Friday, December 26, 2008

A Clean Soul

It is hard to describe San Francisco. It is beautiful, complex, joyful, sad, warm and cold! It is a city where humanity in all of its shapes and conditions is clear to see. If you come to this city, bring your biggest and best love and pack your warm clothes!

On Christmas day here in the city it was very, very cold, windy and rainy. It made for a wonderful indoor Christmas but a shocking day for a walk.
This morning the sun is out and there cannot be a more beautiful city landscape that I have ever seen. Today San Francisco is clear and clean after a day of intense rain, wind and cold. All the very good things are clearly seen on a day like today. It is an easy day to have hope.

I think the rainy, cold and windy days of pain in our lives have the same effect on the landscape of our souls. When we go through days of intense wind, rain and cold in our inner lives, the cleanest and clearest days can follow.

No matter how deep our dark night of the soul is, the Son has not gone away. He is there. He always has the last and most beautiful word.

The landscape of a soul after deep suffering is often the most beautiful soul we will ever see. It is worth the wait to see the contrast just one day in the son can make.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Abiding-in other words

Some people accuse me of only knowing one chapter in the Bible--John 15. That is not true! I know at least two or three and Colossians 3 is one of the three.

It is true that I seem to always begin in John 15 when it comes to explaining the Christian life. It is true I almost always end in John 15 when explaining the goal of the Christian life. It is true that I am deliberately repetitive when it comes to sharing what has blessed me most.

Abiding is, however, described in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation using different metaphors and examples.
For example consider this line from Colossians chapter two. "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase which is from God."

The phrase "holding fast to the Head..." is abiding in different words. How far will you get is you lose connection to your head?
How much does what is in your head have to do with what you can do? How important is your head to your ability to stay connected to those you love? What happens if for even one moment you lose your head?

Every believer has the same "Head" to stay connected to. That is Jesus. As surely as a branch is nothing more that what its Vine allows it to be, so, too, our Head, Jesus, sets our limits and our potential. We can be as good as our Head, Jesus, allows us to be.

Want to abide? Hold fast to Jesus as the Head of your life. Be careful not to let others become the head of your life. There are lines of people vying for your attention in order to become the head of your life. They want to use you for their ends.

You have the mind of Christ right now. Why in the world would you want a better mind than the One that abides in you?

See, we are back at John 15 again. Maybe it is holding on to the Head, Jesus, that keep sending me back there.

The next time you are inclined to think you have nothing to offer this world, remember to "hold fast to the Head." Abiide.

The Hidden Life

"For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Col. 3:3

For you died.....What once stimulated you to live as you did no longer longer can. You died. No going back now. You died. No one from here can require of you any more than they already have. You died. You are already living the above life.

And your life is hidden... The truest you is hidden from any other death. Don't ever be afraid death can ever find you again. You are hidden with Christ in God.

On this Christmas eve 2008 we ask how is my life? First we should ask "where is my life?". My life is hidden with Christ in God. My life is a perfect as it will ever be with Christ if I can just learn to see my life from where it was and now where it is.

I often ask people "How is your life?" They almost always begin to give me a description of their current circumstances and pain. I cannot ever recall anyone saying..."Oh, I died, but my life is perfectly hidden with Christ in God. My life is precious enough to God that He has already taken my life into HImself to keep it safe for me and for HIm."

Hidden things are precious. Hidden things are safe. Hidden things are being kept for a very special future moment. The most precious things are hidden in the best hiding place. That is why we are hidden with Christ in God.

Mary's little baby was hidden in her until just the right moment. When that right moment came the hidden One became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory full of grace and truth. Hidden is not forever, but it is for us for now.

Don't despise the hidden things. Treasure them. Your life is hidden, but it will soon be revealed as safely kept as Jesus' life was until His birth.

Our day of birth as the children of God will soon come. You only hide best what you want to keep most. God has plans for us all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

San Francisco

Ken and Kellie McCord have fallen in love with San Francisco. Through their family and friends Pam and I have also come to love this complex and beautiful city.
What we have come to see in this gateway city is that people are people and they need to be loved 24X7 and moment by moment. The continuous love of Jesus is the only hope for any city.
Ken and Kellie have loved so well for the past 8 years.

On Sunday afternoon of the Christmas week 2008 Ken and Kellie hosted a Christmas party in their home for the employees of the the Nhance wood restoration company they are partners in here in the city. Nhance is truly a "kingdom company". It does more than restore wood. It restores lives and lives the Gospel.

Take a close look at the photo and you will see what makes this city so inviting to anyone who wants to love the world Jesus loves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Being One

Ages ago when our children were toddlers, I remember a scene that repeated itself in all four of our little ones. Pam or I would be busy doing something and those little bodies would suddenly appear and ask "What are your doing?"

I remember busily washing the car and hearing Kenny, Kevin, Rachel or Rebekah say "Dad, what are you doing?" I would answer "Washing the car." They would run off to do something else and in about ten minutes run back into my presence and ask "Dad, what are you doing?" This would go on for quite awhile until they got tired or I got irritated. Sometimes one of them would say "Can I help?" Sometimes I would say "Sure!" When I said "sure" we became one.

I know the same thing was happening to Pam when the boys or the girls came running up asking as she cooked "What are you doing?"
It was comical and it was precious. I can't believe I let it irritate me! I can't believe I didn't say "sure" more often.

The children were not looking for answers. They were looking for connection. They were looking for oneness.

Our relationship to our Heavenly Father is like a child's relationship to its Father. We come running up to God and asking "What are you doing?" He tells us "I being one with you to take care of you" and we run off to soon return. We ask again and He says "I am being one with you to take care of you." We run away and return again with the same question.

Even though we do not realize it fully, what we really want from our Heavenly Father is what Jesus called "oneness" in John 17. It is connection and fellowship. Oneness is far better than answers
Oneness is what I call a barrier-free relationship and it is awesome. Author Thomas Kelly described it like this "Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return."

