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Avoiding captivity

…but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands. Isaiah 5:12

What is it that causes people to “perish” or go into “captivity”? The answer that is usually given: “lack of vision” or “lack of understanding.” This, however, is only part of the story. We have to ask, “What is it that they did not have knowledge about?” To understand this better we have to read the beginning of the chapter. It talks about a people who are socially and economically sophisticated: they have mansions, expand their businesses, know their wines and are music connoisseurs.  But they don’t really know God, are unjust and unrighteous.

Therefore my people will go into exile…

Most teaching tends to emphasize what comes after the “therefore”—lack of vision or understanding—rather than what comes before the “therefore.” The big issue is this: having...

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Glorifying God

May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” Psalm 35:27

When God delays in answering prayer (such as healing Lazarus), it is so that He might answer it in a different way (such as raising him from the dead) in order that He might receive more glory.

When God vindicates His servant leaders, He does so in order that those who support the leader may shout for joy and gladness and always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of His servant.”  

The great aligning objective of man, the one thing that they can look to outside of themselves that will cause them to rise above themselves, the polar magnet that will cause the metal shards of our scrappy existence to pull together, is the increased praise of and attributing worth to (i.e., worship of) God’s name and character.  

When working with corporations, we...

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What to/not to do while you wait

The calendar has clicked over on a new year and, not surprisingly, your problems have not magically disappeared and your dreams have not been fulfilled (unless you dreamed to live another day, perhaps). In between now and when things come to fruition is the waiting and I find that waiting reveals more about who I am than does moments of fulfillment. Put more simply, how I wait speaks to who I am. Paul told his protégé, Titus:

“For the grace of God… trains us… while we wait” 

I remember years ago David Wilkinson (the Prayer of Jabez author) saying that he sinned when he felt uncomfortable so he learned to ask the Holy Spirit to comfort him, and this usually happened quickly when he consciously asked for comfort. Having to wait can cause discomfort, and when I am discomforted I can look for distractions: I look at YouTube (NFL Highlights, sailing, prophetic words, music… not necessarily bad stuff) or Facebook or Instagram. I find a...

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Devotional: But in the future

but in the future Isaiah 9:1

I was reading Isaiah 9 and felt it had strong relevance to the challenge we see of getting people out of the common way of doing Christianity and into a kingdom walk. The big hurdle of “recruiting” people for this or that initiative has little to do with leave, time commitments, or finances; it has to do with the possible new future for people, and how our enemy is determined to help people avoid it. The two phrases that hit me from Isaiah 9:1 were “In the past…” and “but in the future.”

As we end another Venture season (which feels much like the Old Testament times when kings returned from war) I am so blessed that the future of many people has been radically changed by God’s interjection these past four or five months. The future of many consultants has been changed forever because of the training they received. They grew spiritually when they had to serve clients in a way that went beyond their skills...

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Longing for company is normal

We were designed for community; this is normal. Whatever the “new normal” may be, it should not include insulation and isolation: physical, social, emotional and spiritual. There are amazing examples from history of people who grew good fruit on solitary trees: Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus, Frankl, Mandela… and many more. Paul was a prolific prisoner writing enduring truths with the ink of isolation. Even then, he wrote of his longing for people. The luminary was not so lost in ideas that he did not yearn for human companions.

I thank God through Jesus for every one of you. That’s first. People everywhere keep telling me about your lives of faith, and every time I hear them, I thank him. And God… knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in...

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Devotional: Eternal big picture

till I entered the sanctuary of God
Psalm 73:17

Do you ever lack an understanding of the bigger context of life? Do you think your life is worse than others? Do you wonder why you have a hard time and those who don’t know God do fine? Asaph had the same challenge, and in Psalm 73 as he gives us a good reason to do “scorecarding,” to measure…but it has to be in the right context.

Although he is in a bad place personally, he knows enough about God to start with the general truth. “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” This is as true as “God loves everyone.” It is true, but it lacks the personal touch.  “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped…”  What follows is verse after verse of bad news for Asaph and good news for the rich. Finally, he arrives at the middle of this song and says, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me,...

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Devotional: Did you hear?

You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.  Psalm 102:12

We are, at the time of writing, on the edge of a big property move. In light of this, Lyn and I have been discussing the difference between knowing a principle and having a rhema word about a place. This is where Psalm 102 comes into the picture. It appears that things are not going well for the psalmist, and then in verse 12 he says this:

You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.

My question is this: “Is this the appointed time for us, for The Institute, for the Johnson household, to have a place, a campus?” The rest of the psalm shows me seven reasons as to why the psalmist thought it was the appointed time.

  1. They had a love for place.
    For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.
  2. It was not just about them, but as always in kingdom things, it was...
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Bleak hope

The 2020 Christmas season is here. As we hang fragile ornaments on lonely trees it is important that we manage our hope levels. If we look at 2020 through the lens of sense and sensibility we may have plenty of reason to feel despondent. Hope is not just a feeling, however, but a choice. The beauty of hope is not that it shines when all is well, but that it prevails when life is bleak. 

Google the origins of “hope against hope” and you will find the phrase derives from the Bible where the Apostle Paul is writing about Abraham, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken.” (Romans 4:18) Before exploring this hope Abraham exercised, let’s read it in a few other translations:

  • Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he...
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Devotional: Delayed or immediate belief

Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I'm an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

And Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now; I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.”
Luke 1:5-38

Somewhere we have warmed to the notion that a skeptical response is a godly response. “Let me think it over... I am not sure I get it... could this be God?”, or the old favorite, “I'll pray about it.” In Luke chapter 1, we have two different responses to God. Zachariah wasn't about to have the wool pulled over his eyes, and so Gabriel had to clear the fog. “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won't believe me...”  Said another way, 'Hey, Zach, this is Big Gabe who's talking to you... a real, live angel.  Listen up!' 

Mary's response was different.  “Yes... I am ready to serve.”

What was the difference between them? Zachariah had probably...

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Covid-19 and multi-generational living: is there a connection?

For the last seven years I have co-hosted The Kingdom Summit with my friend, Ben Akabueze and this year it was all virtual. One of our speakers, Dr. Tom Dooley, commented that the incidence of Covid-19 in Africa, which is much lower than predicted, is due partly to the fact that Africa does not shovel its elderly into old age homes. Many of Africa’s senior citizens live in multi-generational units. Now, I have often said “God is a multi-____ god” but have not fully thought through the implications on our health. The God of the Bible is inclusive: Multi-Nation, -Ethnic, -Gender, -Tongue, -Profession, -Tribe, -Generation. There are exceptions: God is adamant that He is the One True God (three-in-one, actually) and that there is only one way to God, Jesus Christ. 

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

That said, broad swaths of scripture have multigenerational...

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