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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 June, 2010

It’s Sunday Again: Upside Down

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I am preaching today–so much I would like to say and so little time. We must cease trying to operate the church in the same way other organizations operate.

Luke’s gospel employs reversals as a literary device to highlight comparisons, choices, and contrasts. The more obvious reversals include well-known stories such as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, Lazarus and the Rich Man, and the Publican and the Pharisee. The contrast is less visible in other narratives–the birth of Jesus, John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-3), the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (4:14ff), and events at the house of Simon the Pharisee (chapter 7) are samples.

The kingdom of God operates in a different way. God comes as the Son of Man (25 times in Luke’s gospel). God comes to serve, not to be served. Luke writes in Acts (17:6) that those who have turned the world upside down have also come here.

The church must find its uniqueness and accentuate and make it visible in at least these areas.

  • The purpose is different. Most organizations exist for the benefit of those who are members. The church exists entirely for others. The church exists to make outsiders insiders. The church exists to bring those afar off near. The church exists to reach out more than to reach inward. The purpose of inward activities is to reach outward. The church started with no insiders. Every church member was once an outsider, one who has not experienced acceptance and joy and peace and hope. The church must restore this sense of its eternal purpose, which is the same as the eternal purpose of God and the reason Jesus came (Luke 19:10). When insiders forget that they were once outsiders, when insiders begin to think that they have always been insiders, the church becomes exclusive and inwardly-focused and shifts to maintenance mode.
  • The values are different. When the world gets turned upside down, what matters in one realm does not matter in the other. Who is valued? The most capable or the least capable? Those present most often, or those absent most often? Those who teach or those who are taught? The members or the visitors? Will we value prestige and tradition and heritage (Simon the Pharisee)? Will we value law-keeping or compassion (Good Samaritan)? Will we value self and stuff or the soul (Rich Fool)? Can we really value love for the lost who come home more than the lawful loyalty of the lost who stayed at home (Prodigal Son)? Jesus came focusing on the imprisoned, hurting, helpless, and enslaved.
  • Leadership is exercised in a different way. The Gentiles justify hierarchical leaders because the leaders are benevolent. The kingdom is different. Leaders serve. The greatest is the one who serves most. When one becomes the servant of all, that one is ready for leadership. The least are the most valuable; the top is the bottom, up is down.
  • The power is different. Often lost in the casual reading of Luke is the fact that accomplishing kingdom things for God is not done by human power but by spirit power. The church depending only the human perspective of purpose, possibilities, and opportunities will not flourish. We must get out of ourselves, get ourselves out of ourselves, and allow God’s spirit within. God’s spirit takes us to a 24/7 version of kingdom culture. The question is always about God. “God wants me to….” “God wanted me to….” That was the greatest option for advancing the kingdom….

The shorthand of this brief blog may not make clear the many thoughts that are pummeling my mind. Suffice it to say–the church is an upside down organization, and can rejoice in the fact that God’s will is done in such an unusual way. Reverse gear is a terrible way to drive a car, but it is the way of the kingdom!

A Worthy Resolution

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The recent meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution dealing with the “Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce.” Among other things, the resolution called on churches to “proclaim the word of God on the permanence of marriage, provide marriage enrichment opportunities, and marry only those who are biblically qualified to be married to one another.”

These three commitments could change the nature of the church. What if our lives reflected God’s plan for husbands and wives? What if the church were known for its commitment to marriage as evidenced in continuing opportunities to enrich and strengthen marraiges? What if the church (ministers and elders) were serious about biblical marriages?

We have turned our back too long on a plague that is destroying both the church and our families, subtly sending a false message to our youth, and bringing us into turmoil, decay, and destroyed spiritual lives. My sermon this past Sunday dealt with some of my own personal experiences in growing up in a single-parent home and reestablishing my relationship with my father after I became an adult. After the sermon, several expressed appreciation and mentioned similar situations in their own lives or extended families.

“There’s never a better time than now!” Churches, brothers and sisters in Christ: let us preach, encourage, and insist on God’s plan for marriage.

Father’s Day: Four Principles

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Several months ago I received an email with the following information. I have edited it slightly and focused it for Father’s Day.

In May 2009, Brad McCoy, Colt McCoy’s dad, spoke at the Tuesday morning Dallas Christian Leadership Prayer Breakfast. The breakfast is an annual breakfast started by Tom Landry and other Dallas leaders over 40 years ago. Brad McCoy delivered a message about raising Colt and his other two sons. He said he and his wife raised their children according to four principles.

“Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child.” The road is rough, narrow and often hard to find. We have a guidebook (the Bible), a map, and our God to help us. We must prepare ourselves and our kids for moments in life when doors open and close. Dads who are serious about fighting for their kids diligently prepare them.

“Prepare to be your best.” This was a McCoy family motto. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24). Brad would take his kids to school and as they exited the car, he would say to them, “Do your best and be a leader!” Citing Jim Collins’s book, Good to Great, McCoy reminded that good is the enemy of greatness. We don’t aim high and miss. We convince ourselves that we are aiming high, but we are afraid of failure. Most times, we aim low and hit the mark, and feel good because we are succeeding.

“Be a Leader.” We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses–great leaders we and our kids can draw from. We are all at the mercy of time and money. How do you spend your time and money? How we spend our time and money is a direct reflection of where our priorities are. McCoy shared a quote from Ghandi: “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with dirty feet.” He said that Colt turned this phrase into his own words: “Thoughts become things.”

“Prepare for open and closed doors.” Those of you who know the story know that what looked like an open door for Colt quickly became a closed door when he got hurt in the first series of plays in the 2010 National Championship at the Rose Bowl. After the loss, Brad went to his son’s room to cheer his son up. He entered his son’s hotel room to find Colt finishing a devotional reading: “My positive energy must be better than my negative energy. My certainty must be me stronger than my doubt. The battle is won before I ever start the fight. I choose faith over fear. Leave a legacy of excellence, love, dedication and service.” Jeremiah stated, ‘Blessed is the man whose trust is in the Lord.’” Trust in the Lord is the key to both open and closed doors. Help you children be ready for either.

It’s Sunday Again: Reflections on Life

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

It’s Sunday again–typical, atypical. I will teach my Bible class this morning, but no other “official” duties. My mind overflowed on my early morning walk today–thinking, praying, dreaming….

Life is about beginnings and endings.
Today’s reality includes things unthinkable last week–the death of a young lady just beginning life, married within the last year, just graduated from the university. I am praying for the family–the funeral will probably be Tuesday, a tough beginning to this week. Thank God for the stability that today’s worship will bring.

Life is about seizing opportunities.
I am praying about new missions contacts, meetings, plans to strengthen outreach.
I heard from my friend who works with a Hispanic church in the US this week–I agreed to lead some kind of evangelism or church health seminar this fall. We need to finalize details soon–September.
I heard from a church in Michigan this week–I agreed to spend a few weeks assisting with interim ministry dynamics. Virtually all of my August is scheduled.
I received an email that connected brothers in Colorado, Guatemala, Honduras, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. We will all get together this fall, apparently in Honduras, and we will put our minds together with God’s help to strengthen the work of God’s people in Central America and to bind together the broken-hearted and wounded and hurt–September.

Life is about strengthening others.
I am working on a series of lessons for this fall’s 2010 Pan American Lectureship. I am thrilled with my assignment–Galatians, lessons from the mountains, missions. I have never looked at this little letter through these eyes–refreshing!
I am praying about the work at Baxter Institute. I am praying about our current students on the PAM assignments, for our students in their weekend assignments, for our incoming class of students next year. I am missing being on campus–I am remembering fresh, young hearts that are anxious to make a difference for the eternal kingdom.
I am thinking about invitations and commitments. Invitations received but thus far unanswered–there is not enough time to do everything. Commitments made, and prayers that these activities might be the most effective and important in advancing the things of the kingdom.

Life is about delays.
I need to write my friend in Peru and tell him that we will not be able to come this fall to help with leadership training. It will be spring 2011 at the earliest! Opportunities are getting in the way of plans.

Life is about people.
My heart says life must be about the millions of people who have never heard about Jesus–we have to get the word to them. I feel guilty some days at the lack of opportunities for sharing the good news in my immediate world. Maybe I am not looking hard enough, not seeing through God’s eyes, not making or seizing opportunities.
I know also that those who will accept the task when I am no longer here must be taught and mentored and encouraged.

