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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, 2011

Just Thinking….Religious Novelty

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Today’s title does not suggest that it is a novelty that I am thinking. I am thinking about novelty in religion.

I have been rereading Jeremiah. How has novelty become desirable, even an asset, in religion? Judging from news reports from around the globe, it seems that the more unique and strange the “religious” event, the more likely it is to draw a crowd.
Jeremiah speaks certain judgment against religious novelty, calling for a return to the old paths. That the faith journey must be lived out in the current cultural context is not denied. My concern is not with efforts to live a contemporary faith. My concern is with a process that continually syncretizes the Christian faith with newly discovered religions, especially Eastern religions. It seems that the stranger and vaguer the religion, the more attractive it is in our world.

The new world of religious novelty demands new frameworks and descriptors. Moving away from a “non-denominational” claim, are some groups more accurately described as “omni-denominational”? Are some churches, despite Christian roots, now “omni-religious”? A world of religious syncretism and strange admixtures of religious practices calls for fresh analysis–fresh thinking and preaching and teaching.

What word does the Bible have for those who would be led away by religious novelty? The Old Testament prophets might be a good place to begin!

No bad sermons allowed!

Monday, December 26th, 2011

I was tempted during my years of full-time preaching to post a small sign on the pulpit–visible to me but not to the congregation. The sign would have read: NO BAD SERMONS ALLOWED!

Let me begin with a disclaimer. I have preached my share of bad sermons. In my early preaching efforts, there were possibly more bad sermons than good ones. I was a novice, it took time to find my “preaching legs.” I took minimalist, fluffy bulletin articles and turned them into sermons. I too often began with a sermon idea rather than with the Word of God. It pains me to think about and admit what sometimes passed for sermons.

Along the way as my preaching journey developed, I determined that my primary commitment would be to preach good sermons. I committed to spend the necessary time in preparation. (Some weeks you mine for ore all week long and still find very little precious metal by the end of the week!) I committed to Bible study and Bible reading. I committed to reading broadly in related materials and books. For several years, I read the New Testament through each month. I tried to read a book a day, although sometimes a book a week was all I could manage. Yes, I have read the books in my personal library–numbering near 5000 volumes before I began to give away books I had read.

From my undergraduate days, I remember a discussion (argument, disagreement) with my roommate at Oklahoma Christian College. I affirmed that a preacher ought to know or have an idea about the meaning of every chapter of the Bible. He said it was impossible. Today, I admit that this is a difficult goal. I have not reached the level I desire, so it remains a constant challenge. Think with me. We who preach and teach are the “experts” in the Word. We stand up and say we are speaking for God. We say that when we speak, God speaks. We claim that we are providing the exact word from God that is most needed in the life of the church at a particular moment. How can we do that if we are not careful, diligent students of the Word?

Good sermons attract listeners. People come to church to hear a word from God. Good sermons on Sunday nights bring people back. I spent 25 years in full-time ministry before I began serving in Christian higher education. Through those 25 years, it became a point of pride (healthy, I hope!) that Sunday night attendance stayed consistently high–usually near 75-80% of Sunday morning attendance. I know the claim–we live in a different world. My heart of hearts yearns to reclaim a full-time ministry to test the theory–good sermons bring people back on Sunday nights. There are numerous examples of this truth in the denominational world where thousands assemble on Sunday evenings to hear God’s Word.

I told my preaching students that if they only had one good sermon on a given Sunday, to preach that sermon on Sunday night, since the folks would continue to come on Sunday mornings out of duty. The principle has validity. Do not preach the dregs on Sunday night. Do not preach the leftovers. Do not make do with second best. Do not depreciate the Sunday night crowd with fluff and stuff. Preachers! On Sunday nights, you are sharing with the cream of the crop. You are in the midst of those who are ultimately making a difference in the local congregation. You are among the most committed, most serious, and most faithful Christians. They will forgive your inadequacies–but do not take advantage of them and demean them with spiritual junk food!

2012 Bible Reading Plan Available Online

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

I have posted (but not linked) the 2012 Daily Devotional and Bible Reading plan. This plan allows a person to work in each chapter of the New Testament during a year–either reading an excerpt which is included with the devotional thought, or the entire chapter. (Details of the plan appear at the top of the Devotional Index Page.) An effort is made to reflect the content and importance of each chapter in the accompanying devotional thought so that the daily devotionals generally reflect the message of the New Testament.
The 2012 devotional and reading plan follows the same book order as in 2011. This plan allows the Bible student to alternate between different types of biblical literature (although the series does begin in Matthew and conclude with Revelation). Following the same book order has another advantage in that those who are completing the March 2011 to February 2012 reading plan can begin to use the 2012 plan immediately and still complete the 2011 readings.

