Off to Colorado

Linda and I are off to the beautiful state of Colorado this Saturday!

We plan on hiking up to the top of at least 3 (maybe 5) 14,000 foot mountains (Quandary Peak, Gray’s Peak and Torrey’s Peak, and maybe Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans).

We are going to stay at a Breckenridge resort for three days (I got a great deal on the internet!) and will climb Quandary from there. Then we will drive to the trailhead and hike half way up to Grays and Torreys, camp the night (just below treeline), and then climb to the top of those two "14ers" the next day, camp again that next night and then head back down. On our way back to Denver, we might stop at Mt. Bierstadt (which I was able to hike up in one day a few years back). Mt. Evans is an option early in our trip on our way west (we’ll see).

We’re excited about finally getting out to the mountains (it’s been a long time—Linda hasn’t been out there in about 8 years, I was last out there 4 years ago). Thanks to a gift from my Dad and his wife Sharon we were able to afford it (and they are watching our kids for the week!!!)

I’ll keep you posted about the adventure. I’ll post photos on the webpage (www.vanguardchurch.com).


40 Years Young (?!)

Well, I celebrated my 40th birthday on Saturday, and I found that I was not as depressed as I thought I’d be. Thanks to all of you who sent e-mails and cards—what an encouragement!

Here’s some of the highlights:

From my old (literally! hee hee) friend Clarence Blasier:
When I get to be 40, I hope I look as good as you could look if you started taking care of yourself. Oh well! All is not lost. You've got plenty of time to get started. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

From Laura Talamo, who helped plant our church with us:

HAppy BIRTHday toooooooooo youuuuuuuuuuuuu....
HAppy BIRTHday toooooooooo youuuuuuuuuuuuu....
Welcome to the "40-something" club!!!
It's about time!!!!

From Sam Tabiendo, a missionary friend in Spain:

Hey Bob,
Grace upon grace to you as you celebrate your birthday. May this next year, your 40th?, be a year of great breakthrough for you in:
growing deeper in your relationship with Christ
in your ministry in the Lord.

From my Dad, Jack Robinson:

Birthdays that end in zero can be hard. My 30th saw me as a freshman in college and a night-shift union worker. Not where I thought I would be. But it got better. They are just birthdays ending in zero.

From Sharon Robinson, one of my favorite people:

Life may seem undecided for you but in reality you have made the big choices--to be a man of faith, to love a wonderful woman, to guide and savor your children. Whatever else that is to be will enfold.

From my Wednesday morning breakfast buddy Tim Miller:

Happy 40th you old man. How's it feel to be over the hill...hahahah. I'm right behind you baby.
See you Wed.

From Dr. David Entwistle, professor at Malone College:

Happy belated birthday, Bob!
I rather liked turning 40, but some people treat it like the plague!
Every anniversary, birthday, or yearly event can serve as a reminder of where we are, where we have come from, and where God has been in our journey. I'm sure that planting a church and trying to keep the finances in the black can be discouraging at times. Even though we didn't end up at Vanguard, in the few times we met, I came to value you so much.
You are a gifted preacher, and a man whose personal warmth and caring clearly demonstrate the love of Christ.

From my former head of women’s ministries at The Chapel in North Canton, Janet Shaw:
Dear Bob,
Do not fear 40 is wonderful!!!!!! Take it from a 62 year old. You will be old enough to have been blessed by God with a good measure of wisdom and a body that still works and is useful to bless others as God leads. I hope this e-mail finds you healthy, happy, obedient and fruitful to the great commission. I spent some time at your web sight looking at pictures (I can't believe how big the kids are), looking at your writings, what books you are reading and the music you are listening to. Linda, your precious little ones and you will always be loved by us and all of you will forever be in our prayers. Keep sending me Vanguard emails. I do not want to loose contact with you all.
Have a great birthday!!!!!!!!!
Love in Christ,
Janet and Mike Shaw

Thanks again to all who sent cards and notes.
I survived. I didn’t fall off into a mid-life crisis—I didn’t buy a sports car or anything like that…
Life is looking good on this side of 40. I feel that God is calling me toward something big, and the opportunities are awesome.


Does Marriage Matter?

