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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, 2010

Resolutions: A Day Early!

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Perhaps if I get my resolution list published a day early, and have a brief opportunity to prepare myself, the resolutions will last longer. One good thing about my resolutions this year is that they are positive statements that can be pursued continuously, even with lapses (rarther than negative “don’t” statements that are immediately gone when one fails).

  • I will keep myself sharp mentally, physically, and emotionally
  • I will strengthen my spiritual life and stay connected with others who share like interests in spiritual activities, both locally and globally
  • I will continue to value, strengthen, and enjoy my family ties. I will not take my spouse or others in the family for granted. I will seek times to share life and relish the special moments.
  • I will spend money on things that matter. I will value experiences and people more than things.
  • I will take time to review my life so that I can see it clearly and identify the things accomplished that made a difference
  • I will do the little things regularly that give me a sense of accomplishment, e.g. projects, exercise, reading and writing are among my favorites.
  • I will look for and continue to do what others cannot do or what others are unlikely to do, especially in areas of ministry and mission.
  • Final 2010 Mission Report

    Monday, December 27th, 2010

    The holiday is past, the end of the year upon us, the beginning of a New Year soon to come.

    For our many friends and family, readers and supporters, we share again our best wishes for the coming year. Our last mission newsletter of 2010 summarizes some of the highlights of the past year. We rejoice in what God has made possible through us his servants with the help and encouragement of others.

    The coming year is a clean slate, yet to be filled with God’s writings of his work in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. We pray that we might be faithful, walking through open doors, encouraging others, sharing the good news of Jesus!

    It’s Sunday Again: He Came, He is Coming

    Sunday, December 19th, 2010

    The Hebrew writer summarizes it well at the conclusion of Hebrews 9: He (Christ) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages, so that he might do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Some events are once for all events–like death and the subsequent judgment. So also was Christ’s sacrifice to take away the sins of many people a once for all event. He will appear a second time, but it will not be for the purpose of bearing sin. It will be to deliver salvation to those who are eagerly anticipating his coming.

    At this time of year, it sometimes seems the entire world is thinking about Jesus’ first coming, the Advent, the Incarnation. That is the Nativity message. Jesus came. Right now that coming of Jesus into the world is pretty tame. In another four months, the world will remember that he came to die a cruel, painful death for the sins of humanity.

    Today as we share the Supper, we do not focus on the fact that Jesus came, but rather on the fact that he is coming. In the Supper, we proclaim Jesus’ death. Moreover, we demonstrate our confidence that he died and was resurrected, and that he is coming again. Keep remembering and reminding one another that He is Coming. Continue doing this until he comes!

    A Missional Christmas Idea

    Saturday, December 18th, 2010

    One of the things I miss about being the “primary” presence in the pulpit is the opportunity to take relatively small, insignificant ideas and present them as short-term, weekly challenges to the church as we strive to live out the reality of Jesus in our world. Most of our folks are not missing the desire, they are missing the method. They need ideas about how they can make a difference. It is almost as though (putting on my academic hat for a moment) they need “homework.”

    In reviewing some of my recent sermons, I have challenged us to….

  • put in a good word for Jesus during the next week
  • ask as many people as possible a list of 2-3 questions (which I provided), and then we gave opportunity for feedback reports
  • ask people if you can pray for them until you get a list of at least 2-3 people, then pray for them the rest of the week, and follow up if they will give you information for future contact. (But the praying is not dependent on receiving contact information, so assure those who accept your prayer offer that you will pray for them regardless.)
  • adopt a “be a blessing” strategy for one week
  • invest a sum of money in helping someone else
  • With the holiday season upon us, I suggest another possibility. On the Wednesday before Christmas, we are having a congregational devotional. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we encouraged families to go out after that devotional (and during the next two days before Christmas) to spread a little “Joy to the World” by making a visit or taking a card, care basket, small gift, donuts, etc. to someone whom we would not otherwise contact. Maybe we could take something to someone who is working the holidays–hospital or nursing home workers, police or fire fighters, etc. Perhaps we could touch our families in new and fresh ways–both our physical family and our spiritual family–by going the extra mile. Perhaps we could say something significant to our friends and neighbors. Wouldn’t it be great if families and small groups of Christians did this together?

    In a world where many believe that the primary interest of the churches is focused inwardly, could it make a difference if we attempted to show that we have a genuine interest in others? Could it make a difference if we took the spirit of Jesus outside our four walls? A Starbucks employee recently observed, “It seems like a lot of churches are just inward focused and don’t get out in the community.” In most places, the church has a huge PR problem. The unchurched think that the church ought to exist for others, to serve the hurting and broken, and to be involved in the community. We need to do things in the name of Jesus and to make clear that we are doing them because we are Christians. Doing good things causes others to praise God (reread Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 2.)

