Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Forced or Inspired?

I live in a part of the world where socialism and communism are the controlling views of most of the governments.
By this I mean that governments here believe that people must be forced by the government to be collectively good to others. There is no Fox news in Brazil or in most South American countries to debate this point.

Having been raised in the USA at the height of Capitalism's confidence and the belief in individual, voluntary goodness, It has been quite an opportunity to see these two opposing views of greater goodness in action. Here is what I see. (Admittedly, this is an over simplification but hopefully it serves to make my point)

Socialists and communists are convinced that societies left the themselves to be good will always be more bad than good because the rich will oppress the poor. They are so committed to this view that they are willing to risk life and limb to put the socialist or communist government in charge of enforcing goodness. Once they take control of the government for good as they envision it, they will risk everyone else's life and limb to make sure their idea of good is forced on everyone from then on. Hugo Chavez comes to mind.

Pure capitalists, on the other hand, see being good as an individual option after individual earnings. They start with freedom to earn and then work at freedom to give. They want to be free from any interference with earnings or giving. They alone will decide what being good looks like. Bill Gates comes to mind.

Is either of these positions the Christian position? No.

Jesus taught us that true goodness is an inspiration that comes only from connection to God through Him. It has nothing to do with force or individual freedom. It has everything with love and living connection to God. Jesus made this clear when He said, "Without me you can do nothing." John 15:5 Jesus taught us that being good comes before either dominant government or unlimited earnings. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness..." Matt. 6:33

I personally believe that arrogant socialism and communism are more dangerous and destructive than self-centered capitalism. Chavez makes me more nervous than Bill Gates. I see less real good coming from governments who are filled with the arrogance that they control good and can force good out of others than I see coming from capitalists counting their money and thinking about maybe being good when they have enough. Simply put, I prefer having been born in Miami than further south in Cuba. I would prefer that for my grandchildren, too.

Which system does God prefer? Neither. He has His own Kingdom and will settle for nothing less than pure goodness. He will judge all men by the inspirational system of "Christ in you the hope of glory." Goodness is neither forced on left up to us to decide if we want to participate in it or not. Goodness is a Person named Jesus and He invites us to connect Him not to power or money. If we do not, then we will never know the goodness we all agree needs to exist among men.

Here is the interesting thing. I have now lived in both man driven goodness systems. I pay taxes in both systems. I have found that I can be inspired for good by Jesus in either system. In the end, inspiration in Jesus wins. The day may soon come when one system replaces the one where you live. If you are inspired in Jesus, you will find you can find inspiration to deal with either. I think that is what He had in mind when He said "Folow me" or "Abide in Me." That sounds good to me.

Pam's view

Over the years I have learned to listen to Pam. She has a way of seeing things that is amazing. Recently she sent a word to our family and friends about our first retreat of the year here in Brazil. I think you will enjoy her "view."

Hi everyone of my precious family and friends!

Here are some pretty pictures of the first Abide Retreat of this year, held this weekend at our Abide Retreat Center in the mountains of
Campos do Jordão. We had a smaller group than usual, but they were exactly who our Father God sent to us! Had a most refreshing
time and felt like we were constantly drinking from the rivers of living waters! In this group there were Brazilians, Americans, an Angolan
girl, a French lady, a Brazilian lady who was (and hopes to be again) a missionary to Angola. All are born again, and of all different ages
in the Lord, from months old (the Angolan young lady) to tens of years. As you can see, the range in age is also quite astonishing, which
happens often in these Abide Retreats. There are 11 hours of study based on John 15 and Jesus' metaphor of the vineyard. Everyone
stays engaged and interested the entire time, no matter their age! Bud and I never tire of these retreats, and by now we figure that about
700 people have come. Bud has taught the study for 4 1/2 years, with an intensity that goes beyond our retreats. I have had the privilege
of hearing the study maybe 50 times. It is fresh and new each time! Bud had a wonderful insight from our Lord this weekend:
"Only God knows just how much love He has for each retreat group to deliver during their lives as branches connected to the True Vine,
and for His glory."

The owners of the camp where we have the Abide Retreat Center, Josmar and Marisa, are not in this picture, though they sit in for several
hours of each retreat. They are doing well, and are as kind and engaged as ever. Marisa is in the midst of 4-6 months of strong chemotherapy,
to combat the rectal cancer that was surgically removed from her body on Jan. 12. As she says, she is abiding moment by moment as a
branch connected to the True Vine, Jesus Christ, and He is supplying her with the strength and hope she needs for each moment. She is
doing well in spite of some nausea, no real appetite, and quite a lot of weight loss since last Oct. when her treatment began. She has not
lost her hair, and that is a nice consolation for a lady. This couple is one of God's sweetest gifts to Bud and me! They really do feel like the
"family" that they are to us in Christ, as they are to hundreds of other dear friends! They are deeply loved by MANY people! We are all trusting
the Lord to work His healing will in her body, and restore her health so that she can have many more years of delivering His love here on
His earth, for the glory of our Father!

Our next retreat is in April, and it will be our very first Abide Retreat II. Now we will be distinguishing the retreats as I and II. Abide II will
focus on devotion and action, as these relate to abiding in Jesus Christ. The Abide I retreats focus on walking Christians through Jesus'
metaphor of the vineyard, and helping them understand the meaning of each component: The Vine, The Branch, The Vinedresser, The Fruit,
The World, The Pruning, The Seasons. They learn what Jesus meant when He told His disciples to abide in Him. Abide II will focus more
on how to keep abiding through practices of devotion, and how to act with Him once we receive what He wants us to release. Bud will use
his Prayer Journal, which is set up to teach the disciplines of devotion, and he is putting together a study guide for the weekend. Our first
Abide II Retreat in April is already filled up with 40 people coming by plane from the northeastern city of Recife, in the Brazilian state of
Pernambuco. They are coming with their pastor, Walter, and his wife, Karine, who came to an Abide I Retreat over a year ago. They have
held and taught three Abide I Retreats to the people in their church in Recife! We are sooooo excited for this group to come to our first
Abide II Retreat! Our capacity is 45-50 people, based on the size of our teaching room. The camp has a larger capacity, but then the teaching
would take place in the cafeteria, which is always a possibility. Our Lord has given us a wonderful team of volunteers who work hard at each

We are praying and asking the Lord to give us His design for our new branch, Abiding Women. Donna Faircloth is our leader for this branch
of the ministry. We have had one evening tea event, last Nov. and our next event will happen this month on the 29th. We would like this branch
to provide support for women of different ages, stages and walks of life, to apply abiding to their lives. So far we have the events happening,
but not the more personal venues. Praying. Asking. Waiting expectantly to receive from our True Vine.

Hoping each one of you is well and blessed in our Lord and True Vine! Remember to read John 15:1-11 every now and then to rediscover
Jesus' original and surprisingly simple design for discipleship and delicious oneness with Him and the Father!

Loving you each forever!
Prov. 3:5-7