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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 July, 2008

Casinos and 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I couldn’t help but notice—the car entered the interstate next to the Firelake Casino at a very high rate of speed. First thought–I wondered if the driver was mad because he had just lost a lot of money.  On second thought, “Probably just a coincidence.  Perhaps the driver lives nearby.”

Nope! He has a bumper sticker on his car: “Follow me to Firelake!” Wait! There’s a license plate frame as well: “1 Thessalonians 5:17”. Fortunately, I knew without looking it up what the Bible text says: “Pray without ceasing!”

Jan and I got a good laugh. I guess if you’re going to try your luck at the casino, a little “prayer without ceasing” can’t hurt.

What Does God Want? (4)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

This is the last (for now) in a series of thoughts about how we can more effectively take the gospel to our world.  How can we make clear what God wants from human beings, his creation made in his image?  We have written that God desires that we recognize him, respect him, and respond to him.  These are broad categories worthy of more thought.

Finally, God desires that our relationships reflect his presence in the world.  For the Jews, as Jesus summarized the law, the two great commands were love for God and love for one’s fellowman.  That God puts his image within us changes how we react and interact with others.  Relationships established on the basis of God’s presence in the world and in our lives as disciples shapes every relationship–with other disciples, in our family, and even with those who are not disciples.  These relationships are properly guided by recognizing the nature of God, and his desire for respect and response.

What Does God Want? (3)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I am thinking about the message the church is called to share. I am thinking about mission work. I am thinking about local evangelism. I am attempting to sharpen my understanding, and thus to sharpen the message. How do I effectively communicate the message of God for the world? How do I help others know God and the salvation he provides through Jesus Christ?

I have suggested that God desires that human beings recognize him and respect him. God also desires that we respond to him. This response is multi-faceted. Perhaps I should include respect for God as response to God. Churches disagree and divide, churches are distinguished, by how they define the responses God desires.

At the heart of our response is that we become like him, that we fulfill his purpose when he made us in his image. This suggests that we imitate him and become like him (a theme often found in Scripture), and that we follow him (discipleship). Interestingly, imitation of Jesus begins even before we are able to perfectly imitate him in life. Our imitation of Jesus begins as we reflect his death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) in our own baptism. This response is imitation, and initiates God’s promise that imitation is possible, not only in becoming like him in his death, but also in his resurrection (Rom. 6:3-6). Also interesting is that our baptism is not an imitation of his baptism, but of his death and resurrection. Nor is baptism a mere symbol of a commitment to be an imitator–baptism as the response and pledge of a good conscience is imitation.

The response God desires must not be limited to baptism. Christianity cannot be defined exclusively by whether one has imitated Christ in baptism. Nor can response be limited to weekly worship. Discipleship is the most common word in the New Testament to describe the imitation God desires. Whoever will not take up his cross and follow cannot be my disciple. This view of discipleship demands daily response. (I wonder if we should use disciple more to describe responsive followers, while limiting the use of church member, Christian, and other less common biblical descriptions.)

God honors his desire that we respond to him and become like him by his participation with us. He honors our commitment to be responsive disciples with the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit empowers our response.

I plan to write tomorrow about the fourth item in my list–relationships. Will you help me think through what God wants from his human creation? I would like to hear from you.

Friends around the world….

Monday, July 14th, 2008

This has been a good trip.  This weekend in Tegucigalpa, we have visited with brothers and sisters from several different congregations in the metropolitan area. There are 25 congregations of churches of Christ in the city.  Friendships and brotherhood in Christ renewed, prayers strengthened, opportunities to reconnect.  Another  elder appointed at La Vega, updates on the prison work and the congregations at El Pedregal, Guanacaste, and Kennedy.  A reception honoring Luis Garcia as he retires from Baxter and returns to Nicaragua.  Updates on some of the work in Nicaragua in a good visit with Eric Garcia.  Opportunities to meet students from Baxter and reconnect with some who remembered me but whom I did not remember.  The list goes on and on, as I consider the immense family we are in Christ Jesus.  Praise God!  May we never forget that he has called his children to expand the family.

Over the last few days I have also received the updates from the campaign group in Guatemala.  there were 395 people present for the Saturday sessions, lots of children, connections, prayers for special needs, relationships established.  The church in the San Lorenzo/San Antonio/Santa Catarina area will certainly receive a boost from the efforts expended.

I awoke this morning about 5 a.m., thinking and praying about the group we will meet today, knowing they were already on the road or sitting in an airport somewhere waiting.  This is the first day Continental resumes flights to Tegucigalpa–what a coincidence? (special blessing from God!)  that this was the planned travel day.  After spending the morning at Baxter, we will meet the group at the airport when they arrive about noon.  Then we will head for Catacamas.

Pray for our efforts.  In addition to my work at Predisan in the evaluation, we will work in a mini-campaign at Las Casitas.  This is a relatively new work and this will be the first campaign ever conducted at Las Casitas.  We hope to establish and good footing for the church and its influence and impact in the community.

