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Blog: Choosing To Pray Rather Than Choosing a Side

Guest post by Kevin Brown

Today we are fasting and praying all day long.  We are fasting for the peace of Israel and the peace of Palestine.  Regardless of your theology and end-time position on the recent events in the Holy Land, no position could support the deaths of innocent Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the wall.  The people who are experiencing the violence and witnessing the deaths that are escalating in that part of the world need, at the very least, our prayers.

I love Israel.  I love the people and the rich heritage from which my savior was born.  I have visited there several times. But I also love Bethlehem, Palestine, the West Bank region and those who live in that part of the world.  One of the greatest conflicts of heart for us as followers of Christ is to live out the “Great Commandment” and the “Great Commission”.  The great commandment calls us to arm ourselves with love by loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul and strength — but it also commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  A teacher of the law hoping to catch Jesus in this “conflict of love” asked Him, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus’ response (Luke 10:29-37) to the teacher is one that we should understand and seek to live out today.   Read more

Blog: WHAT’S GOING ON IN ISRAEL & PALESTINE?

by Bob Roberts Jr 

I’m being asked by many people to help them interpret what’s going on in the West Bank and Israel.  I don’t know anyone who can do that.  You can follow me on twitter @bobrobertsjr as I retweet articles I’m reading and about people affected.  My heart is broken.  I fear it’s only going to get worse.  I think both sides are out of control. No one news source will be able to do it for you!  They are all biased and move towards the center and you’ll probably find the truth somewhere in there – CNN, Fox, BBC, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, New York Times, and my favorite the Economist should all be listened to.

Israel has security concerns that must be addressed and the Palestinians have a responsibility to respect their existence, and I believe should say that publicly. Palestinians have been under occupation way too long, have had their land continuously taken from them, experienced illegal settlements, jailed without representation at times for many years, it the list goes on and on and on.  It isn’t just Palestinians that are concerned about it. There are a great many liberal and orthodox Jews both here in the US and in Israel that are challenging their own government at this point.  I also know Palestinians who are challenging Palestinians.   These kinds of things give me hope.  No conflict is resolved by vilifying the other – only by partners who are willing to challenge the wrong from their own tribe.  The people in Gaza were driven out of their homes from other parts of Israel when Israel established a nation in 1948.  So the little town of Gaza then has grown to 1.7 million today.  There are a few million Jews and a few million Palestinians and neither side is going to be driven out – which means they will have to negotiate and resolve.   Read more

Blog: The Problem of Jesus Followers Loving War

by Bob Roberts Jr.

I hate war.  Most people do.  James Hillman wrote the book A Terrible love of War in which he studies the psychology of war.  Though we hate war, we romanticize it or view ourselves nobly while vilifying everyone else.  Jesus told us to be peacemakers, yet I’ve seen Christians sometimes get caught up in war mongering.  How can that be?  There are few living people that remain since WWII, so we don’t remember what it’s like for the entire world to be at war, and that’s dangerous.

The problem of war is its justification – once it’s justified, then using any means necessary is ok.  It’s not ok.  I’m not a pacifist.  I would be the first to defend my family or country from an invasion, and where the wholesale slaughter and genocide of innocents is concerned.   We should as Americans and human beings do all we can to stop the loss of life.  To let a single man or regime destroy life out of madness and not confront them is sinful in itself.  The whole world is erupting in war, and it will continue to do so.  The Central Africa Republic, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, drug wars in Central and South America, Ukraine, Russia, Chechnya, Pakistan, proxy wars, Mali, Israel, Palestine, and others are  countries teetering on the brink of war . . . . this will not slow but only increase in the foreseeable future.   Read more

Blog: EVERYDAY MISSION: BAIT AND SWITCH?

