Saturday, December 31, 2005

Disciple 24/7

One of the greatest discoveries of my spiritual life has been discovering the fundamental difference between Jesus and me. Once I began to see what was the root of the gap between my humanity and His, I could then dream of seeing that gap closed forever. To help me remember the difference, I created a statement to remind myself. It goes like this....
"The difference between Jesus and me is simple. He was 100% satisfied in God 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
I am not."

Jesus' entire human experience was a manifestation of complete rest in God's perfection and abundance. It simply did not enter Jesus' mind, heart or soul to begin any thought or action doubting God. Temptation never took hold in His life because temptation can only take root in a space where there is doubt about God's perfect ability to satisfy.

As a child of Adam my entire life was birthed in dissatisfaction with God. My only hope is to be "born again" out of God's satisfaction provided for me by the death, burial and ressurrection of Jesus. Now that I am "born again" I can learn to be satisfied in God like Jesus which is the essence of discipleship.

Discipleship is being 100% satisfied in God 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The fruit of this satisfaction is love of God and love of neighbor-24/7. The fruit of this satisfaction is my ability to glorify God by making God's nature visible and available just as Jesus did.

The other day I was talking to a church leader here in Brazil who was questioning the need for another ministry like Abide Brazil. Truly, Brazil has been blessed with many great discipleship courses and ministries. Using the statement about the difference between Jesus and me as a basis, I asked him how many followers of Jesus he knew whose lives seemed to be a manifestation of satisfaction in God? I asked him how many pastors and leaders he knew who seemed to be governed by a 24 hour 7 day a week satisfaction in God. As he reflected on the "bottom line" of 24/7 he could see that many of our current discipleship methods are teaching discipline for satisfaction, not satisfaction for discipline. There is a huge difference. Jesus said "Without Me you can do nothing." He is the satisfaction that preceeds and provides the ability to be a disciple.

What we have done is make salvation an experience with God's grace 24/7 but sanctification (satisfaction in action) an experience with programs and plans whenever they are offered by the church. We have made salvation (justification) a permanent 24/7 reality while we have made discipleship an activity we sometimes engage in as needed rather than a life we live.

Picture yourself signing up to follow Osama Bin Laden. I know that is a huge imaginary challenge, but try. Do you suppose he would accept anything less than 24/7? Do you think he would accept anything less than hate? Why is it we think Jesus is less serious than Osama? How can we even begin to compare the loyalty Jesus asks for to the loyalty Osama asks for? Is hate more serious than love?

Abiding is a metaphor of discipleship 24/7. Branches don't live unless they live from the Vine 24/7. Branches don't bear fruit unless they live 24/7. As satisfaction in God comes to us by the presence of Jesus in our lives we should not be surprised to see the fruit appear that proves we are 24/7 disciples of Jesus.

When it comes to discipleship, throw your watch and schedule away. Discipleship based on 100% satisfaction in God is
24/7 and you should not expect it to be or want it to be anything less. Increasing satisfaction received from Jesus is what makes me like Jesus. Nothing else can.

I have developed another statement to remind me not to make excuses for the difference between me and Jesus. When I feel discipleship 24/7 is out of my reach, I say "He who has Jesus lacks nothing." Since He abides in me I need not make excuses just confessions. I sin because I am not 100% satisfied in God. I need no other explanation or excuse. I did not take advantage of what Jesus offers 24/7 and that must be confessed.

I can't picture Osama Bin Laden yawning and being soft on his disciples. I can't picture him forgiving either.

I can't picture Jesus yawning and being soft on his diciples. I can picture Him forgiving. Forgiving but never excusing. How can you excuse someone who has all they need?

Now that Jesus is in me I can become a 24/7 manifestation of God's grace and truth. I simply must abide and God will take care of the clock and the calendar for His glory.

Monday, December 26, 2005


One of the most redeeming values of the Christmas season is the reviewing of the past year and the thinking some people do about life's true meaning. For pastors who preach the annual Christmas sermons this is especailly a time of reflection about the year gone by and life's true meaning. For me it has always been a wonderful time of year for thinking about life as revealed in Jesus.

This year's Christmas sermon here in Brazil I entitled "Success or Failure?" That was the thought that was on my mind as i reviewed 2005 and thought about the birth of our Lord.

One's definition of success or failure is critical to one's ability to evaluate reality. We all have a definition of success in our minds and that definiiton is powerful. We use it not only to judge ourselves but we use it to judge others as well.
Having a flawed definition of success is no small error. It has huge implications for how we feel about our lives and what we do to correct what we see as failure in ourselves and in others.

One interesting thing about the Christmas story is the way the angels viewed Jesus' birth. They put a choir together and sang to God's success in Jesus' presence on earth among men. We would be wise to follow their lead. I believe angels have a pretty good grip by now on what success really is. After all, they have been around since before the beginning of human life on earth and have seen and heard a lot about success and failure.

Was Mary a success? Was Joseph? Was Jesus? After 2000 years we should be able to say they were successful or they were failures. It depends on our definition of success.

The definition God has given me for success over the years is this. Success is being what I was created to be and doing what I was created to do. I also call this "Taking love's next step". By that standard Mary, Joseph and Jesus were 100% successful that first Christmas. Day by day they simply took love's next step no matter where it led, who criticized or who tried to stop them.

That first Christmas everyone played their part in God's orchestrated plan for salvation and it worked perfectly. Interestingly, even Ceasar played the part of corrupt politician perfectly. God used his corrupt political goals to call for a census just when Jesus needed to be born in Bethlehem. Just like Judas would later in the redemption story play his part as traitor, so God has used even evil people to make His plan work successfully. By letting people be what they are and do what they do God works things out successfully. The next time you are about to oppose a Ceasar or a Judas keep the Christmas story in mind for maximum success.

We need to be very careful to check our definition of success and match it against God's definition of success. By the way that definition is forever set for humanity--Success is spelled JESUS. He was 100% what He was meant to be and he did 100% of what He was supposed to do. Now the standard is set for us--"it is enough that a disciple be as His Master." Matt.10

Be careful about letting the world or even religious leaders define success for you below the level of Jesus. We have a perfect example of success in Jesus and the farther we move from that standard the less success we will have.

I believe every Christian can live successfully. I believe every church community can live successfully. We can abide in Jesus and let His life be our life. When we do, we will bear the fruit of success. God guarantees it! Read John 15 for the details.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

In Charge

I am not "in charge" anymore. For the first time in over 25 years I am no longer the "Senior Pastor". Some days, like today,
it strikes me powerfully that I am not "in charge". When I am struck by this thought it makes me aware of one of life's greatest discoveries. We are never really "in charge." We were not meant to be. We are branches and branches are not "in charge". Managing our lives or the lives of others is truly an illusion.

