Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Marriage Seminar-Recife

Many times the very first opportunity we have for Abide International ministries to become known in a new city is through our Marriage seminar "Six Metaphors of a Happy Marriage". I accept nearly every invitation to help couples build marriages that reveal God's presence in the world.

An invitation from Recife in northern Brazil came from an evangelical Anglican Church. For me this was a first. I found the people of the Holy Spirit Parish of Recife to be deeply in love with Jesus and reaching their community. They also produced a seminar attendance with over 200 couples present for the six hour study.

They have now asked me to come to Recife twice a year to train their people in abiding discipleship. This church is amazing in so many ways. God keeps surprising me and blessing me as I find Him at work everywhere.

I have learned that different Christian groups do not have the same doctrines on every subject but they have the same problems I have seen my entire life in Baptist churches. I believe abiding is what we all are missing.

These pictures show just a little of joy I found among these dear Brazilian believers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Day Off

Missionaries do take days off. They should! Then they can see the beauty of the country where God has led them to share His love.

Pam and I spent a wonderful day with Tom and Diana Turley in an area of Brazilian natural beauty. To me a day off is a day when one makes no decisions and simply enjoys God and the good things of God. That includes good friends and great natural beauty.

Yesterday we enjoyed both.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It Doesn't work

Jesus said "Do not resist and evil person." Why? Because it doesn't work. Resistance is not a cure for evil.
Governments exist to punish evil and reward good. (see Romans 13) Punishing evil is appropriate when one has this power from God to do so. Resisting evil in the name of Jesus is not my job. Overcoming evil with good is.

Of almost all the teachings of Jesus this one about resisting an evil man is the one with which I struggle most. I guess I just don't want to admit that evil is beyond the reach of my powers of persuasion. Evil is overcome by love. Love is not resistance. Love is a cooperation with God's character.

God will judge but He is not resisting. He gives mankind up to follow their evil to its horrible ends. When man is finally exhausted He offers rest in Christ.

Later on in His teachings Jesus says to Peter "They that live by sword die by the sword." The sword is the symbol of the belief that evil can overcome by force. It cannot. I pray that Jesus will remove my sword more each day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Power of Culture

Every missionary is familiar with the term "culture shock". Culture shock is the sudden, shocking realization that one is now living in an environment that one cannot change. One must adapt or try to live in cultural enclave of made up of others who refuse to adapt. Ethnic neighborhoods in major cities are efforts to avoid culture shock and maintain what one finds most comfortable.

I was born and raised in Miami in the 1950's. Miami in the 1950's was a quiet southern city. In the early 1960's the Cuban exodus from Cuba to Miami began and so did the the exodus out of Miami of many southern Americans like my parents who refused to adapt to the changing culture in order to stay in the downtown Miami area. Many Cubans also refused to adapt to their new American home and they created "Little Havana" which now shares space with "Little Haiti". No one likes culture shock and many avoid it all costs.

Culture shock is no fun if one prefers one culture above another. We almost always prefer the culture of our childhood and youth to any new culture. Once we get used to a culture we would rather not see it change.

The entire world is experiencing a kind of culture shock and resistant groups are busily building ethnic, religious and social enclaves to protect themselves from the cultural changes. Radical Islam's insistence on isolation and control is a case in point.

From my experience as a child growing up in Miami and as a missionary, I believe the answer to culture shock lies in building an inner life that is fully rooted in the culture of God's kingdom. There is little hope of preserving the culture of one's earthly childhood in today's rapidly changing world. There is hope of preserving the inner culture of one's new birth in Jesus.

Jesus was in the world but not of the world. He was here to love but he was not here to join any ethnic or religious group in their special enclave. He was invited to join, but he refused.

Jesus was here to invite the world to join the eternal culture he describes in His teaching as the Kingdom of God. Have you joined Jesus' Kingdom of God culture?

If not, I predict you are going to experience culture shock on a global scale in the coming years. Moving away from this coming culture shock like my parents did will not be possible in the coming years. Jesus' offer of a new birth and kingdom culture is still the very best option because they equip us for living anywhere and living well.

When Jesus said he had overcome the world, He meant it. Be at peace in your inner world with Him and you will find the ability to love in any culture.

Friday, April 10, 2009

He is at the Movies

I have been mentoring a young man for the past three years. I have never known a person with a greater capacity to disappear into his mind for weeks on end. It is amazing to watch him come and go.

One minute he is in touch with reality and he is learning to abide and walk in the light. Suddenly, something happens and he literally disappears into a world of imagination. When he emerges from this inner world of fiction, he seeks me out and we work while he is still among the visible.

I am certain God has gifted this young man with an imagination that is beyond the norm. He can create in his mind a realm that could produce great novels or movies. Even so, he suffers with this imagination because one cannot live from fiction and effectively deliver God's love. He knows this.

He said to me with true sorrow. "I didn't even give my dog a bath for the past month! I was so lost in mind that i forgot. When i finally realized I had been gone, I gave the dog some attention."

When he said this, I said "It is time for you to come out of the movie theater. People need you and God misses you while you are in there."

It was as if a light went on. He could see for the first time that he was disappearing into his mind like people go to the movies for distraction from reality. What he had not realized is that while we sit in the movie theater of our mind and imagination, love is often put on hold. If love is on hold for too long, the fleas can kill the dog.

Jesus is the truth. He is the light in which the fiction we build our lives upon is challenged and destroyed.

I remember reading about missionaries going overseas in the 1800's. The debate back then was about whether a good Christian missionary should be reading novels. When I was a teen, the debate was about T.V. and movies. Today it is about the internet, video games and the cell phone. The real issue in any generation is how long do you disappear from reality and leave love on hold?

