Friday, February 27, 2009

Deciding from Biography

Watching the transition from President Bush to President Obama from 5,000 miles away gives one a very different perspective on what is really happening. From here it is clear that America's new president is making decisions from his personal biography. This is to be expected. We all make life's most important decisions from our personal biography. What worked for us and for those who have most influenced us for good shapes our biography and our policies.

President Obama's biography is impossible to understand apart from aggressive government intervention to correct wrongs and open doors for those who are trapped in seemingly impossible situations. Trying to convince President Obama that government is not the solution to society's greatest ills is like asking him to lead from Rush Limbaugh's biography instead of his.

We want to make governing or leading about ideas, but it is much more about biography than ideas. Our ideas were birthed in our biography by people who seemed to truly care about us.

None of can lead for long without referring back to what worked in our case. I know this as a fact from 58 years of my own decision making. Only a tremendous personal experience with some new biographical paradigm will cause a person to shift his policies away from his personal experience. Conversions do happen.

The power of biography is why we must be "born again" to enter the kingdom of God. That is why "poverty of Spirit" (coming without our own biography) is the place where true spiritual happiness begins. The biographical battles of Adam number one's children will never cease until we become children of Adam number two--Jesus.

Brazil's President has a 6th grade education and comes from decades of battles against the rich as a union activist. Trying to get him to see the owners, bankers and business leaders as the solution for Brazil's issues is truly a challenge. His biography of poverty and class struggle has shaped him. He is a good President for Brazil's poor because they can read his biography, but he definitely sees government as the answer to nearly everything. If it can be taxed, he will tax it. To him that is how fairness comes into a society--by taxing.

Brazil's President and President Obama will be great friends. Brazil is already in love with President Obama because they like his biography better than George Bush's biography. No one down here knows how to read anything Texan.

If you want to know how a man or woman will lead, read their biography and look for what they say made their life better.
That is what they will support. That is what they will believe works.

If you want to see how well a Christian will live the Christian life, get a good read on how deeply they have moved into Jesus' biography as their own. When His biography is theirs they will live his life as theirs. Jesus' personal biography is the key to our new life biography.

By the way, no matter what happens in Brazil or in the USA I have read Jesus biography and his policies work for all eternity. He believes in grace not taxes. He does, however, demand unconditional love from his countrymen.

Now, do I think big government is the answer? Read my biography and you will know that answer to that question. Even better, read my dad's biography and you will see the life of a man who was proud he never needed to lean on government to raise 7 kids in a two bedroom house. He also never missed a day of work in 30 years.

From 5,000 miles away I see President Obama leading from his biography and I would expect him to continue to do so.
I also pray he will take the time to read other biographies--especially the one about Jesus. We could certainly agree on that one!

The debate that is raging in the USA and here in Brazil is still not the big debate. The real debate is about Jesus' biography and everyone else who is offering hope and change. I, for one, have been born again and each day I am happier about that choice and the the eternal change in my biography.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To Skim or not to Skim

When I was a kid growing up in South Florida, the beach was a part of my life. To this day I feel at home on a beach.
One of my favorite activities was skim boarding.

Before the days of mass marketing of beach toys we made our own beach toys. A skim board was made from plywood and a lot of sweat. My friends and I all had skim boards.

The skim board was used where the waves hit the beach and made a very shallow shelf of water that you had to catch to skim on before the water ran back into the deeper water. When you caught the thinning wave just right you could get a really fun ride. The end of the ride was almost always a crash as the board dug into the sand and the rider would go flying and then hit hard on the sand.

Every day of skim boarding was fun, tiring and hard on the skin. We were young. Recovery was fast. The waves were endless and free.

I loved to skim board back in those days. Today my energy and recovery time is not quick enough to skim.

Os Guinness devotes nearly an entire chapter in his book Long Journey Home to what he quotes Pascal as calling "diversion".
Diversion is a lot like skim boarding. According to Pascal and Guinness humans skim because they are avoiding the deeper waters of life. Pascal said "If our condition were truly happy we should not need to divert ourselves from it. Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. I have often said that the sole cause of a man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his own room" Ouch!

Diversion is not a spiritual discipline. It is a spiritual illness or addiction. Os Guinness goes on to say, "...our modern world has expanded the array of diversions beyond anything Pascal observed. Modern society itself is one grand diversion--the Republic of Entertainment." Ouch again!

Can we stand even for a few hours to dive into the depths of the human issues Pascal mentions? Issues like death, wretchedness and ignorance? Can we dare wade into such issues without drowning our own hope in the process?
Can we swim or will we be swept away by issues for which our answers provide no strength to swim?

