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Thanks for visiting our website! This month’s picture is from the August 2018 retreat of Colombian preachers in Santa Marta. I was honored to be asked to participate. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Colombian Preachers

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 49+ years! Countless people 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. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to 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 as disciples of 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, 2016

Jesus lives!

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Jesus lives! He lives eternally which means that he has always lived! He is eternal life, he is the source of life.

First, remember that Jesus “was” in the pre-Incarnation. He was participant in the creation. John begins his gospel with the statement, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God” (John 1). The Godhead is above time,space and matter. The Godhead does not inhabit space, time, or matter. We humans want to ask, “Where was Jesus before he was born?” but it is not a valid question. There is no where for Jesus pre-incarnate.
Second, Jesus lives in the Incarnation. What’s the big deal about Christmas and the birth of Jesus? We can answer the “where” question. He inhabits our time and space. “The Word became flesh” (John 1). This is the Immanuel, this is God with us. And, the passion and resurrection could never be were it not for the birth. For many, the story of his birth is what makes Jesus real.
Third, Jesus is now at God’s right hand, making intercession for us, explaining our case. (Check out Hebrews 9 for an interesting series–he appeared, he now appears before God, he will one day appear again, and much of Hebrews 5-10 explains how we draw near to him.) We want to know, “Where is this?” Heaven defies physical location. We have access to God through Jesus. This is spiritual reality, not physical.
Finally, Jesus inhabits our hearts (Eph. 3:17). We do not see him, we do not physically touch him. At times, we would now comprehend his presence except for the promise of Scripture.

I applaud that many are thinking about Jesus and the beginning of his physical life on this planet. But the story of his life among us is not complete unless the story of his birth leads to the story of his death on our behalf. I wish that more understood the significance of the eternal existence of the One who is the very image of God, for whom all things were created, the One who now sustains and has always sustained this physical creation (Col. 1; Heb. 1). I wish that more understood the power of his presence before God “for” us. I wish that more understood the importance of his dwelling “within” us.
At some time on this Christmas Day, will you join me in prayer that we and as many as we can tell may understand better the power of Jesus’ existence–before he was born, in his life and death on earth, in heaven, in human hearts.

[Note: the first sermon series I am developing in 2017 builds on these truths. I want to start the New Year with Jesus. Five January sermons: He is “with” us, He is “for” us, He is “within” us, He is “beside” us, He is “before” us.]

Christmas Hymns-6

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

Today on Christmas Eve, I wish you a Merry Christmas!
While it is almost certain that Jesus was not born on December 25, this is the day of the year when much of the world is thinking about the events surrounding the coming of the Savior of the world. I take only a moment of your time today as we prayerfully delight in God’s eternal plan to send his Son for the salvation of the world. Few Christmas carols reference the redemptive aspect of Jesus’ coming, but today’s hymn is rich in theology and has several references to what Jesus accomplished in his coming.
May you know the peace of God that is possible only through the reconciliation accomplished in Christ’s death on the cross, reconciliation which restores friendship with God and removes sin. Newness is possible because participation in the death of Christ makes possible the crucifixion of the old nature and the raising up of a new nature as we participate in his resurrection. (Read Romans 6 for Paul’s description of the process that allows us to contact the saving blood of Christ, escaping the past and being born into a new life reality which determines our future.)
The hymn below is well known, based on the Nativity narrative of Luke 2. Written by Charles Wesley, it was originally titled “Christmas Hymn.”

Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king.”

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come, Offspring of the favored one.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate deity,
Pleased, as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel,
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king”

Hail the heaven born prince of peace, Hail the son of righteousness
Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth
Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king.”

Christmas Hymns-5

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

The four songs which are presented today include lyrics by Timothy Dudley-Smith, an Anglican bishop who writes one new Christmas carol a year. These lyrics are of particularly high quality. Dudley-Smith is a biographer and former associate of John Stott. All of these are copyright in the US by Hope Publishing Company.]

