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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, 2015

Healthy churches require accountability

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Over the past several years, I have written about this topic several times. What is missing in many churches today is accountability. Lack of accountability explains why church members drop out, why church members do not live lives worthy of the gospel, and why church members are at times uninvolved in kingdom activities.

According to a Barna report,  only 5% of Christian adults say their church has a program or plan to help hold them accountable for integrating biblical beliefs and principles into their lives. Even among those church groups who were most likely to have some accountability structures, less than one in six local churches had such in place as a part of their church programs and shepherding efforts. Among those Christians who affirmed some level of accountability, the most common method was small group involvement.

When one reads what the Scriptures say about the nature of the church, and then compares the message of the Bible to these statistics, one must be impressed with the fact that one of the cornerstones of the biblical concept of community is mutual accountability. Church leaders will be held accountable for how they helped the members they lead experience accountability (Hebrews 13:17). That is, church leaders are accountable for whether the church members are accountable. Paul affirms to the Roman church that church members belong to one another (Romans 12:5). That is, our lives are to be so connected that we are experience integration. This is natural when we consider the church as a body. When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (1 Corinthians 12).

Whether a person is a Christian is demonstrated as much (or more?) by living transformed lives than by church attendance. Christians are transformed people–no longer selfish individuals living for self, but rather those who have surrendered control to God. Accountability is essential to that transformation and helps Christians, especially new Christians, make correct life choices which lead to healthy behaviors.

It’s Sunday Again: Love

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

We have quoted John 13 for so long that we have forgotten, or at least ignored, Jesus’ statement about the Great Commandments (Matthew 22:34-40 and parallels).

We have heard John 13 say what we wanted it to say. Is it possible that Jesus is saying the mark of love is in extent, not only in its existence. “That you love one another as I have loved you.” We can affirm the existence of love, even when it is not clearly demonstrated. As Paul writes in Romans 5, the extent of love is a constant challenge. Past church history may give us examples of extreme self-sacrificing love, but modern church history is hardly permeated with such stories–in fact, such are few and far between.

We have heard John 13 in isolation. The result is that we have a singular definition of church which is flawed. This flawed definition (just love everybody!) has flavored our understanding and expectation of church and has done great damage. We have defined mission by love (relieving physical suffering) and failed to confront spiritual need. We have become so accepting (tolerant) in the church that we are afraid to offend anyone for the gospel’s sake. We have drawn people by physical means more than spiritual, and have fallen into the same trap as the militant Messiah-expecting Jews to whom Jesus speaks in John 6. The kingdom is not primarily about manna and meeting physical needs.

Jesus says that loving God is first. Loving neighbor is encompassed in loving God. Genuine love for neighbor is not possible apart from love for God. God’s love for us defines neighborly love (and brotherly love). Read 1 John again. Connecting with God is first. When we are solidly connected with God, we will be connected with others who are connected with God. If we are not God-connected, every little problem and disagreement will separate us.

One author describes the difference in this way: loving God is a treasure hunt, loving neighbor is a rescue mission. Here is gospel: Jesus came on a rescue mission (Luke 19:10). We are on a treasure hunt, and when we find the treasure, we share the good news! Such is natural and normal. We cannot contain ourselves.

Pray that we might understand, seek, and find the true nature of this biblical love.

Accepting Truth

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

“Most men … can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it obligates them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught others, and which they have woven thread by thread into the fabric of their lives.” –Tolstoy

“Dear God, please give me a pliable heart open always to your truth, regardless of how wrong it shows me to have been, of how much I am forced to admit I was wrong, and of how much change is required in my life as a result. Mold me and make me after your will.”

Prisoners in Our Own Homes?

Friday, March 27th, 2015

I am thinking today of how our world has changed.  I remember sayings from the past. “A man’s home is his castle.”  “Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.” I grew up in a world where home was relationships, refuge, comfort, protection; home was sacred, desirable, warm and cozy.

For many today, home is last place we want to be.  We do not know how to enjoy family time.  We do not appreciate the safety and tranquility of spending time with family. A few years ago, high gasoline prices cut into the holiday plans of a large number of families. An interview that was included in the evening news caught my attention.  The woman who was interviewed reflected on the inability of her family to travel:  “I feel like a prisoner in my own home.” When the adults do not like spending time in their homes, perhaps we can catch a glimpse of what’s wrong with our kids and with our society!

