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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 March, 2014

It’s Sunday Again: Two Basic Choices

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Life is filled with choices. A few choices are basic! Once they are made, they provide the foundation for the rest of life’s choices. If the foundational choices are not made in place, the rest of life is a constant struggle. Let me be specific. Here are two foundational questions that provide orientation for the rest of life. Who am I? Who is in control in my life?

For a Christian, the answer to number one depends on grasping God’s love and God’s forgiveness. Warning! If we make love easy or forgiveness cheap, our identity in Christ will be constantly blurry. This is not an easy love that says “You’re OK” and “I can put up with you like you are.” This is love that acknowledges problems and the necessity of change. This is no unconditional love. This is love that rightly expects obedience and commitment.
Impossible? That is where God’s forgiveness enters. What is impossible with us humans is possible with God. God’s forgiveness affirms our identity in Christ. Warning! Do not make this forgiveness cheap and unconditional. Do not fall into Satan’s trap of thinking that God is so loving that forgiveness is automatic and universal with only an unthinking acknowledgement of God’s existence. God’s grace is extended at great cost, and is faithfully accepted only with intense, unending gratitude.

Who is in control in my life? First, I must establish that I am not! Jesus Christ is Lord. The Bible is God’s Word. Here we see the written word and the living word. God reveals himself to us so we can understand him. When we see God for who he really is, we see ourselves as we really are. When we see God in all of his glory, we rejoice that he is willing to take care of our every inadequacy, fault, flaw, sin, shortcoming, and weakness. It is not about us, God is in control!

Today as I worship among God’s people, I seek to be reminded of these basic truths. I want to be reminded of who I am. I want to be reminded that God is in control. Basic life choices! Without these in place, the week ahead can get pretty rough and intense. With these in place, a lot of other life choices will also fall into place!

Preach the Gospel–Use Words!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

With the selection of Pope Francis, one very clever and popular quote I hear more and more is, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
The quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and seems to say that proclaiming the Gospel by example is more virtuous than proclaiming it verbally. I dislike the quote for several reasons. First, it creates an artificial dichotomy between preaching and practice, seeming to force a choice between speech and action. Second, the idea that the gospel can be preached without words is not true. Third, it is unbiblical and biased, subtly suggesting that those who “practice the Gospel” are more faithful than those who preach it. Finally, Francis of Assisi never said it. There is no record of the quotation from his disciples or from early or later biographers. It does not appear in any of his writings. The truth is that Francis was a powerful preacher. He was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle. Francis did not depend only on his actions to proclaim the gospel. The popularity of the quote likely tells us more about the spirit of our age than of any historical reality.
Mark Galli has suggested a different quotation: “Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.”

[Note: See also my article: Preach the Gospel–Use Words Always.]

A “God Thing”

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

[Note: reposted from 12/27/07]

I must admit I wasn’t thrilled when Jan called from the U.S. to tell me the airport was closed due to the weather. I would be at least a day late getting home after a one-week mission trip that had drained me emotionally. I had two options. #1–The airline would fly me to Houston with no guarantees for a connecting flight. #2–Stay in Tegucigalpa, Honduras since the airline would rewrite the ticket for the next day at no charge.
…Hmmm. Given that I have more friends in Tegucigalpa than I do in Houston, the decision was easy. As much as I was anticipating being home and seeing Jan, I would wait 24 hours.
As a result of the delay, I spent the extra evening in Honduras with a group of Baxter Institute students who were forming a missionary/church planting team to the Dominican Republic. I wish you could meet Eulalio and Sarah. They will be the first phase of the team–-Dominicans arriving in the Dominican. Eulalio and Sarah just graduated from Baxter. He has an evangelistic heart, fervor and intensity about him. He has been directly responsible for teaching and baptizing 186 people in the last 2 1/2 years. I am sure that God is going to continue to bless this team with a great heart for God.
After dinner, we sang–-in Spanish, songs with too many words that went by too fast for the notes. Another English-speaking brother and I regaled them with an extra fast rendition of “I’ve got the wonderful love of my blessed Redeemer way down deep in the depths of my heart.” We laughed, until we cried. We prayed. We dreamed and planned. They asked advice; I served as advisor and consultant for the infant team. We talked about the early stages, about the need for developing leaders.
As the evening grew late but eventually wound down about 11 p.m., one of the brothers in the group said that my presence with them that evening was a “God thing.” Yes, even in my 24-hour delayed departure from Honduras, God was blessing events that did not go as we had planned. He was opening doors, controlling events, making new connections possible, equipping for the future. They asked if I could come and help them with leadership matters in a year or so. They said that if I could come, that would be another “God thing.”

