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.