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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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Study One: The Holy Spirit–Who is He, What does He do? [John 14-16]

September 17th, 2017

In these studies, I hope you will find encouragement in the fact that the Holy Spirit is eager to work in your life to draw you closer to God. I have previously demonstrated in an academic paper (link appears below) that the primary roles of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts were in confirmation, expectation, and equipping. I encourage you to take time to read two other essays. The first explains the gift of the Spirit that is received by every Christian at baptism–baptism in water and in the Spirit; the second is about being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit in Acts and the Early Church
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Filled with the Holy Spirit

Introduction: Getting the Most Out of this Study
This lesson introduces an extended study of the Holy Spirit.
Consider these items from a Christianity Today survey (Dec. 2015): 96% affirm doctrine of Trinity, but almost one-fifth believe or are not sure whether the Holy Spirit is less divine than the Father and the Son. Most troubling is that 58% agree or are not sure (accept the possibility) that the “Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being.”
Our language and vocabulary should reflect that the HS is a person, not a mere force. Our language should also reflect that the HS is divine, a part of deity. When we affirm that the Holy Spirit does something, we should be able to point to specific actions and show that these are possible or to be expected biblically. This requires that we study what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit does.

Study One: Meet the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit is a person. He can be treated as a person. In the Bible, personal pronouns are used to describe him. The Holy Spirit has specific works to do. The Holy Spirit was sent as a comforter. The Holy Spirit ministers and consoles. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is said to do several things: he ministers, speaks with God’s authority, confirms, renews, liberates, transforms, empowers, equips, guides. influences and leads, and unites.
The Holy Spirit is God, the Holy Spirit is a person (personality) who shares the divine nature. He is deity. We begin in the New Testament with Jesus’ explanation that the Holy Spirit would come after he left. We begin before the Holy Spirit arrives. In what ways was it to the disciples’ advantage that Jesus would go away and the Spirit would come? Of the different activities of the Holy Spirit described above, which one have you heard about most often? Which one do you need most in your life right now?

This study focuses on John 14-16. We cannot study every text in every book. The goal is to include enough texts to make the point of the lesson clear. In the Gospel of John, those seeking further study will want to look especially at John 6 and John 17.

Primary Text: John 16:5-15 — the Spirit has a ministry, Jesus introduces the ministry of the HS as he prepares to leave his disciples; he promises he will send the Comforter.

What will the Holy Spirit do in/for the world? (John 16)
• Convict the world of sin. This relates to the identity of Jesus, the necessity of believing in Jesus. The Holy Spirit points to Jesus, making clear the contrast between Jesus and the sinful world.
• Convict the world of righteousness or justice. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension shows his righteousness, the need for righteousness, and the inability to be righteous by one’s own power. Again, the Holy Spirit points to Jesus.
• Convict the world of judgment. The prince of this world (Satan) is condemned in light of the Jesus story, leading one away from an alignment with Satan. The Holy Spirit points the world to Jesus.

What will the Holy Spirit do for believers?
• John 14:17-18; He is with us. Be with them forever, live in them, be in them, represent God’s presence. What does this mean?

    o Presence, ability to know him, understand him
    o Comfort
    o Affirms for us life

• John 14:26-27; He teaches us. Teach all things, remind of Jesus’ teachings, guide into all truth (16:13). What does this mean?

    o 2 Tim. 3:16-17
    o Holy Spirit will say the same things Jesus said, Jesus is superior — not the Holy Spirit. Purpose of Holy Spirit is to point to Jesus, as he does for the world.
    o The word of God is truth (17:17), Jesus lived consistent with that truth and is thus that truth (14:6), so also the Holy Spirit will point to the same truth.

• John 15:26; this teaching validates, testifies about Jesus. Testify about Jesus, Jesus’ identity

    o Another way of saying what we have said. Holy Spirit points to Jesus, testifies about Jesus
    o Can do that after he comes, is not in list of John 5.
    o The time of the Holy Spirit had not come, the HS had not yet been given, but when he comes, he will testify about Jesus.

