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Bob Young

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This month’s picture--another of my favorites! Fifteen years of pictures on my computer, over a hundred trips to Latin America, thousands of pictures. With travel restricted and fewer new pictures available, I share some of my favorites! [Click picture to enlarge.]

crowds watching baptisms

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared ministry and mission work for over 52 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 papa (or papaw). 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 people around the world!

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Thinking the Faith

June 1st, 2021

“Americans Describe Their Ideal Church.” Barna reports constantly survey the ever-changing U.S. religious scene. Churches find it more and more difficult to reach out to their communities. In his book, Thinking the Faith, John Douglas Hall pointed out that historically, until the 1960s, most Americans attended the church of their parents. Hall observes that faith was not “thought” but inherited. In some religious groups, one is considered a member even before personal faith develops. Until about fifty years ago, any choice of churches was virtually arranged for most people at birth. People went to the church of their parents which was the same church their grandparents had attended. Church shopping was rare.

In times past, people changed churches when they moved, when the church went through a split, or when entering a “mixed marriage” — when two people from two different church backgrounds married and had to choose to attend his church, her church, or an entirely different church. Things have changed! Church or denominational loyalty is at an all-time low. According to Barna, each year more than one out of seven adults change their church affiliation, and another one out of six attend a carefully chosen handful of selected churches on a rotating basis rather than sticking with the same church week after week. Even though U.S. church membership in 2021 has fallen below 50% of the population for the first time, church remains an important aspect of life for millions of people. However, there is less concern about religious “brand loyalty” than there used to be.

“Thinking the faith” may be the biblical ideal, but increasing church mobility suggests that other factors are now involved in understanding how and why people choose churches. In a survey from a few years ago, when those who attend a church were asked about the most important factors, nine factors were significant.  (The Barna research did not inquire about the things most important to the unchurched.)

The three most significant factors were the beliefs and teachings of the church, how the people in the church cared about each other, and the quality of the Bible teaching.  Additional factors that were statistically significant but not of primary importance included friendliness to visitors, care for the poor, quality of programs and classes for children, personable preacher, denominational affiliation, and quality of the adult Bible classes.

For those of us who believe that biblical faith should be thought out, the news is not all bad.  Two of the top three factors involved Bible teaching–content and quality. Worthy of note are the things missing from the list of important factors, especially with the current emphasis in many churches on worship music, small groups, inclusion, and the convenience and comfort of the building.

It’s Sunday Again: Mother’s Day

May 9th, 2021

Mother’s Day sermons are unique. For over 40 years, I preached a sermon every Mother’s Day, with only a few exceptions. For the last dozen years, I have “preached” my Mother’s Day sermons by posting sermons to my website, blogging, or through social media and videos.  Preparing the “just right” sermon is a challenge, a bit of a mystery, and an opportunity to pioneer and blaze new trails. On Mother’s Day, the church expects the sermon to say something about mothers. Today, I do not have a preaching appointment, but I want to say something about mothers.

Of all of the characteristics that mothers exhibit, one less often mentioned is faithfulness. It is assumed that mothers will be faithful. The mother who is unfaithful to her children is an enigma. She makes the news. Something is wrong. Everyone wants to know, how can it be?
We use the word faithful to describe friends, church leaders, ministers, missionaries, dogs and cars. We value faithfulness. Today I am thinking about the connection between mothers and faithfulness. Many of us have been blessed by a mother who never gave up on us.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says that faithfulness comes from endurance and keeping one’s eyes set on the goal, from perseverance and keeping one’s eyes on Jesus. Other factors contribute to faithfulness, but today I am thinking of these two truths as they relate to mothers and as they relate to our lives in Christ.  Our ability to endure and persevere depends on what and who we keep our eyes focused on. On Mother’s Day we are grateful for mothers who kept their eyes on the goal and modeled endurance and perseverance for us. We honor them. I am grateful that my mother taught me to glorify God.
Contemplating mothers and faithfulness reminds me of one more truth: if your mother could say to you what is on her heart today, among the things that she would most want to mention is this: Be Faithful!

From my Mother: Wealth

May 8th, 2021

Happy Mother’s Day! Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. If your mother is still living, count your blessings this Mother’s Day.