Secret Birth
Child of the stable’s secret birth
The Lord by right of the lords of earth
Let angels sing of a king newborn
The world is weaving a crown of thorn
A crown of thorn for that infant head
Cradled soft in a manger bed.
Infant hands in a mother’s hand,
For none but Mary can understand
Whose are the hands and the fingers curled
But his who fashioned and made our world:
And through those hands in the hour of death
Nails shall strike to the wood beneath.

Holy Child
Holy Child, what gift of grace
From the Father freely willed!
In your infant form we trace
All God’s promises fulfilled.
Holy Child, before whose Name.
Powers of darkness faint and fall;
Conquered, death and sin and shame,
Jesus Christ is Lord of all!

Tell Out, My Soul (based on the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:46-55)
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord:
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
Tender to me the promise of his word;
In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his name:
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age the same;
His holy name, the Lord, the mighty one.

Exult, O Morning Stars Aflame
Exult, O morning stars aflame!
With all the works of God proclaim
The Child of Bethlehem who came
For love and love alone.
Come earth and air and sky and sea,
Bear witness to his deity
Who lived, the Man of Galilee,
For love and love alone.

Christmas Hymns-4

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

This New Christmas Carrol
[Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)]

1. This new Christmas carrol
Let us chearfully sing,
To the honor and glory
Of our Heavenly King,
Who was born of a Virgin,
Blessed Mary by name,
For poor sinners’ redemption
To the world here he came.

2. The mighty Jehovah
By the prophets foretold,
That the sweet babe of Heaven
Mortal eyes should behold.
Both King, Prince, and Prophet
Nay, our Saviour beside,
Let his name through all ages
Ever be glorified.

3. Now, when Joseph and Mary
Was espoused, we find,
Having seen her condition,
He was grieved in mind
Aye, and thought to dismiss her
Whom he loved so dear;
But an Angel from Heaven
Did her innocence clear.

4. He declared in a vision,
That a Son she should have.
By the Father appointed
Fallen mortals to save;
And the same should be called
Blessed Jesus by name:
From the high court of Heaven
This ambassador came.

5. Then the righteous man Joseph
He believed the news,
And the sweet Virgin Mary
He did no wise refuse.
Thus the blest amongst women,
She did bear and bring forth
A sweet Prince of Salvation
Both in Heaven and Earth.

6. When the days of her travail
Did begin to draw nigh,
Righteous Joseph and Mary
They immediately
To the city of David,
To be taxed indeed,
E’en as Caesar Augustus
Had firmly decreed.

7. Being coming to the city,
Entertainment they craved,
But the inns were so filled
They no lodging could have;
For the birth of our Saviour,
Tho’ he was Prince of all,
He could have there no place
But a poor oxes stall.

8. Now the proud may come hither,
And perfectly see
The most excellent pattern
Of humility;
For instead of a cradle,
Deckt with ornaments gay,
Here the great King of Glory
In a manger he lay.

9. As the Shepherds were feeding
Of their flocks in the field,
The sweet birth of our Saviour
Unto them was reveal’d,
By blest Angels of Glory,
Who those tidings did bring,
And directed the Shepherds
To their Heavenly King.

10. When the Wise Men discover’d
This bright heavenly Star,
Then with gold and rich spices
Straight they came from afar,
In obedience to worship
With a heavenly mind,
Knowing that he was born
For the good of mankind.

11. Let us learn of those sages,
Who were wise, to obey;
Nay, we find through all ages
They have honour’d this day,
Ever since our Redeemer’s
Bless’d nativity,
Who was born of a Virgin
To set sinners free.

Christmas Hymns-3

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Today’s hymn, “A Child This Day Is Born”, may win a prize for the largest number of verses.
[Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)]

1. A Child this day is born,
A Child of high renown.
Most worthy of a scepter,
A scepter and a crown.

Novels, Novels, Novels,
Novels sing all we may,
Because the King of all kings
Was born this blessed day.