I rememeber as our children became teenagers this same truth began to take root in my mind. I remember thinking as they revealed their own ideas and will "I am not 'in charge' of these kids anymore!" Each day that passed I was less and less in control of them. Was I ever really in control of them? Was being in control of them what God intended? Being in love with them and being there for them was what God intended. Being in charge of them ended as soon as they realized I was not "in charge" of them. Loving them and being there for them need never end. Thank God it has not.

As a pastor I was not to be "in charge" of anyone. As a pastor I was to be "in love" with them. It is one thing to no longer be "in charge." It is another thing to no longer be "in love."

Thank God I am still in love with my children and they are in love with me. Thank God I am still in love with those I have loved and those who truly loved me still do.

I think we only come to know who we really are when we let go of things and still find we are whole and well. Over the years as I have let go of being "in charge", I have found I don't want to be "in charge" of what I love. I want to be there for them and I want them to be there for me. What I want is oneness not control.

Perhaps this is why the greatest in the kingdom is not the one "in charge" but the one who serves. Being there for those I love is something I do not have to give up along with my "in charge" title of Senior Pastor.

How can I miss being "in charge" when I really never was "in charge"? I can still love those I have loved and be there for them in hundreds of small, yet significant ways. I still have much to learn about the Kingdom and its values. It is a good thing God loves me and is there for me as I let go of things a little at a time. It is a good thing the way God influences me is by loving and being there for me. It is His love that has captured me and holds me in his joy. Love doesn't need control.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


One of the most significant moments in our lives is when we are needed. To know our presence makes a difference meets a very deep need God has placed in our nature. We were created by God to be satisfied in God in order to give that satisfaction away as fruit. When we know what we have is from God and someone wants it, it allows us to work with God.

This past weekend a 40 year old pastor (who looks 25!) asked me repeatedly to be his "mentor". I was embarrassed at first but then I realized God had orchestrated this moment so I would know that what God had given to me was ready to be given away.
I think the passionate request was what took me by surprise. This pastor was ready and willing to receive. Was I ready to give?

At first I was hesitant. Was he saying this because I was an american with financial contacts? Was he saying this only to take something from me? I have been used before so I was hesitant to say "Yes, I will mentor you."

As I saw this young pastor with his congregation of 150 people who are mostly new converts he has personally won, my heart began to relax and I could hear God saying "This is why I brought you back to Brazil."

The weekend was wonderful and I am humbled by this young pastor, his wife Rose and his two sons Peter and Paul. I pray Pam and I will give them all God would have us give.

We are satisfied to satisfy. I want to give Marcos and Rose all that God has given to me. Somehow I know that is what humans were designed to do.

Friday, December 09, 2005


A dear friend of mine named Tibor Feldmar once described our Creator God as "Source of Source." Tibor survived the Holocaust and is a lifelong student of the Hebrew scriptures. When I asked him why he used the expression "Source of Source" he said it was what the name "I AM THAT I AM" communicates in the book of Exodus.

As I have meditated now for years on Tibor's explanation I have come to understand that our Creator God never begins any thought or action in anything less than perfect abundance. By that I mean our Creator only knows how to think from 100% satisfaction. Our Creator has no lack and therefore no fear ever enters His decision making process. To be godly we must learn to think and act from perfect abundance.

How different that is from much of my thinking! How different from many of my responses to life. I am only just beginning to think fully with such abundance. I am only just learning to abide. I am still learning to be like my master Jesus.

According to Jesus, birds, flowers and healthly branches are the examples of living from God's abundance. Jesus told us to take no thought about tomorrow. Why? Abundance takes no thought about what cannot be taken from it. Jesus said anyone who leaves houses or family for His sake cannot end up having less. Why? Abundance can never end up less than it began or it is not an abundance begun and sustained in God.

How different would our lives be if every single thought or action started in abundance and not lack? How different would our marriages be if both husband and wife saw every challenge through the lens of joyful abundance in God instead of what we might lose if our mate does not shape up?

When Jesus suffered, He suffered for the joy set before Him. That joy was the abundance of the Creator that is never truly taken from us. When Jesus cried "My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?" I believe He was cut off from the abundance of God for us. For Him that must have been the very deepest essence of His suffering. For a moment in time He was empty of the very abundance He had known forever. No wonder the sky went black and the earth shook.

When your mind, heart, soul or body is challenged in the world, remember that nothing can separate you from the abundance of God's love in Jesus. Abide in the abundance of God. Act in the abundance of God. That is the fruit coming from the Vine.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Intentional friends

I have just returned from a trip back to the USA to participate in a memorial service for a dear friend named Terri Davis.
Terri left our presence and entered the presence of God after a four year battle with cancer. Terri was a testimony of grace and faith to all who knew and loved her. Her husband Larry and her two sons, Jared and Justin,celebrated her life with the hundreds who came to her memorial service. Terri was a woman who learned to abide and as a result her life was filled with friends.

A part of the abiding life is having a friendship with Jesus.
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, fo everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:12-15

I have struggled with this passage over the years. The part about needing to obey His commands in order to be His friends was not clear to me. I reacted to this idea with a sense that this was not what friendship should be. As usual, I was not seeing clearly and Jesus has patiently waited for the time when He could open my eyes.

Friendship in God's kingdom is based upon a kind of abundance we do not know on earth. Kingdom friendship is based on a total relaxation in the intentions of God. It is simply knowing that any command given from Jesus is flowing from such a pure source so it can be obeyed with joy and with no reservations.

The key to friendships is the blending of intentions. For instance, two people who love fishing will find it easy to connect whenever they are planning to fish or actually fishing. When two people who love fishing are getting to fish together, one can "command" the other without any offense because fish are being caught.

This is why Jesus told His disciples everything He had learned from the Father. Until they could relax in the good intentions of the Father like Jesus did, no true friendship would occur. Abiding in the Father's love like Jesus did requires a kind of abandoning ourselves into the good intentions of God. As author Henry Scougal once observed "To love is to wander out of ourselves" We do this "wandering" only if we trust the intentions of another.

People who have few friends have not connected with others at the level of their intentions. People who have no friends probably have very deep doubts about the intentions of other people. They may have reason to doubt others, but they have no reason to doubt the intentions of Jesus. Starting a friendship with Jesus will give them friends unless they doubt even Jesus' intentions.