My mother collected little thoughts and sayings. She had countless little pieces of paper, some cut out of a church bulletin, others where she had written or copied something she had heard or read. She put these scraps of paper everywhere–in the textbooks from which she taught, in her Bible, in the books of poetry and inspiration that she collected. Today I share a poem that I heard her recite on several different occasions, one that she had written out in her own hand. Her version is slightly edited from Walter Lewis Smith’s “Fulfillment.”

I have planted a garden, so I know what faith is,
I have seen birch trees swaying in the breeze so I know what grace is,
I have listened to birds caroling, so I know what music is.
I have seen a morning without clouds, after a shower, so I know what beauty is.
I have read a book beside a wood fire, so I know what contentment is.
I have seen the miracle of the sunset, so I know what grandeur is,
And because I have perceived all these things, I know what wealth is.

It’s Sunday Again: Resurrection

April 1st, 2021

The cartoon caught my attention. Verbalizing and explaining cartoons is difficult because cartoons are meant to be visual. Let me try to share the picture! Use your imagination. The scene is in front of a church building. The church marquee clues us in–it is Easter Sunday. The man greeting the preacher after the Easter sermon says, “Preacher, I think you’re in a rut–all I ever hear you preach about is the resurrection!”
The point is that man attends only on Easter! He is part of what one person called the “Holly and Lily Crowd,” the Christmas and Easter crowd.

It’s Easter week. Next Sunday is Easter Sunday. Time to talk about, preach about about the resurrection.
May I share another perspective! Perhaps the cartoon speaks to a different problem in the contemporary church. Maybe we don’t preach about the resurrection enough! How many sermons never mention the resurrection? How many sermons limit references to the resurrection to a brief passing remark near the end of the sermon?
The resurrection is the hinge-pin of Christianity. Without the resurrection, Christianity fails. The power of God in the Christian life is based on the resurrection. Perhaps we need to get in a rut in our churches. Perhaps the greatest failing of the modern church is to assume the resurrection, to fail to preach the cornerstone of the gospel.
Have you noticed that the messages preached in the book of Acts were about the resurrection? Here is a short list: Acts 2:24, 36; 3:36; 4:2, 33; 5:31; 7:56; 10:40; 13:30; 17:31, 32; 23:6; 26:23. The resurrection is part of the message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). In many passages in Acts, even when there is no direct reference to the resurrection, the resurrection is included in the preaching of the word of God (Acts 7, 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 28).

That which distinguishes Christianity from all other world religions is the resurrection of Jesus. A characteristic of deity is immortality. Immortal God has power over death. In most religions that power is evidenced by the fact that gods do not die. In Christianity, that power is evidenced in that God has power over death even when death has occurred. The power of God is not only to avoid death, but also to reverse death. Jesus’ power over death is magnificently displayed in his resurrection.
The validity of Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. Further, the resurrection of Jesus is the firstfruits and promise of the resurrection of Jesus’ followers. The importance of the resurrection is seen in the fact that the early church celebrated the death and coming of Jesus every Sunday in sharing the Supper.

Let us preach and hear the message of the resurrection! Preachers, don’t let a single message be the end. Preach about the resurrection continually. Preach the gospel; preach the resurrection. Preach about Jesus; preach the resurrection. Without the preaching of the resurrection, Christianity is no more than a competing system of morality among many religious systems. Resurrection! Know the distinctive, emphasize the distinctive. Only Jesus can give us power over death!

After Easter: Building on God’s Foundation

March 30th, 2021

[Note: In 2021, as in 2020, the pandemic will almost certainly lower Easter attendance in comparison to historic averages. This article seeks to explore “the bigger picture” of the Easter Sunday experience of the churches.]

On Easter, most Christian churches have their biggest Sunday attendance of the year. No Sunday of the church year surpasses Easter in total attendance. Surveys show that more Christians are in church on Easter than any other Sunday of the year. Not only do most of the members show up on the same day (quite rare these days!), multitudes of visitors fill the church buildings! Since churches tend to soar or crash based on numbers, spirits and hopes are buoyed by the large crowds. The hope is that the interest shown will be a harbinger of good things to come. The sad truth is that few churches are able to build on the Easter experience. In most years, post-Easter church resembles pre-Easter church. Why is it so hard to maintain Easter momentum?

