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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, 2017

The Jesus Story: What I Have to Understand

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon series seeks to summarize what I saw when I studied Acts. We know these stories—do we really know these stories?
I see in this series a study of first steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? Lesson #4, the story of Jesus, what does it mean?
The fourth truth—the story of Jesus is a forgiveness story. There may be a better word, there may be a word that connects with the contemporary world, but the story of Jesus is a continuation of God’s forgiveness story for the world. I am not sure how we can tell the gospel story, the story of Jesus, the Easter story, without proclaiming that the story of Jesus is a forgiveness story.
There are softer words—redemption, reconciliation; there are related words and phrases that seek healthier living, better relationships, etc. etc. etc. But the message must not be forgotten. My greatest need must not be overlooked. The Easter story is meaningless without an awareness of sin. The importance of the Jesus story in my life depends on my understanding of my need for forgiveness.

Forgive–
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.
Acts 8:22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.
Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

Save–
Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Acts 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Acts 2:47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
Acts 15:1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Acts 15:11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Acts 16:17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”
Acts 16:30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

The Easter story is the story of my forgiveness, of your forgiveness. God doing what we could not do for ourselves. A death and life story for everyone, because everyone is need of God, restored relationship.

Excursus:
• Creator God exists, evidence all around us. There is a God.
• He wants to be recognized, he wants to be known, and he wants to be known as he is, for who he is—holy, loving, just. Recognize him.
• He wants to be reverenced, worshiped. Respect him.
• He created humankind for relationship, he desires relationship, which relationship was broken by the entry of sin into the world. Respond to him.
• He desired restored relationship—-reconciliation, redemption, he has acted; his gracious action motivates repentance and changed lives; he makes possible restored relationship vertically, but also horizontally.
• He wants us to reflect his glory.

When we tell the story of Jesus, do we make it easy for others to see its importance? In my observation, we too often begin in the wrong place, or we begin without establishing basic fundamental truths that make the story important to every person.

No matter how well I live, how good I am, how much I do, how active I am, I need the story of Jesus. I am grateful for the story of Jesus. It is life-saving, it is relationship-building, it orients me for life. I am seeking God so I can share him. I am forgiven to forgive. He saves, he keeps me saved.
He places me in a safe place, a place where he keeps all of his saved ones. That is the church. That is not the subject of this series, but that is a biblical concept that we human beings have also messed up royally. I want to come to that after we study God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion
The story of Jesus is a story of forgiveness: help, hope, and home.

The Jesus Story Is To Be Told–Even to the Most Unlikely

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon is basically a summary of what I saw when I studied chapters 6-10. I will not mention many details of those chapters. You can read them. Stephen—the sentence, the sermon, the stoning; the scattering of the saints spreads the gospel; Samaria; a proselyte Jew from Ethiopia; Saul-Paul, Cornelius. We know these stories—-do we really know these stories?
First steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? Lesson #3, the story of Jesus, what does it mean?
The third truth—the story is to be told to everyone in every place—even to the most unlikely!

We miss the unlikely aspect of Acts. The summary statements of Acts. Almost always focused on quantity.
6:8, the word spread, a large number of the priests (Jewish priests!) were obedient the faith. They gave up their livelihood, they gave us status, prestige, power, position, prominence. Perhaps not at the beginning—with the integration of Judaism and Christianity, but certainly in the future.
8:1-4, scattered to Judea and Samaria! Samaria! To the Samaritans, this is a new group, they believe and obey, they are baptized. The preaching was the good news of the kingdom, the result was baptism. Whoops! Samaria! Is this OK? Is this acceptable? This was not apostolic preaching. This was not the authoritative group of preachers, the witnesses. This is second generation preaching, preacher. Is it OK to preach to the Samaritans? Can they be accepted? These are Jewish by religion, but only half-Jewish by birth. We must put ourselves in the context of first-century Judaism with the coming of Christianity, and all of the first Christians were Jews. This is not easy. Did God withhold the Spirit (temporarily) in this case? If so, it was for the benefit of the Jews, so they would accept the Samaritans. Or, that they Holy Spirit was not yet manifest, and that such was only possible by the imposition of the hands of the apostles? This is a traditional interpretation. Regardless, our point today is that the gospel was being told to the least likely.
8:26ff, to an Ethiopian nobleman, servant of queen, Jewish proselyte, Gentile by birth, Jew by religion. Philip goes to preach to him, by Holy Spirit. This time there will be no problem, no coming of the apostles to bless the preaching of Philip, Philip has been approved, the message can go forth without hindrance to the world. This is not normal, this is the most unlikely, but the preaching bears results.
9:1ff, Saul. Perhaps never a more unlikely candidate. Jesus intervenes personally, Ananias still has doubts. But the gospel is received. And the church grew in number (9:31).
10:1ff, Cornelius. Gentile, God-fearer. Can gospel go to “pure Gentiles”? Peter preaches and the Holy Spirit comes early. In Samaria, the Holy Spirit came late. Here it comes early. Why? To convince the Jews who had accompanied Peter. The Holy Spirit’s coming was known by speaking in languages to praise God. Thus they were baptized.

