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Thanks for visiting our website! This month’s picture is of a seminar in Guatemala at Ezell Clinic, December 2018. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Seminar in Guatemala

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 years! (We traveled together to preaching appointments during the year before we were married.) 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. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in 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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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Being Church in the World in Which we Live

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Today I share some random thoughts concerning the challenges of our contemporary world. How should the church live out the faith of Jesus in the present world?

We live in a religiously divided world; we live in a non-Christian world, we live in a post-modern world.
Some days it seems that everything that was nailed down is coming loose.
That we can be objective is a great myth.
The new paradigm is lack of predictability. With the development of quantum physics, we discovered a world that does not behave the way Newton said it should. It is impossible to pin down, with waves turning into particles and particles into waves. What has mass one moment is pure energy the next, and none of it is predictable. The very act of observing a particle changes its behavior, which destroys the concept of scientific objectivity. A scientist cannot stand outside the world to observe it. The same particles that are busy responding to each other respond to the observer as well, revealing a world that is not made up of manageable things but of constantly changing relationships. It is no longer possible to think of the world as a machine.
The great challenge before humanity is the quest for community. The great challenge before the church is the quest for community. The church that exists in genuine community will touch the world.

Christians Who Influence the Culture

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

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My conversations with Christians in various parts of the United States and in other countries, especially in Latin America, suggest that many Christians are dissatisfied with the world. How can Christians influence a culture, or a nation, or a world?

First, understand that the nature of a culture or nation is the result of a particular view of the world. The worldview and values of our culture are reflected in the books, movies, television programming, art, and entertainment. Values are reflected in how and on what we spend money. When a Christian rails against the culture or society, the criticism is really of a particular way of thinking and the values in the culture.
Second, consider that although we Christians may not be able to influence and change the surrounding culture, we can control their own culture–our own thinking and values. First century Christianity did not see its role as that of changing the Roman Empire but instead that of living faithfully within the context of the surrounding political and cultural system. Paul urged the Corinthians to be in the world but not of the world. To the same church he wrote about waging the battle for Christianity by bringing every thought into captivity. We Christians control our culture by deciding what we allow into our lives. Christians who allow into their lives the world’s music, entertainment, and language will usually find themselves adopting the thinking and values of the world.
Finally, we Christians can by our own lives demonstrate the kind of world we demand to live in. We begin to change the world by changing our own lives. We influence our world by controlling our own lives. We can decide our priorities; we can show what matters most to us by the things we invest our lives in–how we spend our time and money, what we find entertaining, what we find disgusting and repulsive. What the world sees as funny is often sad from God’s viewpoint. What the world values is seldom what God values.

How are we Christians doing in living by God’s standard rather than the world’s standard? What are we doing to bring about the world as it should be?

Stars to Steer By: Culture

Friday, July 20th, 2012

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Our attitude toward our own culture has recently been characterized by two qualities, braggadocio and petulance. Braggadocio–empty boasting of American power, American virtue, American know-how–has dominated our foreign relations now for some decades. Here at home–within the family, so to speak–our attitude to our culture expresses a superficially different spirit, the spirit of petulance. Never before, perhaps, has a culture been so fragmented into groups, each full of its own virtue, each annoyed and irritated at the others.
–Daniel J. Boorstin

What applications do you see–
with regard to our methods of missions?
concerning the task of taking the gospel to our own culture?
to the challenge of uniting people on the basis of Christian faith rather than group interests?

Just Thinking…about Culture

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Jan and I are sometimes jealous–jealous of those folks who have spent most or all of their lives in one place and have close lifelong friendships and relationships that have developed over decades.
But about the time we get too deep in feelings of self-pity, someone will voice their wish that they could have had our experiences–friends across the nation and around the world, close friends and deep friendships that allow us to connect with a host of different folks again and again. (Are we ever thankful for email!)

The key word is different. I am not a multi-cultural guru, but I have experienced many different worlds and I have been blessed to be able to see things in multiple ways. I believe I have an expanded understanding of the world as a result. In the U.S., I have ministered in the rural south, urban south, rural north, and urban north. I have preached in lots of places in between. I have been involved in mission efforts in several different countries, and I have returned to Latin America again and again–a dozen countries and counting, and all of them different.

The experience I have logged is messy. It is increasingly difficult to say that life is or must be a certain way with no other options. Cultures can be fracturing experiences. Priorities undercut one another. Items with significance in one place are less significant (or even insignificant) in another place.

