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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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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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Is Covid your ticket out of Egypt?

Let’s face it, we often only leave a place of comfort when we are prodded, pushed or shoved. Most people have some resistance to change and stay in bad situations rather than to face the unknown. This is not true for everyone, but articles abound on why people say “the old is better.” The nation of Israel had arrived in Egypt hundreds of years prior and their temporary escape from famine-ravaged Canaan led to them falling in love with garlic, leeks and sunset cruises on the Nile. 350 years later a handsome young fellow was born, but things had started to get a little nasty for Jacob & Sons in North Africa. Infanticide was Pharaoh's latest trick to control the Jewish population; this was followed by slavery and hard labor. You would think people would rush for the EXIT sign, but they didn’t.

“Therefore, tell the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I will bring you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians…’ but they did not listen to him...

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Devotional: Prophets And Real Estate

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul. 

Jeremiah 32:39-41

Jeremiah had just got into real estate. He was living in confinement in the king’s courtyard because he was predicting the doom of Jerusalem and Zedekiah, its king. “The word of the Lord came to me…” God’s word is not constrained, even when our circumstances have us imprisoned. “Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field…’” They were in a real estate slump. Nebuchadnezzar was besieging the city, and the prophet himself...

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Devotional: He Said One Thing, I Heard Two

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard  Psalm 62:11

What was it that God might have said—what one thing—that would cause David to hear two? I believe what we are seeing here is faith-based implicational thinking. If A is true, then B and C must also be true. Put another way, ‘If God promises me X, then he must be Y and Z, otherwise he could not make the promise.’ It is good to hang onto God’s promises, but it is a deeper thing to hang onto the God behind the promises.

David was not in good shape, it seems, and his enemies were out to cause him to crumble. While he admitted his condition (I am a leaning wall) he didn’t start with himself. He chose to start with God whom he describes this way: “He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress…” He does the Math this way: ‘God is my fortress + I am a leaning wall = I will never be shaken.’ That is a pretty awesome reality! The formula is...

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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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Devotional: Business Continuation

 

Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting. Leviticus 26:5

Even business leaders whose companies are doing well wonder whether their current business performance can be sustained. What if Scripture showed a possible way to avoid business downturns? The first thirteen verses of Leviticus 26 hold the conditions and the promises of sustained business performance. Our challenge is that we read it and think it is Old Testament mumbo jumbo and therefore miss the truth.

The conditions don’t seem that onerous: No idols of any sort, observe the Sabbath, reverence the sanctuary, follow God’s decrees, and obey his commands. What does this look like if we put that into New Testament speak—make that 21st Century language? 

  • Idolatry for ancient Israel meant buying into the worldview and religious system that were not from God. In business this means basing our business practices on assumptions that are not...
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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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