What Does God Want? (2)

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Yesterday, I asked the question, What does God want from his human creation? As we attempt to make people aware of God and his plan for their life, what should we share? What should we say? Is what we are doing working? Is there a better way? I suggested that the first desire of God for his human creation is that people recognize God for who he is. We need more thinking about how we communicate the reality of God’s presence and involvement in our world, how we communicate his nature, and how we communicate his purposes for his creation.

Respect Him. God wants people to respect him. This reflects his desire that his creation honor him and worship him. The respect God desires is based on and consistent with who he is. God does not want us to honor false gods, or false ideas about him. He wants us to worship him for who he is. Perhaps I have #2 (respect) and #3 (response) reversed. I am thinking that at some level, worship and respect are possible before a committed response (Romans 2; Acts 10). Many churches have distinguished themselves by emphasizing various aspects of worship. We worship in this way, and not in that way. We are for this and against that. Many of the ideas about worship are based in human desires and preferences. Others are based in a strict reading of and obedience to the word of God. The kind of worship that is acceptable to God is based on who he is, what he is like.

God is not seeking ritual nor liturgy. He cannot be pleased with heartless worship. Nor is he pleased with worship that does not reflect a total sacrificial commitment to him as God, Lord, and King. Respect demands worship to God consistent with his nature. If we have not properly proclaimed the nature of God so that people might recognize and understand him, we will have an empty message concerning what it means to respect or worship God.

What Does God Want? (1)

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I have spent a lot of time over the last three weeks thinking about a single question: What does God want from me? The question has many applications. What does God want from the Guatemalans with whom I have been visiting and interacting? What does God want from people around the world? What does God want from his church? What does God want from me today?

I feel the need to simplify the answer. We have made Christianity very complex. We have drawn distinguishing lines based on minutae. My first “stab” at an answer suggests God desires that we recognize him, respect him, respond to him, and relate to him and our fellow human beings. I plan to expand these in future blogs. Today I am thinking about what it means to recognize and understand God.

Recognize Him. God desires that his human creation, made in his image, recognize him. He wants us to be able to see him and to know him, for who he really is. The gospel, good news, begins with who God is. If we are image of God people, who we are depends upon who God is. Who is God? What is God like? God is above nature, he is not a part of nature. God is Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. Much of who God is is summarized in his love, but other characteristics of God are revealed in nature and in the Bible. We cannot effectively preach the gospel, in the US or in countries around the world, without making certain that the foundation of understanding is who God is. Many misconceptions of God exist. We must rethink who God is before we can understand his desire for his world.

God sent Jesus so we might know him for all that he is. He is not only revealed in nature. We are not dependent upon a written word as were the Jews in the Old Testament. God is to be seen and understood in a real person, living out the reality of the presence of God. That God can be seen in people has implications for what we do and how we do it as we live our daily lives in his presence and service.

Preaching the gospel, sharing the good news, begins with the person and purpose of God. God wants that people might recognize him, and come to know him in the full reality of who he is.

All things working together for good…

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

This has been an incredibly good day on this mission trip as many uncertainties have become clear.  After I visited the airport here in Tegucigalpa to change our tickets for the return trip out of Tegucigalpa rather than out of San Pedro Sula, we received news that the Oklahoma group we are meeting on Monday will be able to fly into Tegucigalpa and will also leave from here.  As Randy Hughes wrote in his e-mail:  praise the Lord!

After several previous efforts by Internet, it was amazing how easy it was to change our tickets for the departure from Tegucigalpa.  The airport was relatively deserted on this Saturday morning, and the Continental agents were very eager to help us, since the change also represents a return to normal for them and the airport.

The bus trip was long yesterday.  We left Antigua at 3:30 a.m., then departed from Guatemala City at 5 a.m.  The crossing at the Guatemala-Honduras border was relatively easy, and I disposed of a few more $Q. (Guatemalan quetzales) for some refreshments.  At the brief stop in Copan, I visited with two Guatemalans (one from Solola and the other from Guate City) who were on their way to work in La Ceiba, Honduras on a 3-month contract.  Interesting!  One was Catholic, the other Christian attending Shalom church.  When the locals learn one can communicate even a little in Spanish, they are usually interested in knowing more about what you are doing, why you are in their country, and what you think about a variety of subjects.  I have had many interesting conversations during the last few days, especially during the campaign work in Santa Catarina.  What a blessing to be able to communicate!  [Incidentally, the latest emails from the campaign group we just left indicated continuing success and contacts in preparation for the great Fiesta Day today.]

We left Copan about 10:30 a.m., then started the last leg of the journey from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa about 2 p.m.  The traffic was horrendous, it rained hard for some of the trip, and we were late getting into Tegucigalpa.  In fact, Gloria had been waiting for us for over an hour, but we made the trip to the comfort of Noe and Gloria´s home with no problem and were immediately relieved at the opportunity to relax with friends and share faith.

We will spend our time through Monday here in Tegucigalpa, visiting with friends, some dinner appointments and meetings, of course church and fellowship with the brothers and sisters tomorrow.  Monday morning at Baxter will end too quickly as we must be at the airport shortly after 11:00 a.m. to meet the group and head toward Catacamas.

Hasta la proxima vez!  Dios le bendiga!  (Until next time, God bless you!)

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