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Keys to the Promised Land

You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance…
Deuteronomy 1:17-21

The words Promised Land conjure up pictures of overflowing milk and dripping honey.  Reflecting on what ‘taking the Promised Land’ entailed, there seem to be a few realities to factor in:

  1. The land didn’t come to them; they went to the land.  
  2. The land already had occupants. This was no Goldie Locks-finds-empty-cottage scene.
  3. The sitting tenants were not hanging out “have my house for free” signs.  There was a fight for the land that was already theirs.
  4. The spiritual roots of the places they were to call home were not exactly Baptist.
  5. God seemed very concerned about pure obedience and not at all worried about resources needed to ‘take the land.’  The answer to the latter was always “The Lord your God has given you…”

There is a wonderful symmetry of the sovereign acts of God and the respondent obedience...

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It’s not about me

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"
John 21:17-19

It's not about us. Peter had just experienced three incredible years with Jesus, but they culminated in a colossal failure. After a marketplace miracle that demonstrated Christ's authority and awesomeness, Jesus got Peter back to basics. “Feed my lambs.  Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.” In the midst of this, Peter has a pity party. “Peter was hurt...” The way Jesus counters his introspection is by resetting the context. It's as if Jesus is saying, ‘This is not about how you feel, Peter, but it is about life and death, darkness versus light, the future of the Church.  Get over how you feel.’

When you get in the trenches with others doing kingdom business, there is potential for hurt. Let's relinquish our “right” to self-pity, our mandate to mope, and subjugate it to the broader agenda of God's business. “But I...

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The fine line between good and best

the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith
Hebrews 4:2

Reading the book of Hebrews one can’t help but notice the fine line between Christian and kingdom, between law and grace, between man’s way and God’s way. The facts about relationship with God through Jesus are right, are good, and are essential, but for living life they are not enough. The law is also good: the precepts, the principles, the ways of God…these are excellent, but on their own they only emphasize our need for something more. Best practices, human logic, intelligent thought, considered opinion… these too are good, but they are not enough to please God.

There is a fine line, but there is also a vast chasm between good and best, between rational and obedient. The writer of Hebrews expresses it well as he spoke of the nation of Israel. They had information, but they lacked inspiration. They analyzed the facts, but failed...

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Roots of disorder

I am delighted to hear of the careful and orderly ways you conduct your affairs, and impressed with the solid substance of your faith in Christ.

Colossians 2:5 

God is not a God of disorder. I, however, am often disorderly. In extreme situations I could blame it on God for making me a disorderly person, or explain it as creativity or spontaneity. No matter what my excuses may be, disorder dilutes the deposits of God. It pokes holes in the wine barrel, it makes the balance sheet leak, and it drains impact. 

There are many things that eat away at order, but I will focus on just a handful:

  • An untutored mind. Order springs from knowledge, and such knowledge is obtained both by discipline and by the Spirit.

  • Self-sabotage. Fearing the responsibility of success or the pride of self, we self-sabotage.

  • Refusing to grow up. “That’s just me” isn’t a good explanation to give to a Senior Partner who is intent on our growth.

  • A weak will. Jesus “set his...
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Stupid money

I lived in Silicon Valley for over 30 years and often heard the phrase “smart money” which meant funding that came from investors who added value beyond just capital. Smart money brings know-how, industry experience and networks that are often more valuable than just cash. 

Scripture alludes to “stupid money” in Psalm 40 which ends with this phrase:

“Rich people with no understanding are just like animals that die.”

Living a life without purpose is terrible; dying rich and leaving this life without having figured out the meaning of money is… well, no different than living and exiting the planet like an animal.

Stupid money has not found its purpose. Stupid money meets the needs of this life but does nothing for the rest of one’s life in eternity. Stupid money focuses on consumption, not multiplication through others.

If smart money has discovered its purpose, what are some of the broad purposes of money? The usual answers include...

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Strength to birth

They said to him, “A message from Hezekiah: ‘This is a black day, a terrible day - doomsday! Babies poised to be born, No strength to birth them.’”
2 Kings 9:3 The Message 

Many years ago, as a young leader of a local church, this Scripture challenged me. We had started many things, but what were we finishing? Initiating something is one thing; delivering it is another. Conception is fun, birthing is hard work.

As I write this I am challenged again: Much is being initiated; how much will be brought forth into the light of day? Ministering every day, in and through business, invites opposition. This is a spiritual matter. The enemy operates at the gate, at the threshold, and we need to achieve victory over him there, in prayer. Call out people to stand at the gates with you. Call forth midwives. Many have worked hard for months. Now we need the strength to deliver this baby. May Hezekiah’s message not be true of us:

“Thus says Hezekiah: 'This...

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You can't take it with you

It has been said no one has seen a hearse with a U-Haul trailer behind it. (Strangely I found many images that tell a different story.) There is even a popular song by Kristian Bush with the same sentiment.

Everybody wanna die rich

Diamonds, Champagne,

Work your way down that list.

We try, everybody tries

Tries to fit into that ditch

You can't take it with you when you go

Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch

Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch.

Our last two blogs have highlighted various aspects of Psalm 49 and the dangers of disconnecting wealth from eternity. The Message translation of scripture gives us a simple summary:

So don’t be impressed with those who get rich
    and pile up fame and fortune.
They can’t take it with them;
    fame and fortune all get left behind.
Just when they think they’ve arrived
    and folks praise them because they’ve made good,
They enter the family burial plot
...

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Trust and do good

Trust in the Lord and do good. Psalm 37:3

Trust and do. This is an interesting concept. Somehow we have the idea that trusting God and doing good are mutually exclusive. There is a notion held by some that inaction is more spiritual than action.  

Take a few minutes and read through Psalm 37. There are the juicy bits, of course, such as “…and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I like that. When I read the whole song, I find an almost even mix of things that tend towards rest and action. If I miss the AND, I miss the whole thing.

For example:

Active resting

Active doing

Trust 

Give generously

Commit your way

Lend freely

Delight yourself

Turn from evil

Be still

Practice justice

Do not fret

Be righteous

Hope in the Lord

Speak wisdom & justice

Be meek

Keep God’s law

Be content with little

Be blameless; don’t take matters into your own hands

Wait for the Lord

Be a...

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Death ate the rich man for breakfast

We don’t like to talk about death, but the older I get the closer I am to it. We have this illusion in the Western World that having a lot of money will somehow shield one from the tougher side of death. Psalm 49 talks about how we try to cheat death. Some name buildings after themselves, extending their legacies. Others write books, endow foundations or leave great wealth to their families. Even if you name a country after yourself, you will end up living in a tomb.

Their tombs will remain their houses forever,

    their dwellings for endless generations,

    though they had named lands after themselves.

My last blogpost cautioned us to be careful who it is that we follow: are they the self-made rich concerned about this life, or have they connected their wealth to eternity? For those who know God there is the assurance that death has been defeated through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So the apostle Paul can ask, “Where, O...

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We Know Nothing

We speak of what we know
John 3:1-21 

“We know.” Smart guy, solid religious background, years of study, stimulating intellectual environment, wrong conclusion. Nicodemus comes to Jesus and starts off by saying, “Rabbi, we know…” A few mind-blowing facts from Jesus and Nicodemus’ last recorded words in this conversation are “How can this be?” This is followed by a sound rebuttal in a real us-and-them passage, Jesus points out that He and His disciples are actually the ones in the know: “We speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” Pretty strong words from the Lamb of God. 

How about us? Do we approach God from a “we know” perspective? We know our history, we know our doctrine, we know our Bible, we know what God said five years ago. The paradox is that we do know some things, and yet that very knowledge can leave us isolated from the...

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