Friday, December 26, 2008

A Clean Soul

It is hard to describe San Francisco. It is beautiful, complex, joyful, sad, warm and cold! It is a city where humanity in all of its shapes and conditions is clear to see. If you come to this city, bring your biggest and best love and pack your warm clothes!

On Christmas day here in the city it was very, very cold, windy and rainy. It made for a wonderful indoor Christmas but a shocking day for a walk.
This morning the sun is out and there cannot be a more beautiful city landscape that I have ever seen. Today San Francisco is clear and clean after a day of intense rain, wind and cold. All the very good things are clearly seen on a day like today. It is an easy day to have hope.

I think the rainy, cold and windy days of pain in our lives have the same effect on the landscape of our souls. When we go through days of intense wind, rain and cold in our inner lives, the cleanest and clearest days can follow.

No matter how deep our dark night of the soul is, the Son has not gone away. He is there. He always has the last and most beautiful word.

The landscape of a soul after deep suffering is often the most beautiful soul we will ever see. It is worth the wait to see the contrast just one day in the son can make.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Abiding-in other words

Some people accuse me of only knowing one chapter in the Bible--John 15. That is not true! I know at least two or three and Colossians 3 is one of the three.

It is true that I seem to always begin in John 15 when it comes to explaining the Christian life. It is true I almost always end in John 15 when explaining the goal of the Christian life. It is true that I am deliberately repetitive when it comes to sharing what has blessed me most.

Abiding is, however, described in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation using different metaphors and examples.
For example consider this line from Colossians chapter two. "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase which is from God."

The phrase "holding fast to the Head..." is abiding in different words. How far will you get is you lose connection to your head?
How much does what is in your head have to do with what you can do? How important is your head to your ability to stay connected to those you love? What happens if for even one moment you lose your head?

Every believer has the same "Head" to stay connected to. That is Jesus. As surely as a branch is nothing more that what its Vine allows it to be, so, too, our Head, Jesus, sets our limits and our potential. We can be as good as our Head, Jesus, allows us to be.

Want to abide? Hold fast to Jesus as the Head of your life. Be careful not to let others become the head of your life. There are lines of people vying for your attention in order to become the head of your life. They want to use you for their ends.

You have the mind of Christ right now. Why in the world would you want a better mind than the One that abides in you?

See, we are back at John 15 again. Maybe it is holding on to the Head, Jesus, that keep sending me back there.

The next time you are inclined to think you have nothing to offer this world, remember to "hold fast to the Head." Abiide.

The Hidden Life

"For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Col. 3:3

For you died.....What once stimulated you to live as you did no longer longer can. You died. No going back now. You died. No one from here can require of you any more than they already have. You died. You are already living the above life.

And your life is hidden... The truest you is hidden from any other death. Don't ever be afraid death can ever find you again. You are hidden with Christ in God.

On this Christmas eve 2008 we ask how is my life? First we should ask "where is my life?". My life is hidden with Christ in God. My life is a perfect as it will ever be with Christ if I can just learn to see my life from where it was and now where it is.

I often ask people "How is your life?" They almost always begin to give me a description of their current circumstances and pain. I cannot ever recall anyone saying..."Oh, I died, but my life is perfectly hidden with Christ in God. My life is precious enough to God that He has already taken my life into HImself to keep it safe for me and for HIm."

Hidden things are precious. Hidden things are safe. Hidden things are being kept for a very special future moment. The most precious things are hidden in the best hiding place. That is why we are hidden with Christ in God.

Mary's little baby was hidden in her until just the right moment. When that right moment came the hidden One became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory full of grace and truth. Hidden is not forever, but it is for us for now.

Don't despise the hidden things. Treasure them. Your life is hidden, but it will soon be revealed as safely kept as Jesus' life was until His birth.

Our day of birth as the children of God will soon come. You only hide best what you want to keep most. God has plans for us all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

San Francisco

Ken and Kellie McCord have fallen in love with San Francisco. Through their family and friends Pam and I have also come to love this complex and beautiful city.
What we have come to see in this gateway city is that people are people and they need to be loved 24X7 and moment by moment. The continuous love of Jesus is the only hope for any city.
Ken and Kellie have loved so well for the past 8 years.

On Sunday afternoon of the Christmas week 2008 Ken and Kellie hosted a Christmas party in their home for the employees of the the Nhance wood restoration company they are partners in here in the city. Nhance is truly a "kingdom company". It does more than restore wood. It restores lives and lives the Gospel.

