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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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Approaching life like Jesus

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!’”

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 the transfer of...

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Who is your rewarder?

He is the rewarder Hebrews 11:6

This week as I went for a walk this phrase came to mind and I meditated on it. We live too much of life thinking that someone other than God is our rewarder. A coach, a child, a peer group, a fund manager, a landlord, a teacher, a boss, or a company. Who is your rewarder? Who dangles the carrots that drive your donkey forward? You may be an independent sort that says, “I make my own goals; no one tells me what to do.” Good—but when you do what you do, whose eye is upon you? Is it the approving eye of man, or the singular eye of your true Rewarder?

Imagine a week in your life lived fully cognisant of the truth that God is the only rewarder that matters. No stuffing in of meetings that don’t matter, except that Thus-and-so will be there. No time spent on activities that posture but do not produce. No browsing through magazines or websites or TV channels to gain a temporary reward.

In some ways God rewards everyone. We will all be...

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Healed people heal people

And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

It is not about us. How often have you heard this said, and wondered what it means? There are seasons when, in some senses, it has been about you. God loves us and simply wants the best for us. Psalm 35:27 says, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

The truth is, we also want you to be whole so that you are optimally equipped to serve God’s purposes on earth. He wants our healed hurt to be a source of healing for others. 2 Corinthians 1 makes it clear that we comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves have received. The Message puts it this way:

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father...

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Avoiding captivity

…but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands. Isaiah 5:12

What is it that causes people to “perish” or go into “captivity”? The answer that is usually given: “lack of vision” or “lack of understanding.” This, however, is only part of the story. We have to ask, “What is it that they did not have knowledge about?” To understand this better we have to read the beginning of the chapter. It talks about a people who are socially and economically sophisticated: they have mansions, expand their businesses, know their wines and are music connoisseurs.  But they don’t really know God, are unjust and unrighteous.

Therefore my people will go into exile…

Most teaching tends to emphasize what comes after the “therefore”—lack of vision or understanding—rather than what comes before the “therefore.” The big issue is this: having...

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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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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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