God, we thank you for “God things.” We thank you when you act in our lives and we can see you at work. We also thank you when you work behind the scenes and work for good in our lives, and we do not even notice. Help us by faith to see you in all of your grandeur and splendor and presence.

Back to the Future–Forward to the Past!

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

[Reposted and updated from 12/26/07]

Science fiction popularized the time machine with its ability to take a person from their present reality to a different point in time. My boys watched the movie, “Back to the Future,” again and again when they were growing up.
U.S. religious practices reflect an increased interest in spiritual connections and activities. Daniel Wallace, professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, notes a growing appetite for “worship that is [more than] a glorified Bible class.” Interest is increasing in the spiritual disciplines, especially in prayer and meditation. The early Church Fathers are being read. Churches across the theological spectrum participate in weekly communion as a way to bring reverence, spiritual focus, and divine connections into the lives of those who attend. Similarly, baptism is increasingly understood as a reverent, spiritual connection with the death of Jesus, resulting in cleansing and remission of sins.
Something significant is happening in the world of faith around the world. The external excitement characteristic of much of U.S. religion for the past half century is being merged with thoughtful, meaningful reflection and devotion. This is not head instead of heart. It is both/and, not either/or. For increasing numbers of followers of Christ, what the Bible says must matter. Observers see a “return to tradition and orthodoxy, to past practices, observances, and customary ways of worshiping.” These shifts toward biblical teaching and practice are occurring with a cultural consistency and sensitivity that results in “innovative returns to tradition.” I hope those of us with a strong history of restoration and biblical focus will be able to share in the fresh application of God’s Word in the contemporary world. It would be a shame if we who have a history of restorationism missed out on a significant restoration focus. It would be a shame if we refused dialog because some with the same dream that has driven us do not see everything just like we do.

It’s Sunday Again: Family

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Last weekend I preached in Dierks, Arkansas–the first place Jan and I did a full-time ministry work after graduating from college 44 years ago. It was delightful to spend time with a part of our spiritual family–a part of the family we have not seen for many years. The memories are still sweet, the love still flows, and the church surprised us with a wonderful gift for the mission work.
Last evening I received news from San Juan del Obispo (also a part of my spiritual family) of three more baptisms and of the anticipated baptism today of one of the ladies I taught during my February trip to Guatemala. I am grateful for a spiritual family that is virtually endless in the multiplied churches across Latin America where I work in missions.
This weekend Jan and I have Michael and the grandchildren with us–we have spent the weekend enjoying family. This morning we will worship with our spiritual family at Park Plaza–this is only the third Sunday this year that I have been in town so I will enjoy immensely renewing our sweet fellowship. Today at noon, our Community Group will meet for lunch at our house–a small slice of our spiritual family but those who are special to us.
Family gives us identity. Family reminds us of who we are. Family supports us, encourages us, loves us, forgives us, and helps us become what God calls us to be. As my grandchildren pray, “Thank you God for my family.”

It’s Sunday Again: Two Things

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

The movie “City Slickers” popularized the concept that life can be defined by the “one thing.” The Bible more often speaks of two things. Jesus said, “Love God, love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:34, and parallels). John says the one who is of God practices righteousness and loves his brother (1 John 3:10). John adds that our love for God’s children is measured by our love for God and obedience to his commandments (1 John 5:2).

Today I am contemplating two things. What does it mean for me to love God and keep his commandments? What does it mean for me to love my neighbor?
Jesus told his disciples that the one who loves God obeys his commandments (John 14:15; 15:14). I cannot affirm that I love God without seeking his will. Loving God includes doing what is right.
Loving my neighbor sets a high standard. It is a lot easier to love one another than it is to love my neighbor. That his followers will love one another is described by Jesus as a way in which others can recognize his disciples (John 13:35), but not as a final or exclusive measurement. Loving my neighbor is more difficult than loving my brother because my neighbor is often anonymous, unknown, impersonal, out of sight, and at times even unloveable.

“Dear God, help me today to evaluate my life honestly as I seek your will in my life and as I love others. Show me your way, open my eyes to opportunities to love those about me, especially to opportunities to share the gospel as I seek to love the world as Jesus loved the world. You know that I live life imperfectly–strengthen me and forgive my blind spots. Forgive me when I fail to do what is right; help me set my heart on your will. Forgive me also when I do not live out my love for others. Help me today to become more like Jesus. Lead me this week with your presence and power. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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