• John 15:27; the Holy Spirit empowers our testimony. The Holy Spirit gives people the power to testify about Jesus (15:27 may be primary reference to apostles, given the qualifications of Acts 1). Application is then by extension, secondary. Reminder of Jesus’ promise: the words you need to speak will be given you.

    o We are empowered to testify about Jesus
    o This testimony keeps us faithful; the Holy Spirit has a part in our faith, so it will not fail.

• John 16:13-15; this teaching secures the promise of our future. The Holy Spirit will speak of future, things yet to come.

    o What the Holy Spirit says about the future will be the same as what Jesus said.
    o The Holy Spirit will bring glory to Jesus by continuing the task and purpose of Jesus, so do we.
    o The Holy Spirit will bring glory by making Jesus known

Three Sermons to Introduce the Study of the Holy Spirit

September 10th, 2017

It’s Sunday Again–Thinking about the Holy Spirit
I am wonderfully blessed to have time to study, write about, and share God’s word. The Holy Spirit has for too long been a mystery to many Christians. I want to know, understand, and enjoy the presence and power of the Spirit in my life today. What does the Holy Spirit do? What does the Holy Spirit do in the New Testament? Concepts, future lessons. The biblical texts are not exhaustive–only beginning points.
The Spirit ministers (John 16:5-15); the Spirit speaks with God’s authority, often to confirm (1 Cor 2; 2 Tim. 3;16-17); the Spirit renews (John 3:1-8; Tit 3); the Spirit liberates (2 Cor 3:16-18); the Spirit transforms (Gal. 5:13-26; 2 Cor 3); the Spirit empowers (Acts 6:1-15); the Spirit equips (1 Cor 12); the Spirit guides (Acts 16:1-15); the Spirit influences and leads (Eph. 5:15ff); the Spirit unites (Eph. 4:1-3).

Sermon: “Young in Spirit”
Today’s sermon is a Bible study, two texts, two extremely important texts to unpack and apply. Important because they are not in our purview when we think about the Spirit, and because they have not been thoroughly studied, understood, and lived out. We study and read through three lenses: What is God doing in the text? What was and is the message? What was and is the meaning?
Gal. 5:16-26, walk in the Spirit so you will not fulfill the longings of the fleshly human being
2 Cor. 4:16-18, the power for life is renewed within, like an artesian well, as God’s Spirit dwells in us

Sermon: “The Spirit Gives Me What I Need”
Ogilvie, in his book about the Holy Spirit, wrote about things that every Christian needs to have. All of us need help in our relationship with God, our relationships with others, life, and with ourselves. His list motivated me to make my own list. In my introduction to this series of studies of the Holy Spirit (#1 above), I noted some things the Holy Spirit does: he ministers, speaks, confirms, renews, liberates, transforms, empowers, equips, guides, influences, leads, and unites.
Today’s sermon looks at these concepts from a different perspective. Every Christian needs…
• The sword of the Spirit, the word of God inspired by the Spirit—to know God’s will and to have strength for the obedient life
• The gift of the Spirit—to be reminded and assured of our salvation, our unreserved loyalty to God and God’s loyalty to us
• The presence of the Spirit—to help us in our daily walk of discipleship, the result of renewal, transformation, and liberty in Christ
• To be filled with the Spirit—to be able to speak, to empower evangelism; to see opportunities to love, care, and share faith, evidences of being empowered, equipped, and led by the Spirit
• To walk in the Spirit—to sensitively respond to the influences of the Spirit, so we do not fulfill the longings that are based in this world
• To know the unity of the Spirit—the basis for our concern for the needs of others [spiritual needs, physical needs, social issues] so that we can go forth as God’s hands in ministry and service

