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Thanks for visiting the website! This month’s picture was taken in Ecuador in August 2019, during a seminar I presented over the book fo Hebrews. [Click picture to enlarge.]

a seminar in Ecuador

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 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 papaw in my family. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good 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 countless people around the world!


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Archive for the ‘God’ Category

It All Begins with God–“Before” [#5]

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

In this final sermon in the series, we look at what God has accomplished in Jesus, using three New Testament descriptions of Jesus. Jesus is–
• Pioneer or trailblazer, he enters the holy place with his sacrifice, he blows it open so we can also enter
• Example, we follow in his steps
• First fruits, he is the promise that God’s plan works

Why this idea is important–
• The opposite idea would be that God is behind us, the idea that we just need to stop all progress and go back to the way things used to be, the idea that we somehow get closer to God in reverse than in forward gear. Many in my tribe have tried to find a way forward by focusing on the past.
• For me, the Jesus narrative is a story that pulls me forward rather than pulling me backward. God has in mind a future that is unimaginable. Jesus has already walked the road that he now calls me to walk as his follower.
• We are not committed to going back and making things like they used to be.
• We are committed to an inspiring vision of what can be, what the future holds, what is beyond our imaginations, more than we can ask or think.
• I am describing two options–forward or backward. Which is the right view of God? The “old paths” passages are Old Testament. God sent Jesus to walk a new path. Now he calls us to follow where he has already gone. He gives us principles to guide us. What contributes mightily to the backwardness of religion in our world today is the idea that we need to go back, when God is calling us forward. This is the God who is “before us.”

Expanding these three concepts–
• Pioneer and trailblazer that makes possible our salvation (Heb. 2).
• Pioneer and example in life. Jesus demonstrated compassion, humility, service, sacrifice. He calls us to follow. This is God before us, calling us forward (1 Peter 2).
• Pioneer and first fruits He is promise of resurrection, he is promise that the process works (1 Cor. 15). We follow him—-in service, sacrifice, suffering, death, life, relationship with God.

How will we discover what God is up to without a careful rereading of the Bible, about the God who wants us to move forward at warp speed. He has a vision for humanity–joyous, fulfilling, possible. How can we simply plod along? The dominant view in the majority of churches holds us back from the kind of growth God intends. We are too self-centered (it is not about us, about our group). We are too self-confident (we cannot solve the problems). We are too self-contained.

Let us go forward–because God has come to be “with us,” has accomplished a saving work “for us” in Jesus, now lives “in us,” promises to be “beside us” always, and is constantly “before us” leading us forward.

It All Begins with God–“Beside” [#4]

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Life is often a lonesome journey. Moving forward is challenging, difficult. At times we face seemingly impossible odds. We experience problems, setbacks, failures. We want a companion, someone who understands our needs and the nature of the journey. The last two sermons in this series show how God meets that need in Jesus, in the promise of Jesus to give us a Comforter to be at our side, and in Jesus’ presence with the Father.
Time for a quick review–

  • The God who promised again and again, “I will be with you,” in Jesus’ birth and ministry came to be “with us.”
  • The God who is “for us” has done everything necessary to assure the victory, he has indeed fought on our side against the enemy. In Jesus’ ministry and death, we clearly see the God who is “for us”, a concept so powerful that no one can stand against us.
  • This God–Father, Son, and Spirit–takes up residence, dwells, is at home, “in” us. This truth changes everything about our lives as we listen to, focus on, respond to, and anticipate the glory of our God.
  • Why is it important to know that God is “beside us”? That God is beside us leads to two important Bible teachings.

  • Walking beside us is a comforter–the Holy Spirit. In John’s gospel, the Holy Spirit is also known as the Paraclete. This word comes from a Greek verb (parakaleo) that means to comfort or console. The word is sometimes translated exhort or encourage.
    • The Spirit comforts us
    • The Spirit encourages us
    • The Spirit exhorts us, guiding us
  • Standing beside us is Jesus Christ–our advocate with the Father
    • Jesus Christ as our advocate, 1 John 2:1-2
    • Jesus Christ presents our case based on his continued action on our behalf, 1 John 1:6-10
    • Jesus Christ intercedes, Heb. 9
  • God is “at our side” in every part of life. You cannot think of any time in your life when God is not at your side. It does not matter how far you have wandered or strayed, God through Jesus and the Spirit can be at your side. It does not matter how difficult the stretch of life you are going through, God is beside you. Problems–God beside you. Failure–God beside you. Overwhelmed–God beside you. Confused, doubtful, struggling–God beside you.

