other characteristics of God are revealed in nature and in the Bible. We cannot effectively preach the gospel, in the US or in countries around the world, without making certain that the foundation of understanding is who God is. Many misconceptions of God exist. We must rethink who God is before we can understand his desire for his world.

God sent Jesus so we might know him for all that he is. He is not only revealed in nature. We are not dependent upon a written word as were the Jews in the Old Testament. God is to be seen and understood in a real person, living out the reality of the presence of God. That God can be seen in people has implications for what we do and how we do it as we live our daily lives in his presence and service.

Preaching the gospel, sharing the good news, begins with the person and purpose of God. God wants that people might recognize him, and come to know him in the full reality of who he is.

Answering the Call: Surrendering to what counts

August 1st, 2020

You will never be worth much to God in your Christian life until you learn to surrender to what counts. The spiritual disciplines must include surrender.  In fact, surrender may be first, the foundation of every other discipline. Surrender is the ultimate expression of thinking like Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Until we learn the lesson of complete surrender, we will continue to think it is about us and that success depends on us.  Until we learn the lesson of complete surrender, we will not likely become effective servants (slaves) in Jesus’ kingdom.
Do not be confused.  I am not talking about surrender to the minutiae, trivial, or urgent. These are hardly ever worth being the focus of our lives.

Surrendering to what counts is not easy–because a plethora of tasks, good projects, and commendable activities call for our attention. The choice of the best over the better or the good is seldom seen or done without extraordinary effort. Can you see reality, what is really #1? That is the only thing worth giving our lives for.
Surrendering to what counts will cause us to discard as unimportant the things the world teaches us to value. Cross-carrying: that is how Jesus defines surrender. Cross-carrying as Jesus describes and demands will demote self-promotion, possessions, reputation, and the accolades of others.
Surrendering to what counts opens new doors of genuine service and effectiveness in the Kingdom, because all that matters is the business of the King.

God, help us this day to surrender ourselves fully. Help us to identify the things that really matter in life. May we surrender ourselves to what counts, because of the majesty of the One we know as Lord, through whom we come before your throne, Amen.

Casinos and 1 Thessalonians 5:17

July 22nd, 2020

I couldn’t help but notice–the car entered the interstate next to the Firelake Casino at a very high rate of speed. First thought–I wondered if the driver was mad because he had just lost a lot of money.  On second thought, “Probably just a coincidence.  Perhaps the driver lives nearby.”

He sped up enough to squeeze in ahead of us and we saw the bumper sticker on his car: “Follow me to Firelake!” Oh, wait! There’s a license plate frame as well: “1 Thessalonians 5:17.” I knew without looking it up what the Bible text says: “Pray without ceasing!”

Jan and I got a good laugh. I guess if you’re going to try your luck at the casino, a little “prayer without ceasing” can’t hurt.

Easter: A good time to get a firmer grip on the gospel

April 12th, 2020

Many Christians have failed to grasp that the resurrection is the polar star for the Christian faith and message. Without the resurrection, Christianity is empty. The Christian message is summarized in the “gospel”, literally, good news. Paul claims that in preaching the gospel, he was sharing “first things” — the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). “First things” is often translated as “most important things.” Paul claims that gospel message saves us, must be constantly remembered, and must be shared. There are at least 91 New Testament occurrences of the word gospel. There are many more references to events of the passion week — the suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. A casual reading of the early chapters of Acts suggests that the fundamental message preached by the early church was the gospel. The gospel message of fulfillment, promise, and power was communicated and confirmed by Old Testament prophecy and the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.

Paul describes initiation into the Christian faith as participation in the gospel of Jesus (Romans 6:1-6), baptism (burial) into the death of Jesus so that participation in his resurrection is assured. I am thrilled today that many will celebrate the importance of the resurrection of Jesus as the crowning truth of the gospel. Indeed, Paul affirms that without the resurrection, little remains but misery and a pitiful existence (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). However, merely celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is not God’s ultimate goal for human creation. Personal participation in the resurrection is God’s intent. Participation in the resurrection as Paul describes it in Romans 6 has two possible applications. First, you and I experience new life in Christ as we are baptized and the “old man” of sin is destroyed so that a new person comes forth. This may be also what Paul means in the phrase, washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). Participating in Jesus’ resurrection is shown by “resurrection living.” Second, our participation in the ultimate resurrection at the end of time hinges on our participation in the death and burial of Jesus in the initiation of immersion.

Today, I am glad for the desire of many to celebrate the resurrection.
Let us continually celebrate the good news of Jesus, the gospel, which is the story of his love demonstrated at the cross — summarized in his death, burial and resurrection.
Our baptism into Christ is evidence of our participation in the gospel and marks his presence in us and ours in him.
Changed lives are the result, and are thus evidence, that we are participants in the gospel.
Hope for participation in resurrection to the presence of Jesus begins in our participation in the gospel.

Today, may the message of Resurrection lead you to faith, obedience, newness, and hope. Since Christians are those who are like Christ, the connection between the experience of Jesus (the gospel) and our own experience as we imitate him in death, burial, and resurrection must not be overlooked.

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