People who have trouble obeying Jesus are still on the fringes of God's intentions. Until they learn to relax and rest in God's good intentions they will struggle when they read the sermon on the mount or any of Jesus' other commands.

As I visited with friends while in the States I realized that it is the intentions of Jesus that I share in common with my closest friends. We are able to sustain and enjoy our friendship because we are all relaxing more and more in the intentions of Jesus. As we do, we relax with each other and our friendships become easier and easier to sustain.

The intentions of God as revealed in the life of Jesus are clear proof that we can rest and relax in the Vine--Jesus.
If a command comes from Him we can obey with a smile since we are such good friends. How could we not do what He says for us to do since His intentions are flowing from the source of all good intentions?

Look for people who trust God's intentions in Jesus and you will find Kingdom friends. They are the kind of friends whose intentions you can trust. When intentions begin in God, you can feel free to "wander" into any relationship.

Monday, November 21, 2005

God at work

I have just returned from a pastor's conference in central Brazil. I visited a thriving Brazilian city which is the center of Brazil's booming farming belt.

A little over 25 years ago I visited this same city called Goiania with the thought of planting a church. God led us to Sao Jose instead. Now, after a 25 year absence I could see clearly how God has worked in this once small city. When I visited it in 1980 the presence of any kind of church where the Gospel of Jesus was clearly preached was rare. Today, the city is one of Brazil's most evangelized and discipled cities. The impact on the community is clear to see.

It is wondeful to see how God's workings go on and on. We are invited to join Him in the work. We are not the key--He is.

I shared the message of Abiding in Jesus with pastors and leaders who are working with God in Goiania. It was a wonderful thing to see how busy our God is in the lives of men and women across our world.

By the way, I have been asked to consult and counsel in the planting and development of a church in Goiania! I may get my chance to be a part of a church planting effort there after all. With our very active God we are never out of the plan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Our gaze

Being so far from family and friends is the hardest part about being here in Brazil. If "absence makes the heart grow fonder", our family and friends need to know our love has grown greatly. It has!

One thing that helps us is the wonderful invention called e-mail--especially e-mails that contain pictures. Gazing at a picture that came from one of our "children" is like being with them. When we are together we get to see the same things at the same time.

Abiding is to be seeing Jesus clearly as our source of satistaction and purpose. Abiding depends on paying attention to the Vine. Abiding has to do with the direction of our gaze.

Yesterday Pam and I visited a mountain hotel where we spent a few wonderful days back in the ancient 80's. To gaze on the unchanging beauty of that place made our past connect with our present. It also gave great hope for the future. We were inspired as we gazed on what God keeps satisfying each day.

When we are abiding we are gazing at Jesus. When our children are abiding they are gazing at Jesus. When our friends are abiding they are gazing at Jesus.

How far away can we be from each other if we can all see the same wonderful person at the same time? I feel close to all I love when I gaze on Jesus. Can you see Him right now?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Space

My recent "blog" about the view from the pastor's home created a wonderful conversation. One person asked a great question. "Does living in a third world country mean one serves God better?" That may not be he exact question but it is close.

Where I live does not prove anything about whether I am serving God better or worse. The will of God is not a place. The will of God is a disposition or what I call "cooperating constantly with God's intentions." I can be in the will of God at any place and in any time if I am in harmony with the God's intentions and can, by His grace, sustain those intentions which began in Him. That sounds complicated!
In reality it is not if we use a metaphor. I love metaphors.

Think of a flower that is in my office at church. Poor flower! I am terrible with flowers. They all suffer if they are in my "care." Yet, I have never seen a flower stop being what it was made by God to be even though I mistreat it. It is what it is by its creation blueprint. It never fails to sustain its intention as begun by the Creator. No matter what I do. it keeps glorifying God where it is. It is what it was made to be no matter what I do or do not do. It suffers and may even die, but it will remain true to its Creator. That is why it is beautiful.

We humans have the capacity to choose. Someone once explained this to me in a helpful way. They said there is a "space" between stimulus (externals) and response (actions). In that space we live and make our choices. People who are successful in some way have mastered the space in such a way that their responses are predictable. We can count on them.

When I try to be "successful" in doing God's will I hear Jesus saying "without Me you can do nothing." He is so right.
I am far less successful than the flowers! I cannot sustain God's love toward my neighbor. I cannot cooperate with God's intentions like the flowers always do. The stimulus (externals) stop me. What can I do?

I must "abide in the Vine" in the space between stimulus and response. I must learn to let God's blueprint for humans (the life of Jesus) be my life. I must live in "oneness" with Jesus and then I will release the fruit of God's intentions no matter what the stimulus may be. Only then will I be predictable like the flower.

I do not believe my pastor friend in the poor area of Brazil is doing more of the will of God here than my pastor friends in the U.S.A. I believe my pastor friend here is like a beautiful flower where he has been planted by God. For me it was obvious that he abides in Jesus in the space between stimulus and response. I was impressed with Jesus' beauty in him where he lives.

Poverty is a powerful stimulus. Wealth is a powerful stimulus. The love of wealth is the more powerful stimulus in the world for wrong responses. (Remember that "love of money is the root" verse?) Since it is such a powerful stimulus, the toughest place to live God's will may be in the presence of great wealth. I do not know for sure if it is harder to do God's will in abundance or in lack. All I know is we must abide wherever we live in order to do God's will. First world or third world it is all God's world. With money or without it is still possible to abide.

The place where we should serve best will take care of itself as we abide. The Vinedresser will decide where we can best respond to the stimulus of this world and bear the most fruit. The point is, I saw a "flower" ( my pastor friend) in a place where I did not expect to see a flower so I pointed to him and said "Wow!" It was a lack of faith on my part to be so surprised. Why should I be surprised to see the power of God's will manifested in a poor neighborhood or on Wall Street? Abiding can handle it.

The will of God is to abide wherever we are. Be like the flower.

I pray you don't get assigned to a place like my office. If you do, God knows. Abide there even to the death. His will is the most important thing in the world--not the stimulus. Somehow I believe flowers who give their lives in my office receive special love from the Creator. I believe those who live near great and difficult externals receive special love to see them through.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The view from the Pastor's home

I have just returned from a wonderful time of ministry in Brazil's third largest city. Little by little God is allowing me to reconnect with pastors and their families across Brazil. What an education!

For the past three days I was hosted in the home of a dear pastor who lives and ministers in a humble, working class area of Belo Horizonte. This pastor, his wife and three children, ages 13, 18 and 21,treated me to the very best they have. I was blessed. What a family!

