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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 ‘Sermons’ Category

It’s Sunday Again: Love

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

We have quoted John 13 for so long that we have forgotten, or at least ignored, Jesus’ statement about the Great Commandments (Matthew 22:34-40 and parallels).

We have heard John 13 say what we wanted it to say. Is it possible that Jesus is saying the mark of love is in extent, not only in its existence. “That you love one another as I have loved you.” We can affirm the existence of love, even when it is not clearly demonstrated. As Paul writes in Romans 5, the extent of love is a constant challenge. Past church history may give us examples of extreme self-sacrificing love, but modern church history is hardly permeated with such stories–in fact, such are few and far between.

We have heard John 13 in isolation. The result is that we have a singular definition of church which is flawed. This flawed definition (just love everybody!) has flavored our understanding and expectation of church and has done great damage. We have defined mission by love (relieving physical suffering) and failed to confront spiritual need. We have become so accepting (tolerant) in the church that we are afraid to offend anyone for the gospel’s sake. We have drawn people by physical means more than spiritual, and have fallen into the same trap as the militant Messiah-expecting Jews to whom Jesus speaks in John 6. The kingdom is not primarily about manna and meeting physical needs.

Jesus says that loving God is first. Loving neighbor is encompassed in loving God. Genuine love for neighbor is not possible apart from love for God. God’s love for us defines neighborly love (and brotherly love). Read 1 John again. Connecting with God is first. When we are solidly connected with God, we will be connected with others who are connected with God. If we are not God-connected, every little problem and disagreement will separate us.

One author describes the difference in this way: loving God is a treasure hunt, loving neighbor is a rescue mission. Here is gospel: Jesus came on a rescue mission (Luke 19:10). We are on a treasure hunt, and when we find the treasure, we share the good news! Such is natural and normal. We cannot contain ourselves.

Pray that we might understand, seek, and find the true nature of this biblical love.

It’s Sunday Again: What Time Is It?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

My blogging friends know that the posting date/time stamp may not be the actual time of writing!  I confess–I am writing this on Saturday, but setting it to post on Sunday morning.
The spring time change! Spring forward! I call it the “bad” time change!

It is the “bad” time change because people refuse to get ready for what they know is coming. When our boys were growing up, Jan and I set the clocks forward early so that the time change occurred in our house on on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The boys got up on Saturday morning with the time change already done. Saturday was a shorter day (but not noticeably shorter). Despite all that has been written about how the time change is challenging because of body rhythms, our boys never seemed to notice. Sunday dawned fresh and new–with our family ready to worship God. This procedure may or may not work for you and your family, but I can tell you what won’t work.
What won’t work is to spend Saturday as normal, even stay up a little later than normal, and suddenly at bedtime remember that the clock has to go forward an hour. While some things are not easy to prepare for, I can guarantee you that total lack of preparation is almost certain to fail.

It is the “bad” time change because the church has forgotten that it has the responsibility of telling people what time it is. During our ministry at one church, the typical Sunday morning schedule was reversed–worship first, Bible classes second. [Not the subject of this writing, but if you’ve never experienced the freshness of fellowship and worship assemblies before Bible classes, you have no idea how it feels, what it does for the heart, how much calmer the kids are…..the list of positive observations is long!] With the worship assembly first, it was easier to manage scheduling. On several occasions during the year, the church shared worship without Bible classes following. We didn’t have Bible classes when we had guest speakers who were likely to preach longer than normal. We didn’t have Bible classes when we shared “special focus” worship times, for example, focusing on missions. And, we didn’t have Bible classes on the “bad” time change.
The instructions to the church members were to “come on the old time” and “leave on the new time”. We worshiped on the old schedule, and at the end of worship, set our clocks forward together. I usually preached on something related to “time.” Is it not the job of the church to let people know what time it is? In a previous time when churches had bells, wasn’t the reason to remind people of the time? Perhaps the church needs to rethink its responsibility to constantly tell people what time it is!

Ephesians 4: the church that genuinely serves

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Churches that understand their identity, mission, and eternal purpose are most likely to do the things God wants. The church exists in God’s eternal purpose to unite all things under Christ. In Ephesians 4, the church participates in this purpose through the ministry of every member, facilitated by the leaders Christ places in the body.

What factors encourage genuine service?

  • 1. Attitude of SPIRITUALITY, Eph. 4:1-2
  • 2. Environment of UNITY, 4:3-6
  • 3. Acknowledgement and acceptance of God’s GENEROSITY, 4:7-10
  • 4. Commitment to GROWTH–teamwork and variety in the body, 4:11-13
  • 5. Churches functioning in MATURITY, 4:14-16

Ephesians 4:1-16–Understanding the church and what it does

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Ephesians 4 begins the practical section of Paul’s Ephesian letter.  Paul undergirds action with principle.  Chapters 1-3 focus on church identity, “Who are we?” The church must understand its identity and purpose.  Chapters 4-6 answer the question, “What do we do?”  The Christian life that reflects our shared identity in Christ Jesus includes requirements, reasons, response, and results.

