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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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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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Do you have enough?

In 2020 the annual income needed to be happy (in the USA) was roughly $75,000—earn less than this and you may be a little miserable, and earn more… well, the happiness per dollar does not increase by much. Situations vary, but this is the rough calculation. I wonder if it is fair to ask whether desiring more than “enough” is a love of money? I do not think this is always the case. If you want it so that you can give it, that is one thing. If you want it so that you can keep 90% of the increase for yourself, assuming you give away 10%, then that is different. In fact, it may be “the love of money” which we are told to avoid like a novel virus.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…” says the author of the book of Hebrews.

Dealing with greed is a tricky thing because we convince ourselves we need more. Contentment: it is easy to say it, but hard to stay in it. An experiment has been done...

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Madmen And Moonshots

I have been thinking about faith this last week, probably because I have been into Hebrews—not the coffee shop at a hipster church… the book in the bible. There are an amazing number of deep one-liners in Hebrews. I read the first two or three chapters wondering, as some have postulated, whether Mary, Jesus’ mom, did write the book. It has a lot of “Listen up! This is my son and he is greater than all prophets, higher than all angels” themes in it. Later in the book I got more immersed in the concept of a brand new order where every follower of Jesus has gained access to the courts of heaven where their advocate represents them. I took a detour of sorts to learn more about Melchizedek.

Now I have arrived at the 11th chapter where clearcut definitions and examples of faith are supposed to be, and I find a messy collection of madmen going for moonshots. “I am pretty sure I heard God say he was going to give me a whole country… and me and my...

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I love Melchize!

Some years ago we started spending most of the year in a coastal town called Melkbosstrand just North of Cape Town. A local pizza eating spot is called I Love Melkies and their sticker can be seen on cars in the area.

I think it is time to bring out an “I love Melchiz” sticker. Truth be told, Melchi of the Old Testament has one of those names it is easy to gloss over. He pops up obscurely then disappears into the background for about 1000 years until David gives him a fleeting mention. Then Melchi seems to vanish again until the book of Hebrews unpacks his significance. 

This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.”...

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Out With The New, In With The Old!

Religion can be a terrible thing when people get attached to the form of something and miss its essence.  About 500 years before Moses introduced the nation of Israel to the idea of having a whole tribe that were priests there was a man named Abram (which means exalted father) who encountered a guy who was both a king and a priest.  Abram recognized that this man was awesome and spontaneously gave him 10% of the loot that he had collected from a battle with a bunch of other kings. Then the man, who was a king-priest, refreshed Abie with wine and bread, and blessed Abram, giving him a new name... Abraham—father of many nations. 

Fast forward to Psalm 110 and King David gets a peep into heaven and observes a conversation between Father and Son. “The Lord said to my Lord sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool… The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow:
    “You are a priest forever in...

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Devotional: Woman of Peace

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

Luke 10:38

At the beginning of Luke 10 Jesus lays out a pattern of missions: go from house to house until you encounter a “Man of Peace” which you will discern, in part, because they receive your blessing. Listen, eat, perform signs and wonders, and talk about the kingdom. (The acrostic BLEST helps me remember all five crucial aspects of this pattern.) This is great missions stuff, but what did a “man of peace” look like to Jesus? The short answer is… a woman. Martha.

The scene is that Jesus and his disciples are “on their way” which is usually the way it is with Jesus. Many people stay at home waiting for Jesus to talk to them about ‘getting on their way’ but he already did this. Some of your best conversations will happen with Jesus while you are on your way somewhere with him. They come to a village and Jesus,...

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Dogfooding

When I came to the USA from South Africa in 1986 I had to get used to new colloquial expressions. I remember asking a senior executive how much tailored executive information he received: “A goose egg,” was his reply. I was wondering, “Is that a round zero, is that a golden egg…?” Another expression was “we eat our own dog food” and I remembered when my dad was sworn off meat because of his high blood pressure. My mom went out and dad attacked the remains of a meatloaf that was in the fridge, frying it in copious amounts of butter. When my mom returned she asked, “What happened to the rest of the dog food… it was in the fridge?” Eating your own dog food can be a wonderful thing, and I have been thinking a lot about this during the pandemic.

According to Investopedia, “Eat your own dog food is a colloquial expression that describes a company using its own products or services for its internal operations. The term is...

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The Women With Mirrors

“They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.” Exodus 38:8

Tsaba is a Hebrew word that means “to go forth, wage war, fight, serve.” We don’t know who these women were, or how they got there, but there they were ministering at the entrance to the place of worship. There is no record of Moses saying, “How about we get a women’s fellowship, or a weekly ladies prayer meeting…” These ministering women just appear. They probably saw, not just with their natural eyes, that God was up to something, and they wanted to be right there.

Theirs was not a soppy, soaking, sloppy worship either: it was “tsaba” – waging war, fighting, going forth. These were women on a mission, with a purpose, doing spiritual battle before anyone stepped into the tent of meeting. 

Scripture does not tell us whether these were single or married women, but it...

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