[Again, you can check out my past “Bible Study” blogs to help you think about the Bible reading plan that will best meet your own personal spiritual needs and goals in the coming year. What is most important is that we have a plan.]

Stars to Steer By: When Yesterday Seems Big

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Consider: “If what I did yesterday still looks large to me, I haven’t done much today.”

(When I heard this quote from Virgil Trout at the holiday luncheon at Oklahoma Christian University earlier this month, I wrote it down. I do not know its origin.)
The challenge of constant growth and progress is clear. Consider these questions. What are my plans for today? Do I have big plans for activities that will make a difference and surpass yesterday? Will I let successes of yesterday get in the way of today? Will I be satisfied with past successes so that mediocrity rules the present? Will I do today what needs to be done? Will I handle top priorities or urgent trivia?

Carpe diem! Seize the day!

Do you know what you’re talking about?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The conversation was interesting–a retired entrepreneur turned preacher and missionary, a company executive, a couple of business professionals who serve as mission committee members, and yours truly. The discussion topics ranged broadly, but generally came back to our shared faith concerns as Christians–ministry and missions.

The statement caught me off guard, “You can tell when someone knows what he’s talking about!” Wow! So you can! The follow-up statements were expected and more predictable. Long hours of preparation, study, and thought are reflected in the way a person speaks and what that person says. A broad orientation and deep study are immediately obvious. Some of it is maturity–but some people grow older and still don’t know what they are talking about! Some of it is having and learning from experiences–but some people have had a lot of experiences but haven’t learned much from them.

“You can tell when someone knows what he’s talking about.” The statement is a generalization, so there are exceptions. The listeners must have also a basic awareness. Inexperienced and immature Christians may fail to recognize “fluff” in a class or sermon. Even elders can be deceived. Some speakers seem to know what they’re talking about, but do not.

Even though the statement is not true at all times in every situation, it is generally true. It has enough truth to suggest a goal for those of us preach and teach in full-time roles. Let’s make sure we know what we are talking about! Study deeply enough to be able to deal with the potential difficulties and questions in a passage or text. Prepare so that others, even the most biblically literate and spiritually astute, recognize that you know what you are talking about!

It is shameful when preachers stand before a congregation and talk about what they do not know about! It happens for many reasons–lack of study, borrowed sermons, Internet sermon sources, poor preparation. It is embarrassing when a preacher talks about what he knows not, failing to address major aspects of the subject at hand. It is dishonest when a preacher fails to do what he is hired to do–speak a clear, certain word from God for this congregation at this moment in history.

It is an audacious thing to claim to speak for God. A good first step is to make certain you know what you are talking about!

2012–God is good!

Monday, December 19th, 2011

The weekend filled with the expected and with the unexpected. The expected was working on 2012 mission scheduling–our ministry and mission calendar now has slightly over 120 days of training seminars and workshops. Add some travel days, and it is clear that God is providing opportunities to participate in the advance of his kingdom and cause.
The unexpected was the opportunity to preach and teach three times yesterday at Northwest-Houston. In addition to helping with a Sunday morning Bible class by filling in for a teacher who was ill, the opportunity came to preach to the Spanish congregation on Sunday morning and to lead the small group discussion in Spanish on Sunday evening.
I plan to publish the 2012 calendar later this month. A few possible openings remain. Let me know if we can confirm a speicific date for evangelism or mission outreach, for teacher and leader training, or for a Christian family focus.

2012 Missions and Ministry

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

This weekend will be devoted to working on additional scheduling for my missions itinerary for the upcoming year. I currently have nine Latin American mission visits confirmed for 2012. My goal is to spend about half of the year in Latin American mission activities devoted to leadership development, teacher development, and strengthening Christian families. The other half of the year will be used for preparations, writing, and U.S. ministry opportunities.
Several 2012 slots are open for stateside seminars and workshops–let me know as soon as possible.
I have a few 2012 dates remaining depending on the flexibility of the local churches. I am also scheduling for 2013.

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