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Bob Young

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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 November, 2008

Stars to Steer By: Satisified With Too Little

Friday, November 28th, 2008

“The problem is not that we want too much but that we are satisfied with so little.” –C. S. Lewis

No “Kingdom People” Without Gratitude

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

My conclusion may seem a bold statement. “Genuine ‘kingdom people’ are always grateful people.”

The Gospel of Luke contains a significant amount of material not found in the other two Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark). Much of the material unique to Luke appears after the second prediction of Jesus’ death (Matt. 17:22; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:44) and before the third passion prediction (Matt. 20:17, Mark 10:33; Luke 18:31). A quick look at these references shows that three chapters of Matthew are condensed to one chapter in Mark, but fill 9 chapters in Luke.

Many of the themes of Luke’s gospel (inclusion of Gentiles, prayer, joy, women, riches, sin and sinners, Holy Spirit) surface in special ways in this section (Luke 9-18). This article focuses on healing of the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Two concepts essential to understanding Luke 17 in context are Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees and his teaching concerning the nature of the kingdom. One might call these “what the kingdom is not” and “what the kingdom is.”

The section is framed with the question of Luke 13:18: “What is the kingdom of God like?” What becomes apparent immediately is the unexpected answer: “Not like you think!” Traditional answers will not satisfactorily define the kingdom which is already bursting forth in the ministry of Jesus. Kingdom cannot be defined by the question, “few or many?” when people come from all over (north, south, east and west) to take their place at the feast. In Luke 14, Jesus eats in the home of a Pharisee. From that event comes confrontation with the Pharisees concerning Sabbath activities, and questions of pride and table-seating patterns. Jesus continues by teaching about who may be invited to participate in the kingdom, the cost of discipleship, and the “lost” parables of chapter 15 (spoken to encourage tax collectors and sinners, but a source of strife and muttering among the Pharisees). The “money” parables and teachings of chapter 16 also appear directed to the Pharisees, for they loved money (16:14). The kingdom is not what the Pharisees think. Kingdom does not result in power, prestige, prominence, possessions, and human accolades. The Kingdom is open to those the Pharisees would exclude. The Kingdom is defined by forgiveness, faith, and willing service as one does one’s duty (17:1-10).

In Luke 17:20, Jesus answers the Pharisee’s question about when the kingdom would come. His answer is “it is among you” (v. 21). The kingdom is sudden and unexpected; it is characterized by just judgments, humble worship, childlikeness, and self-sacrifice which results in true treasures (chap. 17-18).

Between these two sections of “what the kingdom is not” and “what the kingdom is” lies an interesting text. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, where he will ultimately define kingdom by demonstrating genuine kingdom service and sacrifice. On the outskirts of a village he meets 10 lepers who were required to announce their uncleanness and maintain a distance. Leprosy made friends of enemies, for one of the ten was a Samaritan, one who would otherwise have been excluded from Jewish social groups. That they ask Jesus for pity does not require that they know who he is. They would have asked for pity (money) from any they met. Jesus tells them to present themselves to the priest. That they went (on) may or may not suggest that they were obeying him. The text simply says that as they went, they were cleansed. The Samaritan connected his healing with the contact with Jesus. He returned, praising God and thanking Jesus profusely. It is only at this point that the text reveals that this grateful man has been an outcast twice—as a leper, and as a Samaritan.

Jesus’ question focuses the point. Where are the others? Weren’t there ten? Is it really true that only this foreigner gives praise to God? Indeed, faith is not found only among “kingdom folks.” Gratitude is always found among “kingdom folks.” The kingdom is not always where we think it is. We may be mistaken as were the Pharisees. We may fail to see the kingdom when it is among us.

During this traditional week of thanksgiving, let us recognize that one characteristic of kingdom people is gratitude. Will you praise God for his bounty? Will you be thankful to Him? Do we really know what the kingdom is like?

What Motivates Thanksgiving? (2 Corinthians 9)

Monday, November 24th, 2008

“(6) Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (7) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

Today, I take what we often consider a passage about giving and challenge us to think about it as a passage focused on thanksgiving. Our God is an “all” God. Unfortunately, when we read this text, we often stop at the end of verse 7. Because of this, we miss the main impetus to cheerful giving. It is true—one motivation might be that God loves cheerful givers. But giving is not focused on giving. Paul continues his letter with another reason. God gives “all grace for all of you so that in all things at all times all of you will have all that all of you need and that all of you will abound in all good works.” In verse 11, he continues in a similar vein. “You will be made rich in very way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

It is the Thanksgiving season. This is Thanksgiving week. Will you take a moment this week to contemplate the God of “all”. He is everywhere (at all places) at all times, working in all things, supplying all riches so we have all we need (including all grace), and are thus enabled to abound in all good works. The “all” God is the God of those who recognize their blessings and richness, and respond with generosity on all occasions. And all of this is an evidence of and leads to the result of thanksgiving to God. If we live in an ungrateful society, perhaps partly to blame is our “partial” version of Christianity instead of an “all” version of Christianity. If we live in an ungrateful society where thanksgiving does not abound, perhaps the most appropriate activity this week is to begin with a healthy introspection!

“Your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God….”

Am I wise?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

“But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him” (2 Chr. 10:8).

Age and wisdom do not always go together. One may become old and not wise, one may be wiser than his years. In our text, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, rejects the wisdom of older men in favor of the advice of his peers. Because Solomon had been a heavy-handed and demanding king, a problem existed with the northern tribes. In fact, Jeroboam had fled to Egypt. After Solomon’s death, Jeroboam returned from Egypt and the people rallied around him as one who would present their request that Rehoboam lighten the burden. “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” Rehoboam answered, ‘Come back to me in three days.’ So the people went away” (2 Chr. 10:4-5).