The Trinity now abides in me just as Jesus promised. I can continuously run into the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit at any moment I chose and ask "What are you doing?" They will not get irritated. They will say "We are being one with you to take care of you?" Then I will ask "Can I help?" They will say over and over again "Sure, stay--abide with us"

As life moves on things change. Now our daughters and sons are busy with their own families. When I see them online or I call because I can't stand not connecting with them, I interrupt their busy lives and say "What are you doing?". I know what they are doing.
I want connection. I want oneness. It is nice that they don't get irritated when dad shows up and asks the same question over and over.

Dads want oneness, too. That is why the Trinity is in you right now.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Brains are not enough

I have come to enjoy two TV shows because they challenge my thinking and they keep me guessing. One show is "DR. HOUSE".
The other is "BONES". The writers of these shows are among the best. Congratulations to them all.

One thing, however, that is striking about these shows is the contrast between the character's professional brilliance as scientists and doctors and their complete inability to start and sustain a loving relationship for even one episode. I challenge you to watch any of today's hit shows and see where brilliance or intelligence equals sustained love. It is as if brilliance in one's field means failure in one's relationships.

Last night Pam and I watched an episode of House and one of Bones. We bring these shows on DVD from the USA so we can avoid most of what is on the TV down here in Brazil. As we watched it suddenly dawned on me that Christians have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate brilliance exactly where today's TV writers and executives don't think it exists---in relationships.

Because Christ dwells in us we can and should be brilliant at sustaining relationships. That is what will keep us eternally relevant in any culture. This is where Christians have the edge.

As always, Jesus knew what every culture would be bad at---sustained love.

Let's be brilliant at staying in love with our one and only spouse, our kids, our relatives and our neighbors. We may not make great TV, but let's make great life by sustaining love.

Overcoming the World

On the last day of His life on earth before His crucifixion Jesus refers to His Father as a Vinedresser--a farmer.
Hardly the title I would chosen for the King of the Universe and the One who was at that moment overcoming the Evil One through His Son's sustained and sustaining love.

Still, the title is the one Jesus chose. I have come to see why Jesus called His father a farmer during my 57 year journey in the world. God is not about changing the world. He overcomes it one human at a time. He takes the world as it is and does what He wants done through those He chooses. He takes into consideration all the tragic elements of the world and says, "I can grow my crops here in this life." We get angry at God because He does not change the tragic elements of the world, but He goes on with His work--getting His fruit visible and available in the middle of this tragic world.

The crop (fruit) God wants is called love--sustained love. Jesus is the first to have sustained the Farmer's love. Since He did this all excuses about the world being too tough a place for sustained love to exist are eliminated. All excuses are gone for the branches of His sustained love and it is time to harvest the same sustained love crop worldwide.

Every time you pick up a beautiful apple, pear, banana or grape cluster, some farmer has overcome the world for you. For such beautiful fruit to end up on your table, the world was overcome and you benefit from the victory. Thank God for farmers!

The One who overcame the world is now abiding in you to bear the fruit of Jesus' sustained love. No excuses now about the world needing to change before you can bear this fruit. The Farmer knows what He has done and he can do in the world just as it is. He can make us the bearers of sustained love if we will but abide 24/7 and moment by moment in His sustained and sustaining love.

"In the world you will suffer tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jesus

I am so glad God is a farmer!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Retreat-December 2008

We have just completed our final retreat for 2008. The weekend retreats continue to be our best tool for letting people see clearly that discipleship is as simple as the Vineyard Jesus described in John 15.

This last retreat was our smallest in number but it was powerful in its potential. The participants were a wonderful collection of leaders from three different churches. Their combined influence in their churches is substantial and they all went away determined that others from their churches experience the abiding presence of Jesus as their perfect source and satisfaction moment by moment and 24/7.

The effort expended for a weekend retreat is huge. Our team of volunteers and our partners at the Ebenezer camp have made the 2008 retreat season our best yet. 2009 looks good, too!

Bud and Pam McCord


I have been absolutely captured by a single thought for some time now.  When a thought captures me, it seems that I have to stay with the thought until I follow it until I find out exactly where it will take me.  This is often painful and time consuming. It is also exciting and powerful.

The thought is this:  I exist to deliver a certain quantity of God's limitless supply of love into the world.

I believe this thought expresses  the meaning of bearing one's cross as Jesus said in Luke 14:27 "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.".  I am here, like Jesus was here, to deliver God's love into the relationships God has orchestrated for me through the relational network of my experience here in the world.

The delivery of God's love at the right moment and by the chosen person is what glorifies God.  My delivery of God's love makes the love of God visible and available to those He has specifically chosen me to love.  This delivered love is what Jesus called fruit in John 15.

It is only as God's love is delivered correctly and consistently that lasting relationships can be birthed and sustained between humans.  The love Jesus' cross delivered is universal and eternal.  The kind I deliver is not universal in its efffect  but it can create and sustain relationships God wants to create and sustain.  This delivering of love is what allows me to be like Jesus or be a disciple. "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12  As I delivered God's love freely I am like Jesus.  Only when I deliver love am I like Jesus.

You exist to deliver a certain quantity of Divine Love.  You do not need to produce or sustain this love.   You receive it, rejoice in it and release it into the relationships God has given to you.  As you do, God is glorified and you are a disciple.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

One of those nights

Every now and then I have "one of those nights" A night of rest, restlessness and revelation. A night where I wrestle with sleep, myself and God things.

What set this night off was a sermon at the church here in Brazil where I am on the pastoral team. Our pastor, Carlito, is one of the finest young leaders I have ever met in any country. He is 38 years old and filled with energy and vision. I love seeing him lead and hearing him preach. He is a formula one doer.

He began a series last night called "2009-The Best Year of Your Life." Having been a senior pastor for many years it has been a real change for me to be a listener in most of the services I attend at church. I never realized how people listen to their pastor's sermon and evaluate their pastor's motives at the same time! I thought people evaluated the content of my messages and not the content of my motives.