One thing that struck me was the difference between what this man has had to work with over the past 16 years he has led his church and what I have enjoyed over the last 16 years. Perhaps the view from his home captures it best. (see the pictures from my room) What he and his family look out on each and every day is what many call "the third world "

I am not sure where the term "third world" came from, but I know this. I have lived and worked in the "first world."
Basically to live in the first world is to work with the best the world has to offer. The best healthcare, the best police protection, the best schools, the best roads, etc. To live in the third world is to live with much less--perhaps 2/3 less.

Each day this family looks out on a world that is about 1/3 of what I have enjoyed. One third of the security, one third of the opportunities, one third of the privacy, one third of the books, one third of the space. Their tiny car with six of us jammed inside was definitely "third world."

To live in the "third world" is to live with less of everything unless you can create your own little "first world" as a few can and do. This pastor can never create a "first world" for his family. This is and will be his family's only world.

It is hard to see such a difference and not feel guilty. Yet, one thing became clear to me while in their home. They may live with two thirds less of everything materially, yet the inside of their home was one of the happiest most godly places I have ever been. I have seldom, if ever, met more godly young people in my life. The pastor and his wife have raised three of the most passionate Christians I have ever met. I have seldom met a more beautiful couple in ministry. All they could talk about was how they could better serve their people.

In the Kingdom of God there is no material advantage or disadvantage. In the Kindgom of God the first may even be last.
I, for one, know I will be hard pressed to match the joy and love for God I saw from my view inside the home. The view from the window was nothing to impress but the inside view was as good as any in the world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

October Update


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Lacking nothing

When I was younger I used to struggle to maintain an early morning devotional life. It seemed no matter what I did I couldn't be disciplined enough to awaken early and seek the Lord. What a frustration!
It seems the Lord has worked this out in my life in an interesting way. He wakes me up earlier and earlier as I grow older and my mind seems to naturally seek Him in the quietness of the morning. I have come to really enjoy this time alone with God as the day begins to brighten outside my apartment window.

Certainly this is no replacement for other devotional times, but I thank God for helping me finally do what I could not do on my own. It is amazing. I can't even claim credit for my devotional life. It is true "without me you can do nothing."

This morning my mind was filled with this thought--"He who has Jesus lacks nothing". I guess my mind was on this thought as I prayed for family and friends in South Florida who are suffering the aftermath of hurricane Wilma. It is so easy to measure what one has by material things or visible circumstances. Yet, he who has Jesus lacks nothing.

Since Jesus is our Vine and we are His branches, he is all we need to live in our world. As hard as that may seem at the time of crisis, it is either true or it is not true. I can begin each day feeling I have all I need or I can begin each day feeling disadvantaged or left out. The choice is mine. The result of the choice is abundance or lack.

I have often said "The difference between Jesus and me is simple. He was satisfied in God 24 hours a day and seven days a week and I am not." Jesus never lived from what He lacked. Jesus lived from His perfect oneness with His Father. Jesus lacked nothing to be what He needed to be in this world. He lacked many things He could have enjoyed yet He never lived from a state of dissatisfaction.

I think the reason we need to have daily devotions is to return each day to a state of satisfaction in God. Who knows what evil will come in a day? If we fail to begin each day in a state of satisfaction, what will we do when the hurricane comes?

My heart is heavy for my family and friends in South Florida. I pray the Lord wakes them up early and tells them "He who has Jesus lacks nothing" To live by faith is to look around at the damage and still be able to say "God is enough." I know my family and friends will find Jesus to be enough.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Oswald Chambers once observed "God orchestrates our circumstances to educate our faith." This statement has had a powerful effect on my day to day life. Somehow it has allowed me to rest in the way things come into my life that seem like interruptions or problems.

The statement seems innocent enough until you begin to examine it more closely. It says much more than it appears to say.
First, it says my faith is more important than my circumstances. My circumstances are simply tools in God's hands to be used in a much more important matter. Second, it says God is deeply involved in the details of my life. To orchestrate one needs to really be involved in the moment by moment details. Third, it tells me that I am a learner not a teacher. My faith will not educate itself. Just reading and meditating on my Bible will not produce faith. I need a laboratory to work out the things I have read. That laboratory is life. Fourth, my faith must be very important for my future. Why educate it if it is not going to be of use later on? Fifth, I need to relax with the process. Faith is not a work. Faith is a revelation. I need to pay better attention.

Last night God was busy educating my faith. We completed our sixth week of a small group Bible Study on marriage in a friend's home. The friends who hosted the meeting are Adelino and Sheila Cardoso. We go back a long time--over 25 years.
One by one we have seen nearly the entire Cardoso family embrace Christ. Now the family is helping us lead others to Christ by inivting them to the Bible Study. What an amazing thing it was to realize that all these details over 24 years in the making are now coming together which such power. God is a great teacher! He sure had my attention last night.

Monday, October 17, 2005


My trip to the poor areas of Rio de Janeiro was a blessing to me and a great learning experience. Brazil is such a country of contrasts. Just four short hours from where I live there is a level of misery and poverty that is hard to describe. How do you describe certain smells and sounds?

On the other hand, how do you describe happiness found in such places? If I could invent a "happiness meter" that could measure the level of happiness in a person, I believe I could dispel all doubts that Jesus can make people equally happy in any set of circumstances. I believe we have such a "happiness meter" built into us if we would just use it. It is the capacity to look into the eyes of another person and see the abundant life Jesus promised. I saw this abundant life in the poor of Rio. The only possible explanation is the presence of Jesus in their lives. The environment could never produce their joy. Only Jesus.

In one service the pastor called on his people to pray for the less fortunate of the world and give generously to their needs.
I sat there thinking "How can these people see the needs of others when their needs are so deep?" It is the presence of Jesus that causes the poor to see those who are even poorer. What a precious thing it was to see the truly poor care about the truly poor.
I felt I was witnessing a miracle.

I also visited the wealthy areas of Rio where the reality is one of complete comfort and service. As I looked into the eyes of the wealthy I did not see an appreciable difference in happiness. I saw a distinct difference in comfort and care. I saw a distinct difference in physical size and strength. When I met a believer in the wealthy areas I saw the same happiness I saw in the humble church in the poor areas. Jesus is the same in any neighborhood. HIs happiness is available everywhere.

I am really beginning to feel a deep excitement about the happiness I saw in Rio. It is the great equalizer in the world.
I can honestly say to anyone I meet "In Jesus you can be as happy as anyone in the world." Jesus is the source of happiness and He is making Himself known in every area of our cities. Abundant life in Jesus is the great discovery. It can take root anywhere and in any life. Just come with me to Rio and you will see for yourself.

