Friday, September 25, 2009

Lesser truths

Everyone's day is filled with moments of truth. Some moments of truth take our breath away. Other truths just come and go.

For instance, here is a truth that will take our breath away--You have cancer.
Here is a truth that will come and go---I am out of printer ink.

What makes a truth powerful is its staying power or its resistance to other truths. A truth will only come and go when we can find a greater truth that makes the lesser truth move out of the way so we can do what we must do.

When I discover I need printer ink, the greater truth of the Office Depot on the corner makes it move out of my mind as a greater truth.
When I discover I have cancer, what can make that truth move out of my mind as the greater truth?

Only taking all current truth captive to a greater truth can keep us moving forward in life doing what we must do. If we cannot find a greater truth than our cancer, we stop at the truth of our cancer that has claim on our mind right now.

Two of our friends here in Brazil recently heard the words "You have cancer". Both are in the process of dealing with this powerful truth. Both are looking for the greater truth that will keep them moving forward with their lives. This finding the greater truth in all circumstances is what Christians call taking every thought captive to Christ.

II Corinthians 10:5 "...casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"

As believers we must remember to take every thought captive to Jesus. He is always the greater truth that keeps us moving forward in our lives. "Follow Me" means to make Jesus the greater truth--greater than anything from printer ink to cancer.

Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth and the life..." He is the greater truth-always.

I have never heard the words "You have cancer". If I do, I pray that I will also hear the words "I will never leave you or forsake you." If I do not, then the lesser truth--cancer--will be my greater truth until I do. No matter what I hear today, I pray it will give way the the greater truth--"Christ in me the hope of glory."

For the Christian every lesser truth must give way to the greater truth until all truth gives way to the final truth-Jesus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Total Depravity

The United Nations is in session as I write this blog. The most powerful critics of the USA come to the USA to criticize the USA and go shopping. It is somewhat comical and somewhat sad but this is our world where some see evil in only some, not at all in some others and certainly not in themselves.

The missing element in the UN these days and in our world is an old Protestant doctrine called "Total Depravity". This terrible sounding doctrine is a declaration of a truly terrible reality. All men are fundamentally bent toward evil and getting worse not better. That is, all men are incapable of doing what their highest and most noble aspirations tell them they should do no matter how much they want to or how hard they try..

This doctrine about man's bent toward evil comes most clearly from the Apostle Paul's writings in Romans where he tells us we should not judge the sinners he describes in Romans 1 by concluding in Romans 2: 1 "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself: for you who judge practice the same things" Hugo Chavez needs to read this verse this morning and so do I.

Paul goes on to say that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23 That is, we all fail to reveal the quality of love that God is all the time. This fact makes us " totally depraved". Don't compare yourself to dictators to get off the hook of total depravity. Compare yourself to Jesus and you will see you "fall short". Falling a little less short is no victory just like drowning in two feet of water is no victory over the person who drowned in 30 feet of water. Both are wet and dead.

If you need further convincing of this teaching on human depravity read Romans 7 and you will hear the Apostle Paul say of his own attempt at the highest of human aspirations "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice, but what I hate, that I do." Romans 7::14-15

If you need further convincing just watch every idealistic government for the people that rises up with no limits on its power end up abusing its power and people over time.

If you need further convincing just make up your mind that you will only love others like Jesus did and God commands and then try to live that out for a few days. Start trying to love Hugo Chavez if you are an American who loves America. Start trying to love George Bush if you are from Europe or Harvard and you think George Bush is the Anti-Christ.

The doctrine of total depravity properly understood in Europe and the USA due to the Protestant reformation birthed modern democratic behaviors like free press, limited power, term limits, free speech, separation of powers, etc. When the doctrine of total depravity is not understood and taught as a universal fact you will see these very democratic behaviors begin to disappear in the name of good people in charge of depraved people.

Watch these democratic behaviors that limit how much power some can have over others begin to disappear and you will see another characteristic emerge. We begin to call other men or governments Satan. Of course when we do call others Satan or evil, we reveal we do not believe we are totally depraved or evil, too.

Listen to the UN speeches this week and you will hear those who do believe in total depravity and those who do not. Those who do not believe in total depravity will most powerfully condemn the most democratic nations while at the same time claiming they lead revolutions that are fighting for true democracy even if it means going to war with the great Satans of the planet at the "temporary" but "necessary" expense of their own people's democratic freedom.

By the way, trying to turn the current US President or any other political leader into Satan to better oppose him politically does not fit well into reformation thought that birthed democracy. It certainly does not fit at all with Paul's words in Romans 2:1 the helped birth the reformation. Be very careful with anyone who helps you see others as fundamentally more depraved than we all are. Stay away from any teaching that does not put Jesus and Jesus' words at the very center of the debate. Jesus said "Judge not that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Matt. 7:1-2 He also said "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." Matthew 5:44 Does this include the week they come to the UN to speak and shop?