A challenge to Christianity? You bet! But also refreshing–because of the reminder that we must drill down to the core of the gospel message if we are to bring the world to Jesus. We must recognize that some of our own preferences and practices are peripheral. What is foundational? What is at the root of faith? Discover it, live it, and share it! The world will be changed!

Faith and Marriage

Monday, January 9th, 2012

The end of 2011 brought an interesting report to my inbox. The Association of Religion Data Archives, in an Ahead of the Trend report, shared the following under the title, “Happily ever after: Shared faith linked to kinder, gentler marriages.”

“Fewer people may be getting married today, but there is new evidence that religious beliefs and practices can have a significant influence on the quality of marital relationships. One study finds couples who pray together and share religious values are more likely to express affection and love, perform acts of kindness and be less critical of their partners.”

Easter in a Changing World

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Easter in a changing world: are we in danger of suffocating Easter? I like Easter. It is a pure religious holiday. Of all of the religious holidays, the Easter tradition is pure Christianity. In fact, it is the heart of Christianity. Without Easter resurrection, there is no Christianity. Further, we have Easter at the right time on the calendar. Some may complain about the moveable date, but the Passover date was also moveable on the Jewish calendar since a 13th intercalary month was inserted periodically to keep the calendar accurate.
My religious heritage has not known what to do with Easter. We celebrate–but barely. Some are obviously uncomfortable with anything special. I regret that. I also realize that God did not intend notice of the resurrection to be only an annual event. I applaud the fact that people think about Jesus and the resurrection on Easter, I realize also such should be more than a once-a-year event. The practice within my religious heritage is to observe the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, recognizing that every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. I like the description I first heard from Marvin Phillips: “Welcome to the church that celebrates Easter 52 times a year!” But my question lingers: are we in danger of suffocating Easter?

Easter is changing in our world. I have noticed the change; if you have lived very long on this planet, perhaps you have also. When I was growing up in Kansas, the week preceding Easter was a somber occasion. There were special actvities at the churches–and at the school house! All of the businesses in our little town closed on Good Friday from 3-4 P.M. School was usually dismissed for the day, or if we had snow days to make up, no later than noon. Easter was Easter–even for those who did not celebrate Easter.
Today, Easter has become another holiday weekend in a long march of holiday weekends. A holiday week during Semana Santa turns into family vacation, time away from the city, time at the beach. Easter week or weekend involves long drives to see family or to work in a short vacation. The secular has all but replaced the religious.
Except for Easter Sunday tomorrow, Easter week has come and gone for another year. My Facebook friends who have taken time to post have gone on vacation, gone to the beach, traveled to other countries, and apparently had a jolly good time. One more day, and it will be back to work (unless you get Easter Monday off).

My complaint is really a question. What is an appropriate attitude for Christians during this time of year? What are appropriate activities? How do we reflect the central importance of the cross and resurrection? Is this week only one out of 52, nothing changed, nothing different? Or do chills run up and down our spines as we this week consider in a special, unique way that this was the time of year when Jesus changed our world by his sacrifice, death, and resurrection? Almost 2000 years have passed. Have we joined the scoffers wondering, “Where is the sign of his coming?” Or do we remember his resurrection as undoubtable proof that the promise is secure?

A World of Sin and Sorrow

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

[updated Monday, January 10, 7:00 A.M.]

The events of the weekend concerning the tragedy in Arizona have flooded the news shows, the talk shows, and the special news programs. The events were the subject of last-minute bulletin articles; the prayers of God’s assembled people included petitions on behalf of those involved and our nation. An early press release from Christian Chronicle revealed the church background of the Dorwan Stoddard, one of the six persons who was killed. According to a church spokesman from the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ in Tucson, the Stoddards went to the supermarket near their home Saturday morning to see Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” event. Dorwan died attempting to protect his wife from the gunfire. The Stoddards were very active in the church, assisting with various construction, maintenance and benevolent projects. Besides Stoddard, the Associated Press identified those killed as U.S. District Judge John M. Roll; 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green; Giffords’ aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79. Fourteen other persons were injured.

Another story that has grabbed the attention of the nation is that of Christina Green. A Los Angeles Times article described her as kind and a good speaker who had had just been elected on the student council of her elementary school. She was born on September 11, 2001, and featured in a book called Faces of Hope. Her father, interviewed on national television, noted that her life began on a day of tragedy and ended likewise, although the middle was very good.

Certainly our hearts and thoughts go out to every family affected by this tragedy. We often fail to recognize the nature of our fallen world. Ours is a world where evil is not automatically suppressed. May we do everything possible to be the presence of Christ in the world where we live and to share the good news which has life-changing power!

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