This is not the end of the unlikely candidates. The process continues even in our day.
• Countless examples about which it was said, “It probably won’t do any good.” But it did!

The Jesus Story Is To Be Told

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon is basically a summary of what I saw when I studied chapters 1-8. I will not mention many details of those chapters. You can read them—I mentioned them briefly last week. Pentecost, the church, conflict with the Jewish leaders, suffering, Ananias-Sapphira, following Jesus is costly; Stephen—the sentence, the sermon, the stoning; the scattering spreads the gospel far and wide.
First steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? Lesson #2, the story of Jesus, what does it mean?

The second truth—-the story is to be told! In this lesson, we will support this point with a study of a very few chapters from Acts, right at the beginning. I will not list the multiplied Scriptures throughout the New Testament that address the need to tell the story. (In the sermon, this is a detailed study, even though the notes are abbreviated here.)
In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the story was told.
In Acts 3, Peter told the story to those who had seen the crippled man healed. This is, as it were, the second gospel sermon.
In Acts 4, Peter and John, and the apostles, were proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection from the dead. When they were commanded not to speak, but their response was that they could not help themselves! What would happen in the contemporary church if we could not help ourselves, could not keep from speaking the good news of Jesus? They rejoiced to have the opportunity to speak, and they prayed for even more boldness. But it is only the apostles to this point that are mentioned as testifying to Jesus’ resurrection, perhaps because they are the only “witnesses” available.
In Acts 5, we may have a hint of this apostolic preaching, because it was the apostles who were arrested. But they were miraculously released, they returned to proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection that makes possible new life. Peter and the other apostles responded (v. 29), the apostles were flogged, and rejoiced to be counted worthy of proclaiming. 5:42 appears to refer to the apostles.
In Acts 6, the apostles chose a ministry in the word and prayer, the word spread, even to the priests.
In Acts 7, Stephen preaches the first gospel sermon not preached by an apostle so far as we know. We are seeing a change. Do not miss this. It was the apostles as witnesses who preached in Acts 1-6. Now we have a sermon by Stephen, the result of which is his death. The story of Jesus is a life and death matter.
In Acts 8, persecution comes to the church, all but the apostles are scattered, and all go forth boldly preaching the word, wherever they go!

This next step in the story never ends—-in Acts or in the centuries thereafter. It continues today. The focus in Acts is mostly on special events, we will talk about those next week. From Acts 8 onward, the story is about Christians sharing the story. Peter will get attention, Paul will get the majority of the attention along with his companions, but a quick reading of Acts reminds that the power that took the gospel to the Roman world and to the then-known world in the first century was not centered in a few powerful preachers or unique personalities. It was a power that brought the gospel to Samaria through Philip; to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch by those who were scattered (11:19); to Galatia as those who heard the message continued to spread it; to Asia Minor (several of those who led in the proclamation are mentioned in Paul’s letters); to cities in the Roman Empire through Aquila and Priscilla; through Apollos…and the story goes on and on.

Takeaways—
The story is to be told
It was first told by the eyewitnesses, the apostles
Afterward, it was told in every place by every Christian
The key phrase: We Cannot Help Ourselves! May that become a reality in your life during this Easter season.

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