    Three takeaways–
    • God stays put. God never gives up on us no matter what we have done or are doing.
    • God empowers us. He encourages us and enables us to experience the power and presence of God
    • God supercharges us. We come to understand that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

    It All Begins with God–“In” [#3]

    Sunday, January 15th, 2017

    We struggle to understand God. The challenge is even more apparent as add another dynamic: God in us.
    A brief review. Everything begins with God. In the beginning, God. In the beginning, the Word. Eternal existence, no beginning, no end. Above and beyond human concepts of space and time. Above matter, speaking matter into existence. Creative power, creative genius, sustaining the universe. This is God; this is Jesus pre-incarnate.
    Then, the Incarnation. At the Christmas season, many think about Jesus and the beginning of his physical life on this planet. This is God with us. The baby in the manger is popular, non-threatening, lovable. But the story of Jesus’ life among us is not complete unless the story of his birth leads to the story of his death. Easter, as a religious event, even more popular than Christmas. Who doesn’t want to be saved? Who cannot sympathize with a suffering Savior? Who is not touched by the passion of Christ? God demonstrates love, he clearly shows how much he is for us.

    I wish I understood more fully the significance of eternal existence–the One who is the very image of God, for whom all things were created, the One who now sustains and has always sustained this physical creation (Col. 1; Heb. 1). I wish I understood better the “God with us” dimension of Jesus’ coming. I wish I understood better how powerful is Jesus’ presence right now before the throne of God, the clear declaration that God is for us. I think clearer understanding of “with” and “for” would be helpful in the third dimension of this series.
    I also want to understand what it means that he is “in us” or “within” us. Wow! God in us!

    Seven well-known texts show us different dimensions of “God in us.” Here are the passages: John 14:23; Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:17; Col 1:27; 2 Timothy 1:14. What should we see? What conclusions should we draw?

  • Before he left the earth, the promise of Jesus to his followers was that God and Jesus would take up residence in those who keep his words.
  • The Spirit (of God, of Christ) lives in Christians, as evidence that we are in the Spirit and that we belong to Christ, and as promise that we will be resurrected.
  • Christians collectively are the temple (dwelling place) of God, where the Spirit of God dwells.
  • The church is the dwelling place of God through the Spirit.
  • Christ dwells in human hearts by faith.
  • Christ in us is the hope of glory.
  • The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians.
  • Since God is “in” us, “within” us, how shall we then live? Four truths can be distilled from these seven passages. We live….

  • In the Word. Paying attention to, obediently keeping, his words (guarding the sounds words)
  • In the s(S)pirit. Meditating on and focused on spiritual things
  • In relationship. As belonging to God, as belonging to Christ, in his presence
  • In expectation. Expectantly, hopefully

  • It All Begins with God–“For” [#2]

    Sunday, January 8th, 2017

    God for us. A rich Bible concept not easy to grasp. Summarizing: God is on our side; God wants us to win; God wants us to succeed. From the reverse side: God is not against us.
    God is for us (Rom. 8:32-39). This alters our understanding of God. God is not a celestial policeman waiting to measure us with a long list of prohibitions. God is cheering us on; God protects, guides, helps, sustains, rescues, saves.
    God is for us (Rom. 8:32-39). This alters our understanding of life. When God is for us, nothing and no one can successfully oppose us.

    Why understanding this idea is important
    Because we spend so much time grasping for grace. We do not understand grace. How can we wrap our minds around grace? God is on our side, even when we mess up, even when we have messed up. The gospel message is not, “God will love you if you…” Or, “God will love you if you quit….” Or, “God will love you if you don’t do….” The fundamental message of Christianity is that God—-in all of his holiness, justice, and love—-is for us, creating us to be like him, re-creating us to be like him, helping us be like him.

    Because the gospel is positive, not negative. The gospel is what we are “for,” not what we are “against.” Or better said, the gospel is God for us, not God against us. It is amazing how often Christian faith is defined and understood by what it is against. The central message of Christian faith is about what we are for, because that is the central message of the gospel. God is for us; he is on our side. The gospel message that “God is for us” alters spiritual reality in our lives; it is not about guarantees of health, wealth, and success in this world.

