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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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Devotional: Calm, cool and collected

Be careful, be calm, and don’t be afraid. Isaiah 7:4

King Ahaz had reason to be concerned.  Three armies were colluding against him.  It seemed that the fall of his city was inevitable.  Scripture says that he and his companion’s hearts were melting within them.  God sent the prophet Isaiah to meet him and explain that the three armies would not prevail.  Then he gave this command:  “Be careful, be calm, and don’t be afraid.”

When we are “out doing something for God” we are focused; we are desperate for God to do transformative things. But once a particular mission is completed, it is easy to let one’s guard down thinking the battle is over. Problems we have held at bay for weeks now stare us in the face. This is no less true for me than for you.  So after a recent Venture this same word was spoken to me. “Be careful, be calm, and don‘t be afraid.” I wondered why the prophet started...

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Parties, personalities, platforms: the voting trilemma

News channels, podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Insta, texts… we are being bombarded with so much (dis+mis)information that it is hard to discern truth. Beyond the politicians running for office there are professors, doctors and an array of experts with differing opinions. To make matters more confusing, respected Christian leaders say “I could never vote for him,” or “don’t ever vote for her.” To add a little spice, they say your vote will be remembered (against you if you disagree with them) for eternity. Tough talk.

This morning, a week away from election day in the USA in 2020, I came in my daily bible reading in 1st Timothy. This was written about 2,000 years ago yet is quite effective in blowing away the verbal fog and helping me see the issues. It will become clear that I am not a political expert, as you read on, but I do have a determination to get to clarity, where I can. Before I get to the Paul/Timothy...

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Devotional: Basketful

Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Matthew 16:9-10

I have been considering the story of the loaves and fish in regards to the hundreds of people who have volunteered their time to serve fellow business-people. After seeing Jesus multiply natural resources, the disciples head across the lake. Later, in the boat, they panic about only having one loaf of bread, and Jesus warns them against humanistic unbelief. Prior to the miracle of the multiplication they were guilt free when it came to asking about a shortage of bread.  After the miracle they were held to a new standard. Consultants have seen God do many business miracles for clients, just as the disciples had seen Jesus feed thousands of people on nothing. We have seen revenues grow, costs shrink, orders come in, permits granted, machinery fixed,...

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