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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 August, 2009

It’s Sunday Again: Praise

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

An amazing thing has occurred–in the discussion of biblical concepts and ideas, the church has come down in many places against praise! We make fun of praise songs. We make fun of repeated choruses (despite the repetition of the Psalms, for example Psalm 136). One brother spoke of “7-11” songs–seven words eleven times. Such does not contribute to our understanding and growth in praise. Psalm 136 is a 4-26 song–four words 26 times! Those who are against praise reveal much about themselves!

I am glad we are rediscovering praise. We are appreciating liturgy–repetition, dependable sequences, predictable worship. We have not called it liturgy, but it is. In worship, we are enhancing community, cultivating an atmosphere of celebration, seeking more participation. We are trying to declare God’s worth, admiring his character and love, delighting in his powerful works, celebrating his plan for us.

In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat and his troops named a certain place “The Valley of Praise”. The celebrated victory, and began to praise even before the victory was attained. Praise fills with joy. We go forth from praise with overflowing hearts, rejoicing, songs on our lips, gratitude in our hearts. Most amazing, when the people of God learn praise, others sit up and take note!

Where is your “valley of praise”? Are we for or against praise? When do you praise? Who is watching you? Do they know your life is filled with praise?

Stars to Steer By: Long-Range Dreaming

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I have been working on the strategic plan at Baxter. This thought seems appropriate.
One must have a long-range dream in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the setbacks of each day.

The Health Care Debate and the Church

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Watching the nightly news makes clear that the health care debate in our nation is an emotional topic.  Lots of statements and suppositions.  Polarizing discussions and shouting matches.  The debate is fueled by a lack of specifics and lots of accusations.  This topic concerns a lot of people who want to know what the impact will be on their own personal situation, what changes will occur, and who will pay.

I have been concerned about health care for over 40 years.  I have served as a financial consultant for dozens of ministers.  I have helped preachers prepare income taxes, I have consulted with and advised churches.  I think my educational background in mathematics made this a natural area of interest–and the fact that I was also involved in ministry.

The first church I worked with paid me a weekly amount ($100) and it was up to me to decide where and how to spend it–no auto or expense allowance, no health care allowance, no nothing!
When Jan and I moved to our second church, they paid the health care premium and were responsible for it even when it went up.  It was definitely a benefit–non taxable and with no impact on salary.  Ditto the third church–the church participated with a group of area churches and the health care benefit was a benefit that had nothing to do with my personal remuneration.
From that point on, through almost 35 years of ministry, my own personal health care experience in ministry has been constant.  A church sets the amount they are willing to pay for ministerial services and I get to decide how to divvy it up–salary, housing allowance, ministerial expenses, allowable benefits including health care.  I will say that this procedure has had the benefit of allowing appropriate tax treatment; I will also observe that there is seldom as much in the “pot” as a church thinks there is once the income taxes, self-employment taxes, ministerial expenses and benefits are paid (all items that are paid “pre-take home” for most folks).

I share this history as background for my concern about health care and other benefits for ministry families.  My concern is personal, but I think it is not ‘sour grapes’.  Jan and I have been blessed in numerous ways by churches and by the people of God, and have survived through lean times and good.  Many ministers, however, are not so fortunate.  A recent ministerial remuneration survey demonstrates the problem and the challenges.   Asked about financial support or benefits provided by their congregations above and beyond salary, the ministers surveyed receive the following:

    Auto Expense Allowance 20%
    Housing Allowance 50%
    Health Care 55%
    Dental Care 21%
    Retirement 45%
    Paid Vacation 90%
    No Benefits 16%

Before I specifically address health care and the church, let me address several things that concern me about these results.

      (1) I am amazed that so few ministers (20%) receive reimbursement for ministerial expenses, or that such reimbursement is limited to auto.  My personal experience is that using a personal auto for ministry, books, subscriptions, meetings, entertainment, and related expenses easily consumes 15-25% of the average remuneration package.  My own experience also says that such items are essential if ministry is to be done well.
    (2) I am amazed that so few ministers receive a housing allowance (50%), especially when such an allowance applies if the minister is paying any housing expenses, including utilities and personal furnishings in an unfurnished church-owned parsonage.
    (3) I am amazed that so few ministers receive help toward retirement (slightly less than 50%).  (I suppose that I could say I have not received these first three items when I had to designate them out of a total remuneration, but I have been blessed by churches who were willing to follow my suggested designations toward expenses, housing, and benefits.)
    (4) I am also amazed that 10% of ministers do not receive any vacation and that about 1/6 do not receive any benefits–perhaps these are in the first year of ministry or are part-time.  I have encouraged churches to realize that a minister who changes location should not forfeit tenure, at least not entirely.  We are still working for the same organization and cause, and should be able to retain at least a percentage of our past tenure and experience.