  • Requirements.  Paul reminds that our calling in Christ is a calling to humility, gentleness, patience (forbearance), love, and relationships.
  • Reasons.  Our shared life is based in our mutual commitment to peace and unity, our common faith, the gifts of God, the nature of God’s community, and Jesus Christ.  This shared life is reality and merely a dream.
  • Responsibility.  We are responsible to and for one another.  We mature together, following the example of Jesus.  The body functions and is self-sustaining.  We must use our gifts.
  • Results.  The result is a shared life of stability and support.  The body focuses on Jesus and together lives out the truth in love.  God’s picture of maturity is not only for individuals.  Individuals mature as part of a mature body of believers.

Paul’s conclusion is that the church then grows and is edified through the mutual work of the members with all members functioning according to their own specific activities in the body.

Preaching: What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

When I was a kid, I  liked the section of the comics that challenged the reader to identify the things that were wrong in a picture.  I admit that sometimes I still glance at the children’s section of the comics to see how quickly I can find the problems in the picture.  Keeps my mind sharp–questioning and thinking about the disconnects of life. Forgive me while I “rant.”

The “news” article was about a preacher that took his sermon theme from a pizza company mission statement.   The pizza company representative was quoted as saying, “It’s humbling that our values can be used for such a higher cause.” Sorry to be a naysayer!  “Is there something wrong with this picture?”

I have long suspected, after working with lots of students in sermon preparation classes and after reading lots of sermons online and in various publications, that a subtle shift (and sometimes not so subtle!) is occurring in how preachers go about the task of preaching. Lots of preachers just don’t know the Bible. They borrow (steal?) sermons. They find ideas and inspiration almost everywhere but in the Word of God.  I always enjoyed listening to Jim Bill McInteer.  I was amazed that he knew just the right Bible story to illustrate his point, many of them from obscure Old Testament stories.  Today preachers seem to get their illustrations from everywhere but the Bible.  Do we live in an age where our preachers get their sermon ideas from every place EXCEPT the Bible?  Is the church’s mission informed by God’s purpose or a pizza chain’s pledge?  Who should be influencing whom?

The article was titled, “Pizza a key ingredient in sermon.”  I guess that’s news.  Let me suggest something else that would be news in a lot of congregations:  “Word of God a key ingredient in sermon.”  Preachers! May God help us find our mission and purpose in life by tuning our lives to Him so that we desire his Word as did the Psalmist!

It’s Sunday Again: Will Anything Surprising Happen Today?

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

We don’t know what to do with God!

We want to control him, box him, understand him. We want our Christianity in neat, little, predictable packages. We want a Holy Spirit under control. We are so committed to “decently and in order” that we limit God.

Christianity is a personal treasure hunt! Treasure hunts are exciting, challenging, rewarding. No price is too great to pay when seeking a treasure of inestimable value! No sacrifice is beyond comprehension–the desire to achieve the treasure controls every thought and action. It is all we think about! It is what we dream about!

Today I am thinking about a treasure in a field and a pearl. We have read these parables too casually! Some things are found by accident; most things are found on purpose! Everything we seek is found in the last place we look! Are you still looking, or do you think you’ve already found it? Are you on an adventure, or are you gliding down the last hill, content and satisified?

Dear Heavenly Father and God of all, surprise us this day with your presence, your power, and your part in our lives. Help us restore the wonder, the awe, and the spirit of fresh worship. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

It’s Sunday Again: Calling

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

He was an excellent student. He had grown up in a Christian home. He wanted to become a preacher, but….he had doubts. “What if I can’t make it as a preacher?”

He sat in my office during the scheduled advisor-advisee conference. He shared some of his story. He had watched a parade of preachers who were devoured by church politics and unhealthy dynamics in his home congregation. He was having second thoughts about his decision to pursue a Bible and ministry degree. He thought it would limit his options. I tried to tell him that the undergraduate level was an excellent place to follow his heart, to explore other areas of interest by earning minors in those fields, and that he would be well-positioned for graduate studies in a number of areas.

He was immovable. He had decided to pursue a degree in another discipline and take a few Bible courses along the way. He still wanted to preach, but he wanted to have a fallback position. To my knowledge, he is not in ministry today.

I continued to be his advisor, helping him with course selection and a degree plan. He again sat in my office as I signed off on his final semester. My last conversation with him about his plans after graduation was brief. I asked him just one question, “Are you called to preach?” He wasn’t certain. I told him that unless he was aware of God’s calling to ministry in his life, I was pretty certain he wouldn’t last as a preacher, or that if he did last, he wouldn’t be a very effective servant.

There is not enough discussion today about calling. Every Christian is called by God (2 Pet. 1:1-12; 1 Cor. 1:1-3; Eph. 4:1-3). The KJV uses the word ordained in Acts 13:48 to communicate that God appoints believers to eternal life. But in my conversations with the student, I was asking about something more. I was asking about the process whereby God chooses and equips servants of various kinds (Eph. 4:11-13) to build up the body to maturity.

I have two suggestions. First, let’s be more diligent to make certain that those who serve in various capacities in the church are “called”. I vote for called ministers, called missionaries, called elders, called Bible School teachers…..I trust that you get the idea. Second, I suggest that a healthier, more biblical sense of calling would help us all persevere in difficult times–the knowledge that God has called us to Christianity, to preach, to pastor-shepherd, to serve. That knowledge can keep us going when the problems seem insurmountable and everything around us is saying “STOP!”

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