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!

A Great idea

Our fantastic daughter Rachel has recently moved to Lynchburg, Virginia with her equally fatastic family. Pam and I were able to visit Rachel, Mark and the 3 kids, Reese, Rylan and Micah, in June. It was wonderful.

While we were with Rachel we also saw old friends and made some new ones. Among Rachel's dearest friends is Jana Verstraete whose husband Ed goes back to our years at First Baptist of West Hollywood, FL. Jana also hosts a weekly Bible Study for young women. Rachel just joined the group.

Jana decided that the group would read my book The Satisfying Life over a 5 week period and discuss the book's content.
Week one has come and gone and the group has covered chapters one to three. According to Rachel it created a great discussion and challenged their thinking about the Christian life and the abundance we have in Jesus.

I had not considered this kind of use for the book. I had prepared the DVD series for small groups, but this idea could catch on, too. Whatever gets people focused on Jesus is fine with me!

To get Rachel's personal perspective on this kind of group just e-mail her at

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Starting Point

In any attempt to effectively live, one's starting point in the thinking process is critical. Every day we live here in Brazil this starting point issue becomes more and more clear.

For example, in the USA we cherish the idea that "A person is innocent until proven guilty." We have heard that since childhood so we take it for granted. Here in Brazil the thought that is the starting point is "A person is guilty until proven innocent."
That is not what the Brazilian constitution says, but that is what the Brazilian public thinks and feels. I have asked dozens of Brazilians which starting point is true and they have all agreed that suspicion is king.

The practical consequence of this difference in this innocent or guilty is that Brazil is filled with rules and regulations for starting everything from business to marriages. The documents and proofs one is required to provide before beginning is truly amazing. It is an enormous and profitable industry.
Interestingly enough, after one gets started there are hardly any further questions or punishments.

In the USA getting started is so simple when compared to Brazil. In the USA the hassles and punishments come after you start and when you break the rules.

Imagine for a moment that you are in a city and you plan to be there two years. Would you buy a home or rent? I was taught that one needed a 5 year plan to stay before buying. If one is going to stay only two years it is better to rent. That is the power of the starting point in one's thinking.

In discipleship our starting point is Jesus' perfection for us at Calvary and Jesus' perfection in us right now. If we start with what is missing we will build an enormous and unneeded structure for trying to prove we are fit to be disciples. If we start with the perfect presence of Jesus the structures for discipleship will be as clean and simple as a vineyard.

The starting point makes the difference. Start with this thought in discipleship--Christ is all and is in all. Col. 3:11

Keep it simple and perfect.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Back in Brazil

Pam and I arrived safely back in Brazil last night. It feels good to be back.
I love the feeling one gets when arriving back home. I feel at home in the USA and I feel at home in Brazil. I love both cultures.
It is really fun to get off the plane in either country and immediately feel like I know the way life is to be lived here or there. Everything from smells to sounds seem familiar and good.

The same should be true of our experience of God's kingdom every day. We should feel completely at home in God's kingdom 24/7 and moment by moment. Today we should feel completely comfortable turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. We should feel completely at home forgiving and forgiving. We should feel completely at home not fretting about my circumstances. After all, this is our culture!

When we arrived at the airport last night there were a group of short-term missionary teams on our flight. From the look of excitement, confusion and fear on their faces as they retrieved their luggage, I could tell they were not yet at home in Brazil. They will soon learn to love and be at home in Brazil if they will learn to let Brazil be Brazil and not try to change it to fit their own preferences.

Christians who try to change the Kingdom of God and Jesus' words make a huge mistake. Every other culture--including the USA and Brazil---will pass away. The Kingdom of God is forever. Adapt! It will become home to you, too, when you stop trying to change it and choose to live it.