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Thanks for visiting our website! This month’s picture is from the August 2018 retreat of Colombian preachers in Santa Marta. I was honored to be asked to participate. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Colombian Preachers

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 49+ years! Countless people 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. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in 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 serve and 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 ‘Gospel’ Category

Easter: A good time to rethink the Gospel

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Many Christians do not realize how central is the resurrection to the Christian faith and message. The Christian message may be summarized as the “gospel”, literally, good news. Paul claims that the essence of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This gospel message saves us, must be constantly remembered, and must be shared. There are at least 91 New Testament occurrences of the word gospel. There are many more references to events of the passion week–the suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. A casual reading of the early chapters of Acts suggests that the fundamental message preached by the early church was the gospel. This message of fulfillment, promise, and power was communicated and confirmed by Old Testament prophecy and the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.

Paul describes initiation into the Christian faith as participation in the gospel of Jesus (Romans 6:1-6), baptism into the death of Jesus so that participation in his resurrection is assured. I am thrilled today that many will celebrate the importance of the resurrection of Jesus as the crowning truth of the gospel. Indeed, Paul affirms that without the resurrection, little remains but misery and a pitiful existence (1 Corinthians 15). But mere celebration of the resurrection of Jesus is not God’s ultimate goal for his human creation. Personal participation in the resurrection is God’s intent. Participation in the resurrection as Paul describes it in Romans 6 has two possible applications. First, you and I experience new life in Christ as we are baptized and the “old man” of sin is destroyed so that a new person comes forth. This may be also what Paul means in the phrase, washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). Second, our hope of participation in the ultimate resurrection at the end of time is tied to our participation in the death and burial of Jesus in the initiation of immersion.

Today, I am glad for the desire of many to celebrate the resurrection.
Let us continually celebrate the good news of Jesus, the gospel, which is the story of his love demonstrated at the cross–his death, burial and resurrection.
Our baptism into Christ is evidence of our participation in the gospel, and marks his presence in us and ours in him.
Changed lives are the result, and thus evidence, that we are participants in the gospel.
Hope for participation in resurrection to the presence of Jesus is connected to our participation in the gospel.

Today, let the message of Resurrection lead you to faith, obedience, newness, and hope. If Christians are those who are like Christ, the connection between the experience of Jesus (the gospel) and our own experience as we imitate him in death, burial, and resurrection must not be overlooked.

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.

    It’s Sunday Again: Seeking Kingdom Things [Matthew’s Discourses]

    Sunday, November 16th, 2014

    What does the Gospel of Matthew reveal about the Kingdom? How does one seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?

    Matthew’s Gospel has five major discourses or teaching sections. These are clearly marked in the text by parallel concluding phrases (Mt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). One can easily identify the teaching sections by looking at what immediately precedes these verses (and the red letters in some Bibles). For example, the first of the discourses is the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), the middle discourse includes several “kingdom of heaven” parables (13:1-52), and the last discourse includes the parables of the virgins and talents, and the judgment scene (25).

    In good oration and teaching, discourses include a conclusion. (An exception is those sermons that ramble and eventually just stop rambling!) Good speeches end by answering the question, what is the point? What should one remember? So it is in the teachings of Jesus. Each of the discourses has a point. The final words indicate to us the point of the teaching. What conclusions does Jesus want his listeners to reach?

    When I present seminars on the Gospel of of Matthew, one of my favorite approaches is to examine these teaching discourses, based on the concluding words.  (Outlines and notes are posted on my website.)  This week would be an excellent time to read or re-read the discourses. The following may help you identify and remember the content.

    • Kingdom Blessings: Who is blessed in the Kingdom? Those who develop “kingdom hearts” (5-7, Sermon on the Mount)
    • Kingdom Commitment: Authentic Kingdom Discipleship (10, instructions when sending out the Twelve)
    • Kingdom Thinking: Understanding the Surprising Hiddenness of the Kingdom (13, parables)
    • Kingdom Principles: Life in the Kingdom (18, settling controversies in the kingdom of heaven)
    • Kingdom Priorities: Will Be Clearly Seen When the King Comes! (25, parables and judgment)

    Preach the Gospel–Use Words!

    Friday, March 28th, 2014

    With the selection of Pope Francis, one very clever and popular quote I hear more and more is, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
    The quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and seems to say that proclaiming the Gospel by example is more virtuous than proclaiming it verbally. I dislike the quote for several reasons. First, it creates an artificial dichotomy between preaching and practice, seeming to force a choice between speech and action. Second, the idea that the gospel can be preached without words is not true. Third, it is unbiblical and biased, subtly suggesting that those who “practice the Gospel” are more faithful than those who preach it. Finally, Francis of Assisi never said it. There is no record of the quotation from his disciples or from early or later biographers. It does not appear in any of his writings. The truth is that Francis was a powerful preacher. He was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle. Francis did not depend only on his actions to proclaim the gospel. The popularity of the quote likely tells us more about the spirit of our age than of any historical reality.
    Mark Galli has suggested a different quotation: “Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.”

    [Note: See also my article: Preach the Gospel–Use Words Always.]

    It’s Sunday Again: Preaching the Gospel

    Sunday, January 27th, 2013

    As the church assembles each week across much of the United States, largely in its own self-awareness with few visitors who could be described as prospective Christians, our sermons become more and more directed to the church and focused on the needs of the body. A recent article bemoaning the decrease and virtual non-existence of “seekers” points to the problem.

    A refreshing aspect of visiting with churches in other countries is the opportunity to see present in the assemblies of the church numbers of people who are not Christians but are interested in the Bible, in understanding its message, and in developing the spiritual life. Preaching in such settings is challenging. One wants to say something helpful to the Christians present–some with years of Christian experience and some recently baptized and just beginning their Christian walk. One wants to say something helpful to the seekers who are present, sharing the Good News and encouraging decisions to follow Jesus.

    Today I will preach in two different congregations, both relatively new churches with lots of new Christians, both relatively small (at least by U.S. standards) and ready to reach out with the gospel to bring others to Jesus. Pray for the message to find receptive hearts, that God’s people might take it forth to their friends and neighbors and family, and that the Lord will be glorified through the words spoken.

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