November 23rd, 2014
When I present seminars on Mark’s Gospel, I like to include a series of lessons I call, “People Jesus Touched.” Many of these lessons come from Mark 5-8. [Outline Note: Mark 1-4 answers the question, “Who is Jesus?” Mark 5:1-8:21 asks, “Who can be a follower of Jesus?” Mark 8:22-10:52, deals with the question, “What does following Jesus look like?”]
Jesus came touching people. He came helping and healing the hurting and hungry. He confronted the powers of demons, was compassionate when doctors had taken advantage, and bold in the face of ridicule. He gently guided his disciples to new understandings. He understood fear, admitted its reality, and used it as a beginning point to generate faith. He called the Pharisees on the carpet when tradition got in the way of caring for people. He touched the untouchable, he reached out to the unreachable. He rescued, healed, saved.
As people thronged about him, he saw the results of sin’s entry into the world–illness and infirmity, sickness and sorrow, hopelessness and hunger. He sighed. He hurt when others hurt. That his heart was touched may explain his reason for touching others with healing and salvation.
Two thoughts echo in my mind during this week: I am grateful that Jesus has touched me and continually touches me; I wonder whom Jesus wants me to touch.
November 16th, 2014
What does the Gospel of Matthew reveal about the Kingdom? How does one seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?
Matthew’s Gospel has five major discourses or teaching sections. These are clearly marked in the text by parallel concluding phrases (Mt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). One can easily identify the teaching sections by looking at what immediately precedes these verses (and the red letters in some Bibles). For example, the first of the discourses is the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), the middle discourse includes several “kingdom of heaven” parables (13:1-52), and the last discourse includes the parables of the virgins and talents, and the judgment scene (25).
In good oration and teaching, discourses include a conclusion. (An exception is those sermons that ramble and eventually just stop rambling!) Good speeches end by answering the question, what is the point? What should one remember? So it is in the teachings of Jesus. Each of the discourses has a point. The final words indicate to us the point of the teaching. What conclusions does Jesus want his listeners to reach?
When I present seminars on the Gospel of of Matthew, one of my favorite approaches is to examine these teaching discourses, based on the concluding words. (Outlines and notes are posted on my website.) This week would be an excellent time to read or re-read the discourses. The following may help you identify and remember the content.
- Kingdom Blessings: Who is blessed in the Kingdom? Those who develop “kingdom hearts” (5-7, Sermon on the Mount)
- Kingdom Commitment: Authentic Kingdom Discipleship (10, instructions when sending out the Twelve)
- Kingdom Thinking: Understanding the Surprising Hiddenness of the Kingdom (13, parables)
- Kingdom Principles: Life in the Kingdom (18, settling controversies in the kingdom of heaven)
- Kingdom Priorities: Will Be Clearly Seen When the King Comes! (25, parables and judgment)
November 9th, 2014
For many in churches of Christ, historically evangelism has been primarily a cognitive process focused on the acceptance of certain truths or propositions by an individual. The goal and primary emphasis has been simple–salvation. More recently some of us have been asking about transformed lives and genuine discipleship, seeking to be and help others become learners who follow Jesus (Savior) Christ (King). Do not miss the difference. Jesus never asked, “Do you accept me as your personal Savior?” He did said, “Follow me.” The purpose of a disciple must be the same as that of the Teacher.
How could a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus, have a mission other than the mission of Jesus? If Jesus is our Lord, if he is our Teacher, if he is our King, does it not follow that his task is our task? That what matters to him matters to us? Jesus began his ministry and defined his own mission in the world by reading an Old Testament text in a Nazareth synagogue. He did not take up the prophecies of Isaiah 7, 9 or 53. He took up the words of Isaiah 61 (Luke 4:14-21).
Jesus declares to us the meaning of life under the kingdom rule of God. He alone can save. In Jesus Christ, salvation signifies deliverance from one kingdom (of darkness) to another kingdom (of light). Without doubt, we who are genuinely his disciples imitate his concern for the poor, persons in prison, the blind, and the burdened. We follow his example of righteousness, compassion, and love. These are part of the renewed kingdom. But until these are coupled with preaching the Good News and helping people experience the transformation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus, the kingdom renewal of our own lives is incomplete.
For whose soul are you praying today? Whose soul are you seeking for the kingdom? “If the souls all around you are living in sin…will you not tell them the good news today?”
November 2nd, 2014
The question resounds as we sing, Do You Know My Jesus? A few moments later we sing the simple request, Jesus Let Us Come to Know You!
Familiar words, favorite songs, not always easy to bring to life. Knowing Jesus is seldom easy, often quite difficult. The Jesus of Matthew is both servant and royalty. The paradox must not escape us. The lineage is right, but the circumstances seem wrong. The markers line up (Jesus, Emmanuel, Christ, Son of God), but the purpose catches us off guard (to serve, not to be served).
Life in the kingdom of this King is possible only because he is continually present. He leads us in kingdom living which is generally not at all as we thought it would be or should be. The life to which he leads and challenges us is internal more than external. It is sacrificial and faces rejection more often that victory. It is both present and future.
We sing, O To Be Like Thee. Our servant king comes teaching and preaching and healing; but he ultimately comes dying. How much do I really want to be like him?
Jesus, Let Us Come to Know You!
