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.