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The Mule and the Donkey

We are living in times when many are being as “stubborn as mules” about things that may or may not be critical. Anyone with a passing thought can post it on social media and, if it is provocative enough, garner the support of international miscreants. We have learned how the more controversial thoughts get more reactions, so we opine without expertise, post without wisdom. Yet there is something winsome about combing grace and truth. Truth on its own can be harsh; grace without truth can be sloppy. The combination, however, builds up and infuses courage. When grace and truth are backed up by action the outcome can be nothing short of splendid.

Income-producing ass

We remember the unusual story about a mode of transportation being co-opted for a historic ride into town. More specifically, it was someone’s means of income or income-producing ass, that was conscripted into greater service. If this happened today the story might read:

“Go to the town ahead of...

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All—this is as inclusive as it gets

 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:9

Have you ever been to a gathering and felt that only a few people got touched, or worse, that everyone else was blessed and you were left stone cold? When others saw angels you saw the odd shapes of the people in front of you. When others felt snowflakes fall from the rafters in 100 degree heat, you thought the people in the bleachers were just spitting while they sang. What do you do with your expectations; how do you ensure you stay in a place of hope? Psalm 145 is the antidote to the “everyone else except me” blues. “The Lord is good to all.” This is God’s heart. His default setting is love and inclusiveness. His scope is set to All.  

If you are still thinking “all except me” then read these verses and count the number of ALLs.

All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and...

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Poured out, in store

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6-8

My colleagues and I gathered for our weekly prayer time in the office. It was December, the end of a busy year which had seen us in ten countries, sometimes more than once. The team looked tired as we read this Timothy passage together. 

For I am already being poured out

We don’t always do the things God asks of us because we feel like it. We don't work only when we have the energy. We don't just do things from an overflow. Sometimes we choose to tip our vessels even when all that remains is the gritty dregs of the year. You might say, “Go get your vessel filled before you...

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Pouring out is hard to do

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering  2 Timothy 4:6-8 

It is true that we should leave the judging to God, but starting with yourself, if you had to draw a line down the middle of this page and on the one side list your friends who our looking after themselves and on the other those who are pouring out “like a drink offering”... which list would be longer? On which side of the line would you be? 

The reality of busy lifestyles is the valid need to reinvest in ourselves, recharge our batteries, take some personal time. Living in busy urban settings where work creeps into personal space, where the freedoms and frustrations of being always on… we need some planned space in our spirits. I am for this. 

But when does self-care become self-absorption? When do we go from self-love to selfish? Will our generation have the selflessness to be a poured-out generation? Here is an irony: I have never before seen so many people talk so...

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PC Christians want hybrids

At that time, the son born of the ordinary way persecuted the son born of the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.  Galatians 4:29 

I spoke at a prominent marketplace ministry meeting on Fighting Giants with Business. During my talk I related many stories of God doing the miraculous in business. Afterwards one of the organizers, a professor at a Christian university, came to me and said words along these lines: “Brett, that was an excellent talk. I just wish that at the end, when you said how God miraculously revealed a new product to someone, you had rather said, ‘And then he went to college, got a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering, and developed a new product.’” What this man wanted was a hybrid: an eternity guaranteed by faith, but today’s reality run by reason. He was an engineer by trade and a recent professor at a university. He had no problem with businesses doing good – like a zero pollution engine – but how the...

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Happy work, good plan

For you, O Lord, have made me happy by your work.
Psalm 92:4 

One of the first ways humankind knew God was through his work. They saw what he had made: mountains, streams, fields, trees, birds, fish, animals and more. Perhaps they marvelled at how it all worked together in an ecological whole. As they grew in understanding of nature, they grew in appreciation for Creator-God. God’s work made them happy.

I will sing for joy because of what you have done

Then, as we understand from the opening chapters of God’s book, Adam and Eve learned to work as well. They were delegated responsibilities, and grew in their service and governance capabilities. Perhaps they learned the boundaries of their abilities as God’s gardeners. Maybe they experimented with what it meant to take wild nature and bring out its productive capabilities. It could be that they tried one technique, and Father suggested another, so the next day they tried that. As they observed seeding and...

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Foundation fixers

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58:12

God knows cities. He knows their foundations, good and bad, he knows their history, he understands their character, and he sees their potential. He sees—you could say has planned—that cities usually have economic foundations, sitting on trade routes or parlaying some geographic feature for commercial gain and the sustenance of peoples.

God also knows that most cities need regeneration. Where foundations were good, they have often been burned by the fires of corruption and greed, power grabbing and discontent. Where foundations are bad, “chains of injustice” and “the cords of the yoke” were and are the order of the day. Business can be for blessing, of course, but carries the inherent danger of amassing wealth, and with it, the power to oppress. 

We live in an era...

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Grace and blessing

that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
Psalm 67:2

What do you think it takes for God’s ways to be known throughout the earth? Teaching, training, more Bible colleges, simultaneous videocasts and podcasts to all nations? And what would it take for God’s salvation to be known among all nations? Mass evangelism, large crusades, a miracle-a-minute? Recently I was on vacation in Europe and had time to read and reflect. I barely got through this one psalm, struck by its richness.

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us, Selah
2 that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah 

5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 

6 Then the land will...

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Hope for place – team

To Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven... Ezra 7:12 

Spread all over the Old Testament are four books dedicated to this same incident of rebuilding the temple and the City of Jerusalem. When one reads Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah and Haggai together you get a fuller sense of how the massive building effort was successful, and particularly how the various ministers (remember, you are a minister) teamed together to get the job done. I want you to find your role in this business of God’s, this business of finding, funding and building places that serve his purposes.

Teacher Ezra

Prophet Zechariah, Haggai

Preacher Zechariah, Haggai

Apostle Nehemiah

Elders Many local leaders mentioned

Priests Many mentioned, besides Ezra

Intercessors All of the above

Financiers The leaders first, the Jewish people, foreign governments

Builders Some volunteer, some hired.

Building the kingdom is a team effort. While Artaxerxes recognized Ezra’s role as a teacher and...

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Hope for place – finances

For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.    Ezra 6:22

 A seven-day party—that ought to get our attention! For Israel it had been a stop-start effort to get the temple rebuilt. Finances had been a factor on and off. Overall, however, they had favor from many rulers. Nehemiah said, “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” This was king Artaxerxes. Ezra had enjoyed similar favor from Cyrus, king of Persia—“the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia.” Later Darius said, “The expenses of these men are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury…so that the work will not stop.”

 

This support from what some today would call “high net worth donors” was only part...

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