In our contemporary society, we are finding our joy in the wrong places, thinking that joy comes from the things and experiences on the outside when joy really comes from who we are on the inside. Our families remind us of who we are, and help us become what God intends us to be.

It’s Sunday Again: The Importance of the Church

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

The saving work of God in the world today is exerted through the church. Nowhere does the New Testament describe a saving work of God outside the church.
Do not say, God has not called the church to greatness. It’s not enough to be great when God has made it possible for the church to do incredible things by his power. But God’s incredible work must always be focused in the church. Do good things in the name of Jesus, but remember that Jesus condemned some who did good things. If you would imitate and obey the Lord, don’t neglect the importance of building up the local church. Value doing God’s eternal will above all. Kingdom people want to reflect the compassion of the King, but Jesus did not give his life to meet physical needs. Jesus gave his life to purchase the church, to purify the church, to empower the church. That is the big picture of our salvation.

This should cause us to rethink the how and why of much of what we do. Simple but significant. Do not make it harder than it is. It is time for innovative analysis and thinking about what we do, how and why. In a conversation at the workshop, a brother lamented the tremendous fallout rate of new Christians. Assimilation is not possible unless there is a local church into which people are baptized. Healthy churches can assimilate; unhealthy ones seldom will. Spiritual leaders are a part of God’s shepherding plan. We are trying to do God’s work without one of the primary tools—a healthy, vibrant local body.

Here is what keeps me going in strengthening churches, encouraging spiritual growth, developing leaders and teachers. Every day is a special gift of God—going to bed with a dream and waking up with a purpose. God’s purpose is nowhere seen more clearly than in the church.

Living Under the Lordship of Jesus

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Interesting conversation–a friend and I were talking about our experiences in visiting other locations on mission trips. His comment, “They live as though Jesus really is their King!” Wow!
What does it mean to live the Christian life? Surely it is more than worship attendance, or more than worship plus some prayer and regular Bible reading. In our U.S. culture, we little understand the concept of kingship or royalty, but I think few kings would be satisfied with subjects who merely read the edicts of the king, told the king what they needed or wanted, and attended all of the state functions.
How does an authentic Christian live out the lordship of Jesus daily? What does it mean to us when we read “we are not our own, we are bought with a price,” or that “we are slaves to righteousness”? What is the focus of our lives? What do we think about more than anything else?

I do not pretend to answer for you. I only say that I am humbly called to evaluate more closely my own life and to consider what it means to live as though Jesus is Lord!

It’s Sunday Again: What Time Is It?

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

My blogging friends know that the posting date/time stamp may not be the actual time of writing!  I confess–I am writing this on Saturday, but setting it to post on Sunday morning.
The spring time change! Spring forward! I call it the “bad” time change!

It is the “bad” time change because people refuse to get ready for what they know is coming. When our boys were growing up, Jan and I set the clocks forward early so that the time change occurred in our house on on Friday evening and Saturday morning. The boys got up on Saturday morning with the time change already done. Saturday was a shorter day (but not noticeably shorter). Despite all that has been written about how the time change is challenging because of body rhythms, our boys never seemed to notice. Sunday dawned fresh and new–with our family ready to worship God. This procedure may or may not work for you and your family, but I can tell you what won’t work.
What won’t work is to spend Saturday as normal, even stay up a little later than normal, and suddenly at bedtime remember that the clock has to go forward an hour. While some things are not easy to prepare for, I can guarantee you that total lack of preparation is almost certain to fail.

It is the “bad” time change because the church has forgotten that it has the responsibility of telling people what time it is. During our ministry at one church, the typical Sunday morning schedule was reversed–worship first, Bible classes second. [Not the subject of this writing, but if you’ve never experienced the freshness of fellowship and worship assemblies before Bible classes, you have no idea how it feels, what it does for the heart, how much calmer the kids are…..the list of positive observations is long!] With the worship assembly first, it was easier to manage scheduling. On several occasions during the year, the church shared worship without Bible classes following. We didn’t have Bible classes when we had guest speakers who were likely to preach longer than normal. We didn’t have Bible classes when we shared “special focus” worship times, for example, focusing on missions. And, we didn’t have Bible classes on the “bad” time change.
The instructions to the church members were to “come on the old time” and “leave on the new time”. We worshiped on the old schedule, and at the end of worship, set our clocks forward together. I usually preached on something related to “time.” Is it not the job of the church to let people know what time it is? In a previous time when churches had bells, wasn’t the reason to remind people of the time? Perhaps the church needs to rethink its responsibility to constantly tell people what time it is!

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