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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 ‘NT Text’ Category

It’s Sunday Again: “Letters from an Old Man”

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Reading Paul’s latter letters, he was probably 60+, perhaps nearing 70. What does an old man see when he looks back on life? Here is only a sampling! What God’s Word says is important–it leads to health and wholeness. God gives instructions, principles, and values–do not get hung up on the what and ignore the why and how. Many Christians do not look much like pilgrims focused on a heavenly homeland–they have bought the lands, houses, and stuff of this world. The contemporary church is too infrequently counter-cultural, too many are guided by the world’s expectations and seek to attract with human words and ideas. Spiritual comes in many forms–God’s spirituality is a rare commodity.

[Wednesday night class, Park Plaza Church of Christ, “Letters from an Old Man”, Mar-Apr-May, begins this week.]

Your Cloud of Witnesses

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Heb 12:1-3

Not long ago, I read an article suggesting that Revelation 19 contains a description of the “Final Battle”, with God coming to rescue us much as the Cavalry rescued those in trouble in the old western movies. Is this really the message of this chapter? Should we be anticipating some great physical battle in which Jesus Christ and his armies fight the forces of evil and overcome them once and for all? What does the Bible say?

Such an interpretation of Revelation 19 contradicts much of what the Bible clearly says in other texts. To use the book of Revelation, which admittedly contains highly figurative and apocalyptic language, to develop a timetable of events which contradict the clear, literal teachings of Scripture is fallacious. There is no great final battle coming in which Jesus and innumerable “returned armies” invade the earthly kingdom of his enemies. Such is a misunderstanding of Revelation and a faulty reading of the text. The Bible does not speak of a great heavenly invasion of the earth in the future. The hope which sustains the Christian is much better than the pre-millennial speculations and doubts that saturate the beliefs of many today.

The Bible clearly places the dead in the hand of God, awaiting the final return of Jesus (1 Thess. 4:10-17). Jesus has not been forced into a waiting game in which Satan has his way on earth, able even to overcome the faithful committed followers of Jesus. The decision as to how one lives one’s life and to whom one declares allegiance is one every person freely makes, with eternal consequences.

I think of those who have recently left our earthly ranks. They would tell us that the battle against Satan is lifelong. They would also tell that all of life moves toward death and judgment (Heb. 9:27). Pre-millennial speculations of saved ones miraculously and instantaneously snatched away, and those who have chosen the paths of evil given a second chance to correct their path have no merit in Scripture. None should find comfort in the hope that a second chance is coming. None should erroneously believe that they can never fall, buoyed by the false teaching that if they are wrong, they will have a second chance anyway.

Paul summarizes the ‘final battle’ in this way: “I have run the race, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The promise of a heavenly crown for those declared righteous by the blood of Jesus illuminates each day in the life of a Christian. We eagerly await his final coming. We live victoriously never quite knowing which day will mark our final battle. Those who finish the course are blessed because their labors provide testimony of the battle they have fought and won (Rev.14:13).

The Psalmist writes these words of comfort: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:15-16). May we live as God’s servants, freed from the chains of sin, victoriously running and finishing the course, so that we may declare with Paul, “I have kept the faith.”

The writer of Hebrews wrote to encourage Christians who were thinking of letting go of faith in Christ. Let us likewise use every opportunity to encourage those who are thinking of quitting the faith. Let our message be, “Hang in there.” Let us look to the great cloud of witnesses who have preceded us. Our daily reminder is the example of the faith of those who have already lived and died. In tough times, remember others who survived tough times. Trust God, because the cloud of witnesses is proof that it can be done. They are our inspiration to continue onward.

As you consider the cloud of witnesses the Hebrews writers describes, remember another cloud of witnesses, ever expanding. Remember the heart-stirring examples of faith and trust in the lives of those who have lived in faith since the time the book of Hebrews was written. Right up to today the number of souls in your witness cloud is increasing. Every year, in every church, there are those added to the great cloud of witnesses.

In another sense, each of us has our own cloud of witnesses—those we have known, those who are our mentors and models, our examples of faith. Who would you include in your cloud of witnesses? These faithful souls help us continue in faith. And let us so live that someday we will be in someone else’s cloud of witnesses!

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: Relating Faith and Wisdom

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

First Sunday of the New Year, what to say, how to begin. Thoughts from the book of James. Seeing clearly in a world of shadows. An unchanging God in an undependable, ever-changing world–waves, burning sun, temptations, shadows. Ours is a world of trials and challenges. Sin easily overcomes. Only a singular focus on God will guide the journey.

