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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, 2014

Saying Good-bye to 2014–Anticipating 2015

Monday, December 29th, 2014

One of my favorite “end of year” sermons when I was active in full-time ministry was titled, “Ending the Old Year Well.” Here is an updated version.

As one year closes and another begins, is it possible to fine genuine renewal? Can resolutions last longer than a few days? The answer is “yes.” Here are three steps I find helpful: Reflection, Relationships, Renewal.

As a first step, I reflect upon the past year. Some parts of the past year were not pretty. Other parts of the year are highlights and memorable. The human tendency is to dwell on the pleasant things. The problem is that we may fail to learn from the less pleasant things. Here is something different.
When I reflect upon the events of the past year, I look for two things. First, Where can I see that God was at work? What did God do? Second, What did I learn about God’s nature? As I recount the year, I consider God. I am trying to understand God, learn more about God, learn to depend on God. You can do this however you like. I like to use a page with two columns–God’s actions, God’s faithful nature. We cannot be still as the Psalmist teaches (Psalm 46) and find peace until we are confident that God is God–-active and consistent.

Reflection is a mental process that seeks to touch the heart. Celebrating and strengthening relationships is a matter of the heart and emotions. Relationships are not only emotional–relationships are where the values of our life are lived out. This second step has two parts. The first part has to do with my relationship with God. Does my life reflect my confident trusting relationship with God, based on his nature and actions? My loving relationship with God compels my relationship with others so I must begin with God. Then I can honestly consider how my heart connects with those around me. How are my interpersonal relationships, with spouse, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers? Celebrate the relationships of your life. Pray about and resolve to strengthen the weak points.

The ultimate goal is renewal. The average New Year resolution does not reach the goal. Renewal is a life-changing process which occurs only when the foundations (biblical principles) are in place and the current situation is understood with the values clearly defined. Our behaviors are the result of what we think and value. Paul wrote to the Romans (12:1-2) that transformation is the result of a changed mind (changed from the inside, not as a result of external pressures), and changed lives that no longer conform to the value systems of the world.

Every step of this process is so important. Thinking + values = behavior and changed lives. God + the present = the future.
Certainly there are other ways to end the year well, but here is a memorable and easy tool. Why not invest some time over the next couple of days? Spend that time with God thinking about who he is and what he has done, is doing, and will do. Take an honest inventory of your present reality, both where God is and where God isn’t in your life. Seek to rebuild and restore relationships. Seek to understand God’s plan and will for your future. I believe you will find renewal in trusting, experiencing, and depending on God.

It’s Sunday Again: Mystery?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Christmas is past. For most, that means the holiday season will begin to wind down. Yes, one more less than routine week remains between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but the gift returns and exchanges are already planned, the decor will soon come down to be stored for another year, and life will return to “winter normal.”

The Sunday after Christmas is a sort of “let down”. The pews are emptier, the spirit less buoyant, the Nativity all but forgotten. What should one say on the Sunday after Christmas? What can be said after all of the happy experiences and the excitement of Christmas?

Listen carefully. What I want to say is in the form a question, and then more questions. “What if there remains a mystery we cannot explain?” The Christmas story we know, but what if we don’t understand? What if familiarity has blinded our eyes? What is this process of a divine Word becoming flesh, a divine Being emptying himself to become human? What kind of God penetrates the human experience once for all with his own presence, fully participates in what it means to be human (including death), and blasts open the God-human, Creator-created barrier to restore full fellowship? What kind of transformed life is made possible when those trapped in human experience, temptation, and disgust are allowed to become participants in the divine nature?

What if we don’t have it figured out? What if 1+1+1+1+1=5 doesn’t reflect the whole truth? What if S+P+P+C+G=W is technically correct but practically lacking? (Singing, Praying, Preaching, Communion, Giving = Worship) What if it is more than H+F+R+C+B=S? (Hearing, Faith, Repentance, Confession, Baptism = Salvation) What if the older version which includes life applications is more accurate? (F+R+C+B+LF=S, that is, Faith+Repentance+Confession+Baptism+Live Faithfully = Salvation)

The Supper is a good time to ask such questions. What if there remains something mysterious that is beyond comprehension in the three-dimensioned existence of this world? Something that has been revealed, but remains in the “not quite” category? “This is my body….this is my blood.” Do this, declare my death (not life) until I come? Something strange is going on here! Will you take a moment to touch the strangeness, or are you already back to the routines of a “check list” Christianity?

Christmas 2014: Peace, Hope, and Fear

Friday, December 19th, 2014

In order to talk about the joy and peace of the Christmas season, and the hope that inevitably springs forth at the beginning of a New Year, we must first talk about fear. Peace is only a blessing when we recognize how desperately we need it. Hope is only hopeful when we recognize the hopelessness of our current circumstances. These require that we identify the things we fear and why we fear them.

We all have fears—things that we keep ourselves from thinking about, things we can’t stop thinking about, and things that cause us to tear up just at the thought. The Christmas story, though, answers our worst fears and gives us hope: Christ is with us through it all.
The reality of the gospel, Christ’s death and resurrection, buoys our spirits with new hope.

Sort out the fears of your heart and allow faith to conquer them and drive you to Christ.

It’s Sunday Again: Knowing the Jesus who Gives Life [John’s Gospel]

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

John paints a wonderful and amazing portrait of Jesus. Jesus comes to make possible “life.” John’s theme song is not salvation. (In fact salvation is not among the most common New Testament words. Salvation is little and infrequently used in the New Testament–rather interesting given the vocabulary of popular preachers today. Especially for John, Jesus is much more than mere Savior.)

Jesus is the cosmic Lord! (1:1-4) As the Word, the revelation of God, he is what makes sense of life (logic).

Jesus is the incarnation of God, the incarnate Lord, becoming flesh, the very embodiment of the God of grace and truth (1:14ff).

This cosmic leader in the battle of conflicting worlds focuses the genuine nature of life (or the nature of genuine life), a life that continues through his presence through the Comforter. Thus he is our leader in conflict.

Jesus is the Lord of comfort, in his presence and words, and in the Holy Spirit comforter.

Jesus is the coming Lord. That which ties the story together is the fact that Jesus is the going and coming Lord. The gospel of John is ultimately a story of descent and ascent, coming down and lifting up. This process leads to the real goal of life: not glory which calls attention to self and is based on our accomplishments, but glory to God and glory given to us by God.

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