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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 ‘Books’ Category

Book Review: Jerry Jones. Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Jerry Jones. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: Seen Through the Character of God and the Mind of Jesus. College Press: Joplin, MO; 2016, 270 pp. softcover.

Dr. Jerry Jones has advanced the study of marriage, divorce, and remarriage in his book of the same title in three ways. First, Jones carefully works through the relevant biblical texts with an obvious commitment to objectivity and shows us his research. He presents various interpretive options and explains which is preferred and why. Second, he points out the problems of some of the traditional ways of reading the texts, thus raising doubts about traditional interpretations. He shows when and why the literal interpretation of the passages studied must be rejected, or at least must not be allowed to be the last word. Third, he suggests an alternative paradigm through which to view the subject—reading the New Testament through the eyes and heart of God and Christ. The book has three principal sections: the study of 1 Corinthians 7 (40 pages), study of the gospel passages (55 pages), and a conclusion (10 pages). The remaining 140 pages are bibliography, charts, and 740 footnotes.

The in-depth academic study of the text of 1 Corinthians 7 is understandable even to those who have not studied the biblical text so deeply. Jones considers the occasional and situational nature of the Corinthian teaching as Paul’s response to a question from the Corinthians.
The comparative study of the gospel texts is thorough, at times exhaustive with multiple references to Old Testament backgrounds. Jones looks at the texts taking into account historical, cultural, linguistic, and grammatical factors. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jones does an intensive study of hyperbole as a literary technique, showing that much of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon cannot be taken literally. In comparing the Gospel teachings, Jones shows the importance of considering the intended audience, the context, and the historical roots, going back frequently to the Old Testament. He explains the nature of occasional, situational literature, a concept that is too seldom applied to the Gospels and the gospel passages related to the subject.
One could wish for more detail in the brief conclusion, but Jones has cast enough doubt on the traditional understandings of 1 Corinthians 7 and the gospel texts to cause the reader to want to seek an alternative. That alternative, calling us to God’s nature, character, desire and purpose, gives a fresh perspective, not only the texts related to the study, but to many other texts where we struggle with literal readings when God is trying to show us something more profound, something with more impact and more hope for changing lives.

Any student interested in studying the topic will want to read this book. The book is a valuable resource because of how well it is documented, thus pointing the reader to primary sources. It makes a valuable contribution to the study of a complex subject.

Review: God’s Favorite Place on Earth

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Frank Viola. God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013.

When I received an invitation to review Frank Viola’s newest work, I eagerly accepted the offer to read the book and write a review. I received and read the book the first week of June, but left almost immediately for three weeks of mission work in Honduras and Panama. I returned to the U.S. for only a week before I left for about two weeks in Venezuela. Just this week I have had the opportunity to reread the book.

The book was for me a disappointment in one sense, but also a spiritual challenge. Having read other books by Viola, I was expecting analysis and challenging thinking, an appeal to my left brain. Viola is always analytical, but in this book the analysis finds a different outlet. Here is storytelling and a challenge to reconsider what it means to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
As a free narrative based on the biblical text and research, the book provides a template and guide to demonstrate how one may meditate more deeply on Bible stories and integrate texts that may not appear related. The book challenges the reader to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Jesus based on the special relationships Jesus developed with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany. Here one finds an invitation to spiritual encounter and a changed life.

Readers should always be aware that authors are seldom far from their theological understandings, and this is the case here, especially with some eschatological imprecision and hypothesis. The problem with telling a story is that story may get ahead of the teachings of Scripture. Viola suggests Christ will return to Bethany whereas the biblical text says both the resurrected and the living will meet him in the air. Viola also connects Bethany the fulfillment of Revelation 21.

Overall, the book is easy to read, and the inclusion of a “Walking It Out” section in each chapter helps open possibilities for understanding applications in one’s daily Christian walk.

An Interesting New Book I’ll Be Reviewing–An Amazon Bestseller

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Shortly, I will be receiving a review copy of “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” by Frank Viola. The book released May 1st and stayed in the top # 50 on Amazon.com for 8 straight days. There’s a lot of buzz about this book on the web, and I’ll be writing a review after I read it.

Here are a few interesting nuggets about the book.

  • * It has been recommended by 47 Christian authors, including John Ortberg, Jack Hayford, Leonard Sweet, Tricia Goyer, Mary DeMuth, Greg Boyd, Todd Hunter, Jon Acuff, and many others.
  • * There is an interesting video trailer for the book that introduces it.
  • * The book tells the story of Jesus in the little village of Bethany and the amazing things that happened there through the eyes of Lazarus. It combines biblical narrative, dramatization, theological insights, and nonfiction devotional teaching. It argues that “Bethany” was God’s Favorite Place on Earth and explains how every Christian and every church can be “Bethanies” today for God.
  • You can check all of this out at http://GodsFavoritePlace.com

    By the way, you can also SUBSCRIBE to Frank Viola’s free email updates (sent 4 times a year) and receive news, specials, new resources, etc. Here’s the link: http://frankviola.org/network.html.

    The Jesus Manifesto: Review

    Friday, June 4th, 2010

    Sweet, Leonard, and Frank Viola. The Jesus Manifesto. Thomas Nelson, 2010.

