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Thanks for visiting our website! Picture of the Month: sharing the word in Pilanqui, Ibarra, Ecuador; a view of part of the crowd, two baptisms. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Preaching in Pilanqui

Ministry is always a team effort--Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 48+ years! Countless others have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. 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 authentic "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature in 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 ‘Christian living’ Category

It’s Sunday Again: I Am, Therefore I Act

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

We spend a lot of energy in the church trying to get people to do what they ought to do. We study motivation–we encourage, we scold, we “lay on” guilt trips. We have missed a basic truth of Scripture. I am, therefore I act. One cannot get “faith actions” out of “unfaith” people. According to James 2, faith acts. If faith is present, actions follow. If actions are lacking, faith is lacking. My actions tell others who I am. My identity comes first–my actions follow. My actions are consistent with my identity. If I am a person of faith, that faith clearly defines my loyalties and allegiances, priorities and purpose. I do what I am made to do, what I am intended to do, what I must do to live a consistent life (without internal conflicts which lead to doubts).

A great need in the church is the development of genuine faith that determines the nature and actions of our lives in every circumstance. Paul told the Corinthian church that Christians are “compelled by Christ.” Christ is our life. Christ is our identity. Some churches have spent a lot of energy developing mission statements–statements of desired or intended actions. The best of those mission statements begin with identity statements: we are…. Identity statements must precede mission statement. Identity precedes planning. “This is who we are, therefore, this is what we do.” Churches that fail to develop plans are in danger of losing their identity.

Too many Christians live in an “identity crisis.” We think of ourselves as “church members” but have little interest in becoming disciples. We have made it easier to be a member (be baptized) than to be a disciple (total commitment of all I am and do and have). People are baptized but worship only sporadically. We misunderstand: baptism is invitation to forgiveness, commitment and community. We use the word Christian impotently. Some are called Christians (or call themselves Christians) who little resemble Christ. Some who call themselves Christians jump in and out of church like it was a social club or automobile association. Genuine Christians are not “in it” for the benefits. Genuine Christians are “in it” because of who they are, or more accurately, who they have become through the transformation effected in Christ and by Christ.

When people look at our lives–what we do–do they take note that we have been with Jesus?

It’s Sunday Again: Taking Church for Audit

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Twenty years after I graduated from college with my bachelor’s degree, I decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree. My Hebrew was a little rusty (OK, very rusty!) so I decided to audit a Hebrew course at the local university. There are two ways to audit a course. The first way to audit a course is not demanding—you go to class, you sit and listen, but you don’t have to do anything during the class or during the week between classes. You have the advantage of sitting in class, along with a more relaxed attendance policy, no tests, no compulsion to do homework, and you still get an AU on your transcript. The problem is that when you audit a course that way, you don’t learn much and you can’t do much when you finish. There is a second way to audit a course. You attend every class; you do all of the homework and the teacher grades it. You take the non-mandatory tests to measure your progress. You put pressure on yourself. You benefit, you learn, you grow, you are changed, you act. My ultimate goal in auditing the Hebrew course was to be able to do something—read Hebrew using a minimum of helps. The class was not the goal—the goal was what could occur when I finished the class.

A lot of folks are auditing church using the first method. They sit in class (church) sixty minutes every week, unless something else comes up. They are fulfilling the minimum requirements of their religious audit. They are mostly present, but they are content to let someone else do the studying. A week or two later, they cannot pass a test over the class content (preaching). They do not bring their textbook to class, they do not do any homework between classes; they are not diligent students of God’s Word. They are content to let someone else pray for them—-they leave with the same prayer life they came with. They are content to let others prepare, study, pray, and do the work–before class, during class, and after class.

How can you tell the difference between the academic auditor and the serious student? How can you tell the difference between the church auditor and the serious Christian? Just as in my Hebrew class, the difference is in the results. My goal was to read Hebrew. My success or lack of success was measured by reading Hebrew. Going to church is a good thing, but it is not the ultimate goal. Our commitment to the goal is reflected in how seriously we pursue the course—studying, participating in the discussion group, sharing, practicing, and reviewing. And ultimately, the goal is reflected in how we live, what we do, and how much our lives look like Jesus as a result of our encounter with the Master Teacher.

What Kind of People Ought We to Be?

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

It is common to read the Bible in small sections, ignoring the larger context. One place that happens is in 1 Corinthians 3. The context of chapter 3 includes chapter 2 where Paul explains that authentic spiritual wisdom is available to spiritual people who think in spiritual ways and can apply spiritual truths to real life settings.
To explain the problem in Corinth, in chapter 3 Paul uses two similar adjectives. There is only a slight difference. The words are sarkinos and sarkikos. The root of both words is sarx (literally, flesh); they are different only in the suffix, the last four letters. The “inos” suffix points to the material of composition, “made of….” The “ikos” suffix points to characteristics, thus “characterized by, influenced by, or controlled by….”
Can you see Paul’s point? He would like to write to those who are characterized by spiritual realities (pneumatikos, 3:1, reflecting chapter 2). He cannot; he has to write to those who are very much like every other human being, composed of flesh (sarkinos, NET uses the phrase, “people of the flesh.”) He calls them babies in Christ.
They are not only “people of the flesh” (v. 1, sarkinos) they are still influenced or characterized by the flesh and fleshly concerns (v. 3, sarkikos). The evidence Paul cites is their jealousy and dissension. They are acting like mere human beings—-both by nature, and in their thinking.