2. The which the holy Prophets
Spake of long time before,
That from the fall of Adam
He should us all restore. Refrain

3. This Child both God and Man
From Heaven down to us came,
He is the King of all Kings,
And Jesus is His Name. Refrain

4. These tidings Shepherds heard
In field watching their fold,
Was by an Angel unto them
That night reveal’d and told. Refrain

5. Who standing near by them
To them shined so bright,
That they amazed were
At that most glorious sight. Refrain

6. To whom the Angel spoke,
Saying, Be not afraid,
Be glad, poor silly shepherds;
Why are you so dismayed; Refrain

7. For lo, I bring you tidings
Of gladness and of mirth,
Which cometh to all people by
This holy Infant’s birth. Refrain

8. Him hath God lifted up
As light and shepherd’s horn,
Which in the city of David
This present time was born. Refrain

9. The only Son of God was he
The Lord and God most Highest;
And he is the true Shepherd,
The young child Jesus Christ. Refrain

10. Then there was with the Angel
A Host incontinent
Of heavenly bright soldiers,
Which from the Highest was sent. Refrain

11. Lauding the Lord our God,
And his Celestial King;
All Glory be in Paradise,
This heavenly Host did sing. Refrain

12. Glory be unto our God,
That sitteth still on high,
With praises and with triumph great,
And joyful melody. Refrain

13. But when this holy Army
Of heavenly soldiers bright
Was unto God returned
And vanish’d out of sight; Refrain

14. The Shepherds hearts joyful
At this great glorious news
That the King of all Kings
Was risen amongst the Jews. Refrain

15. Without the least of hindrance
Anon they went in then,
And found the young child Jesus Christ
Thus born in Bethlehem. Refrain

16. And as the Angel told them,
So to them did appear;
They found the young child Jesus Christ
With Mary his Mother dear. Refrain

17. Now such a place it was
Where this was come to pass
For want of room this Child was laid
Betwixt an ox and ass. Refrain

18. Not sumptuously, but simply
Was this young King arrayed,
A manger was the cradle
Where this young Child was laid. Refrain

19. No pride at all was found
In this most holy Child,
But He being void of all sin
The Lamb of God most mild. Refrain

20. His body unto bitter pains
He gave to set us free:
He is our Saviour Jesus Christ
And none but only He. Refrain

21. To Father, Son and Holy Ghost
All glory be therefore,
To whom be all dominion
Both now and evermore. Refrain

Christmas Hymns-2

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Penned by James Montgomery, this Christmas song “Angels from the Realms of Glory” was first published in his Sheffield newspaper on the Christmas Eve of 1816. Later, it was republished in the Christian Psalmist, 1825 with some additions. Isaac Gregory Smith wrote another version of this Christmas carol in 1855. Henry Smart gave the music to this song and it was first played in Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship in London in 1867.

v1–Angels, from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye, who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

Refrain–Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the new-born King.

v2–Shepherds in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant Light:

v3–Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar:
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen his natal star:

v4–Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In his temple shall appear:

Christmas Hymns-1

Monday, December 19th, 2016

I am part of a religious tradition which has been known historically for its tendency to avoid celebrating December 25 as the birthday of Christ. That preference, often rising to the level of a doctrinal stance, has brought at least two results. First, we are not familiar with the wonderful variety of Nativity hymnody which exists. Two, to avoid the appearance of acknowledging or celebrating December 25 as the birthday of Christ, we generally sing the familiar songs which we do know at times other than the Christmas season.
As a former music major, I share over the next several days various carols or portions of carols, some longer and some shorter, some only excerpts, which suggest the rich depth of Christmas carols. I begin today with selections from three songs.

What babe new born is this that in a manger cries?
Near on her lowly bed his happy mother lies.
Oh, see the air is shaken with white and heavenly wings –
This is the Lord of all the earth, this is the King of Kings.
–Richard Watson Gilder, A Christmas Hymn (st. 4)

This is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven’s eternal King,
Of wedded maid and virgin mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring,
For so the holy sages once did sing,
That He our deadly forfeit should release,
and with His Father work us a perpetual peace.
–John Milton, Hymn – On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

God rest ye, little children; let nothing you affright,
For Jesus Christ, your Saviour, was born this happy night;
Along the hills of Galilee the white flocks sleeping lay,
When Christ, the Child of Nazareth, was born on Christmas Day.
–Dinah Maria Mulock (used pseudonym, Mrs. Craik), Christmas Carol (st. 2)

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