As Carlito preached about the coming year, I knew he was motivating the church to not slow down in 2009. I knew he was motivating himself not to slow down. I knew he was trying to motivate me not to slow down. I was not in the mood to be motivated by a 38 year old to run at his pace in my 57 year old body.

Still, the sermon was almost irresistible. Carlito is good!

As I tried to go to sleep the idea of 2009 being the best year of my life was filling my mind. The rest, restlessness and revelation followed into the early hours of the morning. I rested. I wrestled. I received a new revelation about my life.

Here is the revelation. 2009 will be the best year of my life since Jesus is my perfect life and I have no intention of knowing Him less, loving Him less or abiding in Him less. I will have a perfect life in 2009 because I already have a perfect life in 2008. My life will be better because I will know Him better if I abide in Him even more consistently.

If the economy is my life, 2009 looks less. If politics is my life, my scotch-irish guy lost and 2009 looks less. (I hope I am wrong!)

To top the night off I decided to go downstairs and get on a treadmill and do some exercises. As I looked down at the controls of the treadmill I noticed that it has a chart for determining maximum cardiovascular benefit according to one's age.
The scale begins at age 20 and ends at age 65. That means the treadmill is set up for me to use for another 7 years.
If my physical DNA is the determining factor of 2009 being the best year of my life, things don't look good either.

Thank God the DNA of my new birth and new life in Jesus is still in its infancy and will last forever and only get better as I cooperate better.

2009 will be a very good year but I still won't run like a 38 year old. I will run at the pace of my perfect life--Jesus.
That may be even faster than Carlito!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today is my last day in Portugal--for now. What an interesting place!
History is everywhere. The culture is fascinating. The evangelical church is only 1.4 percent of the population of 11 million!
Compare that with 25% of the population of Brazil.

The pastors and leaders I met are heroes. They work in the middle of a first world economy but the spiritual "economy" is fighting a truly uphill climb.

Here are a few thoughts and a few pictures from Portugal.

1. Christians are the same everywhere, but they are definitely impacted by the culture that surrounds them. The portuguese culture is a melancholy culture. According to the pastors here, the people of Portugal have a tendency to see life as always tragic. They expect trouble. This has an interesting impact on the health, wealth and prosperity message that is so powerful in the USA and in Brazil. It does not have much appeal here.

2. Social customs are are generational and hard to change anywhere. Europeans see wine as a part of every meal except breakfast. I think a sermon about drinking wine would be a challenge. It would be kind of like preaching against Hamburgers at the headquarters for McDonalds. Everyone knows that hamburgers make you fat, but they have also made McDonalds rich.

3. The abide message is powerful anywhere. The two mentoring days I led on Nov. 24th and 25th were received the same way they are received in Brazil. The difference here seems to be that the melancholy nature of the portuguese makes them deeply reflective and deeply emotional. As I spoke it was like they were a deep river that flowed with the thoughts. It was moving to feel the depth of their thinking and emotion.

4. I believe the abide message is perfect for a country where only 1.4% of the population truly understands the Gospel.
Lord willing, I will be back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

People Who Inspire

As a part of the pastoral team of the First Baptist Church in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, I meet some of the world's finest Christian leaders. This weekend was no exception as we launched the P.E.A.C.E initiative across Brazil.

Rick Warren is famous for being able to simplify and mobilize. In the missions area Rick has done it again. He has made a very complex task as simple as the PEACE. P--Plant churches E-- Equip Leaders A--Assist the poor C--Care for the sick E--Educate the next generation.

This simple plan has mobilized hundreds of churches in the USA, India, Africa and now in Brazil.

To get this message and motivation clear here in Brazil we were privileged to hearfrom a pastor named Straton from Ruanda, AFrica and from the international director of PEACE, Mike Constantz and his co-worker Mark from the Saddleback church in California.

These are quality people! I was inspired.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What do you say?

I cannot remember a time in my life when a greater number of my dearest friends were suffering as my friends are suffering now.
What do I say?

Do I say to them and to myself "God can", "God might" or "God will"? Are these the options? God can heal you or help you. God might heal you or help you. God will help you or heal you. Which are the words of comfort?

As I spent some hours awake last night praying and wrestling with waves of frustration and even anger at what I am seeing, these thoughts pounded on my soul demanding a choice. What do you say to those you love when they suffer?

Then another option came. "God is". God is loving me and my friends right now. God's name is "I Am" not I can, I might or I will.
God is loving my friends. I should, too.

What do you say? Try "God is". God is loving you and I am loving you, too. When I said this to myself my soul rested for the first time in a while. Everything changed because His love does not.

Pray for my friends that they will know "God is". Pray for me that I will not forget "God is".

Monday, November 17, 2008

When Love Stops

Events of the last few weeks have left me nearly breathless. So many things have happened to people we love. It has been hard to watch and experience. It has taken my breath away.

When love stops people always suffer. Ministers are to be the examples of love that does not stop. When they fail to live to this standard people get hurt--really hurt.

All of us are guilty of stopping the flow of love. We all sin. Sin stops love-always. Ministers, however, are supposed to be qualified to be ministers because they have consistently led environments where love did not stop. They have loving families. They have stable, loving kids. They are seen as loving in the community. A minister helps keep love from stopping by his example. Ministers who do not expand sustained love disqualify themselves for Christian leadership.

As wonderful as growing a church numerically is, growing love is the goal. Ministers must be held to the standard of love and not the standard of growth and progress. If love shrinks under a minister's leadership the minister must be lovingly confronted.

A church is meant to be a community of sustained love like a Vineyard. That is what only Abiding in the Vine can produce.

Those who would covet the position of a minister or leader in a church must be qualified by clear evidence that they know how to lead the expansion of continuous love. They must know how to bear the fruit of love through abiding.

Perhaps grieving the Holy Spirit is like having one's breath taken away. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God's love. How must the Holy Spirit feel when he sees love stop?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quiet Evangelism

For many, many years I have tried in subtle and not so subtle ways to modify my wife's behaviour.   Pam has lovingly refused to be made in my image.  