At first you may find it hard to believe happiness can exist in such circumstances. Over time you will begin to see it and rejoice that such joy can take root in such places. In fact, it seems to take root in such places much more often than in the easier places. The soil in the poorest places receives Jesus' happiness really well.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Wider World

Today I head to Rio de Janeiro for a three day conference for Brazilian pastors. It is interesting that this first invitation is taking me to an area of Rio that is one of the most densely populated in Brazil and is very near the area the Brazilians call their "Gaza Strip." It is an area of deep poverty and violence. Interestingly enough it is also the location where churches are seeing great spiritual progress. It is a great place to teach Abiding.

To go in the direction of the pain is a characteristic of spiritual life. To take up our cross and follow Jesus is to make pain a servant of God's intentions. Our nature apart from God allows pain to take us wherever pain wants to go. To take up a cross forces pain to go where God wants it to go. "All things work together for good...."

I am humbled to go to the church that is hosting this meeting. The leaders of this church are heading in the direction of the pain with Jesus. Every day they wake up and the live with incredible pain staring them right in the face. I will drive there for a few days with another Brazilian pastor. I will see it up close and personal but it is not the pain I must face each day. I will head home on Saturday night.

All of us wake up each day and we must choose to go in the direction of the pain with Jesus. If we do not then certainly the pain will continue to come in our direction until it takes us where it is going. It is far better to go ahead and go with Jesus in the direction of the pain. He is a much better Lord and leader than pain. Let's go with Him and learn how God makes pain his servant.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Our "things"--finally

Pam and I have been living out of suitcases since July 15th. Our "things" from the states have been sitting in customs awaiting something. Today our "things" arrived!

I remember reading a devotional thought by Tozer entitled "The blessedness of having no possessions." According to Tozer we have been blessed!
Seriously, it has been good for us to be reduced to less. We have learned to hold things less tightly. We have learned we need less. We have learned to use our memory more than pictures. We have learned to wait. We have learned that things are not the essence of life. I think that is what Tozer meant.

Even so, it is always good to get your "things". Somehow they help you remember who you were and who you are. I think the thing I most enjoyed receiving was all of our family pictures--and my golf clubs! Now all I need is for the familly to come and I need to find a golf course. Both are not easy tasks right now.

If you are waiting for some "thing" to come that seems like it will never come. Be blessed without it so when it comes you will smile like we did this morning. Even Marcy thought it was about time!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Abiding Questions

The questiion we most commonly hear from Brazilians is "Why did you come back to Brazil?" They ask with a mix of happiness and concern. Most people who leave Brazil for the the U.S.A. don't return--especially at our age and with a family as large as ours. I think many Brazilians privately are saying "I would never live so far from my kids and grandkids!" They are happy we are here but concerned about the impact our absence might have on us and on those we love. We have the same concerns.

Their response to us kind of reminds me of people who leave church and say to the pastor "Great sermon!" but privately are saying "I am not sure I understood it or agree with it." On the other hand, there are many who heard the same sermon who say "I understood it, agree with it and I want to live it." I suppose this tension between what makes sense to some and not to others is a part of being a disciple.

I believe to follow Jesus involves moving beyond what once made sense to us. What makes sense is not enough to change what is. It never has been.
It makes no sense to go in the direction of pain unless you want to deal with the root cause of pain. It makes no sense to move away from comfort unless you seek to bring others into comfort. It makes no sense to follow Jesus unless you believe a God governed life leads to the best life. Once Jesus begins to make sense to you, get ready for change.

The other question we most often hear is "What is abiding?" Again, I think they ask with a mix of happiness and concern.
Happiness at the thought of learning something new. Concern that there is something wrong with them. When I tell them Abiding is something they may already be doing it calms them and awakens their interest. When I tell them they lack nothing in order to abide, they get truly excited.

Abiding is simply learning to live and bear fruit for God's glory by being dependent on Jesus for everything. Abiding is to be a branch that is what it is and does what it does because the Vine wants it to. Abiding is to live in a state of satisfaction coming from a source that is perfect for the production of fruit that God wants and the world needs.

Abiding makes no sense in a world like ours. It would appear to be the surest way to get run over by all the forces on the planet. To be a branch in this world is to be dependent and vulnerable. That hardly makes sense in a world bent on control.

When we tell people about Abiding I can see in their faces a longing to be dependent on Jesus but a fear that it might mean a loss of control. When I tell them it does mean a loss of control, their faces drop. When I remind them that Jesus said to consider birds and flowers a good example of no control, the light comes back into their eyes.

This whole Christian life makes no sense in a world that wants God' place and power. I am glad. If it did make sense, it wouldn't change a thing that is. Doing only what makes sense has made history a continous repetition of the same problems and pain. Only when Jesus came and did that which made no sense did the world begin to possess a new kind of sense. That new kind of sense will only make sense to those who have given up control and enjoy dependence on God.

Some questions will abide forever. One of them is "What makes sense to you?" I hope Jesus is making more and more sense to you. If He is, then nothing will ever be the same.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Lord's prayer

The Lord's prayer in Matthew 6 is inexhaustible in its depth and meaning. About the time I feel I understand this short prayer I am amazed to see something new and wonderful in its deep simplicity. I once preached a series of sermons on the Lord's prayer and I gave out peanuts to the entire congregation and asked thiem how many things might be hidden in a peanut. Little by little the light went on in their minds as the remembered that George Washington Carver found over 300 uses for the simple peanut. So it is with the Lord's prayer.

I awakened this morning thinking about the phrase "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." I was reminded of the story Jesus told of the king who forgave one of his servants an enormous an unpayable debt. That servant went out a forgiven man and promptly tried to collect a small debt from some poor servant of his. When the king heard about this he turned the servant he had forgiven over to the torturers so he would learn to forgive as he was forgiven. Obviously, Jesus' use of the word "torturers" was meant to let us know God takes this forgiving thing very serious.

As I considered my track record as a forgiver, it suddenly dawned on me what "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" might mean for my life. Each time I am offended and have someone to forgive, I am looking at someone who has done to me what I have already done to God. As I reviewed in my mind a few of the people who have hurt me deeply, I asked this question "Have I ever done something like that to God?" I was shocked as I could see my need to forgive them as I had been forgiven by God.
I kept doing this forgiving test and I failed to find a single offender in my life that I could not identify as sinning against me in a way that I had already sinned against God.

I had to simply reduce the actions committed against me to simple terms like "disrespect", "distortion of reality", "failure to give credit", "anger at me without a cause" etc. and I could quickly see that my offender and I were no different except for the fact that I had not done something to him or her. Yet, I had done it to God and He had forgiven me when I asked for forgiveness.