What we need to do is to preach total depravity again in our churches so all Christ followers are the first to know we all need limits on our personal power until Jesus is formed in us and truly becomes our personal limit which must become sustained love. When Jesus is our true limit we even sustain love toward our enemies during UN week.

Loving our enemies is really hard when they come to the UN and bash one's country while shopping in our stores! It is hard when they call one's leaders evil and then say "But protect my speech and let me finish my shopping."

Until Jesus is everyone's limit we need limits on all of us--especially those of us who have power over others.

By the way, believers in Jesus do have power over others in this world. It is the power of love and we would be wise not to trade the power of love for the power world leaders use. Jesus is our example and He wins because He loved. He was the only human who was not depraved and His perfectly sustained love proved it!

If anyone sees Hugo Chavez or me this week read both of us Paul's words in Romans 2:1 and Jesus' words in Matthew. We need it equally because without Jesus formed in both of us, we are totally depraved.

Pray for me as I listen to the speeches. I need God's grace!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Instant response

The internet creates a nearly instant response from around the world. This can be good or bad. This morning it was very good.

To get the picture, here is the morning devotion that went to our Abide International list.

Believe or Belief?

"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." John 7:37-38

I spent several years of my life in a Bible College environment learning to be a pastor. They were important years in my leadership formation. I thank God for those who blessed me in this process. During those years a great deal of emphasis was put on the correct beliefs about Jesus. I was even tested on my beliefs quite regularly at Bible college. I got nearly all "As" in belief. I got a diploma based on my beliefs. I was ordained according to my beliefs. I easily concluded that better beliefs make better pastors. I don't recall ever getting a grade on believing at Bible college.

So much emphasis was put on the list of beliefs that I was tempted to see my job as a pastor as defending these beliefs. I became pretty good at inspecting other people's beliefs along the way. I was like a teacher giving others grades on their beliefs just like I had been given grades on my beliefs in Bible College.

I have not abandoned any of the essential beliefs that I learned so many years ago. I think I could basically pass the exams again today with little or no problem. The list of beliefs I was tested on has stood the test of time. They do point pretty well to Jesus.

What I have abandoned is the idea that the key to true Christian living is my excellent list of beliefs. I know now that the key to my life blessing any other life is believing in Jesus. Lists of beliefs are only as good as their accuracy in describing Jesus and His perfect intentions. He measures the lists. The lists do not measure Him. Believing better in Jesus should be the goal of the list. When believing in Jesus is constant then the list did its only job which is to point to Him. Lists of beliefs should be for better believing in Jesus rather than trying to test how Christians think about Jesus.

Some lists of beliefs are certainly better than others, but no list is Jesus. No one should think the river of living water will flow from their list of beliefs about Jesus. The river flows from the real Jesus, not someone's really well organized list of beliefs about Jesus.

There was a certain spiritual dryness I experienced in my Bible College years. I think it came from the lists and the tests. That dryness always accompanies focusing on a list of beliefs instead of focusing on where the list should be pointing.

A river is not birthed from a list. A river is birth from a spring. Jesus is that spring and no list can ever do Him justice. Only drinking from the spring tells us what the spring is really like. Believing in Jesus is what does Him the justice He deserves and wants from us. The real test is believing and the passing grade is the real river of life flowing from Him through us.

This e-devotional went out at about 5 A.M. in the USA. People in Europe got it at about 12 noon due to the time difference.
I am in Portugal as I am writing this blog so I got this response instantly after I read the e-devotional myself here in Lisbon.
Confused? Welcome to the small planet!

Read the response and you will see that one of our new abiding friends in Germany really got the message I hoped to deliver and responded instantly with the same joy Pam and I have in learning to simply "Believe Jesus."

Hi Carlos (Bud)

Wow ! Reading your devotional just really got me !!! :=)

Not just because of the content, which I love, but because it reminds me of a big crisis I had the other day, when all Truth from the Bible, cherished Christian books, web site Christian messages, sermons at Church, etc etc kind of made my head spin. I felt like throwing away all theology books .... but I didn't, because I understood that my crisis wasn't there. It was simply my approach to reading, learning: Today, when reading theology books, surfing the Christian net etc, even my reading, studying the Bible, is first of all to knowing HIM better, WHOM I believe.

I think I have been led by God's Grace to re-phrase my "belief". If someone would ask me today what I believe in, I would simply say "I believe Jesus". Full stop. I tend to even leave the "in" out. This is my Faith, summoning up EVERYTHING.
This is it !