As I was getting my daily fix of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show (on cable’s Comedy Central) the other day, I was struck by how he made fun of Senators speaking on the floor about a “terrible threat to our country.” The next scene showed Stewart ducking under his desk—“What is it? Another terrorist attack?” The video continued to reveal that the senator was speaking about how the destruction of traditional heterosexual marriage is the biggest threat to America. Jon Stewart was thoroughly unconvinced. And I could not blame him. Simple inflammatory rhetoric and baseless mythology has often been the Right’s way of making their case on issues, so when conservatives say things like this, the Left will (correctly) scoff.

So it got me thinking: Granted, Christians understand the sanctity of marriage. We understand biblically how God instituted it and how it is the foundational component of society. We rightfully worry about our government redefining marriage away from God’s way, for when we go against God’s design it often causes us great hurt (just like if we used anything contrary to how it was designed). But I also sympathized with Jon Stewart. He is not a Christian, and so he will not be convinced by our biblical rhetoric. If we are going to expect non-Christians to live under the same morality as we do (which in itself is questionable at times), we must give them evidence other than “Thus Sayeth The Lord” that doing so will cause them greater good than not doing so.

I wondered, What secular evidence is there that the allowance of homosexual marriages can bring apocalyptic doom? (Other than what pundits like James Dobson writes on his website, “The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become ‘as it was in the days of Noah’ (Matthew 24:37). This is the climactic moment in the battle to preserve the family, and future generations hang in the balance. This apocalyptic and pessimistic view of the institution of the family and its future will sound alarmist to many, but I think it will prove accurate unless — unless — God’s people awaken and begin an even greater vigil of prayer for our nation.”)

I began a search, and found a few articles citing sociological reasons to protect the traditional institution of marriage. On my website I have a link to one of the most extensive articles I found, which states “Marriage is an important social good, associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike”—then listing 21 conclusions in topical fashion and heavily footnoted dealing with family, economics, physical health and longevity, mental health and emotional well-being, and crime and domestic violence. Check in out at http://www.vanguardchurch.com/social_action.htm#Marriage .


Incarnation: The Body of Christ Humbly Serving Others

Paul writes to the Philippian Church these words:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:1-4)

How are we supposed to live? What are some of the key phrases that stand out?
  • Be like-minded
  • have the same love
  • be one in spirit and purpose

All of these are centered on Jesus Christ. We all will have different opinions on things, but we must be united on seeking to glorify God in Christ, we must be united on doing that which he has commanded us to do as his body.
Jesus Christ’s mandate to us, we have stated in our purpose statements, vision statements, and Core Values, are summed up in his “Great Commandment” and “Great Commission.”

  • The Great Commandment: Love God and love others (Mark 12:30-31, Matthew 22:37-40)
  • The Great Commission: Go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them what Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20, John 20:21)

Stay focused on these things, be like-minded, be one in spirit and purpose. Be in love with this God of ours and his purposes.

  • no selfish ambition
  • no vain conceit
  • consider others better than yourself-look to the interests of others

These phrases, when we are honest about ourselves, cut to the quick. The reason is that they are the very heart of human fallenness. We don’t want to be like this, but we far-too-easily slip into self-interest and self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. And this will inevitably lead to the disintegration of the Body of Christ.

But there is a better way! We must lay hold of the truth that we are to incarnate in our lives what Jesus incarnated in his life! He is our model, our example.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  (Philippians 2:5-11)

Here is the example of what our attitude should be like. This is my favorite "Christmas passage"—it explains in beautiful poetic words what Christ Jesus did on by becoming a human being. 

Jesus, “being in very nature God,” that is, having always been God, “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” In other words, Jesus did not consider his glory as God, seated on his throne in heaven as something to selfishly seize for his own advantage. Rather, he “made himself nothing” by comparison, he took on the “nature of a servant,” he became one of us humans. 

This is the ultimate example of humility. Here is God—GOD!—humbling himself to become one of us so that he could die for us on the cross! 

Imagine that, like Jim Carrey in the movie Bruce Almighty, that you were God. You are omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. All the universe was made by you and your pleasure. There is nobody higher, for everything and everyone else are merely creatures, created by you.
It’s hard to imagine that we would not begin to grasp at this, to seize it to our advantage. It’s hard to imagine that we would actually want empty ourselves of our divine rights for the sake of these creatures. 