I have tried to convince Pam that submission means to let me make these changes.  She has consistently and quietly refused to buy this line of thinking.  How wonderful she lovingly refused!  The past 37 years of marriage has proven that she knew that God made her in just the right way.

Just yesterday another person received Christ as their Saviour because of Pam being Pam.
Pam's influence is the kind that lives out the words--"Preach the Gospel always.  When necessary use words."

I am still tempted to try the Bud definition of submission on Pam from time to time.  Both she and God smile and continue to rejoice in how God has made her to be her.

My ideas were not all bad.  It is just that God's ideas are always best.

Friday, October 24, 2008


When the message of Jesus perfect presence in us is taught to a group of believers, the result is amazing. Hearing this good news of Jesus' presence causes people to sense immediate hope and rest for their souls. Why is that?
I believe it is because the vision of a perfect life and perfect love abiding in us 24X7 and moment by moment raises the hope of permanent freedom from the tyranny of the secret evil impulses we all carry and we all hate. It raises hope that what the Scriptures calls "the flesh" can be dealt with.

For purposes of these brief thoughts, let's define evil as any impulse or stimulus that gives me permission to be unloving to anyone at any time. When I find in me a way to give myself permission to mistreat anyone I am in the grip of evil. That may sound extreme but a clear reading of the sermon on the mount will show that Jesus demands a no evil and complete love standard for all who would be salt and light. The sermon on the mount describes a life of no evil and a life filled with only love. The sermon on the mount describes Jesus and what he intends for all of us as we abide in Him. Evil must go.

With this thought in mind about evil being the ability to give oneself permission to mistreat, hate or abuse others, read the following article on the Austrian father who held his own daughter captive and had 7 children with her. Notice the power of this permission he found to mistreat. He says this permission came from the abuse he received at the hands his mother. Warning--the story is graphic.,2933,442925,00.html (Cut and paste this site into your browser if it does not appear as a link)

If we do not help people become stimulated by the very presence of Jesus in them (disciple them) , then they, too, will resemble volcanos that are just waiting to explode. Only a stimulus that is perfect love and stimulates to love 24X7 can conquer the evil stimulus that says I have a permanent and living excuse not to love. To love without stopping like Jesus did, I must be loved without stopping. Jesus abiding in me is that stimulating and unstopping love that changes everything.
Jesus in me changes my permission to be evil, into a permission to love.

This Austrian father could have been saved from the evil stimulus that was planted in him during childhood. He could have been free to love. Jesus could have set him free and still can. That is the power of stimulus and response.

In your own heart check and see if you have given yourself permission to mistreat, hate or abuse out of the pain of your past. Recognize that your will cannot overcome this permission that is driven by your past pain. Focus on Jesus and see His constant presence and love as your only hope. You are loved by Jesus. Abide in that love and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh which gives you permission to explode into other's lives without permission from them.

The Big Moment

What is the most important moment of your day? Is this moment predictable and repetitive? Is there something you can do to make this important moment your best moment of every day?

I believe that the most important moment of your day is your first moment of awareness when you wake up each morning.
It is that moment when all the stimuli of your world come rushing into your mind demanding an audience with the one they insist must take control.

Pushing these stimuli back and welcoming Jesus as the only true stimulus is the most critical thing we can do each day.

Here is how author C.S. Lewis describes this moment in his book Mere Christianity.
"Listening to that other Voice
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes when people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment
you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each
morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting
that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings
and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from these moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our
system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely
laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through."

I remember reading about the life of George Mueller. For many, many years this man of faith led an orphanage in Great Britain that managed to care for thousands of orphans without asking for help. George Mueller asked God and God helped.
Mueller had a habit of walking in the woods near the orphanage each morning. It was said of him that he would not come back to the orphanage until he was genuinely happy. Sounds almost impossible doesn't it?

A friend named Mike Wells taught me to start each day putting my hand over my heart and saying the words "Jesus, you are welcome here." Little did I know how profound that habit is for spiritual health and happiness.
Look back to your first moment today. Who got your first and best attention? If it was not Jesus, you missed the most important moment of the day. What did you say to all those pressing stimuli that wanted you to take control? If you took control because of their demands, is it any wonder you are tired and stressed by 10 A.M.?

The good news is, Jesus was there then and Jesus is still there now. Welcome Him now and let the burden of control lift.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Anyone who has known me for at least 20 years can recall a time or two (or three!) when I became irritated. (Perhaps upset or ticked would be better word choices) Well, by God's grace and abiding that is now a very infrequent sight in my life. (And all God's people said "Amen!")

Well, I need to confess. This past Monday I was ticked, upset and irritated. It all started with a trip to southern Brazil by air.
A friend had offered to take me to the airport which is an hour away from my home. I told him I needed to be at the airport at 10:15 A.M. He understood me to say I wanted to be picked up at 10:15 A.M. When he did not show up at 9:15 A.M. I tried to call him on my brand new cell phone. It did not work. I was ticked, upset and irritated.

I finally got through to him and we left for the airport at 9:45. I missed my flight. The next one was three hours later.
I was ticked, upset and irritated. I felt really convicted of this state of mind but it was like an itch I needed to scratch.
Finally, I gave in and went back to abiding. Immediately I was calm. It really works.

I had a nice lunch and then I got in line to board my plane. When I did I saw the pastor of Brazil's largest church. They only have 34,000 members. I had met him on many occasions and had given him my book in Portuguese. I really wanted to have a talk with him someday and here we were in line together. We exchanged the traditional Brazilian hug and entered the plane.

I was in 11D. He was in 11F with no one in 11E. We had an hour and a half to talk about the Christian life. He told me that he has had his entire staff memorize John 15 since reading my book and hearing me preach on abiding.

For this moment to happen God had to confuse my friend, make me late, block my cell phone and re-schedule my flight.

If you think this was just a coincidence, think again. God orchestrates our circumstances every day. God even let me get upset, ticked and irritated just so this moment could teach me to let Him control what only He can control which is everything.