    In The Jesus Manifesto, Len Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed up with the goal of writing a book that restores “the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus Christ” by identifying the basics of the message of Jesus without peripheral, divisive issues. What is the basic message upon which all Christians can unite?

    The book is easy and enjoyable to read, with many memorable phrases and illustrations. It should appeal to the average reader, but despite the easy read, also reflects profound theological thinking. For the most part, the authors have succeeding in making the difficult simple.

    Working to a large extent from the Colossian letter, they claim Jesus is absent from the Christian message as it is proclaimed in many churches today, and seek to reaffirm Jesus as the center of all things. They explore the indwelling of Christ, God’s work in our lives, and the participation we share in the work of Christ, all demonstrated first in the lives of Christians. This demonstration, for the authors, comes as a result of what God implants within us and imparts to us and not from a conscious human effort to imitate Christ. In fact, one of the resounding themes of the book is that only Christ has the power to do in our lives what needs to be done. Thus, dependence on human efforts, an attitude that is reflected in the thinking of too many Christians, will always come up short.

    Perhaps it is impossible to write a book about Jesus without addressing related issues. The question is, “What topics (issues) are important enough to include?” What issues deny the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus? The authors treat several related topics: rationalism, legalism, moralism, benevolence done in the name of Jesus that provides no spiritual benefit, the church as the community of faith, and participating with Christ in his work.

    Getting Jesus “right” requires understanding that rational (legal) extremes and moral extremes are insufficient measures of Christianity. Christianity is not measured by what one knows or believes or by one’s morality. In our complex world of competing values and causes, neither is it sufficient to measure Christianity by the values typified by many churches. The only solution which really exalts Christ is to reframe the kingdom over which Christ the King rules. The kingdom is properly understood by understanding the King. The kingdom is not about benevolence, food, shelter, clothing, or other physical necessities. Unless the activities of the kingdom reflect the mercy of Jesus and meet spiritual needs, the actions are not kingdom actions which glorify the King.

    An interesting chapter compares the two trees in the Garden of Eden and suggests that many Christians are still seeking God according to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, seeking in Christianity a way to define good and evil, make moral decisions, and control the uncertainties of life. The alternative, according to the book, is to live by the tree of life, seeking and finding life in Christ.

    The conclusion of the authors is that the new frontiers of the contemporary world demand that the church explore Christ afresh to discover him and demonstrate him in the world. This reviewer is in full agreement. Just how much of the traditional baggage must be brought along will always be the sticking point as Christ Jesus is discussed within the larger Christian community.

    As one who has sought to bring the focus of the church back to Christ for at least the last decade, the book resonates with this reader. A member of my congregation commented shortly after I began my work with this church, “If we keep at it, we may be able to get Christ back into this church!” What goal could be higher? Let us bring Christ back to the center of the faith and lives of Jesus’ followers. Let us bring Christ back to the focus of the church!

    Jesus Manifesto

    Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

    Of possible interest….

    JESUS MANIFESTO: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, Hardcover, 205 pages) is being released today. It is available on Amazon.com today with a major discount.

    The official website for the book is www.theJesusManifesto.com. I will post a review of the book in the next few days.

    “unChristian”

    Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

    All of us know deep down inside that Christians are supposed to represent Christ in this world. But according to some recent research, something has gone terribly wrong, especially among the young adults in our society. Using descriptions like “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental,” young Americans share an impression of Christianity that is nothing short of . . . well, the word that comes to mind is “unChristian”. Groundbreaking research into the perceptions of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds reveals that Christians have taken several giant steps backward with this group. The surprising details of the study, commissioned by Fermi Project and conducted by The Barna Group, are presented in the book, unChristian. Here is information about why these negative perceptions exist and how to reverse them, with practical examples of how Christians can positively contribute to the contemporary culture.

    The entire title (because subtitles say a lot about an author’s message) is unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters (Baker, 2007). The authors are David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, and Gabe Lyons. If you care about the impotence of the modern church and have a heart for evangelism, get this book. You will read the results of interviews conducted with thousands of young people regarding why they have distanced themselves from church. The book shows mistaken moves on our part and what we can do to correct these errors.

    Read the rest of the article.

    The Shack

    Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

    Just finished reading The Shack over the past weekend–Wow!  This 2007 book is a delight–but the real word to describe it is phenomenon.  Theology, narrative, novel, spiritual reality–all rolled into one.  It doesn’t qualify as superb writing according to the general standards of the literary guild, and there’s no reasonable explanation of the impact it has had on countless readers, but just over a year after it was first published as a paperback, it debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list on June 8 and has stayed there ever since. It is No. 1 on Borders Group’s trade paperback fiction list, and at Barnes & Noble it has been No. 1 on the trade paperback list since the end of May.

     The Shack, a paperback novel by an unknown author, is about a grieving father who meets God in an unlikely place in unlikely forms.  An appealing story of redemption and God’s love, the book isn’t short on theology and explaining how and what God is up to in the world today.  In some ways, I found it a difficult read (because I kept comparing the message of the book and the Scriptures).

    The author, William P. Young, a former office manager and hotel night clerk, has given us a surprise best seller.  He spent some time in seminary and theological training, thinking through some of the more difficult questions God brings into our lives.

    Highly recommended, and worth the read.  Get it, and read it!

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