I am dancing with joy :=) :=) :=) and send my greetings to you & Pam with joy

Every Blessing

This new friend's words gave Pam and me instant joy. "Christ is all and is in all" Colossians 3:11

I believe Jesus!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Azores Islands

Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be holding an abide retreat on an Island chain called the Azores. Situated about a four hour flight from Boston, these incredibly beautiful islands are home to over 250,000 people who are a part of Portugal. Much like the Hawaiian Islands are part of the USA, so, too, these islands and their people trace their history back to Portugal.

Much of life in the Azores islands has remained pretty much unchanged. The local residents say their world is the "old Europe".
That is most clearly seen by the dominance of the Catholic faith on the islands. Santo Miguel island, where we ministered, is home to about 140,000. The Evangelical population is about 500 on that island. Being separate from the Catholic church is to be separate from the island's culture.

A new church is being started on this island and Pam and I were guests of the two families who are leading this challenge.
The task they have before them is truly one that will require abiding moment by moment in Jesus for satisfaction and fruit.

Enjoy a few pictures of these fine people and their beautiful island home.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The power of a Metaphor

People often ask me why I believe the metaphor of the Vineyard is such a powerful way to communicate how the Christian life works for ever believer in every place at all times. The reason I believe this is because Jesus used this metaphor on the last day of His life before he was crucified. Metaphors allow us to see clearly and they allow us to see the together as one.

If you ever come to Portugal for a visit, you will find that the Catholic churches of the past 500 years of Portuguese history are the heart and soul of any tour that would attempt to explain Portuguese history. Take away the influence of the Catholic church in Portugal and you cannot understand their history.

Right in the middle of the Portuguese Catholic history is the influence of Mary as the Catholic metaphor for how God solves human needs. Mary is the most prominent and consistent feature in the Portuguese history. Mary has been for centuries the most important metaphor of God's activity among the Portuguese.

About 100 years ago three children claimed to have seen an appearance of Mary. From this dramatic testimony Portugal's most famous holy site was born. This is the power of a metaphor. We people begin to see the same thing clearly and as one then things will begin to happen on a bigger and bigger scale.

Whenever you enter a Catholic Cathedral in Portugal you will most easily find Mary. Finding Jesus is not as easy as finding Mary.
That, too, is the power of a metaphor that becomes the main metaphor for explaining God's love to people.

We must choose our metaphors of God's dealings with us very carefully. If Jesus is not the metaphor that is easiest to find it could take centuries to give to Him the preeminence he should have.

The metaphor of the Vineyard is one sure way to keep Jesus clearly seen by all. That is why I encourage people to go back to the vineyard and find the vine.

(The photos of the large church square are taken at the shrine of Fatima where the children claimed to have seen Mary. The three children kneeling are at the entrance to the Seminary we have called home for the past 13 days. The grapes are growing in the back yard of a missionary family who served us dinner last night. Finding Jesus in their home was easy.)
Click on photos to enlarge

Monday, September 07, 2009


The true hope of being able to disciple thousands of Brazilian Christians is in multiplying leaders and teachers who see the abiding life as the normal Christian life. This multiplication is beginning to happen. We now have 5 pastors and leaders in Brazil who are developing their own network of retreats and teaching opportunities.

One of our abide leaders has already given the 8 hour abide course to over 300 believers in the Rio de Janeiro area in the past 15 months.

Enjoy a few pictures from Pastor Walter and his wife Karine who are our Abide team in the northern Brazilian city of Recife. They just completed their second retreat. They are the best!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

More Portugal 2009

Ministering the course Six Metaphors of a Happy Marriage to missionaries and pastors was a special opportunity this weekend of September 4-6. Though the number of evangelical believers in Portugal is very small compared to Brazil or the USA, their love for Jesus is second to none.

Their openness and willingness to learn is impressive. On Saturday we started at 8:30 A.M. and ended at 10 P.M. They stayed engaged in every moment.

Surely there is hope for a time of spiritual harvest with disciples like these.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Portugal 2009

September 1st, 2009. Pam and I spent the day getting to know a little more about Portugal and a lot more about the city of Lisbon. Pastor Paulo Pascoal was our guide as we visited the historic downtown area with a special visit to a monastery that was built in the 1600s. The great explorer Vasco de Gama is buried in the church.

We also stood on the river where the Portuguese ships set sale to discover new lands around the world. Our teaching and retreats get underway soon. It was good to have these two days to see this wonderful city.

Historic Moment

August 26th, 2009 marked the beginning a new phase in the Abide Brazil ministry. We officially became what is called in Portuguese a "Pessoa Juridica" which is a 501c3 non-profit entity. This means we have an official identity before the Brazilian government and, more importantly, we have a very Brazilian identity.

It has always been our goal to see the Abide ministry in Brazil become sustainable and more and more led by Brazilians who have a passion for the abiding life and message. God has given us a governing council of 9 and we could not be happier or more motivated.

For all of you who are dreaming this dream with us, rejoice with us over this new phase.

Enjoy these pictures until you can come and meet these incredible people personally.

Bud and Pam