The Work

In John chapter 6 Jesus tells a group of hard working seekers that the true work of God is to believe. These people had recently been fed by Jesus' miraculously and gracefully provided fish and loaves. Having received this wonderful gift of grace from the hand of God, they promptly decided they would work for more. They worked hard at following Jesus looking for more grace food. Things have not changed much since then. People still think the first taste of grace is free and then we must work for the next meal of grace.

The work of God, Jesus says, is to believe. We are to work from grace and perfection and not for grace and perfection.
Our biggest job each day is to come before Jesus believing He is as generous with us today as He was the first time we experienced His grace.

If the Christian life is a lot of work for you, it is not the Christian life. Do the real work of the Christian life. Believe Jesus is being generous with you right now and forever. We work from grace, not for it. What a job! Sounds like abiding to me.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Another Retreat

The Abide retreats continue to be our best method for having a great dialog about living moment by moment satisfied in the perfect presence of Jesus. Oct. 3-5 we had another great retreat.

One of the retreat participants was the president of the Angolan Baptist Churches from Angola, Africa. We have tentatively set late August for our first trip to Angola. Should be exciting!

To all of our abide supporters, this is your ministry, too. I can't wait for some of you to come to Brazil and join in a retreat with us. Some retreats are planned for the USA, too. We will keep you posted.

Notice the new deck that provides retreat participants to relax between teaching sessions. Abide supporters provided the funds. It works wonderfully.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How we are seen by others

I guess people see me pretty attached to John 15. This arrived in my e-mail today from a very talented young lady who did the Abide course with us last week in northern Brazil.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Northern Brazil

Pam and I are headed back to southern Brazil after 10 days in two northern Brazilian cities--Sao Luis and Fortaleza.
We have been given the joy of presenting marriage seminars in these two cities to more than 500 couples. Included in the course is a section on Abiding in Jesus as the true source of our ability to love without stopping.

We also were privileged to present the Satisfying LIfe course to the pastoral and deacon team of the Central Baptist Church of Fortaleza.
Central is a church of over 4000 in attendance each week. They have huge influence in northern Brazil and we are helping them build abiding into the life of the church as the core of their discipleship ministry.

What a great 10 days! I am ready to be quiet for a day or two!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Today's big news

Pam and I are in northern Brazil in the city of São Luis. Once known as one of Brazil's poorest areas this island city of over one million is booming. Everywhere you look there is construction going on. The city streets are jammed with cars which are mostly new. Brazil is looking more and more like a prosperous country--like the USA.

That gives me pause. What I am seeing in Brazil is progress made by borrowed money. What I am seeing on the news today about the USA is the disaster of progress made by borrowed and improperly loaned money.

For years I have heard some people in the USA warning us all that the use of unrestrained credit would finally cause a major adjustment (collapse?) of the financial systems in the USA. Looks to me like they were right. Living beyond one's means became the new American dream and now it is becoming the new Brazilian dream.

Now the blaming will begin. Poor President Bush! On the one hand he is ridiculed as being not very smart. Then he is credited with single handedly destroying the American economy because he couldn't control the American impulse to buy, buy and buy and loan, loan and loan. Has any leader ever been able to stop the greed of the rich and the illusion of the good material life being the source of happiness? There is plenty of blame to go around but blame won't fix this mess. Satisfaction found in God is the place to start.

I see some better days ahead for the USA and some worst days ahead for Brazil. I see the USA learning again that credit is not a solution. I see a new generation of Americans that can learn to defer gratification. I think this could be a time for a new generation of happier Americans to emerge with less stuff and more character. I hope I am right and I hope the followers of Jesus will lead the way back to happiness that is beyond economics.

I see some tough days ahead for Brazil because they are going to have to learn what Americans are learning today. When banks have money they will loan it to you to make more money. Some will get very, very rich and then leave the mess for others to clean up. Right now there are many Americans who are laughing at this calamity because they got out with their profits made from enticing people to borrow and borrow and borrow. These folks will learn to. The world has a way of evening things out just as God designed it to.

I remember when it took me months to get my first credit card in the 1970's. I hope it starts to take at least weeks in the USA to get those $20,000.00 limits I now have on two cards I pay off every month. Those companies hated me for paying off the card every month. Some of those companies are now out of business.

I am glad São Luis, Brazil is growing and progressing. Who does not enjoy seeing pretty buildings and shiny cars? I just hope the old Brazilian idea of paying cash holds on for a while.

By the way, the conferences here were fantastic even if most of those who attended came by bus or on bikes. They seemed to be able to live and be happy without a great deal most of us find essential.

I hurt for the USA! Still, I think this could be a great moment and it could produce an even stronger America.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Making Disciples

The true heart of the Abide Brazil ministry is our weekend retreats in the mountains of Southern Brazil. God has given us such a wonderful place to disciple His children by teaching them the simplicity of abiding in the perfect presence of Jesus moment by moment. September 5-7 was one of our most powerful retreats. It was a manifestation of God's willingness to teach all of us no matter what he phase of our lives.

The youngest participant was 15 and the oldest 84. Some were pastors and some have known Jesus as Saviour for less than six months. Some were married and some were single. One was from France, two from the USA and the rest from 4 Brazilian cities. What kept is together was the constant focus on Jesus who abides in us all.

Even with all the differences that can so easily divide we experienced the oneness Jesus said we would enjoy as we abide in Him. What a wonderful way to make disciples a tour through God's vineyard is!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Limping souls

A common sight here in Brazil continues to be people with seriously deformed limbs, especially deformed legs. Many of these people live the daily drama of moving around in a country that is just beginning to take seriously the needs of people with physical handicaps. It is gratifying to see the Brazilian government address this issue with special busses and ramps being built in all public buildings.
Great progress is being made and these people can now move freely in their own country.

The sad reality is that many of these deformities could have been corrected when these limping adults were children. In the USA or in Europe we see far fewer of these kinds of deformities in adults because of corrective surgery for children. Thank God it will not be long until we see fewer deformities here in Brazil.