My wife, Pam, can go in her room alone and be happy. She has never needed to skim anything. I have envied her this great ability to surf the waves of deeper thought while I have spent many days skim boarding the issues. Little by little I have learned that there is more to life than the thin waves of dailyness that come and are quickly gone. There is an ocean and in it there are living things that take one's breath away with their beauty and power.

Put your skim board away. Go into your room and be alone with the great questions and with your great God. Scary isn't it!
So is scuba diving, surfing and sailing. You were made for the waves and winds of the bigger issues. Seek them and know that God is the God of the oceans we fear.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Brazilian Carnaval Retreat

Pam and I are in the city of Embu near the city of São Paulo participating in a 4 day retreat sponsored by the Morumbi Baptist Church of São Paulo. This is one of the most influential churches in all of Brazil.

Carnaval is the same as Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans. It is a 4 day celebration of the flesh. (that is what Carnaval means in portuguese). Needless to say, many churches take advantage of this 4 day stretch to feed the spirit and not the flesh.

My job is to preach each of the three nights to 200 participants. I am speaking about our perfect life in Jesus and what it means to be a disciple. Besides being a big honor, this is a great opportunity.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Affirmation-A Spiritual discipline

Among the many spiritual disciplines--Listening, Silence, Praise, Thanks, Confession, Intercession, Petition, Action--there is one that gets little attention. It is the discipline of affirmation. It is my favorite.

Here is an example of an affirmation.

"The entire Christian life I will ever live abides in me right. Christ is all and is in all.
For to me to live is Christ. It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me"


Heavenly Father,
I am what I am by your grace. Grace is your provision to me of what you demand of me. You demanded a perfect life from me and you sent your Son.
You demand of me uninterrupted love from me toward you and others, so you never interrupt your love for me by abiding as uninterrupted love in me moment
by moment.

These are affirmations I continue to make day by day in order to abide in truths that set me free to live and love without stopping.

I also make affirmations about others.

"The entire Christian life you will ever live abides in you right now. His name is Jesus"


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Biography and Theology-New Birth

Christian formation is not about life change. It is about new life--new biography.

Having led churches for over 30 years, I can tell you there is a huge difference between helping people change their lives (old biography) and helping people cooperate with their new life. (new birth-new biography)

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemos in John 3 he completely ignored the man's observations and the man's biography. He told him that nothing less than a new view and a new biography would do. "You must be born again."

I have found that nothing is more tiring than trying to help people change their 1st biography so it makes sense. I have found nothing more inspiring that helping them get into the moment by moment joy of their new biography in Jesus. Abiding is learning to live from and release from the new biography. Teaching others to abide is really exciting.

"Christ in you the hope of glory" is new biography. "For to me to live is Christ" is new biography. "Christ is all and is in all" is new biography. It is also great theology! This theology is inspiring stuff when taken as our new biographical identity. It is theology birthed from biography and not from work for change.

Bertrand Russell once wrote "I have dreamed of a combination of spiritual and physical companionship, and if I had the good fortune to find it, I could have become something better than I shall ever be." (Quoted by Os Guinness in Long Journey Home-great book!)

Bertrand Russell could not only have been "better". He could have been "new". His new biography would have included automatically the two things-spiritual and physical companionship-- he said he could not find in his first biography.

If you want to burn out helping people, just try signing up to help them change their first biography. You can't.

If you want to be inspired while helping others, do it with an eye on their new biography in Jesus as you live from your new biography in Jesus.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Biography and Theology

Most pastors end up choosing the denomination of their childhood or conversion experience as the place where they will express their theology. Most Baptist kids who want to enter ministry will enter ministry through Baptist institutions. Why? There is a direct link between one's theology (understanding of God) and one's biography (understanding one's self).
The Baptists where used by God to find and disciple me. Since they found me--my biography--I found it easiest to find them--my ministry.

For theology to be true theology it must become our biography. It must become more than what I know. It must become what I am. In other words, my understanding of God must become one with my understanding of myself.

Consider Jesus as the perfect example of perfect theology and biography. Jesus never took a theology course about God. Jesus' entire theology was biography. "I am my Father are one". Just as my children never took a Bud McCord course, Jesus never took a My Heavenly Father course.

All theology must become biography if it is to become real to us and real to others through us.

The Apostle Paul makes this statement in Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Clearly Paul's theology had become his biography.

When our theology is our biography we end the separation that exists between information and formation. Spiritual formation requires that I understand my story as emanating from His story. In true spiritual formation we are literally one with the Trinity's biography and we continue to write with them the unwritten pages of that biography.
John 17:20-22 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are one in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

I have spoken to many atheists over the years and I have confirmed that their theology is their biography. Their personal biographical disappointment with God and with other authority figures has formed their theology. Their theology is mostly emotion from biography instead of theology from thoughtful, dispassionate reflection.