    Because it is beyond incredible that God is “for us”! Philippians 2:5-11 is helpful. To understand the depth of the “God is for us” declaration, we have to understand Jesus. Here is the center of the gospel. Here is the supreme evidence of grace. We cannot really talk about God unless we mention Jesus. We cannot tell about Jesus without mentioning God.

  • Jesus existed with God, in the form of God, in the very nature of God, equal with God.
  • Incarnation, Jesus emptied himself, he became like us, he assumed human likeness, but even more, he came desiring to serve. Hebrews 1-2 presents Jesus as both Son of God and Son of Man. The whole idea is counter-intuitive.
  • Jesus is made like us, in human form, participating fully in the human experience, even dying.
  • Jesus comes doing the unexpected–living by a different value system. Jesus humbly submits to death, and even worse, death on a cross. The gospel of God “for us” denies the value systems of the world.
  • Jesus comes confronting life’s greatest challenges. Victorious living does not guarantee the absence of problems.
  • The victory is secure, the victory is won. God exalts Jesus above every other authority.
  • Why the message that “God is for us” is Good News

  • Because we cannot handle our past. We do not know how to undo the past, we are constantly burdened by our failures.
  • Because we cannot handle the present–the here and now. We cannot solve life’s problems. Life in this world is a puzzle that frustrates us.
  • Because we cannot handle the future. We cannot find a fresh start with our own power and efforts. In reality, we are in an impossible dilemma in this world.
  • Because God has already handled our past, our present, and our future. He was “playing on our side” before we were born. He has done what we cannot do. With God for us, the victory is assured!

  • It All Begins with God–“With” [#1]

    Sunday, January 1st, 2017

    The message of Scripture can be summed up in five affirmations about God. In Jesus Christ, God declares that He is with us, for us, within us, beside us, and before us. Five affirmations–five sermons!
    Jesus’ coming to earth in the incarnation continues and makes certain in new ways an Old Testament promise: “I will be with you.”

    Tracing this idea through Scripture
    “God with us” is an Old Testament concept: check out Abraham, Joseph, Moses… “I will be with you.”
    In the New Testament: read Matthew 28:20, read about Paul in Corinth in Acts 18. Check your concordance.
    What does “God with us” mean? This is not God beside us; this is not God within us. This is God with us. This is Hebrews 1-2: son of God, son of man, combined in Jesus.

    Struggling with this idea
    We struggle with this idea. We hear people say, “And then God showed up.” Where was he before he showed up? We talk about coming into God’s presence—are we not always in his presence? Where can we flee from his presence? Read Psalm 139 again. Often we pray, “God be with them.” Is He not always present? We struggle with God’s “where” because we do not understand his “who.” We sing songs that ask God to come near. What does that mean? Is it figurative language? What does it mean that something is a “God thing”? Perhaps we mean that God was active providentially. Let us never think that God suddenly shows up.
    We struggle with this idea—God with us—because of the times it seems he is not with us. How do we explain? Why does God act in one instance and not in another? Why does it seem that God is “here” sometimes and not at other times? The idea that God is sometimes here and sometimes not leads to faith problems—the absent God, the dead God, the optional God.

    Clarifying this idea
    God Present in the World. We can’t really see life clearly unless we understand God’s role in the world. God is with us—even when bad things happen. “I will never leave you.” For us Christians, the presence of problems does not mean the absence of God. That was true one time—Jesus on the cross, and the Bible says that even then, his prayer was heard.
    God Transcendent above the World. The transcendent God balances the present God. We do not understand—how is it possible that he is both at the same time? Rob Bell is helpful when he explains that one way the Hebrews described God’s action and presence was in the Hebrew word ruach. If you know Hebrew, you may immediately think spirit, breath, wind. But you do yourself a disservice. Ruach is energy, creative, surprising, surging in and through everything, holding stuff together, like a cosmic electricity, power, divine energy. This is God ever-present and ever-sustaining. Ruach is breath, it is wind, and it is spirit (although our English word spirit has a lot packed into it that the Hebrews did not have). It certainly doesn’t mean less real, or something unpredictable—jumping in and out of existence, jumping from here to there.
    God in the World through the Church. God with us: Jesus inhabiting hearts by faith, the coming of the Holy Spirit. The church is the fullness of God’s presence through Jesus.

    Applying this idea practically
    God is present in his church, present in every moment. What are we supposed to learn? “God with us” helps us answer four questions.