As a pastor I should have been trained to see deformities of the soul, but I was mainly taught to run with the runners. Today I see how Christians are limping internally and spiritually.

For the most part churches have been very, very slow to address the issue of Christians who limp through the Christian life. Churches have been slow because we have had a tendency to think little can really be done. How sad and how unnecessary. Christian limping can be cured.

In the book of Hebrews we read that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword and it can divide soul and spirit or joints and marrow. (Hebrews 4:12) The soul is described here as being like joints. The spirit is described as being like marrow. The soul is what limps in the improperly formed soul of a believer. The spirit is connected to Jesus at new birth and it gets immediate rest at conversion. The soul on the other hand needs careful treatment in the presence of Jesus in order to stop limping.

Here is how I see this working. There are three major joints in the soul---Mind, Emotion, Will. Let's let the human head represent the mind, the thorax represent the emotions and the legs represent the will. When the mind and emotions (head and thorax) are not properly aligned and in agreement there is a pronounced "limp" in the will. We cannot act out what we think when what we feel is different. We limp and cannot stop limping because our mind and emotions are in conflict.
This is why theological education is never enough to produce the fruit of the Spirit. The emotional response is critical to any action of sustained love.

Let's say I know in my mind I should forgive someone. I know this in my mind but my emotions don't agree. I go ahead and try to forgive but I end up limping through the process of forgiving. My forgiveness looks forced and difficult instead of natural and flowing.

When Jesus invites us to join him in His yoke in Matt. 11:28-29 he is inviting us to stop limping. He invites us to discover what a soul at rest is like and what it can do in the visible world. He is inviting us to learn to think and feel together with Him so we can walk the walk without limping. If the Christian life is forced and hard, then it is time to get in the yoke and let Jesus align the soul.

It is time the church took notice of how many limping Christians there are in every congregation. We must teach people to abide 24/7 with Jesus or they will continue to think one thing, feel another and do their best to limp by. Christian living that is reduced to church attendance, Bible reading and tithing is easily attained by limping Christians. Living the rest of life without a limp is what the sermon on the mount describes.

Every time I see people here in Brazil limping along I imagine how hard it must be for them to cross streets, catch a bus or buy groceries. If the government would offer a plan for each one of them to be cured at a certain price, I would sign up and pay for it just to see one less person limping.

How sad it is that Christians still limp. The price for all was paid by One and He is ready with the cure.

Take people to Jesus and get them in the yoke.
Teach them to abide and they will stop limping. I did! They can, too, and so can you.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Proof of God's existence

I visit the Fox news site several times a day to stay in touch with world events. One can take only so much of CNN international!
The famous (infamous?) Michael Moore decided to demonstrate his theological bent by suggesting that hurricane Gustav is proof God exists. Of course he is referring to the timing of the storm coming ashore at the mouth of the Mississippi river at the same moment the GOP convention is beginning at the other end of the Mississippi river.

Proof of God's existence or God taking sides is continuously sought by different groups who want to appear supported by God. Interpreting God's support through disasters or successes is dangerous. Just ask the former Democratic National Convention leader who linked the storm to God's displeasure with the GOP. When will we learn that God does not take sides? He does not need to. He is bigger than sides.

There is only one true historical proof that God is firmly with any of us and that that is Jesus' sustained love for us as demonstrated by the storm of our sins God allowed to strike Him and only Him at Calvary.

If we want to claim proof of God's existence with us, there is only one way. We must be like Jesus in this very needy and messy world. "As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world" Jesus quoted in John 17:18

Being like Jesus means we must sustain love toward others. Only this proves God is with us. When Democrates love Republicans we can all say God is with us! Yes, that means we even have to love Michael Moore. Now that is supernatural for sure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Big Heart

I first met Rick Warren in 1990 while attending one of his earliest Purpose Driven courses for church leaders. Since then he has personally trained over 400,000 leaders worldwide.

Rick was in Brazil at the church where our ministry is based. Being near this man of God 18 years later it became immediately obvious that his heart has grown and grown. Not only is Rick a big man physically, he is a man with a heart for the world.

Needless to say I was impressed and blessed. His influence here in Brazil is enormous and he has only visited the country twice and has been on Brazilian soil for not even two weeks. God uses people with a big heart.

Top photo: The pastoral team of the First Baptist Church of São José. The land where the photo was taken is the 50 acre site which will soon be home to the church.

Bottom photo: A living example of the joy of living with an open heart.


There are moments in our lives when we see the consequences of decisions we made in the past. Sometimes those moments are awkward or painful. Sometimes they are wonderful. This past weekend Pam and saw some wonderful consequences of past decisions.

We arrived in Brazil in 1979 with a dream of starting a church in an upper, middle class neighborhood in a dynamic Brazilian city. God led us to São José dos Campos and the Bible Baptist Temple was begun in 1980. This past weekend Pam and I led a marriage retreat for 27 couples from that church which has now been in continuous ministry for 28 years. What wonderful consequences!

The thing that most blessed me was the thought that this church as endured enormous challenges. Right now the church is in a great phase and many are coming to Jesus. Even though we do not attend this church any longer, it is still a place where God did a profound work in us. Each time I pass by the church I thank God for all those who sent us to Brazil the first time.

I know that what we are doing today is going to bear fruit that remains, too. Doing what God asks is the best possible way to live!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Self aware or Christ aware

Nearly every day for the last 30 some years I have begun my day reading from Oswald Chambers Devotional "My Utmost for HIs Highest" Today was no exception.

Here is what he focused on for today. "Anything that disturbs our rest in Him must be rectified at once, and it is not rectified by being ignored but only by coming to Jesus Christ. If we will come to Him, asking Him to produce Christ-awareness in us, He will always do it until we fully learn to abide in Him."

I have learned that self-awareness is born in my attempt to deal with the world and my circumstances out of my own resources.
Most people live 24/7 self-aware. Their goal is simply to survive. Some people still think they can gain, change or win the world and they are so self-aware they are filled with pride and disdain for all weakness.