To be a branch is to share the biography of the Vine. As we share biography with others we should not be surprised to find their theology the most appealing to us. This is why Jesus says we should love Him first before even mother and father-or denomination. We will never have a Jesus theology until we are one with Jesus' biography.

Make sure your personal biography is Jesus' biography and you can be sure your theology will become His theology. The family historian, the Holy Spirit, will set you straight on the family history if you will seek oneness with God above all other courses or degrees.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Timothy Times Two

In the Apostle Paul's letters he mentions young Timothy as a son in the faith. That is exactly how I feel about two young men who are teaching the abide course across the state of Rio de Janeiro. Hubert is a lawyer and Junior is a businessman.

Hubert Andre and Junior have just completed their third retreat this month. They have spoken to more Brazilians than I have in the last 30 days! That is so cool!

When I first met Hubert Andre and Junior leading a Celebrate Recovery group this past year, I never dreamed they would be such wonderful leaders of the abide ministry in the greater Rio area. They are pushing me to expand and expand in Rio. I am running to keep up with them.

Pray that God would raise up an army just like them across Brazil. I believe we are on the verge of a discipleship movement in Brazil that will give the already dynamic Brazilian church an even more solid base from which to work.

These photos are of their most recent church retreat held the weekend of February 14th. They are working among many of Rio's poor neighborhoods where I probably would not have a clue how to truly relate.

Leading leaders

Leading leaders is like leading cats instead of dogs. It is true. Leaders don't easily follow.
In our first retreat of 2009 we were privileged to have some of Brazil's finest pastors and leaders in attendance. To get them to slow down long enough for a retreat about the inner life is no small task.
During the two day retreat I found myself looking into a mirror. I, too, am not easy to lead. No leader is.
Leaders must be inspired.
I tried to lead the entire group to take a group photo. I failed. The best I got was a few pictures when they were momentarily stopped. I couldn't get them to stand sill long enough register the moment together.
I love leaders! God grant me patience with me and them.
I have no idea how Pam has put up with me for 37 years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leaders retreat

The opportunity to speak to Brazilian leaders is what brought us back to Brazil. Even though we have only been back to Brazil for a few days, we are already enjoying a week with two such opportunities. This morning I spoke for four hours to over 50 leaders about the abiding life in Jesus.

For four hours with only one ten minute break they were all 100% engaged. I love the Brazilian desire to learn.
What a privilege to be seeing firsthand what God is doing here.

I believe Brazilians are so open because they see God at work in everything. They see every situation as a Divine situation.
Perhaps the difficulties they face each and every day helps them depend more than most people. All I know is that they receive the words of Jesus as food for their souls.

I pray that this wonderful people will be able to spread this willingness to learn around the world.

Monday, February 09, 2009


When I was a kid--a long time ago--the kids in class that could not sit still were the "bad kids" or the "rowdy kids". They got spanked. Over the years they were transformed into the "hyper kids". They were given lots of "time-outs" When I became the president of a Christian School for 18 years they became the "disruptive kids". They got lots of attention or even isolation. Today this type of child is usually referred to as suffering from ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. They usually get medication.

This attention disorder has become so complex that ADD now has extra letters to describe why a particular child or adult is unable to pay attention to one thing for very long.

Imagine my surprise at learning that attention is the key to the quality of one's life. I should have seen it all along.
A friend uses this quote to help others learn to abide in Jesus and find peace for their souls.

"Whatever gets your attention gets you."

He is absolutely right. Human beings are first and foremost receivers not initiators or doers. Whatever we most consistently receive-pay attention to- is what will dictate what we produce as doing or fruit.

The challenge for the person with Attention Deficit Disorder is that they are too good at receiving. Maybe their challenge should be called ERD--Excellent Receiving Disorder. They receive too much and can't focus on anything for long because they just keep receiving.

Being good at receiving is not a deficit. It is to be very human. To not be able to choose what to receive and pay attention to, is to be at the mercy of every stimulus in the world. That is enough to make anyone unable to sit still in class.

There is hope for good receivers! They just need to choose to receive from the one source that matters which is from God through Christ. When they learn to focus on Jesus, they will be able to do more than sit still. They will learn to run and not be weary. They will find there is a universe of calming and exhilarating life to live found in paying attention to Him. Learning to do this has sure calmed me down!

