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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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Devotional: Audience of One

Not that I accept human testimony…
John 5:34

How and what we perform is driven by whom we have in the audience of our minds, holding our scorecard.  Jesus knew the Father so well that He played for an audience of One. Contrast the dialogue we have in our minds with the statements of Jesus:

I’ve done pretty well... “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.”

Even if I say so myself… “There is another who testifies in my favor.” 

It is public knowledge that he is on the XYZ Most Successful list… “Not that I accept human testimony…”

My portfolio speaks for me… “For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”

Our speaker tonight is a famous businessperson / athlete / movie star / whatever who just found Jesus last month… “I do not accept praise from men…”

We believe God…...

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Devotional: Be like Jesus

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon… John 1:41

Want to be like Jesus? Become a Networker. While writing my book, LEMON Leadership, I noticed a pattern in the way Jesus built his team. When you read that Jesus spent all night in prayer and then chose the 12 disciples, perhaps you imagined him seeing all of them in prayer and then picking them, much like you choose a soccer team. “I’ll take you over there, and you over there with the fishing nets, and you over there…” But Scripture reveals that he leveraged the relational networks already in place. 

“Jesus invited Cousin John’s devotees to hang out with him for the day. One of them, Andrew, was a bit of a Networker himself. When he realized there was something special about Jesus, he promptly went home and recruited his brother, Simon, who became employee # 3.

The next day Jesus followed the relational trail to the hometown of Andrew and Simon and recruited # 4,...

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Devotional: Be Real, Strong

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way, say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…He will come to save you.’  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Isaiah 35:3-6, Matthew 11:3-5

Often as I prepare for and look back on a business venture, I remember Christ’s response to the “Are you the real thing?” question asked by John the Baptist. John had put in a fair effort for the kingdom. He had run his race, and it ended in a prison. Now he wanted some assurance that the effort he invested was not misguided. Jesus gives this pregnant reply.

Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what's going on: 

   The blind see, 

 The lame walk, 

   Lepers are cleansed, 

   The deaf hear, 

...

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Devotional: Power outage

“I know that power has gone out from me.”

“Don’t bother the teacher any more.”

They laughed at him… but he took her by the hand and said,
“My child, get up!” Luke 8:40-56 

A funny thing happened on the way to Jairus’ house. Jesus is on a mission to heal a sick twelve year old, the only daughter of an important person. Dad is distraught, Jesus is responding to the 911 call. If you were Jesus you might be thinking, “I can handle this… stay focused.” But then there is the jostle of the crowd, and all of a sudden Jesus feels power go out of him. He knows that interruptions can be divine interjections, so he pauses to address the situation… during which time the patient dies. The young girl, that is. 

Three things emerge from this passage. First, Jesus was feeling differently. His team was feeling the pressing, moving throng, crowding and almost crushing Jesus. He was feeling the touch of faith and...

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