But that is exactly what God did.
And because God did this, we are now empowered to be more than our limited human selfishness tells us we must be. We are called now to live out what we are:

We are the body of Christ!
And as such, we humbly serve one another, looking after the interests of others.
As the church, we must break through and start living as the body of Christ! Share with each other your troubles and problems. What is pressing in your life? What is causing you stress? How can the people in your group help you carry your burden? 

Listen carefully to what these verses are commanding us to do as the church, and, please, decide in your heart to follow the Lord in being humble in serving others.

“Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV)  “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT)
for more from this article, go to vanguardchurch.com


Consumer Christianity

I recently had an opportunity to experience Northeast Ohio’s latest shopping phenomenon, Legacy Village in Lyndhurst. It was truly amazing—the latest venture in our continuing fascination with consumerism in America. It was basically a very upscale mall, but designed like a little village, with quaint streets and nice sidewalks (which will be heated during the winter). Stores like Crate and Barrel (the first in Ohio) were there, as were unique stores like the huge sports store complete with a four-story high climbing wall. The Cheesecake Factory was there along with several other rather nice restaurants. As soon as it opened, it became the Jerusalem or Mecca for shoppers, making their pilgrimage to the latest shrine of consumerism.

As we were arriving, we walked alongside the very nicely designed buildings, looking up at the attention to detail. Somebody joked that their new church building was designed based on the elaborate model before us. We all laughed, knowing that we could never afford the designers that put this incredible thing up. But hidden in that comment was something very real and disturbing: have we in the church been sucked into a consumerism approach to ministry?

Have we redefined “church” as a consumer-friendly building, consumer-friendly programs, consumer-friendly preaching, consumer-friendly activities?In our day, the first thing that comes into most of our heads when we think of “church” is the Sunday meeting during which the pastor speaks, the worship team plays songs, the kids attend Sunday School, and the offering is taken. After that is over, we go home from church. But I think you’ll agree that according to the Bible, we can’t go to church, because we are the church! Why am I making a big deal out of this? Because the way we use the term “church,” I believe, is a symptom of a larger problem. We have slowly and almost imperceptibly changed the way we define the church—it is now seen from a more consumerist viewpoint. It is the place where we go to get fed. It is the place where we receive religious goods and services. It is the place I go to have my needs met through quality programs. It is the place where the specialists teach our children about God.

And so, with that mentality, we naturally start “shopping” for a church. And if we can’t find the spiritual equivalent of Legacy Village in this church or that church, we will go elsewhere. Darrell Gruder wrote (in his book Missional Church), “Popular grammar captures it well: you ‘go to church,’ much as the way you go to the store. You ‘attend’ a church, the way you attend a school or theater. You ‘belong to a church,’ much as you would a service club with its programs and activities…In North America, this ‘place where’ orientation manifests itself in a particular form. Both members and those outside the church expect the church to be a vendor of religious services and goods.”

Could we have succumbed to this warped view of church? Erwin McManus writes (in his book An Unstoppable Force), “‘We’re looking for a church that meets our needs.’ It seems like I’ve heard this one a thousand times. The phenomenon of church shoppers has profoundly shaped the contemporary church. The entire conversation is not about relevance but convenience. The focus is not in serving the world; the church itself is the focal point. Our motto degenerated from ‘We are the church, here to serve the lost and broken world’ to ‘What does this church have to offer me?’”

Now, before I come across a blaming everybody else for this awful situation, I want you to know that I believe that the fault for this is squarely on the shoulders of us church leaders. We have focused more on programs and marketing and not on the mission of the church. We are the ones who have allowed the church to be defined by our programs rather than on what the church is supposed to be defined by.

In a helpful diagram that Dan Kimball supplies in his excellent book The Emerging Church,

we see that the Consumer Church (the “I go to church” mindset) is different from the biblical model of church—the “Missional Church,” where “church is seen as a body of people sent on a mission who gather in community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word that supplements what they are feeding themselves throughout the week.”

To read this entire article from Bob about Consumer Christianity which goes into a biblical antidote based on the Thessalonian church, go to vanguardchurch.com

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