Over and over again Jesus will allow my self-awareness to be disturbed until I refuse to face life without being aware of Him moment by moment.

When I am aware of Jesus in every circumstance I am at peace. My friend, Mike Wells, has a way of describing this that helps me.
Whenever he hits a difficult circumstance that could disturb his soul, he simply says "Well, amen!". Amen means "So be it".

Christ-awareness will create in us a state of soul that says "Nothing matters, everything matters". On the one hand we will see God as so sufficient we will not be troubled at all. On the other hand our love for others will heighten as our self awareness dies away.

I find it helpful when my soul is disturbed and my self-awareness grows to put my hand over my heart and whisper "Jesus, I am yours." Oneness with Jesus moment by moment settles the disturbed soul and makes self-awareness give way to Christ-awareness.

Well, so be it! Jesus, I am yours!

Monday, August 18, 2008


I love the words of John Piper. "I am of the most use to God when I am the most satisfied in God." In his fantastic book Desiring God pastor Piper makes a beautiful and biblical defense of this fundamental statement.

I have come to see that satisfaction found in God always come before true kingdom usefulness. To use the John 15 metaphor again....the satisfying Vine always comes before the satisfying fruit.

Here are a few thoughts about satisfaction that I found in my prayer journal from a few years back.

True ministry is satisfaction I have already found in God being freely given as love.

No ministry rises higher than its level of satisfaction in God.

Everything that matters rises and falls on satisfaction found in God.

The measure of a church is its level of satisfaction being found in God and released as love.

If I am to be hated in the world, may it be because I am so satisfied in God it creates a kind of light and love that disturbs the darkness.

A church is to be the satisfied and satisfying presence of Jesus right in the middle of a starving community.

I hope your level of satisfaction found is God is your first goal each day. If it is not, your usefulness to God will be less than it could have been.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


One of the most used words in human conversation in the world is the word "fair". Fair is not a God word. It is a word of Satan. God's word is the word righteous. God's word is love. God's word is grace.
Satan offers us fair. Fair is so much less than we need. God offers so much more than fair.

The word fair is birthed in an environment of unrighteousness and inequality. Fair is far less than God's original intent for us. Fair is not a word a man or women of deep faith and satisfaction will highly esteem or often use. Fair is not a word Jesus used to inspire his followers. Look closely at Jesus' life and teachings. Did he appeal to fair as the goal? Did He complain that people did not treat Him fairly? Look again at Him and hear him call us to righteousness, to love and to grace. He calls us to move beyond fair.

To take up His cross is to abandon forever the quest for fair. There was nothing fair about the cross. Had Jesus focused on fair we would have been the one's crucified. That might have been fair, but Jesus was beyond the question of fair.

Judas sought fair. That is why he betrayed Jesus. Peter sought fair. That is why he drew the sword and stuck the man arresting Jesus. Jesus corrected Peter's pursuit of fair with a healing of the aggressor and the correction of Peter. He will do the same with us if we insist on fair instead of righteousness and love. He will heal our attacker as we watch and then say our actions in the pursuit of fair have nothing to do with Him.

What has fair ever done for the world? What has right and wrong really transformed? Why is it so hard for us to move beyond fair and leave it behind as we seek the Kingdom first?

Love destroys the word fair and makes it irrelevant and unneeded. In Heaven the word fair will disappear forever and I, for one, have already committed to move beyond fair. I pray I will never treat anyone ever again as if being fair with them is enough.
Fair is not enough. Only righteousness, love and grace are enough. If I only treat people fairly, I am far from the ways of Jesus.

Every time you use the word fair know that it did not come from Jesus.

Many years ago I read the words of Oswald Chambers and they helped me see where fair would lead me. He said "In the world never expect justice, but never cease to give it." Little by little I have been led to the same conclusion. I am tired of man's fairness. It kills. I am more and more ready for the day when fair is replaced by righteousness, love and grace. Jesus' presence is all three in me and in you right now. Let go of fair. It is not the goal.

Friday, August 08, 2008

08/08/08 John Stevens

Our 8th grandchild, John Stewart Stevens, was just born on The 8th day of the 8th month in 2008. Pretty good timing.
Who knows, maybe he will be an olympic athlete as well since today the olympics began.
We are beyond happy for his mom and dad Rebekah and John. Of course we are happy for the baby, too!
These wonderful moments are treasures!

Monday, August 04, 2008

August Retreat

The abide training center in the mountain city of Campos do Jordão has been getting a real workout during this Brazilian winter.
The past weekend, August 1-3 we hosted over 50 people from 5 churches and 3 cities. As usual we experienced the wonderful connection between believers when they are all focused on the true Vine-Jesus.

Our team of volunteers is doing a better and better job and our partnership with the Ebenezer Camp team is working really well.
My only regret is that our abide supporters have not been able to come and personally experience a retreat. Someday they will!

Rick Warren

Rick Warren has had a tremendous influence in Brazil. His wonderful book "The Purpose Driven Life" has sold over 700,000 copies in Brazil. For a country where books struggle and people do not have great reading habits, 700,000 is huge.

More influential still is the pattern of church mobilization Rick has developed in his book "The Purpose Driven Church" which describes how to balance Worship, Fellowship, Service, Discipleship and Evangelism. The simplicity of the plan and Rick's warm style make the ideas easily adaptable in any culture. Over 3000 Brazilian churches follow these simple patterns with great success.

Being able to spend a couple of days with Rick and his team here in Brazil was truly a wonderful confirmation that he is the "real deal". He lives what he teaches. I was blessed and inspired by the simplicity and sincerity of this dear servant of God.

I have been around "Christian celebrities" before. (Should there even be such a joining of these two words "Christian" and "Celebrity"?) Rick is certainly a fine Christian. He is a very reluctant celebrity. It was good to see such a well known Christian leader make others feel like the celebrities.