Psalm 11 is a mystery for many. Are we, or are we not, supposed to “flee as a bird to God’s mountain?” What is David’s message? How are we to understand these words: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (11:3) If the question is read as a rhetorical question, the answer appears to be “nothing.” the righteous are powerless. Is that the correct meaning, the correct application? The verse is easily misunderstood apart from its context. When life’s circumstances make our faith apprehensive, Psalm 11 provides foundations.

Let’s quickly work through this short psalm–only seven verses.
1a — the theme statement, Psalm 11 is encouragement and affirmation of supreme trust in God’s righteousness.
David affirms his dependence on and confidence in God, and urges others to find refuge in God.
1b — When one take refuge in God, why would one give the counsel of verses 1-3?
*The counsel to flee is not valid. Refuge in God does not depend on absence from this world—-it is not necessary to flee like a bird to the secure places.
2 — Despite the evil intentions of the wicked, security and refuge are possible in the midst of a troubled, threatening world. The forces around us, bent on assaulting the upright in heart, still seek to overwhelm us.
3 — When all that is tied down is coming loose, one may ask with good reason, “What can the righteous do?” When the evil in our world surges and we can no longer depend upon a moral world order, what shall we do? When evil overcomes good, where shall we turn? Some would counsel flight, many would counsel non-resistance. When evil seems to have the upper hand, when it appears that evil will triumph and that overcoming evil with good is no longer an option, what shall we do? The alternative reading, “What is the Righteous One doing?” reflects how easy it is to question God in difficult days.
4-7 — David’s answer, his reply to the fearful, is that God is still God. God is in control. God is sovereign. Life looks different when God is our foundation. The foundations are not being destroyed! Here is David’s answer. Never fear—-God is yet in his holy temple, God is on the throne. The challenge that faces the church is to remember and constantly proclaim that God is on the throne! David’s solution is not to declare that “God is good” in the midst of trouble and death. “God is good” works best when we get what we want. David’s solution is to recognize that God is in control. God sees, God tests, God examines, God will act. God is righteous, God loves justice.

Back to the church and Easter. Success down at the church house is not built on numbers, but on God. The church must be built on the foundation of God. The world will do its best to destroy the foundations. The church that fails to build on the foundation will struggle. Christians whose faith depends on always seeing God’s goodness will at some point struggle. The call of Psalm 11 is to see more clearly the nature of God, and his work and presence in this world.

It’s Sunday Again: Christmas–He Appeared (Tit 2)

December 27th, 2020

We live in limbo. We live between two appearings. This is a Christmas sermon, this is a Bible study. We explore together an unknown text, seldom associated with the Christmas season. Titus 2:11-14 speaks of the appearing of the grace of God, bringing salvation. The reference is to the coming of Jesus. The same text speaks of the appearing of the glory of God — Jesus is coming again. We hopefully await the glorious appearing of our God.

The conclusion is valid: we live between appearings. We live in the reality of saving grace and in the anticipation of ultimate glory. We are strange creatures living in strange times. Often we see glory better than grace. Glory is more fun; grace, frankly, is challenging!
The appearance of grace disciplines us. It steers us away from ungodly living and worldly passions. It demands of us self-control, righteousness, and godliness. Grace declares our treasured status, uniquely possessed and valued by God. Grace speaks purity and commitment to what is good and right.

Yes, this text is a bit unusual for a Christmas week sermon text, but the connection is undeniable. If we do not see God’s grace in the Christmas story, we will continually struggle as we live between the appearances of Christ!

Post-Christmas Thoughts

December 26th, 2020

Christmas has come and gone. Christmas 2020 is in the history books. This year, our family assembled a day early to enjoy sweet conversation, exchange gifts, and celebrate Mom’s enchiladas. Soon the decorations will be stored for another year and the house will return to normal. The Christmas mantel décor will be replaced with the Valentine’s mantel décor.

One of the things I like about the Christmas season is noting how various writers and thinkers approach the season. (Perhaps this reflects the “preacher” in me.)  One would think that after 2000+ years, all that can be said would have been said. But not so! Each year, I enjoy finding new ideas, approaches, and thoughts.

