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?