So, I must pray every day this simple phrase "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" because it is in being offended
I can see most clearly how God has felt when I offended Him. I can also see in this process of being forgiven and forgiving the only way we will ever get out of this mess we humans live in.

The torturers are needed because the alternative of no forgiveness is much worse. The torturers have worked on me from time to time until I finally was humbled enough to see that I, too, am a forgiven sinner. I can't say I liked the torturers, but I am glad they came to me with just enough pain to open my eyes back toward God and away from my offender.

If your enemy came to you today and asked for forgiveness would you be as generous as God was with you? Would I be?
The realilty is, I have no choice but to eventually forgive. God will not let my resistance be the final word. HIs character and grace will be the final word and that word is forgiveness for all of us if we will but ask.

Are you having a hard time forgiving someone? Stop looking at them and look at yourself then back at God. When you do the words "forgive us our debts" will take on deep meaning and move you toward your offender with the words. "I forgive you because I have been forgiven." When we have done this about 490 times we will get the hang of it!

Friday, September 30, 2005


Two of the sweetest people I know are Pam and Marcy. Two sisters who grew up in Brazil and learned to love and serve the Lord Jesus in the process. Their father, Byron McCartney, is in heaven and I am sure he is proud. Their mom, Ruth McCartney, is in Hollywood, Florida and I know she is proud, too.

This morning when Marcy arrived in Brazil to visit with us it was such a wonderful moment to see these two sisters enjoying what God has done in their lives. Their lives have not been easy but they have become women of God through everything.

There should be some kind of an award given to great sisters. If there were, I would nominate these two for sure.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I am on my way to counsel a young pastor who recently fell into temptation and sin. He is a wonderful young man with a great wife and son. He is also a broken man who is being deeply loved by the church where he sinned.
Counseling this young man has forced me to see up close and personal the impact of such a sin on the entire world of a young family, a church and all of his friends. One would think this kind of firsthand knowledge of the power and pain of sin would be enough to stop any of us--including me--from sinning. It is not.

We must be delivered from sin. We cannot overcome it. We cannot control it. We must pray each day that God would not lead us anywhere near it and He would deliver us from it.

I think God left Israel in Egypt for 400 years so they, as a people, would know without a doubt that they could not deliver themselves from their slavery. God leaves us to deal each day with our flesh to teach us the same thing. I cannot deliver myself.

I think Jesus said we should cut off our hand and pluck out our eye when we find we cannot control our sinful desires to illustrate that we need solutions that are painful, public and permanent in order to ever deal with what causes us to sin.

This young man is now very hurt, very public and very permanently marked by this sin. He is in a good place now. He is ready and willing to be constantly delivered. I, too, need to join him in his weakness or I could also join him in this kind of pain.
It is by the grace of God any of us stays away from sin. We have been delivered. We have not conquered.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Yesterday I attended a funeral service for an 82 year old member of our church here in Brazil. She was a very deeply respected member of the church, our city and the Japanese immigrant community. In the state where Pam and I live there are over 2 million Japanese immigrants who have been coming to Brazil over the past 80 years.

During our brief time here I did not get to know this tiny, yet powerful woman of God. At her funeral I learned that she was a very influential woman. It was obvious by the crowd and by the comments. This very petite woman had true power that came from her walk with God.

I often reflect on Jesus' words about the greatest in the Kingdom of God being a servant or like a little child. Yesterday's funeral was an illustration of how true influence often appears weak in this world. The pastor who conducted the funeral recalled how this woman's feet never hit the ground when she would sit each week in the same chair at church. Her frame was small but her life was large.

I would like to think I really understand this weak being strong teaching of Jesus. I know this little woman understood it much better than I. I could tell by the crowd and the comments. Even in death she was influential.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I remember being told when I was in my early 20's that a man who managed to have more than one or two friends was a rich man. At that time I thought that kind of evaluation of finding and keeping friends was pretty pessimistic. I have since seen that for many people the presence of true friends is indeed a difficult accomplishment.

I have learned over the years that the developing of friendships has a lot to do with shared intentions. Once we have our life intentions truly formed it seems like those intentions are what attrract friends that stay. Intentions are a powerful force for creating enemies or friends. Enemies read your intentions as a threat while friends read your intentions as an inivitation to come closer.

This past week Pam and I were surrounded by people with intentions like ours. We were surrounded by people who intend each day to glorify God with their lives. The interesting thing was the range of age, social status, education and nationality that existed among those whose intentions drew them together.

As we followed this week's path of Glorifying God we became friends with Brian and Jayne Mentzer from the Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Brian is the Senior Pastor of the church and Chancellor of the Christian School there in Maryland. This was Brian's fourth trip to Brazil to bless Brazilian pastors and their wives. Anyone who intends to love Brazilian pastors and their wives is one the page with our intentions!

Pam and I ended up hosting Brian and Jayne for a few days here in Sao Jose because Russ and Diane Dean, fellow missionaries and dear intentional friends, had to return to the States for medical treatment. So, out of nowhere we became friends with Brian and Jayne. We became friends because our intentions matched and God created the friendship.

We also renewed friendships with Gary and Janet Tomberlin. Pam and Janet both arrived in Brazil in the early 1950's.
I have know Gary since the mid 70's. We are intentional friends. We know and care for one another because we have mutual intentions in Jesus.

Thursday night Pam and I hosted a small group with 7 couples in a home here in our neigborhood. The host home is the Cardoso home. We have been friends with the Cardoso family for 25 yeears. Once again, our intentions drew us together.

This morning Pam and I attended a get together for the telephone ministry of our church. We met a whole new group of friends whose intentions match ours. We made some new friends today.

I think friendship is not as hard as we make it. If we would simply get our intentions on glorifying God we would soon find that friends are made by sharing intentions. If your intention is to get friends you might want to switch your intentions to glorifying God.
The results will surprise you. You will be surrounded by intentional friends and they will last a lifetime because the glory of God is the most powerful of all forces to bind people together.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

the same

Have you ever considered trying to keep something the same a challenging goal? For me, most of my life has been about trying to make things better--not the same.
Today I woke up to the thought in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The verse in Matthew 10 that says it is enough that a disciple be as his teacher speaks to the same issue. To always be be the same is quite an accomplishment.
To be able to forgive 70 x 7 is to be the same. To be able to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile is to be the same. To be loving others--even enemies-- no matter what is happening is to be the same. By their same fruit you will know them.