    I applaud outreach ministries that focus on evangelism. But sometimes our outreach effort needs to be as simple as serving others in very specific, individualized ways that go beyond hosting spectacular community events. The personal touch is essential–whether it be in a food pantry, food baskets or food backpacks, serving in a housing development, or whatever. The key is that the church acts only as its members act. The problem with too many programs and ministries is that we are outsourcing ministry and leaving to the professionals those things that the church should be doing at the grassroots level.

    So my idea is that we come together briefly on that Wednesday, and that we encourage and equip people to go out and do mission and serve. Maybe the church could arrange to have on hand the things necessary to make up small care packages, fruit, cards, food items, etc. depending on the needs to be met. Perhaps the church could enjoy preparing their gifts together and praying together.

    Little by little, with efforts such as these, we could communicate to our community the heart of this church, so that we live out the message on our sign: “touching hearts, transforming lives.” What would happen if some of your family, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances knew that this is a church that cares? Would that help overcome any negative stereotypes? Most people need to encounter an authentic church in order to come to faith in Jesus. Are we such a church?

    How many times could this story be repeated?

    Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

    I want to begin by saying this is not my story, it is a story that was told to me by a person who wishes to remain anonymous. I have shared thoughts, and sometimes specific wordings, in telling a story I believe every Christian needs to hear again and again. (For a similar story from my own personal experience, see my December 2008 Mission Newsletter. )

    Once upon a time, a U.S. church became involved in a medical mission project. The project included a church planting which was supported with regular visits by medical brigades. A Christian who was involved on a mission trip which included a medical component met a girl who was waiting to see the doctor. This girl was sitting alone, last in line. She appeared sad, she was certainly alone. The Christian sat down beside her and began to talk to her, finding out that she had come to that area looking for work. The Christian spoke highly of the local church, invited her to church, and then introduced her to the local minister and another brother.

    Three days later, with the mission group still on site, the girl came to church with her Bible in hand. She was accompanied by two other girls, both of them relatives, a teenage girl and a younger child. The Christian made certain to speak to her, telling her what an encouragement and blessing her presence was. The medical campaign ended, the medical workers and the mission team went home. But the story doesn’t end there.

    The young girl began attending all of the meetings of the church. She studied the Bible. As she had accepted the invitation to come to church, she accepted the invitation of Jesus to be baptized, and three weeks after that first contact, she was baptized into Christ for the remission of her sins.

    The Christian wrote me, “I am struck by the simplicity of extending care and concern, an invitation, and follow up. It causes me to wonder how many opportunities we miss to express our concern for another person and the results from doing so.”

    You and I know that not all will respond as this young girl did. But the Christian also wrote me these words, “…honestly, she was the only one I sat to talk with that day in the busy task of assisting with our clinic activities; or maybe I just didn’t take the time. It causes me to wonder how many would respond in a similar situation to a similar invitation.”

    What if several times each day church members simply and sincerely asked others, “How are you doing?” What if we listened, offered invitations, and became a church where people genuinely care. We have no way of knowing how many would respond, and we have no way of knowing, if there isn’t an obvious immediate response, what “seed” would be planted to grow in its own time.

    In conclusion, I share the last sentence of the account I received from the Christian who was involved, “There is no doubt the blessing I received.”

    Barna: Summarizing 2010

    Monday, December 13th, 2010

    If you have not yet seen the Barna report which summarizes six major emerging themes for 2010, it is a “must” read. Based on casual observations, the conclusions are accurate–and scary!
    You can read the report at this link: http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/462-six-megathemes-emerge-from-2010.

    It’s Sunday Again:Hearing God

    Sunday, December 12th, 2010

    I was struck yesterday by a simple thought from my Bible reading: the sheep hear the voice of their shepherd, recognize his voice, and follow his voice. Three simple thoughts jumped out at me from my reading in John 10.

    First, as a follower of the Good Shepherd, I must hear his voice. Jesus speaks. Am I listening? Jesus communicates his will. Am I attentive? Jesus tells me what is best for me? Am I paying attention? In the midst of lots of other noise in our busy commotion-filled world, when do I take time to hear the voice of my Good Shepherd? Do I hear him daily? weekly? monthly? Do I hear him regularly? Do I hear him often enough to know his heart and will and desire? The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd.

    Second, the sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. We live in a world of competing claims. Many would seek to interpret the voice of the shepherd for us. There are spiritual ventriloquists who are able to make it sound almost like the real thing. Recognizing someone’s voice requires hearing that voice again and again (unless you have caller ID). Hearing the voice again and again leads to recognition. Your favorite preacher or teacher, regardless of how biblically accurate he may be, can never substitute for your own ability to recognize the voice of your shepherd.

    Third, the sheep follow the voice. May I observe what goes without saying? One cannot follow if one does not hear and recognize the instructions. The sheep follow the shepherd.

    This is not a multiple choice test. Shall I hear, recognize or follow? Impossible. These concepts fit together. They are a package deal. The answer is “All of the Above.”

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