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Gaining promises

 and gained what was promised
Hebrews 11:33

Hebrews 11 lists the accomplishments of great heroes of the faith. This phrase in verse 33 challenges me: “and gained what was promised.” The principle is that what has been promised still has to be gained. I know that this is obvious, but when I read this I confessed to God that I had been passive. “If God said it, I will wait to see it happen, but there is not much that I can do to make it happen.” On the one hand, just waiting is very realistic. There is nothing I can do given the magnitude of the things God has promised. On the other hand, this verse tells me that people of faith somehow “gained what was promised.” So I reflected on the things that I am pretty sure God has spoken to me, and spent time praising God, thanking him for what he had promised. 

The second aspect that was highlighted to me is the source of the promises overshadowing the content of the promises. I acknowledged and...

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Fast company

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2

God did an amazing job in completely changing the mindset of a whole nation. Here were people who had lived immersed in another culture. The Egyptian boys had the cool haircuts, they drove the fast chariots and had a nice tan. The Egyptian girls were allowed to have tattoos and body piercing. So how do you take a whole nation—men, women and children—and cause them to have different minds and different hearts from the culture they have lived in for 400 years? I believe there were some keys:

    • Persecution: I doubt that they would have been ready to leave Egypt had they not had a really rough time.

    • Leadership: they needed someone to say, “God has said…”

    • Miracles: the probability of the Israelites believing God without an awesome demonstration of His power was low.

    • An impossible dream: the dream of the Promised Land was huge....
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As good as dead

and he as good as dead  Hebrews 11:12

We know God specializes in taking things that are totally impossible from a human perspective and turning them into something totally miraculous. We just don’t like to be the ones in totally impossible situations. A good percentage of our prayers, whether for finances, for health, for favor, or for grace, are prayed so that we can get out of an impossible situation. 

The fact is, unless we regularly get into totally impossible situations where we are in trouble, unless God shows up with a miracle, we may not be living a life of faith. Not all situations of faith come about in the same way:

  • Category A: “Help, God!” – these are unplanned, unpredictable I-need-a-miracle situations where life happens and we find ourselves beyond our capacities or resources. Our car gets rear-ended, and we need grace; our child gets ill unexpectedly, and we need a healing, a criticism comes out of left field, or the bottom falls out...
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Tents of Trauma, Tents of Transformation

The speed at which momentous things are happening in the nations and in the Church is astounding. Some of the change is traumatic, and some of it is terrific. Miracles are needed at national and international levels… and miracles are happening. I have to choose how I see what I see. I cannot ignore the fact that political leaders of all tents are making decisions counter to the Word of God. I am also seeing God do amazing things in “simple” ways. During 2020 we saw the traumatic tents of field hospitals and even temporary morgues. Today, revival tents are popping up all over the USA from Florida to California. 

On the one hand we see political leaders wielding power and at the stroke of a pen foundational changes appear to be made. On the other hand we are seeing old fashioned evangelists pitching tents, literally and figuratively, hammering pegs of truth into grounds of adversity, breaking the soil. Thousands are finding peace with God through Jesus Christ....

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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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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: 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: 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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