I was given a beautiful potted plant for my office when I arrived here in Brazil. Poor plant! For a plant to be given to Bud McCord is a death warrant. I always forget to water them and give them light. Even so, they never change. They keep trying to please me and produce beauty in my office. They don't judge me or hate me. They remain the same. They keep on being what God intended no matter what I do. They suffer and they may even die, but the will be the same from start to finish.

I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to be the same--the same as Jesus. That will be enough.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The power of a lie

Pam and I are living with an interesting situation right now. All of our material possessions are in the port city of Santos in a 20 foot container. It is strange to be our age and have everything we own reduced to a container! We are living in a nearly vacant apartment in a nice building, but we have nothing that regularly reminds us of our past.

Aparently what is holding up our container is a lie. Either the people in Miami are lying or the lawyer here is lying. Either way, our past is held up by a lie. Until the lie is revealed and resolved we will have to live with what we have today.

I know God has allowed this but it is still a really strange to be so impacted by one lie. I am beginning to realize the power of a single lie to hold up things we desire to have in our daily lives.

The whole world is held up by multiple lies. Jesus is the truth. When we listen to him, little by little we regain what has been held up in the corrupt world system.

When we receive our things it will be like Christmas. Kind of reminds me of what it has felt like in my life every time some lie that has held me captive has been destroyed by the truth in Jesus. It is like someone finally gave me a beautiful present which had been held up by some lie.

Can you imagine what it will be like to live in a place where there are no lies? We won't need customs at all!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The education of our faith

Oswald Chambers once observed "God orchestrates our circumstances to educate our faith." He does! Every day He brings events into our lives to teach us to receive from Him with an ever more open heart.

Yesterday I was in Sao Paulo to do a radio interview with the people from VOZ CRISTA, a brazilian radio team based in Miami.
I have been recordiing weekly broadcasts in Portuguese for the past two years with Edson Bruno who has a 3 hour a day live broadcast to all of Brazil over shortwave and internet radio. It was a God orchestrated moment for me to be able to connect with Edson here in Brazil so we could work out details to keep my prograrm on the air.

As I arrived at the radio booth in the convention center where hundreds of Brazilian Christian ministries were sharing their ministries and materials, I unexpectedly ran into Pastor Juan Romero. Juan Romero is from Mexico and he has spent his entire life preaching all over Latin America. His daughter, Aurora, is a member at First Baptist in West Hollywood.

We gave each other a huge Brazilian-Mexican hug and stood there amazed that we would meet in a city of 20 million!
He was giving an interview at the same time I was to arrive at the booth. Juan is 76 years old and still preaching. He had just arrived from an all night flight and was there ready to work.

God orchestrated my meeting with Edson and Juan. God is educating my faith. You can be sure He educatiing yours, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A dream

It was on this date last year that God clearly revealed to me that He wanted us back in Brazil. I was returning from speaking in a conference in Brazil when God confirmed this dream in my heart. At the moment it became clear to me I was flying back to Miami somewhere high above the amazon jungle. Those who know me well know that I don't like to fly. The good news about flying is I pray a lot.

The dream God confirmed in my heart was to help Brazilian believers--especially pastors and their wives--learn to lead while abiding. I know from personal experience that leading from abiding is the most powerful way to influence others for God's glory. God has burned this message into my life and I want to share it here in Brazil.

A part of the dream is to have a place in the mountains where people from Brazil and around the world can come and learn more about the abiding life of Jesus. Pam and I have been dreaming of such a place for several years now.

Yesterday Pam and I drove up to the mountains to pray and dream. Will you pray and dream with us? Someday such a place will become a reality, Lord willing.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It is true!

I know that everything that Jesus said is true. I have believed that ever since I began to follow Him.
Over the years I have had the wonderful experience of not only believing what Jesus said is true but also experiencing what He said as true.

Thirty four years ago my wife made certain promises to me and I believed them. Now I can say I have experienced what she said as true. The same has happened with the promises Jesus made to me when I began following Him in 1967.

One example is the promise Jesus made to anyone who would leave mother, father, family, friends or homeland. (See Mark 10:28-31) He said we would find ourselves with a life that was filled with much more than we left behind. In fact, He said we would keep what we left and gain in the process. After all these years I can say it is true.

My life and the life of my entire family would be much poorer if we had not left when Jesus asked us to leave. Today I could literally find a place to sleep, eat and enjoy deep relationship all over the world-so could my children. The reason is leaving. Leaving must be the closest thing to dying that we experience this side of death itself. When we leave it feels like we will never get back what we are leaving behind.

I was greatly influenced in my youth by the staement of Jim Elliot "He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." He was right. We are also no fools to leave when everything we truly want to have depends on it.

Jesus said a grain of wheat must fall into the earth and die. Only then will it bear fruit. It must leave where it is to come back with so much more.

This weekend my life grew richer because of leaving. My family's life will becme richer because we left and they let us leave.
I have some new family friends. Three from Nigeria. Justin Adams, the worship leader from Saddleback Valley Community Church in California. Gerald Sharon, one of the lead pastors with Rick Warren. I would never have met these dear brothers apart from leaving. My entire family just expanded!

Jesus always tells the truth. Over time we get to experience it firsthand.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Here at the First Baptist Church of Sao Jose dos Campos we are in the middle of our annual worship conference. This year over 1,100 delegates from all over Brazil are participating. The energy is off the charts. If you have trouble with volume do not come to Brazil! Everything in Brazil is young and noisy. Your ears will never be bored.

Yesterday a young pastor gave a message that took the idea of pastoral transparency to a whole new level. Honestly, I have never heard anyone be so open about their battle with sin. I would tell you what he said, but I am not that transparent!

Seriously, as he spoke I think I understood more clearly than ever what Jesus meant when he told us to "cut off a hand" or "pluck out an eye." If we did, our weakness would be clear to us and everyone else who ever met us. As the young Brazilian pastor spoke I felt embarrassed for his weakness but at the same time I felt he had dealt with it just as Jesus had told him to.

He made his weakness obvious to all and he clearly stated that his weakness could never bring him any satisfaction.
One thing is for sure about our "flesh". It never gets better. If it did we would not need to "cut" and "pluck". We would "train" and "manage". The young Brazilian pastor had tried to "train" and "manage" his sin. He failed. It was time for the knife and the forceps. He used them!

I, too, have had to learn to see my flesh as unchangeable. It will never go away until I am in Jesus' presence and it will never satisfy me here or anywhere else. I, too, have had to "cut" and "pluck". Self help is no help.