It’s Sunday Again: Looking to Jesus

April 30th, 2017

One advantage of Easter–the focus is almost always on the story of Jesus. By now many pulpits have returned to moralizing: we must/should/ought to…. This is “what to do” without the “why to do it.” The gospel is the story of Jesus. It is powerful—for salvation and for life. Tell the story of Jesus. Help Jesus’ disciples look to Jesus. Never tire of talking about Jesus. Urge everyone to look to Jesus. He is the pioneer (author) of our faith, he is the prototype (perfecter) of faithfulness, he is the promise that exaltation comes to those who faithfully endure.
Jesus is faithful and merciful high priest. Because he is faithful, we can cast off entangling sin. Because he is merciful, we can lay aside the burdens of life. He opens our way to God’s throne where we find forgiving grace and strengthening mercy. The message of Jesus constantly gives hope for the future and guards against weariness on life’s journey.
Whether it is the message you hear from the pulpit or not—-Look to Jesus!

It’s Sunday Again: “Did you follow me or did you do your own thing?”

April 23rd, 2017

“Did you follow me, or did you do your own thing?”
God’s eternal purpose is to bring people into and under the protective, saving Lordship of Jesus.
The purpose of a church that is fulfilling God’s purpose is to be involved in saving people and keeping people saved. When we have succeeded in the treasure hunt, we join the rescue mission.
Loving God means loving what God loves. Christians are passionate about souls because God is passionate about souls. Christians pray about souls. When Christians make a “blessing list” or a “most wanted” list, they show they are looking at people and are aware that that those people have souls.
We go out to bring them in. We send others to bring them in. The question is always the same, “How is the harvest going?” When Jesus taught about the harvest, he spoke of the need for more harvesters. The church has a lot of workers who are not harvesters.
Disciples of Jesus make more disciples.
We go out to bring disciples in. We are present where they are to bring them into Jesus. We proclaim him to bring them in.
We go to teach people how to become disciples.
When disciples do not know how to make disciples, we teach them how to make disciples.
When disciples struggle with following, we seek to strengthen them and teach them how to follow more closely.
Look at the ministry of the church. Look at the mission work of the church. God is going to ask one thing. “Did you do my work or did you do your own thing?”

It’s Sunday Again: Hopeful Sunday and Hopeless Monday

April 17th, 2017

Yesterday Was Easter Sunday. Church buildings were filled–celebration, victory, joy, hope. But for many, after hopeful Sunday comes the return of a reality less hopeful, even hopeless!
Sermons are heard on Sunday but intended for Monday through Saturday. Sermons must touch daily life. Ideally, an “Easter sermon” is not only for Easter Sunday but for the days that follow, because after “Hopeful Sunday” comes the reality of daily life. Easter focuses on an essential event in the Jesus’ story. Without the resurrection, the story of Jesus is meaningless. Easter celebrates resurrection and forgiveness. Easter celebrates changed lives, newness, hope. We have hope for salvation; we have hope for our own resurrection. But in this singular focus of Easter, it is easy to miss the rest of the story….
The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as a high priest–both faithful and merciful. He is faithful high priest and able to make atonement because he is Son of God. He is merciful high priest who understands the weaknesses of the people because he is Son of Man. The Easter celebration of Jesus’ resurrection usually focuses on his faithfulness to save. The resurrection is a powerful story that matters because of what comes before–Jesus came to earth as a human being. It is easy to overlook this part of the gospel: Jesus comes to be like us; he identifies with us; in his life, ministry, and death he experiences life as we experience it; he knows tears and pleading prayer and suffering. He is merciful; he understands life; he knows what we need. In his resurrection, he shows us a possibility beyond our experience. He declares the possibility of eternal salvation; he also declares the possibility of new life in Christ in the here and now.
Beware the trap! On Sunday we see hope. On Monday we go back to fishing. Where is Jesus today? How often do we think of the resurrection story during the week? The resurrection is a story of hope for eternity, it is also a story of hope for today and tomorrow. Life here is not hopeless, empty, futile. Failures are not forever. The post-resurrection stories of Thomas and Peter impress us; the stories of nine other disciples are not told in the Gospels but would be equally impressive. Look to Jesus to throw off the weight. Look to Jesus to run the race. Look to Jesus to manage the turmoil of life, the conflicts, the sorrow, the times when you cannot see the future. The resurrection proclaims strength in a world that at times overwhelms us. Jesus’ resurrection declares his daily presence in our lives and his intercession for us before the Father’s throne. And that is not a story only for Sunday–that is a story for every day of our lives!

