Many of you know Bob Russell and have been blessed by his preaching. John and I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with him early into our “visiting days” at Southeast Christian Church before we became members. While I still find myself calling him “our pastor”, I’m certain many of you claim him as well.
When Bob announced his retirement from Southeast a few years ago, I confess, I thought, “Well, there goes the church!” But as we all know, Southeast continues to grow. (www.southeastchristian.org)
Additionally, it never occurred to me that by Bob “retiring”, this freed him up to preach all over the United States, blessing many audiences he wouldn’t normally be able to reach.
Bob’s not about to kick up his feet and sit on the sofa all day. He’s still writing books, Bible studies, his weekly blog (www.bobrussell.org), hosting monthly mentoring retreats for pastors, and playing that frustrating game called golf.
He and his wife, Judy, also a dear friend, just celebrated fifty years of marriage! What an amazing milestone! Bob’s blog from May 30th of this year, Fifty Years of Marriage – Enjoyment Not Just Endurance just doesn’t get any better. Do not miss this!!!
(Also, please see Judy’s wonderful post from last week if you missed it: JUDY RUSSELL CHALLENGES US TO SPEND MORE TIME AROUND THE TABLE… ) After all these years, the only flaw I’ve seen in Bob is his tendency to pull for the “red-n-black” team here in Louisville, and not our “blue-n-white” team in Lexington. S’pose we can overlook that…
Concluding a church member must’ve brainwashed him early on, I point blank asked him this week:
What swayed you to pull for the Cardinals?
Bob said, “I pull for the Cardinals because when I moved to Louisville I was impressed with the play of Wes Unseld who I thought was a terrific player. Then Mike Lawhon, a member of our church, played for U of L and I had someone special to cheer for. Plus U of L is 70 miles closer than Lexington!”
Alrighty then….Here are the cardinal glasses I get out just to be hospitable when Bob and Judy come to dinner, even tho’ I do use our UK pitcher occasionally!!! All in good fun… Another cool thing Bob’s been doing since he left Southeast is hosting a mentoring retreat for pastors. The retreat is called “A Time of Refreshing.” (For more information on these retreats and how to apply, go to Bob’s website listed above and click on “Mentoring”.)
Bob says, “It’s purpose is to encourage and re-energize ministers for their stressful task. Preachers are constantly serving others, so we provide a retreat where they can be spiritually, emotionally, and physically refreshed.
I guess the one most important lesson we try to pass along to them is from Galatians 6:9: ‘Don’t grow weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.’”
Bob’s most recent book, Acts of God: Why Does God Allow So Much Pain?, comes highly endorsed. When I saw some of my favorite authors endorsing our favorite preacher, I knew before I ever read the first page I’d dive in quickly! (Liz Curtis Higgs, Max Lucado, Al Mohler, Becky Pippert, and Ann Voskamp are just a few of his endorsers. HUGE!!!)
***You have a chance to win a FREE copy of Acts of God when you comment below.*** In an interview about the Acts of God project (which includes a Bible study and a full length feature film), Bob was asked, “We are seemingly inundated by news accounts of tragedies back to back. How should the Christian respond?”
Here are his answers:
1 – “First, don’t blame God. He is not the author of most suffering any more than a father who takes the training wheels off his child’s bicycle intentionally causes the spills and tears that inevitably follow…We live in a fallen world where the lethal sin-virus strikes without discrimination. God warns us that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust.
2 – And don’t expect any pat answers. God doesn’t normally explain why He doesn’t exempt good people from pain. He doesn’t disclose the future and reveal to us just how, ‘all things will work together for good.’ God asks for two responses from us: trust and patience. Job said, ‘Even if He slay me I will trust Him.’ It takes time for God’s good purpose to unfold.
3 – Remember this is exactly what the Bible predicted would happen. God’s Word warns, ‘There will be terrible times in the last days’ because of unrestrained evil in the world. The Scripture does not teach that we will be exempt from the world’s hurt, but reminds us that this temporary, evil world is not our home. Jesus promised, ‘In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ Even tho’ it may appear the world is unraveling, the Lord has not lost control. The world is moving toward God’s final intervention. The increased tragedies are reminders of our ultimate hope.
4 – Finally, band together as a Christian community and use the horrible tragedies as a positive testimony to the world. C.S. Lewis called pain, ‘God’s megaphone.’ He said God shouts to us in our pain. But pain is also God’s spotlight. The world watches intensely to see how we respond. They’re keenly interested in seeing whether our faith sustains us thru’ tough times. We may have more opportunity for witnessing in tragedy than we ever do in prosperity.
The world needs to see, ‘….We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure,’ even when the sea is turbulent. Our MOST EFFECTIE TESTIMONY is when we say, ‘I don’t understand this, but I still believe God is going to make things right one day.’”
Another question asked of Bob was: “The movie looks intense—how will it bring a message of hope in such depressing situations? Why should we watch something with so much reality in our faces?”
Bob answered, “That was my concern when I first read the script for Acts of God. It’s a heavy film. It’s not an escape from reality. It deals with very intense and very realistic situations. But, because it is so real, the end result is edifying and encouraging.
After a preview of Acts of God, one man came out in tears and said, ‘Thanks for doing this movie. I had a child killed in an auto accident years ago and I’ve struggled with anger against God. This really, really helped me.’
Another said, ‘I have a son who lost his faith because he saw so many horrible things in Iraq. I want to bring him to this movie, I think it will help him to see he’s not alone.’
Bob added, “The movie shows it’s possible to hold on to our faith even when life falls apart. It shows that we can forgive even the most hideous of offenses. It shows that life can go on and we can be joyful because we have an eternal hope.”
Don’t forget Middletown United Methodist Church (MUMC) is showing Acts of God Monday night, June 22nd, at 7:00 p.m. Popcorn included!!! Bring a friend to this fun, FREE event!!! (You can also order a copy of the movie by visiting www.actsofgodthemovie.com )
MUMC’s Summer Bible study will be on Bob’s book, Acts of God—Why Does God Allow So Much Pain. It will begin that same week of June 22nd. Nancy Tinnell will teach and Bob teaches via the DVD’s, plus he will teach in person the week of the last classes, July 21st and 22nd . (For details, click on YOU’RE INVITED TO A SUMMER BIBLE STUDY…)
Lastly, I asked Bob what he’s working on now:
He said, “Moody Press asked me to write a book on experiences of being a pastor for forty years—what I’d do differently and what I’d repeat. That’s a primary project for me right now along with the speaking engagements, mentoring groups and weekly blog. I’m also hoping to tape another series of Bible studies this November on the book of Acts.”
Thanks, Bob, for your time and great example of a life well-lived for the Lord. You continue to touch so many lives. Your family, friends, audiences and readers are beyond blessed! We look forward to hearing you teach in July at MUMC!
Also, for those of you near Louisville, Bob’s preaching at several Louisville churches this year. If you’re not near Louisville, take heart, he’s all over the place and he may be coming to your town! To see his schedule, go to his website and click on “Events”.
***If you’d like to comment on Bob’s post, please leave one in the Comment section and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a FREE copy of Acts of God!!!***
‘Til next time!