I think God raises up people like Rick to challenge paradigms. He does that so well and with a huge hug and smile.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I have been reading a daily devotional by Oswald Chambers called My Utmost for His Highest for over 30 years. What a wonderful gift this man's thoughts have been to me! I can't wait to meet him in heaven.

His reading for July 29th was about "clouds". In the devotional he describes "clouds" as the trials, problems and pain that God uses in our lives. He makes a statement that has taken me 30 years to agree with entirely. He says that we do no learn in our trials, we unlearn. God sends trials so we will learn to see life in a way that is different than the way we have learned to see life.
I now agree.

Discipleship is more about unlearning than it is about learning. Without Christ in my life I learned to see life in the wrong way.
When the "clouds" come I am forced to look at things in a new way. I first must unlearn to learn.

It may take you 30 years to agree, too. We underestimate how much we have learned that is wrong! Jesus is the truth about everything. We have the truth. We have the mind of Christ in us. We need the clouds to challenge our old paradigms.

Any clouds in the your life right now? Unlearn and the sky will clear again.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Divine Appointments

"Whoever controls your agenda controls you." I just made that statement up. What do you think? True or false?

I remember hearing over the years that the most powerful person on a church staff was often the Sr. Pastor's secretary. She controlled his agenda. I am not sure I am ready to write a book about this concept of agenda control but I can say from many years of experience, the daily agenda can become one's master.

There is a way to live and lead according to God's agenda. There is a way to live by Divine Appointments. I call it the "Yes, Yes" and "No,No" agenda. Here is how it works.

As you begin each day recognize that your role in the world is to live as a branch in the Vine. You deliver God's love in its many different colors and shades. Yours is not to control but to deliver. Once the day begins see every moment as a delivery moment instead of a task to get done. You are done when you have delivered what God is giving you to deliver.

Be prepared for interruptions and surprises. God is in control.

Yesterday I was in southern Brazil recording radio broadcasts. The schedule is very tight and the effort expended is high.
I received a call from a pastor's wife saying her husband really wanted to meet with me. I checked with the controller of my agenda-the indwelling Christ--and asked if I should say yes or no. The word I got was "yes". That was the end of the discussion. I trust this voice. I believe in the leading of God's Spirit. The pastor was on the agenda and I did not spend another moment worrying about the added effort.

I then found the time that worked. It was breakfast at the hotel where I was staying. That was literally the only time but it was open.

When he arrived I knew this was a Divine appointment. This dear man was a Lutheran pastor for over 23 years in Brazil.
He has studied in Europe and is extremely competent. He had a very deep religious experience that his Lutheran denomination rejected and he has now found himself in the Assembly of God movement. What a switch! The distance between a Brazilian lutheran and an Assembly of God theology professor is beyond my comprehension.

What he wanted from me was mentoring about the abiding life since my radio broadcast and presence in his city is creating a very deep discussion about spiritual formation. He has read my book on the Satisfying Life twice and listened to every radio broadcast we have posted on our brazilian site. I honestly felt like he could mentor me but I know that God wants us on each other's agenda.

If I had gone about setting my agenda any other way than "Yes,Yes" and "No,No" I would have told pastor Egon that my day was too full and our worlds are too far apart.

Do you have enough faith in the indwelling Christ to ask Him to set your agenda? I hope so. I see each day as a brand new experience with God. I just have to keep it as simple as "yes, yes" and "no, no".

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I had a wonderful lunch with a very, very young and sharp Brazilian pastor today. The conversation was challenging and insightful.
I learned a lot from this younger pastor. It is good to keep growing!

We ended up discussing two very different models of leadership that are prevalent in Brazil at this time. The fastest growing and largest evangelical churches in Brazil are the single, dynamic leader style churches. They are impossible to ignore as they grow larger and larger and attract more and more of Brazil's young leaders into their sphere of influence.

What we concluded as our conversation neared its end was truly a useful question for evaluating where these aggressive and huge ministries are taking Brazil and its sharp young leaders. Here is the question....

"Does the local church exist to express the deep spirituality of its key leader or does it exist to express the deep spirituality of all of its members?"

In the anointed key leader model the entire organization expresses the "anointing" of its leader. These leaders have names like "apostle" or "bishop" and the entire church is a reflection of their unique spiritual style. No one resists their style.

In the New Testament the church is to be the expression of Jesus' presence in all the members. Sounds like a vineyard to me! That is a significantly different reality and a significantly different kind of environment in which to be the senior leader.

This choice of leadership styles is being forced on all young Brazilian leaders. They must chose but the choice has not been clear for me as I mentor them. For me this lunch conversation brought clarity to me and hopefully for them.

I told my young pastor friend "I don't want to express someone else's spiritual experience. I want to express our experience of Jesus--The Vine."

His question was "Can this kind community expressed spiritual life be large and active?" I told him that I believe it can. Can it be done quickly and with little regard for the members individual spiritual state? It cannot.

The community spiritual life expressed together approach requires a real commitment on the part of a leader to the group spiritual state. The "anointed" model requires little regard for individual spiritual life and is heavy on control. It also leads to isolation and loneliness.

it feels good to learn and grow. Never stop learning and growing.


The official shirt of Brazil is the T-shirt. Whoever invented this simple shirt should be famous. Does anyone know who invented the T-shirt. I don't.

If you want to get your message out here in Brazil just have it stamped or printed or sown on a T-shirt and the message will get out. What I have seen on T-shirts here has been nothing short of amazing and crazy.

I once saw a T-shirt that said "The Marines are Arriving!" I guess they wanted the Marines to sound less threatening.
Anything with English sells better here so people who don't read or speak English do their best.

I recently received a T-shirt that I proudly accepted and wore. It says "Disciple 24X7-moment by moment" on the front.
On the back it says "100% Satisfied in Jesus".

The shirt is the official shirt of the Celebrate Recovery ministry of a dynamic church near Rio. They have successfully made Abiding in Jesus moment by moment their definition of true Recovery.

Would you be willing to go public with this shirt? I hope so!