by Bob Roberts Jr

Click here to purchase book
Click here to purchase book

I am convinced that we as followers of Jesus unintentionally and unnecessarily turn people off from Jesus.  We go into preacher mode, or we view people as projects.  That not only turns someone off to Jesus, it isolates us from other people.  One of the things I realized long ago was the reason we like to give “gospel” presentations to others is because we don’t want to take the time and effort to be a friend with someone.  If someone is a friend, they’re a friend because of who they are, not what they can do for me or I can do for them.  We want to share the Gospel without benefit of relationship – and that simply doesn’t fly anymore – not that it ever did.  If I view God’s kingdom as a blessing to all, then I naturally share it as it naturally comes up.  I’ve shared the good news of Jesus to some of the most unlikely people in some of the most unusual public squares in various nations where people of another faith rarely share their faith.  It’s because they’re legitimate friends and they want me to know their friends and they have me explain who I am and what I believe.  I have explained how I became a Christian and what I believe about God to my next door neighbor, to my yard man who’s from Mexico, to someone in Iran, to several leaders in Saudi Arabia, to people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Laos, India – literally all over the world.  I’ve often thought if someone even thinks you’re “witnessing” you’re probably not witnessing really good.  It really should be a part of everyday conversation.  By the way, in a real conversation, you listen to them as well and to their story and what they believe –because they’re your friend and you love them, not because they’re your project.     Read more

Blog: EVERYDAY MISSION #3: STATISTICS AND STORIES

by Bob Roberts Jr

[Adapted from Week 3 of A Field Guide for Everyday Mission: “WHAT Does An Everyday Missionary Do?”] 

Fort Worth is a beautiful, messed up city. And I love it.
At the time of writing, “Cowtown” is the second-fastest-growing large city in the US. We’ll be over one million strong by 2030, with 20,000 new living units being built in three miles of downtown. They’re largely apartments, condos, and lofts on top of trendy ground floor retail and restaurants. We have great bike trails that you have to share with horses. We’re even rerouting the Trinity River to include a lake and water park. Wanna come live on mission with us? Patterned after downtown Portland, OR, Fort Worth is becoming a hot place. (Literally: it’ll definitely be warmer here than Portland)

In the midst of the progress, 75 percent of our city is unchurched. That’s high for the traditional middle of the Bible Belt. As of a few years ago, 20,000 refugees live here from 45 ethnic groups. Eight thousand people need nursing care but can’t afford it. Between four and five thousand homeless roam our streets, over 60 percent of whom are women and children. One out of every six males and one out of every four females is sexually abused before age eighteen. We’re home to 200–300 gangs, with five to six thousand members. We’re not comparing our city to yours; we’re simply stating facts. This is the broken city we love. Really, wanna come live on mission with us?   Read more

TO MY DAUGHTER ON YOUR WEDDING DAY

Lee and Jill
Lee and Jill

by Bob Roberts Jr

Jill, this is your day – and it’s going to be fantastic.  I’ll do my best to keep it all together during your wedding, just know I love you deeply and am so incredibly proud of you.  You’ve been patient.  You waited for God to bring the right man and he has.  Do you remember when you were in middle-school and I had you write out what kind of man you wanted to marry?  I don’t know if you still have that list. . . . I would bet Lee comes close to filling most of what you would want.

So today, you begin your life anew with Lee.  I’m grateful for him, his family, and our history together over the years.  There really is something about having been in relationship with people over the years.  Everyone is always looking for new, improved, better, different friends without realizing the community God has placed them in and valuing it.  There are no perfect people, you know I’m not, you may come close but you still aren’t perfect, and in a month or so, maybe sooner, you’ll discover Lee isn’t perfect as well.    Read more

Blog: EVERYDAY MISSION #2: OUR CLOSEST, FORGOTTEN MISSION FIELD

by Bob Roberts Jr

[Adapted from Week 2 of A Field Guide for Everyday Mission: “WHO Is My Mission Field?”] 

