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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 December, 2008

Can You See Him?

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Merry Christmas! This is my first Christmas of regular blogging, so I seize the opportunity to send well-wishes to all who read or happen to wander in to this site. Yesterday’s posting promised a summary of my 2008 Christmas Sermon; today I follow through on that promise. May you be blessed today; may you take time to see the Christ.

A song of the season asks the question, “Do You See What I See?” The early chapters of Luke allow us insights into what various people saw in the events surrounding the Nativity of Jesus.

First, we note that Luke saw an opportunity to write down the things he had researched and learned from eyewitnesses. He calls it an “account with certainty”–that you might know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4). The Greek construction emphasizes this certainty.

The angel Gabriel came to Mary with a message from God (Luke 1:26-38). His inspired words allow us to see Jesus as Savior and Son of God Most High. We are reminded of his greatness, his position on the throne of David, and his eternal reign. Because of the presence of and power of God, nothing is impossible.

The Magnificat, or Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), tell us what Mary saw. She saw God as her savior, one mindful of her, one who blesses her, and one who does great things. She speaks of his holy name and his mercy, and calls him the helper of Israel.

Based on the promise of God, Zechariah speaks of the role of his son, John the Baptist, in preparing the way for the one who will bring redemption, salvation, and mercy (Luke 1:67-79).

When the angels appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14), they speak words of the one who is Savior, Christ, and Lord. They see in Jesus glory to God, peace on earth, and favor toward mankind.

In the temple, Simeon saw salvation, revelation and redemption (Luke 2:21-35). Anna spoke of the coming redemption (Luke 2:36-38).

At this holiday season, the focus is typically on the the babe in the manger. In fact, some will go through the holidays without much thought of Jesus and without worshiping him. Against the things that have come to typify the season, it is interesting the the biblical account in Luke speaks of Jesus as king, Son of God, revelation of God, Savior and Redeemer. He is Christ, the Lord. He is God with us. Can you see Him? Will you take time to see Him?

Christmas Caroling

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Jan and I have been on the receiving end of Christmas caroling only twice.  While we were at OVU, a group of student carolers unexpectedly showed up at our door during finals week.  While they expected and received the customary hot chocolate and treats that were typical of their regular visits to our home, what we remember is the love expressed in the fact that they cared enough to walkl to our home on a cold wintry night and to share some time with a sometimes not so lovable professor.

This holiday season, we were again visited by carolers.  Two of our elders and their families came by and shared the spirit of the season.  What matters is not the quality of the singing (it was good!), but the smiles and love expressed.  The Christmas season is about love.  As the little boy reportedly said, “Love is what is left when you stop opening the presents and just listen.”

May you know and remember the love that is at the center of this time of year. “For God so loved the world….”

Christmas Trees?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I preached my Christmas Sermon for 2008 last Sunday, December 21.  [See tomorrow’s Christmas Day post for a summary.]   In an adult Bible class, I answered some questions that seem to arise every year. Today I briefly tackle one of those.

What does the Bible say about Christmas trees?  Does the text of Jeremiah 10 forbid Christians using Christmas trees?  First, one should note the context of Jeremiah 10.  Jeremiah 10 is a passage about idolatry.  It focuses on the superiority of God above all other gods and shows the inconsistencies of idolatry.   Isaiah 44 provides a roughly parallel passage at least a century before Jeremiah wrote.   One should read the entire context of Jeremiah 10–not just vv. 3-4.  Also, Jeremiah 10 exists in the context of Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon.  This sermon teaches against false sources of hope or confidence.

The context of the chapter makes clear that what is being considered is idolatry.  Does one set up a Christmas tree as an idol or as something to be worshiped?  What is the purpose of the tree?

An interesting history of the Christmas tree appears on the website: “biblicalstudies.com”.
Green trees were often used in ancient Egyptian and Roman religious festivals, but the Christmas tree is a relatively recent tradition. Not until the sixteenth century did the practice become widespread. An old “miracle play” given in preparation for Christmas featured a fir covered with apples in a story concluding with the promise of Christ’s return. Martin Luther is credited for the first lighted tree. Tradition has it that he saw bright stars twinkling through the branches of a fir tree one night while he was walking home. He cut a small tree and placed lighted candles on its branches to imitate it. It became a permanent fixture in his Christmas celebrations. Eventually, the practice worked into the celebrations of others, and now, of course, it is solid tradition.