  • What is real? “God with us” says that there is a spiritual dimension to our existence. “God with us” transcends physical realities. We are spiritual beings—we are spiritually connected. This says something about who we are and how we should understand our existence in this world. God energizes us—he gives breath to our physical bodies.
  • Where is our focus? “God with us” raises our view above this world. We see further, we see God. This mixes the daily and the religious, the common and the uncommon. There is more to this world than what we see because of God’s penetration and participation in this world.
  • What is important? “God with us” says that what is going in our lives is supremely important. It matters, it matters to God, there is no such thing as hum-drum, every day kind of stuff. Moses experienced it at a burning bush.
  • What is the goal? “God with us” says there is hope, things can change, things can get better.
  • Jesus lives!

    Sunday, December 25th, 2016

    Jesus lives! He lives eternally which means that he has always lived! He is eternal life, he is the source of life.

    First, remember that Jesus “was” in the pre-Incarnation. He was participant in the creation. John begins his gospel with the statement, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God” (John 1). The Godhead is above time,space and matter. The Godhead does not inhabit space, time, or matter. We humans want to ask, “Where was Jesus before he was born?” but it is not a valid question. There is no where for Jesus pre-incarnate.
    Second, Jesus lives in the Incarnation. What’s the big deal about Christmas and the birth of Jesus? We can answer the “where” question. He inhabits our time and space. “The Word became flesh” (John 1). This is the Immanuel, this is God with us. And, the passion and resurrection could never be were it not for the birth. For many, the story of his birth is what makes Jesus real.
    Third, Jesus is now at God’s right hand, making intercession for us, explaining our case. (Check out Hebrews 9 for an interesting series–he appeared, he now appears before God, he will one day appear again, and much of Hebrews 5-10 explains how we draw near to him.) We want to know, “Where is this?” Heaven defies physical location. We have access to God through Jesus. This is spiritual reality, not physical.
    Finally, Jesus inhabits our hearts (Eph. 3:17). We do not see him, we do not physically touch him. At times, we would now comprehend his presence except for the promise of Scripture.

    I applaud that many are thinking about Jesus and the beginning of his physical life on this planet. But the story of his life among us is not complete unless the story of his birth leads to the story of his death on our behalf. I wish that more understood the significance of the eternal existence of the One who is the very image of God, for whom all things were created, the One who now sustains and has always sustained this physical creation (Col. 1; Heb. 1). I wish that more understood the power of his presence before God “for” us. I wish that more understood the importance of his dwelling “within” us.
    At some time on this Christmas Day, will you join me in prayer that we and as many as we can tell may understand better the power of Jesus’ existence–before he was born, in his life and death on earth, in heaven, in human hearts.

    [Note: the first sermon series I am developing in 2017 builds on these truths. I want to start the New Year with Jesus. Five January sermons: He is “with” us, He is “for” us, He is “within” us, He is “beside” us, He is “before” us.]

    It’s Sunday Again: God who is present (Genesis Seminar #4)

    Sunday, January 24th, 2016

    This brief effort of four posts is insufficient. One cannot describe God in four lessons, by focusing on four descriptive words, or by sharing four primary concepts. This is skimming the surface, this is only a beginning. Nonetheless important, because one has to find the beginning point, one has to start somewhere.
    Genesis. Creating God, revealing himself as powerful, personal, desiring to bless his creation in the separation of broken relationship, committing himself in covenant and promise. Creating God, promising to bless, providing, sustaining, rescuing. Holy God, separate from his creation yet present. Even with his desire to penetrate, participate in, and resolve (re-create) the human condition, we would likely understand this God as remote and distant were it not for the rest of the story–the repeated phrase, “God was with him.” This truth is boldly visible in the Joseph narrative; it continues in the Exodus, throughout the Old Testament, and becomes remarkably clearer in the birth of Emmanuel, God with us!
    What’s the point? What are we to see? God’s power, promise, provision and protection, plan and purpose? That God’s power extends in the world beyond his chosen people? All of the above and more, beginning to be studied and expanded. God reveals himself as ever-present in Joseph’s life–in both trials and victories. We might say in good times and bad times; through thick and thin; through ups and downs.
    So much for a God remote, distant, and limited to the past. Can we believe that this is our God, still sovereign today? This personal, promising, providing, present God is here in the 21st century? Exactly the point!

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