If you are into introspection (perhaps a characteristic of aging), here is an interesting thought to ponder. “What if Jesus had not been born?” Make a list. What things would not exist? What parts of your life would go away? What organizations you support or belong to would disappear? What aspects of your life would not matter? What if Jesus had not been born?

What an unimaginably sad thought! Let us live every day knowing that he did come to earth, knowing that God has penetrated the human dilemma in a unique way, hearing God’s declaration that history is linear and not circular. In Christ, God has made our rescue possible. We live because he lived and because he lives.

Can You See Him?

December 25th, 2020

Merry Christmas! I blog much less frequently than I did a dozen years ago. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media have large replaced blogging. Nonetheless, for those who read these words, whether on my blog or on social media, I send out a Christmas Day greeting.

Now that I no longer preach full-time, many of my older sermons are archived and seldom revisited. Today I share one of my favorite Christmas Sermons. May you be blessed today; may you this day take time to see the Christ.

A popular Christmas song asks the question, “Do You See What I See?” The early chapters of Luke give us an insightful orientation. Consider with me what various people saw in the events surrounding the Nativity of Jesus.

First, what Luke saw. Luke saw an opportunity to write down the things he had researched and learned from eyewitnesses. He calls it an “account with certainty” — that you might know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4). The Greek construction emphasizes the certainty.

What Gabriel saw. The angel Gabriel came to Mary with a message from God (Luke 1:26-38). His words to Mary encourage us to see Jesus as Savior and Son of God Most High. We are reminded of His greatness, His position on the throne of David, and His eternal reign. Because of the presence of and power of God, nothing is impossible.

What Mary saw. The Magnificat, or Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), tells us what Mary saw. She saw God as her Savior, one mindful of her, one who blesses her, and one who does great things. She speaks of His holy name and His mercy, and calls Him the helper of Israel.

What Zechariah saw. Based on the promise of God, Zechariah speaks of the role of his son, John the Baptist, in preparing the way for the one who will bring redemption, salvation, and mercy (Luke 1:67-79).

What the shepherds saw. When the angels appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14), the angels spoke words of the one who is Savior, Christ, and Lord. The shepherds were to see in Jesus “glory to God, peace on earth, and favor toward mankind.”

What Simeon and Anna saw. In the temple, Simeon saw salvation, revelation and redemption (Luke 2:21-35). Anna spoke of the coming redemption (Luke 2:36-38).

At the Christmas season, the focus is typically on the the babe in the manger. Many will go through the holidays giving little thought to the entire story of Jesus, never bowing in adoration and worship. In contrast to the things that have come to characterize this season, it is interesting the the biblical account in Luke speaks of Jesus as king, Son of God, revelation of God, Savior and Redeemer. He is Christ, the Lord. He is God with us. Can you see Him? Will you take time to see Him?

Merry Christmas 2020!

December 25th, 2020

Merry Christmas!
May your day be blessed with an awareness of God’s blessings and meaningful reflections about God’s plans for your future. I share two quotations: gifts that you can give to others and to yourself today, and every day.

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
—Oren Arnold

A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
— Benjamin Franklin

Christmas Hymns-6

December 24th, 2020

Today on Christmas Eve, I wish you a Merry Christmas!
While it is almost certain that Jesus was not born on December 25, this is the day of the year when much of the world is thinking about the events surrounding the coming of the Savior of the world. I take only a moment of your time today as we prayerfully delight in God’s eternal plan to send his Son for the salvation of the world. Few Christmas carols reference the redemptive aspect of Jesus’ coming, but today’s hymn is rich in theology and has several references to what Jesus accomplished in his coming.
May you know the peace of God that is possible only through the reconciliation accomplished in Christ’s death on the cross, reconciliation which restores friendship with God and removes sin. Newness is possible because participation in the death of Christ makes possible the crucifixion of the old nature and the raising up of a new nature as we participate in his resurrection. (Read Romans 6 for Paul’s description of the process that allows us to contact the saving blood of Christ, escaping the past and being born into a new life reality which determines our future.)
The hymn below is well known, based on the Nativity narrative of Luke 2. Written by Charles Wesley, it was originally titled “Christmas Hymn.”

Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king.”

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come, Offspring of the favored one.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate deity,
Pleased, as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel,
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king”

Hail the heaven born prince of peace, Hail the son of righteousness
Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king.”

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