Faith is the ability to receive well from God. All you who have attention issues rejoice! You have the most important of all skills. You receive well.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mom McCartney's book

While recently staying in the home of Ruth McCartney, Pam's mom, and Marcy Warrick, Pam's sister, I came across a book on mom McCartney's bookshelf. An avid reader for all of her life as a wife, mother and missionary in Brazil, Ruth McCartney has a habit of marking with pen, pencil or colored pen everything in a book that catches her attention. She turns a book into a color coded testimony of the impression the book made on her.

The book I found is by Os Guinness entitled Long Journey Home A Guide to Your Search for the Meaning of Life. When I picked the book from the shelf, I honestly thought I had already read the book since I am an Os Guinness fan. When I leafed through the book and saw all of mom's markings, I smiled at such a wonderful thirst for truth each mark represented.

Mom offered the book to me and I took it as a precious gift. I wanted it because I wanted to have it as a memory of mom's search for truth.

Once I started to read the book, I realized it was new to me and it is now a double treasure. The book is fantastic and mom's markings don't distract, they bless.

In the book Os Guinness does a wonderful job of laying out before us the options we truly have if we are seeking the truth.
He makes no apology for saying that search will eventually lead to Jesus.

In one of the later chapters in the book Os talks passionately about the power that Jesus exercises over those who draw close to Him. He calls this the "Heart-cracking goodness" of Jesus. Just about the time a seeker sees nothing but madness and tragedy in the world, he hears the story of Jesus or hears what Jesus said or did. In that moment the tears come and the "Heart-cracking goodness" of Jesus is at work again.

Os says "The evidence for Jesus is something to be sure of; recognizing what Jesus shows us of the heart-cracking goodness of God is something to be passionate about."

The heart-cracking goodness of Jesus is our true hope. When I read this book with mom McCartney's many markings, I can see the "heart-cracking goodness" of Jesus in every stroke. Even now the tears come through the cracks as I think of Jesus' and mom's heart-cracking goodness.

P.S. Should you want to order a copy of the book to mark up for yourself, it is published by Waterbrook Press/Doubleday and is simply titled Long Journey Home by Os Guinness. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Good Question

I am a believer in the power of great questions. A well constructed and well asked question can reveal truth that ordinarily remains hidden beneath layers of evasion or confusion.

Here is a question that I have found yields tremendous, transforming truth for spiritual formation and discipleship.
Here is the question I ask of a person who is wanting to understand what it means to abide in Christ.

How much of the Christian Life do you think you currently possess? A little? Most? Nearly all? All?

Rarely does someone respond by confidently saying "I have all the Christian life.". Even so, the answer to the question for every believer is "I have all the Christian life.". Every believer should say with complete confidence and tranquility "I have all of the Christian life there is or will ever be. I have Jesus dwelling me. Jesus is the entire Christian life"

Collosians 3:11 says "Christ is all and is in all." The Christian life is a person. One does not accumulate a person. One believes in and responds to a person who is there.

Paul said "For to me to live is Christ..." He also said "It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me." . The Christian life is a person that every believer has dwelling in them from the moment of conversion. When we answer that we have a little of the Christian life, most of the Christian life or nearly all of the Christian life we reveal that we see the Christian life as a process of accumulation and not the formation of the presence of a person or life that abides in us.

It is true that Christ must be formed in us. That is, the Christian life, Jesus, needs to occupy the center of our existence and be the moment by moment stimulus that explains all of our behavior. All competition which seeks to get my attention must be overcome by the forming presence of Christ as my life.

When we attempt to disciple a person as if they lack the Christian life we will feel compelled to construct a Christian life delivery system that tells them they lack what we and others have already received. We will create systems to put into others what someone else put into us. These systems may very well lead to some growth in our knowledge of Jesus and of His life in us. The tragedy is that this type of system always creates the haves and the have nots and is incapable of creating the equality of life Jesus said His followers would enjoy.

In a Vineyard every branch has the entire Vine and all it is willing to give. The only question is how well is the branch responding to what it has---the Vine.

Right now every believer has the entire Christian life. The right questions for a disciple are "How am I responding to the Christian life I have? Am I abiding?"

Monday, February 02, 2009

Abide Partners-South Florida

Pam and I are able to remain in Brazil because God has created a team of individuals and churches who believe the Abiding discipleship message needs to spread across Brazil and around the world. This incredible group of churches and individuals is in itself and international group.

In a recent abide fellowship in South Florida our host was born in Cuba and his wife in Brazil. Among the others present to hear an overview of the Abide goals and about our Marriage Seminar "Six Metaphors of a Happy Marriage" were people from Romania,
Argentina, Brazil, USA and the Dominican Republic.

As abide goes international it is goes to know we already are.

Bud and Pam McCord