I am a dedicated reader and I love a great film. I have found, however, that my rule for reading and watching must be delivering love.
If my imagination gets in the way of delivering love, I need to drop the book and leave the movie. God misses me and so does someone else.

How much of your life is immersed in fiction? Bring every thought to Christ to be sure what is and is not fiction. I am not against imagination. I am against letting others suffer while I disappear.

Pray for my young friend that his imagination will be God's tool and not an escape. He is a wonderfully gifted young man.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

April Retreat-Campos do Jordão

The heart of the abide ministry in Brazil is our retreat center in the mountains between Rio and São Paulo. There truly is a connection between mountains and clearer thinking.

When we can gather 30 to 40 people at our retreat center from a Friday night until a Sunday afternoon, amazing things happen.
By spending eight hours focused on Jesus as our life, identity, satisfaction, ability and opportunity, we experience what it is to be one with the intentions of God in Christ. We learn better what it means to abide. It is powerful and paradigm changing.

Admittedly, it is easier to abide when one is in a retreat designed to keep the focus on Jesus. The valley of "dailyness" awaits us all at the end of the retreat but Christ in us is greater than the valley and its repetitive challenges.

Our April abide retreat was truly wonderful. Our four volunteers, the leaders of the camp and the great cooks were all at their best.
The teacher did O.K., too!

Enjoy these photos of the April retreat and remember that this is possible because of our abide partners who support this ministry every month.

A special thanks to every church and every abide partner for making this possible. If you are not an abide partner yet, join this fantastic team as we are believing God for 300 retreat participants in 2009 in addition to all the other efforts that go into Abide international.

E-mail me at bud@abideinternational.org to let us know you are on the team or for more information. Donations can be sent to our sending church in Miami through our website www.abideinternational.org.

Why not plan a retreat near your church? We would love to come even if there are no mountains.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Human Soul

I have come to understand that the human soul (mind, emotions and will) was originally designed for one holy purpose. That holy purpose is the Glory of God. The Glory of God was originally meant to be revealed in this world by human souls and bodies.
Only one man ever possessed and used his soul 100% for the glory of God. That man never sinned by using His soul for any other purpose except love. That man is named Jesus.

The human soul exists in the universe as the living tool for delivering God's love. The human soul as originally created had no other reason for its existence except the delivery of God's love. This continues to be its true reason for existence.

This noble purpose of the human soul explains why Jesus said the true and final purpose of a human existence is to love God and love one's neighbor. To sin is to use any part of the human soul (mind, emotion or will) l for any other purpose other than delivering God's love. When one sees the soul in this holy and singular light, it is easy to see why Scripture says "For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God". Romans 3:23 Who among us could truly say "I have only used my soul for love."?

When a person is "born again" the very Spirit of God and God's glory enters the human spirit and this Spirit to spirit connection recreates the possibility of a human soul being constantly connected to pure love. This constant connection to pure love allows the soul to deliver God's love once again. This is what is called the "fruit of the Spirit."

The human soul without the very presence of God is incapable of delivering love that God finds acceptable and He could call HIs own love. Paul tried to deliver such love by His love of the law of God as he describes in Romans 7. He concluded that he could not deliver sustained love because sin dwelled in Him and stopped the proper use of the soul.

In Romans 8 Paul describes a new life because the believer is now inhabited by Christ. The soul can love again in a way that God finds acceptable because it is God who produces and sustains the love by His grace which now abides in the human spirit and stimulates and enables the human soul to love again.

Jesus described in John 15 this remaking of the human ability to love as abiding and bearing fruit. Each person in whom Christ abides has the potential to have their soul restored to its original holy purpose. Even so, it is a voluntary relationship which allows the soul to become the divine tool of love once again. "If" we will abide then our souls will be restored to love's delivery and God's glory. Only "if" we abide will this happen.

Read the sermon on the mount in the light of the soul's true purpose and you will see that the human soul will have to undergo a complete restoration in Christ until it becomes "salt" and "light" in a very dark world. As hard as it might be to believe, our souls can be restored to love in this world. As Mike Wells says "There is nothing the presence of Christ cannot cure."

The thought of millions and millions of restored human souls delivering God's love as Jesus did is the true essence of making disciples and spiritual formation. When we set the discipleship "bar" lower than soul restoration for Divine glory, we weaken the witness of the church and we fail our Lord who commanded us to make disciples.

Our souls can be restored to delivering God's love if we will abide in the love of God in Christ. This is the truth which Jesus revealed by His own presence in the world. Rise to the vision of sustained love and God's glory. Be truly human again. Abide.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Ordinary Man or Woman

Here is Thomas Kelly's description of the ordinary man.

"The ordinary man is busy earning a living, exercises care, caution, foresight. He calculates probabilities. He studies the past in order to predict and control the future. Then when he has weighed all his factors and plotted the outcome, with energy and industry he wills himself into persistent activity along the lines of calculated wisdom. The now is merely an incidental dividing point, unstable, non-important, except as by its unstaying migration we move ahead into the richer meadows..."

Ordinary men and women get a lot done, but at too great an expense. They sacrifice all the "nows" in order to arrive at some "then". The "then" finally arrives and the ordinary man or woman suddenly realizes that "then" is really always "now". "Then" is always beyond our reach. Now is not.

Learn to enjoy now. Learn that now is as rich as it gets. Learn to sit still and be filled with God's presence right now.

Now is limitlessly enjoyable and it is always now. Right now close your eyes and say "Jesus, you are welcome here." Don't rush away to earn a living, exercise care, caution or foresight. Don't calculate probabilities. Don't study the past or the future.
Enjoy now.

Don't be ordinary. Enjoy now with Him.

When you learn to enjoy now, your life will be anything but ordinary.

For further reading on now get a copy of Thomas Kelly's A Testament to Devotion