Finally, one should note that the passage most often used to argue against Christmas trees is an Old Testament (covenant) passage, valuable for learning and admonition, but not binding under the new covenant. While the Old Testament provides principles and examples, one must be careful about drawing unwarranted parallels. Certainly idolatry is always wrong. The question ultimately come down to one of purpose and whether one worships the Christmas tree.

Upset

Friday, December 19th, 2008

The newscasters say that a certain element of our society is upset.  They are upset because the President-elect has chosen a certain Christian religious leader to pray at his inauguration.  They are upset because this religious leader has taken moral positions contrary to their understandings and lifestyle.

I am tempted to become upset because they are upset, but such seems a rather useless path.  Further, I refuse to become upset because the President-elect will invite some with whom I do not see eye-to-eye on some issues to participate in his inauguration.  If Christians have been slow to learn the lesson that a particular point of view cannot be legislated or won by war (witness the Crusades, and more recent efforts to legislate morality), those on the opposite side politically and morally have not demonstrated that they learn any  more quickly.

The solution to the divisions in our society and world will not found in isolation, exclusion, or self-righteous indignation.  The solutions the ills of our world will be found in thoughtful dialog where truth is allowed in the arena of public discussion.   

Pronounced Victorious

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

I just came from the hospital and a brief visit in the Grimes’ home.  Ray passed away this afternoon, about 45 minutes after Jan and I arrived at the hospital.  We were blessed to be there with a faithful family able to rejoice that Ray was getting his wish to escape the hurt he was experiencing here on earth.

We shared a special time of remembering and celebrating, concluding with prayer.  We thanked God for the victory he promises and had given to Ray.  A few minutes later a nurse came in to tell us that the monitor was not showing any activity and that Ray was gone.  I couldn’t help but think of the impossibility of her statement:  “You can’t pronounce him dead; God has already pronounced him victorious.”

Some things are so obvious that we overlook them.  I have a new phrase.  Pronounced victorious.  That is my goal; that is the goal of every Christian. Those are fitting words when death knocks.

Project Heaven

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

I came back from Honduras with a sore throat and cough which worsened through the week. Slowed me down considerably, even though I found enough office time to do what absolutely had to be done (obviously, not blogging!). My visit to the doctor yesterday yielded antibiotics and cough suppressants which should do the trick and get me back on track.

I emailed my elders Wednesday afternoon to tell them I was going to stay in Wednesday evening, both to avoid the bitter cold that had invaded Oklahoma and to see if I could fight off the sore throat and cough. I soon got several emails telling me to get out of the office and go home. I wrote back saying that I would go home as soon as possible, but observing that there is always one more project or little task to be done. I received a return email from one of my elders with only two words: Project Heaven.

I like that description. It is a description of life. It is a description of all we do and are. Our daily lives may not be as spectacular as other “projects” that get fancy titles–covert military operations, drug raids, eavesdropping efforts, anti-terrorism operations.

But as I considered the potential of those two words–Project Heaven, I thought, “Perhaps our daily lives deserve such a moniker despite the same of daily living and the absence of the specatular.” What better description could one write? As Christians, we are involved in “Project Heaven.” Every aspect of our lives, every fiber of our being, every action and every interaction–all are part of the heavenly project. An interesting part of this project is that it is not designed only to help us Christians “win”–its goal is to help everybody “win.” Every person whose life is touched by a Christian involved in “Project Heaven” should be invited to join the endeavor. Gives a different perspective, doesn’t it? What I am doing is about more than church and missions and ministry and life. What I am doing is part of “Project Heaven”.

Stars to Steer By: Dream

Friday, December 12th, 2008

“Committing to a dream is not a one time occurrence. It must be done daily, hourly, and continually. We must choose to commit to our dream over and over again.”

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