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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 July, 2012

The Problem of Preaching: Short on the Why?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Preaching is challenging.  Preaching done well is an art.  Lives are changed little by moralizing (you should, we must, we need to….).  I know what I ought to do, but I just can’t do it.  Lives are changed by the renewal of our minds so that we are more and more focused on God.  It is easy to identify things Christians ought to do–it is hard to do them without adequate foundations sunk deeply into the nature of God as revealed in his word.  Preaching must be balanced–theological foundations and practical applications.  The minister is a theological practitioner or a practical theologian.  The first task is to say something about God–to clearly speak the word and will and way of God. 

If preachers are to err on one side or the other, let us make certain our preaching is “long on God”.  Seeing God clearly motivates faithfulness and develops worthiness.  The one-talent man misunderstood God and missed faithfulness. Even worse, he missed worthiness–the text describes him as worthless.  The text does not overtly say that the two-talent and five-talent men understood God’s nature, but the textual contrast implies such.  The one-talent man thought he could please his master with a short-list of “oughts”, a risk-free response.  The text not only applauds the faithfulness of the first two servants, it reveals why the one-talent man was not faithful, and suggests what are appropriate components of faithfulness. But perhaps the most significant lesson of the text is that the goal is not faithfulness but worthiness. The ultimate judgment was that the unfaithful servant was worthless. No value in being “faithful” if we are worthless. Faithful focuses on human actions–worthless focuses on God’s goals.

To think that frail, sinful human beings can be worth something to God is a great leap of faith, but the text suggests such. How can I be worthwhile to God? Let me suggest some goals from the text, ideas which are more focused in our being than in our doing. Let us….

  • seek to become like God, understanding what God is like and imitating him
  • be fully-devoted to the things that matter to God
  • be partakers of the divine nature, those whose lives are consistent with the nature of the Master
  • be those who reflect the Master’s nature and will.

Faithfulness often says “look at me”. Worth says “look at God.” Is who we are and what we are doing worthy of the great and glorious God we serve? Are we reflecting God? If we get the why right, the application is a lot easier and becomes a part of our nature, not something we have to be constantly reminded of.

Discipleship Simplified

Monday, July 30th, 2012

We have misidentified discipleship. We have distinguished being a Christian and being a disciple. We have made it two decisions instead of one. The decision to become a Christian is the same as the decision to become a disciple (follower of Jesus). Our tendency toward two distinct decisions has had disastrous consequences. People want to be cleansed (baptized so they can be Christians) but they do not have plans to fill the vacuum with the things of the Spirit (genuine discipleship). Thus we have a whole host of folks who appear to have begun but have not continued. I say “appear to have begun” because of the possibility that they never really began.

Jesus said that discipleship demands counting the cost. Discipleship means that Jesus is first–above all else. Jesus is before any personal concerns for possessions, power, prestige, prominence, parents, family.

A familiar song suggests how simple discipleship can be: I have decided to follow Jesus….

Meeting God in Worship

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

This morning’s worship in song was marvelous! Jan and I have been at Park Plaza for three months–I do not remember Keith Lancaster repeating any worship song during that period. Each Sunday is outstanding–bringing us into the very throne room of God where his holiness is seen by the eye of faith.
Thank you, Keith, for your heart of worship and for letting us accompany you as you lead us before God’s throne where we can view his majesty and glory. Glory to God for the great talents he gives his servants so that we as the body of Christ together bring him glory and honor and praise.
May we go forth empowered so that others might see God as they see us live our lives in the week ahead.

Meeting God at the Table is No Small Thing

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Luke 22 is a favorite text to which I return again and again during the weekly communion service. Jesus expresses to his disciples his intense desire to meet with them before his suffering and death. “With much desire, I have desired to eat with you.” From a human vantage point it is difficult to understand why Jesus desired to be with such a group. They were glory-seekers, disloyal, weak, without understanding of Jesus’ purpose. My humanity says I would be ready to trade them in for a new bunch of followers.

At the Table, Jesus desires to meet us–even the worst of us. The Table is a declaration of our worth in Jesus’ eyes, a reminder of the extreme lengths to which he would go to make possible our continuing, weekly meeting and communion with him. The Table is reminder of Jesus’ love, and is reminder that all stand equal at the foot of the cross. At the Table we meet one another, and we overlook our frailty and humanity, knowing that we find newness and forgiveness declared in the death of Jesus. At the Table we meet Jesus and gratitude overwhelms our hearts. At the Table, we look forward to that time when our communion will not be challenged by the human frailty and failures we experience here.

Some Christians have failed to see the significance of meeting God at the Table. Some easily ignore the opportunity or choose other activities. Do not miss the Table. Meeting God at the Table is no small thing.

Weak Doctrine = Weak Christians

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

I have been reviewing some of the articles I have written over the past couple of years. Two articles reflect the importance of doctrine: Doctrine Matters and Thin Doctrine.

Non-Christians want something to know, to live by, to depend on. Unchurched people expect churches to have a belief system–to know what they believe and why. Because non-Christians expect churches to have a belief system to guide life, doctrine is important, even a prerequisite, for effective evangelism. Lack of evangelism often signifies lack of doctrinal certainty. When the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who goes to battle?

Some Christians think that doctrine hinders evangelism rather than enhancing it. In our contemporary culture where tolerance is glorified, some Christians shy away from doctrinal certainty. Such is a grave error. If the teachings of the Bible cannot be known with certainty, we are at sea, wandering without direction, foundering with no solid footing. The church must have a vibrant, valid voice in the uncertainties of today’s world. If the church cannot provide foundations, why “do” church?

Not only is doctrine important to the unchurched person, it is also important that Christians know what they believe and why. The Christian who lacks a well-defined belief system is unlikely to realize a well-defined Christian walk. Christians who are not certain what the Bible teaches, or whether the teachings of Scripture are important or matter, often lack sufficient motivation or commitment for basic Christian ethics or activities.

Have you observed any connection between doctrine and levels of involvement?
Have you known strong Christians who were doctrinally uncertain?

Unbelievable!

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

“Mish Maoul.” In Arabic, the phrase means unbelievable. A Spanish word I use frequently is “increible”. 1 Thess. 1:5 says, “When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words.” The unbelievable was made believable through preaching and testimony empowered and assured from the Holy Spirit. Such a message communicated only with words remains unbelievable, but the message of the gospel is not simply words. Jude 15 says one day that which is unbelievable will be believed by all. All will be convicted.

Consider four things that are unbelievable without Christ. Christian faith makes these believable.

  • God loves us.
  • Jesus died for us.
  • Jesus was resurrected and ascended.
  • Jesus is coming again.
  • Unhinderedly [Acts 28:31]

    Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

    Acts 28:31 ESV says, “…proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” There it is! The last word of the last verse of the last chapter of Acts. A Greek word which I translate “unhinderedly.” The ESV gets the flavor and significance of the Greek word placement in the final phrase, “without hindrance.” Luke notes that the gospel continued to spread by God’s power. Human hindrances and the barriers which opponents erect are nothing in the face of the power of the gospel.

    When the gospel fails to sound forth in our world today, it is not because of the hindrances in our society or culture or world. WHen the gospel fails to sound forth, it is because of the failure of God’s people. The gospel is powerful; it is we who sometimes doubt. Let us pray today that the gospel will go forth in the hearts and on the lips of God’s people–unhinderedly!

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