Rehoboam first asked for advice from the older men who had been a part of Solomon’s reign and then he asked for advice from his younger contemporaries. The elders advised Rehoboam to give the people a favorable answer, knowing that if he did so, the people would be loyal all of their lives. Rehoboam chose not to take this advice. The younger advisors told him to respond with even harsher demands. He chose to take this advice, but it turned out to be bad advice. The northern tribes rebelled and the kingdom was divided.

I am amazed at getting older. When I was younger, old folks (50 or 60 years old) died. When I was a little boy, no one thought about healthy, productive living into a seventh or eighth or ninth decade of life. Today I begin my seventh decade (fancy way of saying I turn 60). I am amazed that anyone cares what I think. I am a little surprised that people contact me and ask my advice and ask me to help.

In our society today, there is a tendency to devalue the contributions and wisdom of older people. May such never be among the people of God! God has placed wisdom in older people that the young can learn. I read today’s text differently than I did 40 years ago. I want to know what others think–especially those older than I am.

My question is not for you, it is for me. Aging carries responsibility. Am I wise?

Margins

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Richard Swenson provides a helpful insight and corrective in his book, Margin. The primary meaning of the word margin (it share a common origin with mark) is a border or limit. It has come to denote the area surrounding something (as the margin on a page, usually blank). We reflect this concept in the phrase, “margin of error.” To marginalize something is to push it to the borders or outside.

Swenson urges us to recognize the value of the margins of life. Rather than pushing one’s self to the absolute limit, consider the value of maintaining a margin. The margin is the space that exists between our reality and our limit. It is a reserve for meeting unanticipated situations and stressors. Today, one-third of Americans claim to live in extreme stress; nearly half say stress has increased in the last five years. Most of us live life to the limit with no available margin. Living lives “filled to the brim,” we do not have the emotional, physical, financial or time reserves essential to handle unexpected events in our lives. We operate on “overload,” drawing on all of our resources and even beyond our resources, in the same way that one can overload an electrical circuit so much that it eventually fails.

Swenson concludes that we must restore the reserves essential to handling the unexpected stresses of life. This requires adjusting our point of view. In a world that is driven by success and pushes capacity to the maximum, the biblical model provides a clear alternative. God gives rest, not only eternally, but in the present. Our world seems to thrive on commitment overload, information overload, technology overload, activity overload, choices overload….the list is almost endless. Protecting the emotional, physical, financial, and activity margins brings contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest. Most important, it makes us available to fulfill the purposes of God in our lives and in this world.

Christians committed to the purpose of God in this world cannot afford to live life without margins. Margins help us maintain a store of energy, vitality, and confidence so that we can seize the moments God provides.

A Sunday Quote

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I phoned to my sister this morning.  During our conversation, she mentioned a Gandhi quote that she had seen in the office of an acquaintance.  “What you do will never be enough, but it is important that you do it.”

I think the exact quote is this: Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.

May we go forth to do what God provides us to do, however insignificant or seemingly fruitless.

“Back in the Saddle”

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

After almost two weeks in Ecuador, it is good to be back in the office and able to resume a more normal schedule. The last week has been one of intense travel–seven consecutive nights in a different bed each night, but also a week of intense beauty and encouragement. The opportunity to see what God has done in his physical creation in Ecuador, and to see what God is doing in his spiritual re-creation in the lives of countless men and women, boys and girls, families and neighbors in Ecuador was extremely rewarding.

I came away with one thought echoing in my mind: we have made evangelism and the growth of the kingdom too hard. I am thinking especially about the U.S. church in comparison with the Latin American churches. We have sought panaceas and easy fixes. We have eagerly run after the latest new gadget or gizmo. We have purchased techniques and materials, we have copied DVDs and CDs and tapes. All of the above probably have some element of good, some may even prove somewhat effective.

The church grows when we meet people, demonstrate caring, establish relationships, and share the life of a disciple. In the Houston airport, we met a young couple from Ecuador, along with their two children. After their trip to Ecuador, they were planning to move from New Jersey to Houston. In fact, they had already completed most of the move, and would fly back from Ecuador to Houston to settle into new surroundings. When they found out we were with a missionary conference group, talk turned to religion and church and Jesus. They wanted to know about good church options in Houston. I asked if they wanted to worship in Spanish, and they said “si”. I gave them information about a friend (Baxter graduate) who is working with the church in Houston. They seemed genuinely appreciative.

Talking to people, caring, sharing, even daring to mention the “unmentionable” subject of Jesus. If Christianity has been removed from the public arena and limited to the private spheres of our North American society, if Christianity has been relegated to the fringes of our culture–the fault and problem is partially ours as Christians! We must never stop talking about what we have seen and heard. In our culture and society, we can talk about it almost everywhere we go. We can act like disciples of Christ–we do not have to travel incognito.

Our airport interaction was helped by the Pan-American Lectureship name badges all were wearing. Perhaps we need to go forth into our world each day with name badges indicating that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Woudn’t that be a better approach? Wouldn’t that work? Probably not. (1) It’s artificial. (2) Some people’s actions would deny the claim of the badge. (3) People ought to already know by the way we live, the things we talk about, the priorities we demonstrate.

Our Latin American brothers and sisters in the churches we visited just keep on telling the story, keep on sharing information about Jesus, keep on teaching and preaching, keep on talking to neighbors and friends and family and all who will listen. They keep on establishing new churches, keep on inviting, keep on helping, keep on demonstrating the power and change of Jesus in their lives. The churches are growing, new churches are being planted, people are giving their lives to Jesus. Maybe they’re on to something!!

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