October 19th, 2014
Attitudes are like background music in our lives. Attitudes are ever present, ever influencing our lives, playing in the background during every moment of our lives. Attitude is a key to consistent Christian living. The attitude we should have is that of Christ (Phil. 2:5). When Christ’s attitude permeates our lives, we are unceasingly in prayer, focused on things that make no sense in this world. Four attitudes can make a big difference in our daily efforts to live the Christian life–availability, sensitivity, responsiveness, and gratitude.
First, live with an attitude of availability. God, I am available for you to work through me to accomplish your kingdom purposes. I have no personal agenda, I am emptied (Phil. 2:9), I am totally available for you to do your work in and through me wherever and whenever.
Second, live with an attitude of sensitivity. God, make me sensitive to the world, let me see you, make me aware of your presence in the world, assure me with the presence of your Holy Spirit. Help me see where and how you are at work, help me see opportunities. Make me “kingdom sensitive” so that I see you and your work and your way in the events of my life.
Third, live with an attitude of responsiveness. God, make me responsive to the opportunities you provide. Let me live in integrity, demonstrating the beauty of your plan for your human creation. As I am going, wherever I go, may availability and sensitivity combine to make me a responsive instrument in your hand to accomplish your will.
Fourth, live with an attitude of gratitude. When we understand the love of God for his human creation, we come to understand what he did to save us. Having invested so heavily in our eternal salvation, he continues to do all he can to protect us from the world about us and Satan’s snares. For Christians who clearly see this truth, it is harder to turn one’s back on God than we have thought or taught. Living in and basking in the love of God for us empowers us and motivates us (2 Cor. 5:14).
When the background music of my life reflects availability for God’s purposes, sensitivity to God’s presence, responsiveness to God’s power and guidance, and gratitude for God’s provision, life is different. This continual background music, coupled with unceasing prayer, changes lives. It can do the same for you.
October 13th, 2014
In recent months, I have served in the following ways.
• Preached for four U.S. churches in Mission Emphasis Days and gave mission reports; keynoted a men’s leadership retreat; taught classes on missions and attended missions meetings in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan
• Consulted with church leaders in a Michigan church to help in the development of future ministry plans
• Taught adult Bible class on Restoration History at Park Plaza in Tulsa
• Spoke at Peru National Church Leaders Conference in Lima, seminar on Revelation
• Taught a special class focused on ministry in the church, at EBL (Lima Bible School)
• Site visit to Panama missionaries
• Finalized the translation and first printing of the evangelistic Bible study series, “En Pos de la Verdad.” These 8 lessons are part of the original Fishers of Men series, more recently known as “Quest for Truth.” Worked with Quest for Truth to finalize legal documents to transfer to me ownership of the Spanish translation. Worked with Spanish Literature Ministry to arrange future printing and distribution
• Helped facilitate EVO training seminar with Pedro Sanchez at Iglesia de Cristo, Park Plaza
• Attended Baxter Seminar and spoke on evangelism, distributed hundreds of lessons for evangelism in the “En Pos de la Verdad” series
• Spoke on Park Plaza summer series
• Preached and taught in numerous Latin American churches as part of four mission trips to 7 different countries
• Presented seminar series for Ocotepeque Mission work at six churches in the area around La Palma, El Salvador and Ocotepeque, Honduras
• Worked with Mission Upreach in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras in Leadership Training Series with 24 participants from across western Honduras, focusing on goal of developing well-trained, self-supporting evangelists, preachers, and church leaders
• Presented seminar, “Going deeper in Christ: Studies in 1 John,” at Barrio Cabanas, San Pedro Sula, Honduras
• Spent three weeks in Ecuador and Colombia, working with 13 churches in Colombia and 5 churches in Ecuador. Presented seminars on discipleship, Acts, How to Study and Understand the Bible, evangelism, and leadership
• Preached at site of proposed new church plant in Colombia
• Presented seminars for two churches in Managua, Nicaragua, on leadership, Christian family, evangelism, and the Gospel of Mark. Visited numerous congregations and church leaders in and around Managua
October 12th, 2014
Today I have a rare Sunday at home! I returned home from Nicaragua a few days ago. This has been a stressful week; this has been a blessed week.
Stressful–because the sprinkler system stuck in the “on” position after a severe storm, the gas is off because we have water in the line and it has to be replaced, the internet cable to the house had to be replaced so I was offline for a couple of days, as a safety matter we have to replace some inoperable windows in the house…. Those are the big ones, space does not permit (and you do not want to hear) the entire list.
Blessed–because of time spent with family and friends, time spent with Jan, breakfast with my sons, messages and conversations with lots of Christians with a heart for missions, the opportunity to work on new presentations for future mission trips, encouraging words received.
My brother Pedro from Nicaragua wrote, “Brother Bob…muchas gracias…may God keep blessing you in the precious ministry he has put in your hands.” Those words of encouragement reminded me that God has blessed me in wonderful ways. I continually get to work with, spend time with, and communicate with the most wonderful people on the face of the earth–God’s spiritual Kingdom family. We share common goals, dreams, and hopes. We long for the spiritual growth of the church and the development of healthy, capable churches around the world. We long for the salvation of souls brought to the feet of Jesus.
May I encourage you today to contemplate “the ministry God has put in your hands.” I am confident that God has something for you to do. Pray about it, find that ministry, and do it with all your being to God’s glory!