Thursday, January 10, 2008

Abide Houston

One of the most amazing things about the Abide message and ministry is the way it connects people. When we focus on Jesus an amazing connection occurs among believers.

Recently here in Houston, Texas Julie and "Dada" Sahmel opened their home to their Sunday School class for an abide brazil dinner. The class has begun to support the Abide Brazil ministry and they have faithfully prayed for me and for Pam for over a year. The evening was wonderful as we enjoyed Brazilian food and spoke of the perfect presence of Jesus in our lives.

Truly we are seeing a abiding network of friends growing worldwide from India to Texas to Iowa to Florida to Brazil. Focus on Jesus and soon you will be surrounded with others who love to do the same.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Permission Granted

"You are now free to move about the country." So ends a great T.V. ad from Southwest Airlines. Television can be amazingly bad but still some of the ads really stay with you. The Southwest airlines ad is among my favorites for 2007.

The ad opens with someone having a very, very bad moment due to some ridiculous mistake they have just made. After they have made the mistake a voice says...."Need to get away?" Then the airlines makes the pitch that they give permission to get away from ridiculous reality. The ad obviously works because the ad keeps running and running.

I don't think Southwest Airlines meant for the ad to be a theological statement, but it has become that for me. I can't get the phrase "You are now free to...." out of my mind. Let me explain.

Religions give people permission to behave a certain way. That is why religion matters. Whoever or whatever gives people permission to behave in a certain way matters. People like to say we can separate religion from politics or from public life but that is simply not true. A person's religion grants them permission to behave as they do. People may not always behave as their religion says they should behave, but they learn from their religion how they ought to behave.

This became abundantly clear to me in India as I watched people avoid eating meat, letting cows wander free in the cities and walk past poverty and pain as if it was inevitable and deserved. It became clear as I saw men who never cut their hair and women who cover their faces in public. Religion gives permission.

It has become even more clear as I have watched the U.S. presidential candidates make their case to the American public.
Each candidate tries to walk a tight line as they say they are religious but their religion won't impact their ability to govern.
That is is a tough sell! Religion does impact everything. Even no religion is a religion. Since Mitt Romney is the first mormon to run for President, I want to know what his religion tells him he can do and not do. This will impact his way of governing if he lives his faith.

Here is what I have come to see. My true religion is whatever or whomever gives me permission to move about life as I do..

Take Osama Bin Laden for an example. His form of radical Islam gives him permission to hate Jews, so he does. His form of Islam gives him permission to enlist suicide bombers, so he does. When he justifies his actions, he always cites his religion.

There was a time in the U.S. when the prevailing Christian religion (as distinct from true faith in Jesus) gave Americans permission to own slaves, so they did.
There was a time in the U.S. when the prevailing Christian religion gave Americans the permission to read the Bible in public schools and open each day in prayer.
The prevailing religion in the U.S. is no longer the Christian view, so the permissions to move about life in the U.S. are being changed almost daily.

Ask yourself where you go to get permission to move about life and you will discover your true religion. This is a great question to ask people if you want to discover what their true faith is in.

Read the sermon on the mount and you will see Jesus saying "You are now free to move about life acting only this way." If Jesus' words are the place where you go for permission to move about life, you are on the path to an unshakeable life.

By the way, Jesus gives us permission to love everyone at all times. Now the challenge in an election year is doing so!