Picture yourself standing in front of a table loaded with all your favorite desserts. You know you should not eat them but your hands keep picking up more and more. Now, picture yourself without hands. Everyone who saw you standing at the table without hands would know you had given up on self discipline and gone for a more deadly dealing with your lust for food. The young Brazilian pastor stood before us with no hands and no eyes. He was a totally transparent sinner but he was in the light.

When he gave the invitation for others to come forward and confess their weakness, the altar was full. Transparency was everywhere and in the spiritual realm their was a lot of "cutting" and "plucking" going on.

It was really wonderful to see how this man's weakness was used of God to bring strength to others. I guess we are always impressed when the weak are made strong by weakness. Kind of reminds me of the Cross!

Are your weaknesses transparent to you? That is the place to begin. You may never need to give a discourse on living without hands and eyes before a thousand people, but those closest to you need to know you have dealt with your weakness according to Jesus' method not man's methods. Your flesh will never change, but there is a new you that is born of God that is connected to the Vine and will produce much fruit as you allow the words of Jesus to do the cutting and the plucking they most certainly will do. "You are already clean by the Word I have spoken to you." Jesus John 15

Friday, September 09, 2005

Course on counseling

I have never considered myself a great counselor. You can imagine my surprise when upon arriving in Brazill I was assigned a 16 week course entitled "counseling".

I accepted the challenge as from the Lord and I have been pleasantly surprised by the response of the nearly 60 Brazilians taking the course. We are all learning together. We are learning that the greatest of all counselors lives in each of us. If we will simply receive His wisdom, we can be of help to hurting people.

Once again, my desire to control was getting in the way of my availability to those in need. It is truly a blessing to still be learning and growing at age 54. I think leaving one's country makes learning come alive again. Maybe you should try it, too!
Even a short missions trip will work.

Take a missions trip. That's my counsel. See, I can counsel!


There is something very special about being welcomed. It is one of those special moments in life to be included by a group of people who really want you to be there.

When we arrived in Brazil on August 15th, 2005 we were welcomed by over 100 people after 10 P.M. on a cold Brazilian night.
We had left our country and family in the morning and we were feeling the pain. The welcome by such a loving group of people made the pain easier to bear.

Someday we will be welcomed into heaven. To be included there will be awesome.


As God has continued to work in my life certain things have become more and more clear over time. One thing that has become clear to me is the difference between a desire to receive versus a desire to control.

My desire to control is self-protective and completely contrary to the life of Jesus. Jesus clearly accomplished what He did by receiving from the Father and not by seeking to manage or control the lives of other people. In simple terms, Jesus was a servant not a master.

One would think that ministers, like me, would get this very clearly in their minds and make servanthood their calling. Unfortunately, the lust to control is too strong in leaders. We think we know too much and we feel we must control others for their own good--translation---our own good.

This desire to control is a subtle and dangerous form of legalism. I once felt legalism was easily spotted by watching out for people with conservative styles in music, dress and entertainment. I was wrong. The most dangerous form of legalism is found in those who appear to be open, generous and contemporary. Their openness, generosity and up-to-date life is really just a cover for their desire to build their own kingdom.

As is always the case, the reason I can see this so clearly is because I have at times been a legalist with contemporary styles. It takes one to really know one.
(Remember Jesus' words about taking the log out of your own eye?)

Here are a few signs of a contemporary legalist.
1. They have no sincere questions. They only have answers--answers for everything and everyone.
2. They think they know what God's will is for you. God agrees with them--always.
3. They will flatter you as long as you are changing according to plan. If you stop changing you become excess baggage and the object of their public prayers and concern while at the same time the object of their private scorn.
4. They love institutions that they control and the people who will serve the institution--translation--love their agenda.
5. They protect the church--translation--they protect their area of control.

What should one do with a legalist? Absolutely nothing. They are not listening and any attempt you make to change them is seen as a threat and an obvious sign you are out of God's will. Just remember that no legalist has ever succeeded over the long haul. Those who crucified Jesus were legalilsts and no one remembers their name.
Don't bother sharing precious spiritual truth with a legalist. (Remember Jesus' words about pearls and swine?)

He is the good news. Legalists are useful to God's purposes. Eventually they serve to help free people from the lust of control. As we see how ugly such control really is, we can be freed by God from this recurring lust.

Legalists are always internally tired. Controlling others is very tiring because the job is never done. Many legalists become great tools in God's hands after their conversion from legalism. (Remember Peter with the sword on the night of Jesus' arrest? He was a legalist that night, but he was converted)

I think I will start a group called LA--Legalist Anonymous--care to join? The only requirement is to be able to say "I failed to control anyone--especially me--and now I want to receive, rejoice and release instead of controlling."

Friday, September 02, 2005


Today was one of those memorable days. Since it was so memorable, why is it I will not remember it like I should?
God was super evident in today's happenings. If he isn't tomorrow, why won't I remember today like I should and behave like Jesus would?
It frustrates me that my memory of God's love and provision seems to slip from my memory so easily. God has made Himself so evident to me that my memory banks should be full.

I suppose the proof of growth in one's spiritual life is to be able to behave like Jesus when God's love is not evident.
I am in training as one of Jesus' disciples. I am being trained to trust God when He is not evident in ways that I would like.

Today was one of those days when God was highly visible in my life. I pray my memory will not fade as quickly as the next tough day. God's patience is unlimited. It is a good thing!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Going in the right direction.

My wife and I have recently returned to living in Brazil after an 18 year absence. Adjusting to another culture after 18 years is a lot different than when we arrived in Brazil the first time back in 1979. Back then, energy was as abundant as my hair!
Now we are only two--Pam and me---back then 5--dad, mom, Ken, Kevin and Rachel.

It is amazing how much has changed in Brazil and how much has not changed. Technology is here and the Brazilians are using it really well. Corruption is still here and it, too, is used to the max. Friendship is here and it is still as strong as ever. Crime is still here and it has grown.

One of our new neighbors who knows life in the U.S. put it really well. When comparing life i the U.S. with life in Brazil one comes away wishing the good in Brazil and the good in the States could somehow be found in the same place. She put it like this....Life in the U.S. is sooo good and sooo bad! Life in Brazil is soooo bad and sooo good! It loses something in the translation but it is still true.

I think life is not about where we live. It is about the direction we are going. God is going in the direction of pain. When we go with God we stop looking for the best place. We look for the place where He is going. The direction is the key. Jesus said "Follow Me." His direction for us led us back here. It is sooo bad and sooo good here in Brazil! It always has been here and everywhere else. As C.S. Lewis once said "Nothing good enough or bad enough can be said about life."