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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 ‘Faith’ Category

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!

Depending on God

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

We depend on God to right wrongs and establish justice in the world. We confidently affirm that he is our God and that he will work good in the lives of his people. God is by nature righteous, and his overwhelming righteousness he desires to share with those who follow him. Disciples who learn the ways of God are transformed into his image.
God, this day, help me learn dependence and wait on you to accomplish your great will and purpose.

Unbelievable!

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

“Mish Maoul.” In Arabic, the phrase means unbelievable. A Spanish word I use frequently is “increible”. 1 Thess. 1:5 says, “When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words.” The unbelievable was made believable through preaching and testimony empowered and assured from the Holy Spirit. Such a message communicated only with words remains unbelievable, but the message of the gospel is not simply words. Jude 15 says one day that which is unbelievable will be believed by all. All will be convicted.

Consider four things that are unbelievable without Christ. Christian faith makes these believable.

  • God loves us.
  • Jesus died for us.
  • Jesus was resurrected and ascended.
  • Jesus is coming again.
  • Too Conservative

    Sunday, February 26th, 2012

    I like to read sermon titles.  Some are catchy, some are just plain weird.  Sometimes one can tell what the sermon is about, some keep the sermon content a mystery.  This sermon title caught my eye: “Too Conservative.”  The text was Ecclesiastes 11:4.  “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.  This Kansas farm boy understands this verse.  Never the right time to plant; never the right time to harvest.

    In some circles, conservativism is praised.  People speak of the wisdom of being conservative.  Consider what the word means.  “Disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions; moderate, cautious; one who adheres to traditional methods or views.”  Conservativism steers the car (church) by looking backward.  (Only a good idea if you are backing up!)

    If conservatism lives in the past, an error just as dangerous is to live entirely in the future.  In our relationship with God, we are not guided by the status quo, existing conditions, or tradition.  We are not guided by what might be.  God’s word is our daily guide.  The church is  hurt by those who will take no risk.  Lives are dull and dead when risk is destroyed.  Some are dead while they live. 

    It is true that some may fail in too much zeal, but we may also fail in too much caution.  Some won’t drink the water in the town where I live.  Some won’t share a communion service with the local brethren on a mission trip to Honduras.  Certainly we must be wise, but Jesus calls us to “launch out” and “cast our nets.”

     Some cannot see the work to be done for the problems.  Some cannot see the good for the bad.  Some know more about what’s wrong than about what’s right.  The one talent man was conservative.  Jesus condemned mediocrity.  It is easy to see the foolishness of fanaticism; can we see the foolishness of overcaution?  It is better to try and fail than to do nothing and criticize.

    Faith: What are you seeking?

    Saturday, February 18th, 2012

    The statement beckons for our attention. We must think, be honest with ourselves, think about our religion/faith. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What is our focus, purpose, goal?
    From Sarah Miles (Jesus Freak), “We’d rather have a dead religion than a living God.”

    I recoil from the suggestion. Surely not I?
    When have we honestly evaluated what we do in the life sphere we call religion? What do we hope to accomplish or gain?

  • Are we trying to be right? The frequent claims for truth, correctness, and virtual inerrancy would suggest that such may be the goal. Nothing wrong with being right, but is that the ultimate goal?
  • Are we trying to find a version of faith that guarantees our eternity? Faith is a vibrant, constantly changing approach to life. The One on whom we believe and base faith is not changing, but our interaction with the contemporary world cannot be defined by a faith frozen in place in some time past.
  • Are we seeking self-centered benefits? Religion easily morphs (decays) into self-centeredness, doing what we do primarily for ourselves.
  • Living the faith daily cannot be defined solely by what we do on Sundays or Wednesdays. Living by faith each day is complicated, the path is sometimes hard to discern. It is much easier when someone points out a predetermined faith response that settles everything once for all. Such is not the nature of biblical faith. Faith believes God so much that it engages in diligent search. What are you diligently seeking? The word ‘diligent’ is sticky–but I will let you think about whether your faith search is diligent….

    The challenge of faith is more often a threat than a comfort. Jesus’ life–his response to the religious establishment, his response to the sinners who were attracted to him–was enigmatic, messy, challenging, difficult. So shall it be if/when we succeed in imitating the incarnation as we become participants in the divine nature.

    Walking in the “Faith Dimension”

    Monday, February 13th, 2012

    We too easily, too casually, define faith.  The definition slips from our lips almost unthinkingly. Who cannot quote Hebrews 11:1?  But what is the nature of faith?  We are not called to have faith in faith; how does one believe in/through faith? Faith is in Jesus Christ.  How can we live faithfully?  Faithful living is walking in the “faith dimension.”

    What does it mean to live in the “faith dimension”?  Our faith guides our existence in three worlds—upper, inner, outer.  Faith is not only for the upper world of spiritual realities and relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Faith guides my understanding of myself as I wrestle with my inner self–my inner world.  Faith guides my path through the outer world–through the challenges of daily living. To walk by faith and not by sight is all-encompassing.  By faith I trust God when he is invisible.  By faith I deal with my own inadequacies when I cannot forgive myself.  By faith I deal with the challenges of existing in a world without guarantees.

    This “three world” faith supports us when we feel that we cannot go on.  Faith can grow, but at its weakest it is still faith.  The father of the epileptic son declares, “I do believe.  Help my unbelief.”  The paradox of faith–belief and unbelief dwelling side by side in the same heart at the same time.    When my faith is not strong, it is still faith.  My faith cannot always see as far as I would like, but it can see farther than no faith at all.  Thus I do not give up on the days when faith seems weak, or falters, or even appears to fail.  Faith perseveres.

    What does it mean to live a faithful life?  Faith is about direction and purpose, loyalty and allegiance.  Faith will be refllected in my actions, but also faith is a mental quality.  Yet again, faith is not mere belief.  The devils believe and tremble.  People today say “I believe in God” and mean nothing more than acknowledging that he exists.  Faith goes beyond affirming God’s existence–faith guides life according to principles of loyalty.  Faith doesn’t demand that I always get it right–faith declares that I am trying to get it right.  Because I am loyal to God.

    Amazed by God

    Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

    Mark’s gospel includes amazing stories. The text notes again and again that the people were amazed at the words and works of Jesus. I ask myself, Am I amazed?

    Am I amazed at the words of God, the recorded events of Scripture, events that amazed those who saw and heard Jesus in the first century? Or have the Bible stories lost their impact through familiarity?
    Am I amazed at the way God is present in our world? Or do I fail to see him in the glories of nature around me?
    Am I amazed at the wisdom of God’s plan to redeem a unique people for his purpose and possession? Or am I among the majority who no longer reads the Bible regularly?
    Am I amazed at the work God is doing among his people even today? Or am I out of touch with those spiritually vibrant people who know and experience God’s presence and power in their daily walk?

    If I am not amazed, the fault may be mine rather than God’s! God has been, is, and will be at work in this world. The kingdom has come near in a world that often walks away from God. May we be among those who walk toward him and with him, faithfully listening in amazement to the stories both past and present.

    [P.S. If I can be of help in prayer, counsel, sharing, or any way as you see to walk closer to the amazing God, I invite and encourage you to contact me. You can start simply with a comment on this posting.]

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