To Whom Is God Sending You with the Story of Jesus?

April 9th, 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 Acts. Here are the principles we have identified: the story of Jesus is a life and death story (or a death and life story); the story of Jesus is to be proclaimed; the story of Jesus is to proclaimed even to the most unlikely; the story of Jesus is a forgiveness story; the story of Jesus changes everything.
First steps toward obedience, responding to and living out the Easter story, the Jesus story. How? It is appropriate that we have one more post-Easter lesson in this series. Lesson #6, the story of Jesus, what does it mean? The last truth—really a question: to whom is God sending you with the story of Jesus?

Acts: God sent the apostles to the multitudes of gathered Jews, 3000 responded.

    God sent the apostles to preach in the city of Jerusalem, many more responses, eventually 5000 counting only the men.
    God sent Stephen, he died.
    God sent Philip to Samaria.
    God sent Philip to the desert, to an Ethiopian nobleman.
    God sent Ananias to Saul.
    God sent Peter to Cornelius, a Gentile, but was thereafter content to send Peter to the Jews.
    God sent Paul to the Gentiles. Acts is filled with specific names and places.

Paul tells about being sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles three times in Acts: chapters 9,22,26. He mentions it in Galatians 1. He was acutely aware of having been sent by God to preach. He felt he had no other option, 1 Cor. 9. I learn from all of Paul’s accounts, but I especially like 26:15-20.

    • Paul was a servant and witness
    • Paul experienced God’s rescue, and was promised continued rescue as he went to preach
    • Paul was sent:

      o to open eyes
      o to turn people from darkness
      o to turn people from Satan to God
      o to offer forgiveness
      o to show people the way of the sanctified life

Principles, Takeaways for your prayer life–
SACRIFICE. Ours is a world of opportunity, challenge, blessing. A poll found that most are “satisfied” with our evangelism and mission efforts. Wake up! Our efforts are meager at best. A man who served many years as a missionary was asked, “Do you like the work?” He replied, “Do I like this work? No, I do not like dirt, dirt floors, rough concrete floors. I do not like walking into houses through goat refuse and chicken litter. I do not like people who live like the world—but they do not know any better, and someone has to tell them. Is a Christian to do nothing for Christ that is unpleasant? Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘go’ and we go. Love constrains us.”
SENT BY GOD. A missionary is one sent. Missions is inspired not by the needs of men but the command of Jesus. I go because he told me to go. The great danger in missions is that what God’s eternal plan for his creation is overshadowed by the pressing needs of humanity. Sympathy overwhelms the sense of “sentness.” Seeing such enormous needs, human powers fail. We forget that we are not sent to elevate people, educate people, nor to ease the plight of needy people. We are sent with good news for eternity. Inspiration to preach the gospel is always first, never second.
URGENCY. We do not make our lists, thinking and praying about those to whom God is sending us, because we do not grasp the urgency. I read about a young missionary that went to a remote village to tell the gospel story. No one in that village of 231 people had ever once heard the gospel. The chief reluctantly let the missionary speak to the entire village. When the villagers were told about Jesus’ life, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection, they were amazed. Some wept openly. They marveled that the Son of God loved them and died in their place so their many sins might be forgiven. They wanted to know more. An older man came to the young missionary immediately after the presentation and asked, “When did God give you this message? How long have you had it?” The missionary replied, “God gave this message to people long ago, but I only learned it a year ago.” The obviously upset man grabbed the young missionary and through tears he cried out, ‘God gave you this message last year and you did not come to tell us before my mother, father, and son died?” All around us are people who have not heard the gospel and those who need to hear the old, old story. All around us are people with problems so severe that only the gospel can provide relief. The gospel is God’s power for salvation. In our world are billions of people who have never heard the gospel once. They are waiting for someone to tell them the Truth. Why are we not going? Are we purposefully disobedient? Are we ignorantly disobedient?
BE SPECIFIC. To whom is God sending you with the story of Jesus?