Dear God, help us abound in love that is like your love, give us knowledge and wisdom and insight, help us choose what is the very best, help us live lives that make us pure and blameless before you and like you. We pray that our lives might be filled with, and that we might fill the world with, the fruit of righteousness that comes when Jesus Christ is proclaimed and known and present and Lord, according to your will, by your power, for your glory and praise. (from Philippians 1:9-11)

It’s Sunday Again: Christo-centric or Ec-centric

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Christians must be correctly “centered”. There is only one center. All other approaches are off-center. The center is Christ. All else is eccentric, meaningless, illogical. Christ is the communication of God and the logic of God.

Today I begin teaching a new Bible study series, Foundations of Faith. What does one have to know to be Christ-centered? What are the essentials? What is periphery? How does one decide? I have completed the initial writing of the series, but it is yet a work in progress. The class will help me discover new insights, change, and rewrite.

The basic outline of the series is as follows:

    Getting Started: God, Christ, the Holy Spirit
    How God communicates his will: the Bible
    Human beings: the dilemma and the possibilities
    God’s plan for human creation: relationship broken and renewed
    The people of God: the church
    The hope of the gospel
    By grace: confidence in the Christian life
    By faith: belief strong enough to act

What is on your list? What understandings, actions, lifestyles are essential to being Christ-centered? Let’s think together!

The Jesus Manifesto: Review

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Sweet, Leonard, and Frank Viola. The Jesus Manifesto. Thomas Nelson, 2010.

In The Jesus Manifesto, Len Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed up with the goal of writing a book that restores “the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus Christ” by identifying the basics of the message of Jesus without peripheral, divisive issues. What is the basic message upon which all Christians can unite?

The book is easy and enjoyable to read, with many memorable phrases and illustrations. It should appeal to the average reader, but despite the easy read, also reflects profound theological thinking. For the most part, the authors have succeeding in making the difficult simple.

Working to a large extent from the Colossian letter, they claim Jesus is absent from the Christian message as it is proclaimed in many churches today, and seek to reaffirm Jesus as the center of all things. They explore the indwelling of Christ, God’s work in our lives, and the participation we share in the work of Christ, all demonstrated first in the lives of Christians. This demonstration, for the authors, comes as a result of what God implants within us and imparts to us and not from a conscious human effort to imitate Christ. In fact, one of the resounding themes of the book is that only Christ has the power to do in our lives what needs to be done. Thus, dependence on human efforts, an attitude that is reflected in the thinking of too many Christians, will always come up short.

Perhaps it is impossible to write a book about Jesus without addressing related issues. The question is, “What topics (issues) are important enough to include?” What issues deny the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus? The authors treat several related topics: rationalism, legalism, moralism, benevolence done in the name of Jesus that provides no spiritual benefit, the church as the community of faith, and participating with Christ in his work.

Getting Jesus “right” requires understanding that rational (legal) extremes and moral extremes are insufficient measures of Christianity. Christianity is not measured by what one knows or believes or by one’s morality. In our complex world of competing values and causes, neither is it sufficient to measure Christianity by the values typified by many churches. The only solution which really exalts Christ is to reframe the kingdom over which Christ the King rules. The kingdom is properly understood by understanding the King. The kingdom is not about benevolence, food, shelter, clothing, or other physical necessities. Unless the activities of the kingdom reflect the mercy of Jesus and meet spiritual needs, the actions are not kingdom actions which glorify the King.

An interesting chapter compares the two trees in the Garden of Eden and suggests that many Christians are still seeking God according to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, seeking in Christianity a way to define good and evil, make moral decisions, and control the uncertainties of life. The alternative, according to the book, is to live by the tree of life, seeking and finding life in Christ.

The conclusion of the authors is that the new frontiers of the contemporary world demand that the church explore Christ afresh to discover him and demonstrate him in the world. This reviewer is in full agreement. Just how much of the traditional baggage must be brought along will always be the sticking point as Christ Jesus is discussed within the larger Christian community.

As one who has sought to bring the focus of the church back to Christ for at least the last decade, the book resonates with this reader. A member of my congregation commented shortly after I began my work with this church, “If we keep at it, we may be able to get Christ back into this church!” What goal could be higher? Let us bring Christ back to the center of the faith and lives of Jesus’ followers. Let us bring Christ back to the focus of the church!

Jesus Manifesto

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Of possible interest….

JESUS MANIFESTO: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, Hardcover, 205 pages) is being released today. It is available on Amazon.com today with a major discount.

The official website for the book is www.theJesusManifesto.com. I will post a review of the book in the next few days.

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