Take a close look at the photo and you will see what makes this city so inviting to anyone who wants to love the world Jesus loves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Being One

Ages ago when our children were toddlers, I remember a scene that repeated itself in all four of our little ones. Pam or I would be busy doing something and those little bodies would suddenly appear and ask "What are your doing?"

I remember busily washing the car and hearing Kenny, Kevin, Rachel or Rebekah say "Dad, what are you doing?" I would answer "Washing the car." They would run off to do something else and in about ten minutes run back into my presence and ask "Dad, what are you doing?" This would go on for quite awhile until they got tired or I got irritated. Sometimes one of them would say "Can I help?" Sometimes I would say "Sure!" When I said "sure" we became one.

I know the same thing was happening to Pam when the boys or the girls came running up asking as she cooked "What are you doing?"
It was comical and it was precious. I can't believe I let it irritate me! I can't believe I didn't say "sure" more often.

The children were not looking for answers. They were looking for connection. They were looking for oneness.

Our relationship to our Heavenly Father is like a child's relationship to its Father. We come running up to God and asking "What are you doing?" He tells us "I being one with you to take care of you" and we run off to soon return. We ask again and He says "I am being one with you to take care of you." We run away and return again with the same question.

Even though we do not realize it fully, what we really want from our Heavenly Father is what Jesus called "oneness" in John 17. It is connection and fellowship. Oneness is far better than answers
Oneness is what I call a barrier-free relationship and it is awesome. Author Thomas Kelly described it like this "Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return."

The Trinity now abides in me just as Jesus promised. I can continuously run into the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit at any moment I chose and ask "What are you doing?" They will not get irritated. They will say "We are being one with you to take care of you?" Then I will ask "Can I help?" They will say over and over again "Sure, stay--abide with us"

As life moves on things change. Now our daughters and sons are busy with their own families. When I see them online or I call because I can't stand not connecting with them, I interrupt their busy lives and say "What are you doing?". I know what they are doing.
I want connection. I want oneness. It is nice that they don't get irritated when dad shows up and asks the same question over and over.

Dads want oneness, too. That is why the Trinity is in you right now.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Brains are not enough

I have come to enjoy two TV shows because they challenge my thinking and they keep me guessing. One show is "DR. HOUSE".
The other is "BONES". The writers of these shows are among the best. Congratulations to them all.

One thing, however, that is striking about these shows is the contrast between the character's professional brilliance as scientists and doctors and their complete inability to start and sustain a loving relationship for even one episode. I challenge you to watch any of today's hit shows and see where brilliance or intelligence equals sustained love. It is as if brilliance in one's field means failure in one's relationships.

Last night Pam and I watched an episode of House and one of Bones. We bring these shows on DVD from the USA so we can avoid most of what is on the TV down here in Brazil. As we watched it suddenly dawned on me that Christians have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate brilliance exactly where today's TV writers and executives don't think it exists---in relationships.

Because Christ dwells in us we can and should be brilliant at sustaining relationships. That is what will keep us eternally relevant in any culture. This is where Christians have the edge.

As always, Jesus knew what every culture would be bad at---sustained love.

Let's be brilliant at staying in love with our one and only spouse, our kids, our relatives and our neighbors. We may not make great TV, but let's make great life by sustaining love.

Overcoming the World

On the last day of His life on earth before His crucifixion Jesus refers to His Father as a Vinedresser--a farmer.
Hardly the title I would chosen for the King of the Universe and the One who was at that moment overcoming the Evil One through His Son's sustained and sustaining love.

Still, the title is the one Jesus chose. I have come to see why Jesus called His father a farmer during my 57 year journey in the world. God is not about changing the world. He overcomes it one human at a time. He takes the world as it is and does what He wants done through those He chooses. He takes into consideration all the tragic elements of the world and says, "I can grow my crops here in this life." We get angry at God because He does not change the tragic elements of the world, but He goes on with His work--getting His fruit visible and available in the middle of this tragic world.

The crop (fruit) God wants is called love--sustained love. Jesus is the first to have sustained the Farmer's love. Since He did this all excuses about the world being too tough a place for sustained love to exist are eliminated. All excuses are gone for the branches of His sustained love and it is time to harvest the same sustained love crop worldwide.

Every time you pick up a beautiful apple, pear, banana or grape cluster, some farmer has overcome the world for you. For such beautiful fruit to end up on your table, the world was overcome and you benefit from the victory. Thank God for farmers!