In light of the current health care debate, that barely over 1/2 of the ministers in the survey receive health care help is inexcuseable.  I know some ministers have spouses with health care coverage, but the stark reality remains.  Half of our ministers are extremely vulnerable when it comes to health care and health problems, and probably well over half are insured through private plans (as Jan and I have always been except for the years when we were in university systems, and in the third ministry setting described above where the church was in a group of churches).

Paul wrote (concerning elders), “The leaders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Such is certainly true also of those who minister and serve. I suggest that we would have more ministers eagerly following their hearts in service to God through ministry if the challenge of caring for the health care concerns of their families were taken as seriously by the church as by many secular employers.

Pray for our Nation

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

[Early this morning, I got an email from my friend, H.M. Motsinger, with the following information and request. I want to share it as broadly as I can this day, beginning on this page.]

2 Chronicles 7:14. I remember reading about the children of Israel who turned from God time and time again, only to realize their mistake and pray for forgiveness. Each time, God would forgive them and they would walk with him for a time. So, I am going to ask you to join me in praying for our nation every day. Please read the email below. God is in control.

May God Have Mercy On America; Protect Our Troops
When we were in Texarkana last week, there were signs in people’s yards that said, ” America , prayer is our only hope” — with 2 Chronicles 7:14 underneath. We certainly need God’s help!

I have no idea who started this, but I certainly agree with this e-mail. I heard a preacher on TV tonight who said if we pray for our nation things will turn around.

After a day of contemplation and soul searching, I have decided to reach out to my friends and relatives and ask you to do something that has been troubling me for a long time.

Our nation is/has been on the slippery slope for a long time. If you look around you will find corruption, greed, moral decay, and a steady move away from the things that made us great. The principles upon which this nation was founded are no longer our backbone. However, we can reverse this trend.

2 Chronicles. 7:14 in God’s Word, He states, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

I am convinced that we must pray for our nation and its leaders and ask for forgiveness. So I ask you to join me in this plea to our Lord.

Would you please send this to people in your address book? Ask them to pray EVERY DAY. (25 to the 5th power is 9,765,625 people.) IMAGINE if each person reaches TEN others… Or all TWENTY FIVE!

If you do and they comply, we will lift up millions and millions of prayers a day to our Creator. He will hear us, and in faith will answer.

A quote from President Reagan. “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

I truly believe this is why the United States of America is in the shape it’s in today. Most people have forgotten that we are ONE
NATION UNDER GOD! Let us as Christians stand up and remind people of this.

It’s Sunday Again: Acts 29

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Last sermon in the series:  Do you know Jesus?  The rubber meets the road.  The answer is not hard, in fact is obvious.  What does your life look like?

The book of Acts predicts the spread of the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.  Through a series of summary statements which provide progress markers and anticipate what is coming, the book is organized to trace that sequence.  From Jerusalem (summary statement in 6:7), to Judea, Galilee and Samaria (summary in 9:31), to Antioch and beyond (summary in 12:24), through Asia Minor (summary in 16:5), through Macedonia and Achaia (summary in 19:20), and all the way to Rome (28:31), the gospel is set up to spread without hindrance to the “uttermost parts of the earth”.

The summary statements are both endings and beginnings.  The last verse of the book is both summary and anticipation.  Now the gospel can really go forth into all the world.  The trappings of Judaism have been discarded so the gospel can go to the Gentiles.  The salvation to which the law pointed is clearly possible without the law.  The faith that first took root in Judaism is God’s power for the salvation of all.   Those whom God calls will continue the process.

We are writing Acts 29.  Are we continuing the process?  Is the gospel spreading without hindrance?  Are we ever the hindrance?  The very Jews who first heard were the first-century obstacle to be overcome (Galatians).  Is it ever the case that the modern church that should be carrying the gospel into all the world is the hindrance rather than the help?

The solution is in “getting Jesus right”.  Our view of Jesus influences and limits our ability to be church.  What we think about Jesus determines how we missionally carry the gospel into the world.  Our understanding of Jesus determines how and to whom we minister.   The question is not only for those outside of Jesus.  The question is for those who have begun the Christian journey.  “Do you know Jesus?”  Really?

Stars to Steer By: Too Short

Friday, August 7th, 2009

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” –John Burrough

My list is not precisely Burrough’s list, but my prayer is that God might grant me this attitude that fills life with good and worthwhile things up to my very last day on this earth. May life never be boring, may I never run out of things to do, may I always find an interminable list of planned and hoped for activities!

That is also my prayer for you this day.

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