A picture of the contemporary church! When we begin the faith journey, we face two challenges. One, our nature is transformed so that we become participants in the divine nature. Two, how we think and the things we value changes, so we are influenced and characterized by the spirit and not the flesh, described in chapter 2 as spiritual people discerning spiritual things.
Too many Christians are trying to live using only one or the other of these two powers. We cannot stop being humans and living in this world. (The New Testament never describes Christians as pneumatinos, made up or composed of spirit). Nevertheless, we have two natures—-human and image of God. As Christians, w are given a new nature and become participants in the divine nature. When we walk by the Spirit we do not fulfill fleshly desires (Gal. 5). We have a new outlook (Rom. 8) and live according to spiritual influences and values.
Christianity is not only how you act. Christianity is how you think! Some do reasonably well with actions but keep on thinking like the world. This method will eventually fail! When we bring every thought into control (2 Cor. 10), when we are influenced and characterized and controlled by spiritual realities, our actions follow. Our challenge is to grow until our spiritual nature supersedes our physical, fleshly nature. Our challenge is to be led by, characterized, influenced, and controlled by the Spirit. That is how one stops thinking like the world!

It’s Sunday Again: Measuring Life?

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

A long time ago in another millennium, I read a book that changed the way I have looked at life across almost five decades. The book is The Compulsive Christian by David Mason, first edition 1969.
Our society tends to measure life by what we have or by what we do. Mason reminds that God’s standard is being, not having or doing.
Further, each of these three verbal concepts has a past, present, and future. Nine possibilities! One can measure life by what one had, has, or will have. One can measure life by what one did, does, or will do. One can measure life by what one was, is, or is becoming.
I think about these options, and it is clear that God is most interested in what we are becoming. May I today be transformed to resemble him more closely, bringing him more glory, participating more fully in his purpose and will.

Living Under the Lordship of Jesus

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Interesting conversation–a friend and I were talking about our experiences in visiting other locations on mission trips. His comment, “They live as though Jesus really is their King!” Wow!
What does it mean to live the Christian life? Surely it is more than worship attendance, or more than worship plus some prayer and regular Bible reading. In our U.S. culture, we little understand the concept of kingship or royalty, but I think few kings would be satisfied with subjects who merely read the edicts of the king, told the king what they needed or wanted, and attended all of the state functions.
How does an authentic Christian live out the lordship of Jesus daily? What does it mean to us when we read “we are not our own, we are bought with a price,” or that “we are slaves to righteousness”? What is the focus of our lives? What do we think about more than anything else?

I do not pretend to answer for you. I only say that I am humbly called to evaluate more closely my own life and to consider what it means to live as though Jesus is Lord!

Answering the Call: Surrendering to what counts

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

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.

It’s Sunday Again: Two Basic Choices

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Life is filled with choices. A few choices are basic! Once they are made, they provide the foundation for the rest of life’s choices. If the foundational choices are not made in place, the rest of life is a constant struggle. Let me be specific. Here are two foundational questions that provide orientation for the rest of life. Who am I? Who is in control in my life?

For a Christian, the answer to number one depends on grasping God’s love and God’s forgiveness. Warning! If we make love easy or forgiveness cheap, our identity in Christ will be constantly blurry. This is not an easy love that says “You’re OK” and “I can put up with you like you are.” This is love that acknowledges problems and the necessity of change. This is no unconditional love. This is love that rightly expects obedience and commitment.
Impossible? That is where God’s forgiveness enters. What is impossible with us humans is possible with God. God’s forgiveness affirms our identity in Christ. Warning! Do not make this forgiveness cheap and unconditional. Do not fall into Satan’s trap of thinking that God is so loving that forgiveness is automatic and universal with only an unthinking acknowledgement of God’s existence. God’s grace is extended at great cost, and is faithfully accepted only with intense, unending gratitude.

Who is in control in my life? First, I must establish that I am not! Jesus Christ is Lord. The Bible is God’s Word. Here we see the written word and the living word. God reveals himself to us so we can understand him. When we see God for who he really is, we see ourselves as we really are. When we see God in all of his glory, we rejoice that he is willing to take care of our every inadequacy, fault, flaw, sin, shortcoming, and weakness. It is not about us, God is in control!

Today as I worship among God’s people, I seek to be reminded of these basic truths. I want to be reminded of who I am. I want to be reminded that God is in control. Basic life choices! Without these in place, the week ahead can get pretty rough and intense. With these in place, a lot of other life choices will also fall into place!

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