The One who overcame the world is now abiding in you to bear the fruit of Jesus' sustained love. No excuses now about the world needing to change before you can bear this fruit. The Farmer knows what He has done and he can do in the world just as it is. He can make us the bearers of sustained love if we will but abide 24/7 and moment by moment in His sustained and sustaining love.

"In the world you will suffer tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jesus

I am so glad God is a farmer!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Retreat-December 2008

We have just completed our final retreat for 2008. The weekend retreats continue to be our best tool for letting people see clearly that discipleship is as simple as the Vineyard Jesus described in John 15.

This last retreat was our smallest in number but it was powerful in its potential. The participants were a wonderful collection of leaders from three different churches. Their combined influence in their churches is substantial and they all went away determined that others from their churches experience the abiding presence of Jesus as their perfect source and satisfaction moment by moment and 24/7.

The effort expended for a weekend retreat is huge. Our team of volunteers and our partners at the Ebenezer camp have made the 2008 retreat season our best yet. 2009 looks good, too!

Bud and Pam McCord


I have been absolutely captured by a single thought for some time now.  When a thought captures me, it seems that I have to stay with the thought until I follow it until I find out exactly where it will take me.  This is often painful and time consuming. It is also exciting and powerful.

The thought is this:  I exist to deliver a certain quantity of God's limitless supply of love into the world.

I believe this thought expresses  the meaning of bearing one's cross as Jesus said in Luke 14:27 "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.".  I am here, like Jesus was here, to deliver God's love into the relationships God has orchestrated for me through the relational network of my experience here in the world.

The delivery of God's love at the right moment and by the chosen person is what glorifies God.  My delivery of God's love makes the love of God visible and available to those He has specifically chosen me to love.  This delivered love is what Jesus called fruit in John 15.

It is only as God's love is delivered correctly and consistently that lasting relationships can be birthed and sustained between humans.  The love Jesus' cross delivered is universal and eternal.  The kind I deliver is not universal in its efffect  but it can create and sustain relationships God wants to create and sustain.  This delivering of love is what allows me to be like Jesus or be a disciple. "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12  As I delivered God's love freely I am like Jesus.  Only when I deliver love am I like Jesus.

You exist to deliver a certain quantity of Divine Love.  You do not need to produce or sustain this love.   You receive it, rejoice in it and release it into the relationships God has given to you.  As you do, God is glorified and you are a disciple.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

One of those nights

Every now and then I have "one of those nights" A night of rest, restlessness and revelation. A night where I wrestle with sleep, myself and God things.

What set this night off was a sermon at the church here in Brazil where I am on the pastoral team. Our pastor, Carlito, is one of the finest young leaders I have ever met in any country. He is 38 years old and filled with energy and vision. I love seeing him lead and hearing him preach. He is a formula one doer.

He began a series last night called "2009-The Best Year of Your Life." Having been a senior pastor for many years it has been a real change for me to be a listener in most of the services I attend at church. I never realized how people listen to their pastor's sermon and evaluate their pastor's motives at the same time! I thought people evaluated the content of my messages and not the content of my motives.

As Carlito preached about the coming year, I knew he was motivating the church to not slow down in 2009. I knew he was motivating himself not to slow down. I knew he was trying to motivate me not to slow down. I was not in the mood to be motivated by a 38 year old to run at his pace in my 57 year old body.

Still, the sermon was almost irresistible. Carlito is good!

As I tried to go to sleep the idea of 2009 being the best year of my life was filling my mind. The rest, restlessness and revelation followed into the early hours of the morning. I rested. I wrestled. I received a new revelation about my life.

Here is the revelation. 2009 will be the best year of my life since Jesus is my perfect life and I have no intention of knowing Him less, loving Him less or abiding in Him less. I will have a perfect life in 2009 because I already have a perfect life in 2008. My life will be better because I will know Him better if I abide in Him even more consistently.

If the economy is my life, 2009 looks less. If politics is my life, my scotch-irish guy lost and 2009 looks less. (I hope I am wrong!)

To top the night off I decided to go downstairs and get on a treadmill and do some exercises. As I looked down at the controls of the treadmill I noticed that it has a chart for determining maximum cardiovascular benefit according to one's age.
The scale begins at age 20 and ends at age 65. That means the treadmill is set up for me to use for another 7 years.
If my physical DNA is the determining factor of 2009 being the best year of my life, things don't look good either.

Thank God the DNA of my new birth and new life in Jesus is still in its infancy and will last forever and only get better as I cooperate better.

2009 will be a very good year but I still won't run like a 38 year old. I will run at the pace of my perfect life--Jesus.
That may be even faster than Carlito!