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.