  • Seeing God clearly helps us see ourselves and others clearly.
  • The faith that sees God clearly acts in response.
  • When one sees God, God’s wisdom shapes faith and life.
  • Seeking God requires establishing priorities.

It’s Sunday Again: Knowing the Jesus who Gives Life [John’s Gospel]

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

John paints a wonderful and amazing portrait of Jesus. Jesus comes to make possible “life.” John’s theme song is not salvation. (In fact salvation is not among the most common New Testament words. Salvation is little and infrequently used in the New Testament–rather interesting given the vocabulary of popular preachers today. Especially for John, Jesus is much more than mere Savior.)

Jesus is the cosmic Lord! (1:1-4) As the Word, the revelation of God, he is what makes sense of life (logic).

Jesus is the incarnation of God, the incarnate Lord, becoming flesh, the very embodiment of the God of grace and truth (1:14ff).

This cosmic leader in the battle of conflicting worlds focuses the genuine nature of life (or the nature of genuine life), a life that continues through his presence through the Comforter. Thus he is our leader in conflict.

Jesus is the Lord of comfort, in his presence and words, and in the Holy Spirit comforter.

Jesus is the coming Lord. That which ties the story together is the fact that Jesus is the going and coming Lord. The gospel of John is ultimately a story of descent and ascent, coming down and lifting up. This process leads to the real goal of life: not glory which calls attention to self and is based on our accomplishments, but glory to God and glory given to us by God.

It’s Sunday Again: Knowing the Jesus who came for everyone [Luke’s Gospel]

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Do You Know My Jesus? Do you know the Jesus who came for everyone?  Good questions, and foundation for understanding the Gospels of Jesus.

  • Matthew’s portrait of Jesus is of royalty–the Jewish Messiah (Christ, Anointed One) who comes as King in the Kingdom of God, but a different kind of King, benevolent and persuasive rather than coercive, a king who is also servant of all.

  • Mark’s picture is of a suffering servant who bridges the divide between God and humanity–Son of God and Son of Man.

  • John paints a cosmic picture, bigger than this world, bigger than life, pointing to genuine life
  • Against the other gospels, Luke’s picture of Jesus often seems plodding and deliberate. Long chapters, long verses, the longest Gospel, packed with unique stories despite being identified as one of the Synoptic Gospels with obvious parallels to Matthew and Mark. All of that plays into the picture Luke provides:  Jesus is for Everyone! He is Messiah, Lord, Savior. He is “for” us. He seeks to save all who are lost. He comes for everyone–rich and poor, the “ins” and the “outs”. He cares for the outcasts of first-century Jewish and Roman society–women, children, tax-collectors, half-breeds (Samaritans), beggars, people who have made mistakes.  He comes teaching and demonstrating prayer, the gift of God’s Spirit, the spirit of universal care and concern and compassion and salvation.

    The Gospel of Luke is not always easy reading–but it’s worth it! Especially if you need a reminder that the story of Jesus applies to YOU! It is both eye-opening and heart-opening (but that’s another theme that I encourage you to discover for yourself).

    It’s Sunday Again: People Jesus Touched [Gospel of Mark]

    Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

    When I present seminars on Mark’s Gospel, I like to include a series of lessons I call, “People Jesus Touched.”  Many of these lessons come from Mark 5-8.  [Outline Note: Mark 1-4 answers the question, “Who is Jesus?”  Mark 5:1-8:21 asks, “Who can be a follower of Jesus?”  Mark 8:22-10:52, deals with the question, “What does following Jesus look like?”]

    Jesus came touching people.  He came helping and healing the hurting and hungry.  He confronted the powers of demons, was compassionate when doctors had taken advantage, and bold in the face of ridicule.  He gently guided his disciples to new understandings.  He understood fear, admitted its reality, and used it as a beginning point to generate faith.  He called the Pharisees on the carpet when tradition got in the way of caring for people.  He touched the untouchable, he reached out to the unreachable. He rescued, healed, saved.
    As people thronged about him, he saw the results of sin’s entry into the world–illness and infirmity, sickness and sorrow, hopelessness and hunger.  He sighed.  He hurt when others hurt.  That his heart was touched may explain his reason for touching others with healing and salvation.

    Two thoughts echo in my mind during this week:  I am grateful that Jesus has touched me and continually touches me; I wonder whom Jesus wants me to touch.

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