The Jesus Story: It Changes Everything!

April 2nd, 2017

I am thinking and rethinking Acts, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. This sermon series shares what I learned, lessons I heard, applications I heard 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 #5, the story of Jesus, what does it mean? Resurrection living. Today I do seek to advance the study of Acts. I want to talk about us. I want to talk about applications. Where is the Jesus story visible in my life? How has it changed me?
The fifth truth—the story of Jesus changes everything. This is not about baptism and then you get to stop, this is about changed lives. This is resurrection living. Easter is about changed lives. Easter once a year doesn’t work. That is OT—Passover once a year. In the NT, remembering Easter is weekly, remembering resurrection is every week.
The book of Acts is filled with stories of changed lives—the apostles, 3000, 5000, the Seven, Simon the sorcerer—don’t you want to think he got it right? Paul, Cornelius, the list continues. Today we live in Acts 29, and the list continues. This is about us.

The Jesus story is a story of resurrection. The topic that got the early preachers in trouble was resurrection. Nothing is quite so exciting as resurrection–the dead living again, anastasis, literally “to stand up.” Spring is aptly named. This is a time of bounce back capacity, resiliency, renewal, rejuvenation, restoration.
Christ’s resurrection story is told by all four gospels. Not many other resurrections in the gospels. The son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’s daughter. One resurrection story, well-known, is unique to John’s gospel–the resurrection of Lazarus. These are stories of physical resurrection. This is almost always the meaning of the word in the NT.
Today we think of resurrection, I want to affirm that Jesus is our leader in resurrection. He went first, he succeeded, he shows the way. In fact, in the Supper we celebrate his death and resurrection every Sunday, “until he comes.” There is something nice about having a leader. Even more meaningful, it is special when the leader chooses us. Leaders are for leading. How can we know if someone is a leader? Is anyone following? Jesus is our spiritual leader.
Jesus leads us in a specific path–resurrection living. What does this mean? How do you understand this? Today we focus not on resurrection after our death, but on resurrection living in the world today.
This resurrection living is true life, authentic, genuine. It is not characterized by failure. It is not futile, it is not fatal, it is not final. It is life that is full, free, forgiven, and oriented toward the future.

When Jesus leads us in resurrection living…
1. Our lives are not futile. Jesus PROVIDES.
Literally, pouring out easily, empty, vain, useless. We would perhaps be empty were it not for the larger, eternal perspective. Jesus gives purpose. Life is difficult, not easy. Burdensome. But as the poem, “Footprints,” suggests, Jesus helps carry that burden.
2. Our failures are not fatal. Jesus EMPOWERS.
Literally, resulting in death, mortal, lethal. The word is related to fate. Destiny, inevitable, predetermined, controlled, decided in advance, decreed. The results of our failures are not fatal.
We all make mistakes, but mistakes are not permanent, not eternal when Jesus is leading us. Through Jesus we find power to overcome.
3. Our death will not be final. Jesus PROMISES.
Promises of Jesus cannot be broken, undone, forgotten. In 1 Cor. 15, he is described as the firstfruits, the promise of what is to come.

Today, we celebrate, but tomorrow life’s rocky road may return. The roses may show their thorns. Go away today knowing one thing, not just that it is so nice that Jesus was raised from the dead, but that because he was raised, “Burdens are lifted at Calvary.” Sins are covered, futility, fatality, and finality are erased. As we become like him, we are “Christians.” Will you on this Easter Sunday mirror Jesus–experience the death of the old person, bury that old self in baptism, experience the beginning of resurrection living? It is the beginning of life with him, for him, following him.

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