The largest collection of not-yet-believers we may ever interact with lives under our own roofs.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Israel and it was the Jewish Festival of Pentecost.  I wound up being invited by a family to their synagogue and then to their home for a meal.  I watched one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen as the Father lined his children up, held their faces in his hand whispered the blessing of Ephram & Manasseh to them, and then kissed their foreheads.  I’m so excited.  The Vietnamese boy who has come to be like our son who was with us for 7 years, just arrived from overseas for my daughter Jill’s wedding.  He’s not a Christian, but we couldn’t love him more than if he were.  I wish he were, I pray for him, but my love for him is not conditional because of that.  I hope he sees enough Jesus in us that he wants him.  My daughter’s fiancé is incredible. He went through a stage as a teenager where he didn’t walk close to God, but he came back because a retired NFL football player poured his life into him as if he were his son.  My son Ben and his wife Sara and their 8 month old son Moses came in yesterday for the wedding – Ben & Sara both have had their share of heartache, but it brought them close to God and ultimately to each other.  There are no perfect families – which is the reason the Gospel must be incredibly present in our family.   Read more

Blog: EVERYDAY MISSION #1: REDEEMING OUR ROLES

by Bob Roberts Jr.

Click here to purchase the book
Click here to purchase the book

[Adapted from Week 1 of A Field Guide for Everyday Mission: “WHY Should I Even Care?”]

If you weren’t a Christian, what would define you?
Even if I didn’t know Jesus, I am husband, a father, a son, a brother, brother-in-law, uncle, American, and Texan.  That’s my answer; how about you?

We each have marks of identity, but we also each play unique roles. Various titles describe me: I’m a professor and resident of Fort Worth. I’m a pastor (that’s weird since we’re pretending we don’t know Jesus, right?). But while these titles describe me, and help direct where my time goes, they’re not my identity. They’re roles I play. They’re meaningful, and I hope to continue playing those roles for as long as God allows. But roles change, I don’t live where we grew up and I’ve worked for multiple churches. So my residential and pastoral roles have changed. Again, how about you?   Read more

Blog: A Field Guide to Everyday Mission

by Bob Roberts Jr

I’m really excited about this book and I’m excited to get to write with Ben Connelly (Find it on Amazon HERE).  Ben started his church a few years ago and has really rocked it.  He came through our Northwood Church planting cohort and really gets engagement.  I teach it’s not either-or, but both and.  Ben gets it. He practices it, and is an exceptional writer and communicator.

Mission is where you are and where you go.  I’m all over the world, along with so many from Northwood, but we all live next door to people.  I did a series this year called “Good Neighbors” emphasizing and driving home that very fact.  Many of our members have significant global work, but we all live in northeast Tarrant County and that is part of the world as well.  God holds us accountable in mission, not just for the weeks we are overseas, but the other 50 weeks we are at home!  You are the best hope someone has for Jesus right where you live.

How do you be a missionary to your next door neighbor?  This is a pluralistic world with all religions present, with all lifestyles present, and yet the same Gospel that has been here through the ages.  There are discussion questions so it can be used in a group.  It is written in such a way you can even do a preaching series while your small groups do the book.   Read more

Blog: RELIGION & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN IRAN?

by Bob Roberts Jr

More than you might think, but not how you and I would think.  Many places in the world that pride themselves in religious freedom, define it as freedom to be what you are, not to change from one religion to the next.  Obviously, I want people to have the ability to change as we do in America or to me it isn’t really free.  I met several Protestants – even Evangelicals, Orthodox, Zoroastrians, Jews, and other religious minorities and pretty much all of them said that they were not discriminated against on the basis of their faith.  They said at times there could be problems but most of the time things were good.  I had the chance to be with some of them alone, so I really pushed the question harder – and the response was the same.  I was especially interested in the Jewish Doctor that I met, but he insisted it was true.  I’ll write more about him in another blog – he’s my new hero.  Keep in mind, they said at times there were issues – but for the most part it was ok.  A couple of them went out of their way to tell me how much some officials continued to check on them to make sure no one was harassing them.  Which could beg the question, if all is ok why are they having to ask?  Or, as the Iranian leaders and Ayatollahs told me, it could also show how they wouldn’t allow discrimination of other religions as other countries had experienced.  The religious leaders of Iran clearly told me that some Iranian religious clerics would be harsher in their treatment of religious minorities.   Read more