Monday, September 30, 2019

Where You Lead

Last week, we saw that the prosperity of Jerusalem - the place where God's people lived and worshiped - depended upon their keeping of the Sabbath. But the same is not true of the king's security, which depended upon quite a bit more. 

The king's security - his ability to rule and to reign, to lead his people (to lead His people) - depended upon his administration of justice and righteousness, his rescue of victims of oppression, his refusal to exploit or brutalize aliens and orphans and widows, and his protection of innocent blood (Jeremiah 22). Which sounds maybe like a lot, but also like exactly the kinds of things you would expect from your leader. 

So..what if you are supposed to be a leader?

Most of us think more about just living our lives. We think about the places we frequent on a day-to-day basis, the things we do, the thoughts we think. We come to believe that just living quiet, "good" lives is enough and maybe, yes, even keeping the Sabbath, since the prosperity of the place where we live depends upon it. And we think that this other stuff, this higher threshold, is for others. It's for the leaders in our world. It's for the presidents and the politicians and the CEOs. 

But what if it's not? What if it's also for us? 

It's about living in two directions, and we'll look at this a bit more tomorrow because this hits on an issue that is of extreme importance. We are God's people in the world, and it is because of the way that we live as God's people - that we live in Jerusalem - that He has called us also to be His kings, to be leaders in the world. We're the ones who are supposed to help others get to Jesus. We're the ones who are supposed to show them the way.

And we think that maybe showing them the way means showing them the good, quiet, faithful life that we live. It means showing them how to read their bibles and pray and go to church, how to call themselves a Christian, how to keep the Sabbath. But that's not the way we lead. 

We lead in bolder movements, in broader motions. We lead by administering justice and righteousness, by fighting for what is right. We lead by rescuing victims of oppression. We lead by refusing to exploit others, especially widows, orphans, and aliens. We lead by protecting innocent blood. 

The world's not interested in Jesus because He offers a way to have a devotional every morning or something to do on Sundays. The world's not interested in Jesus because He has some cool songs or because He listens to pray.

The world is interested in Jesus because He loves. 

So if we want to lead others to Jesus, we do that by loving them. And it starts with the burden He put on the kings of old, those chosen and appointed to lead their people just as we lead the ones He has given to us. 

It's important to recognize this difference and to start living it well. This world will never come to know Jesus because they see us pray or worship or study; they won't get it from our bumper stickers. The only way this world will ever come to know Him is if we lead them to Him by love. So let's do that. Let's stop saying that our own prosperity is enough, and let's lead others somewhere rich. 

Friday, September 27, 2019


Ask the average person, even the average Christian, about the Ten Commandments, and you're likely to hear a shortened version of them. Most of us can remember about half, maybe as few as three or as many as seven. Love God and have no other gods; honor your father and mother; don't kill, lie, or steal. Or covet. Let's see - that's seven. That about covers them, doesn't it? 

For many of us, the answer is yes. That's the heart of it. That's what God desires from us. 

But then look at Jeremiah 17, and we see something interesting. Jeremiah is talking about the prosperity of Jerusalem, and when the prophet talks about what it takes for Jerusalem to prosper, he raises only one of the commandments. And it's not even to love God and have no other gods. 

It's to keep the Sabbath.

Yes, that's one of the Ten Commandments. It's also the one we are most likely to forget about or to leave until last or to consider probably the least important out of all of them. Sabbath? Rest? It seems so antiquated, so outdated, so...impractical. In today's 24/7/365 society, to even think about Sabbath seems absurd. 

If we think about it at all, we think about it in very small terms. Like not eating meat on Fridays or turning off our phones for an hour of spiritual discipline time. We think about Sabbath the way we think about fasting, as some short duration of denying ourselves something in order to say that...what? to say that we did it? Because it sounds holy?

Truthfully, most of us even think that if we love God, honor our parents, and don't kill, lie, or steal...or covet...we've got it made. 

But the prosperity of Jerusalem depends upon how well God's people keep the Sabbath.

And it seems weird, right? Of all the things we could be doing to live "good" lives, this doesn't seem like it's that important. It doesn't seem like it should be the thing, but it is the thing. It's everything. 

Keeping the Sabbath is the only commandment that demonstrates that we trust God. It's the only one that shows that we believe He is caring for us, that He is the source of all things, that He is active and working in our world, that our God dwells among us. Only when we stop can we see what He's doing. It's not us; it's Him. At rest, we see that in a way that we never could at work. At rest, we see that in a way that we can't possibly see it if we're just "good." We can be good all day long and not actually believe in, not actually trust God one iota. 

But stop and rest, and we really put our faith on the line. We really show that we are who we say we are...because we've made room for God to be who He says He is. And for us to see it. 

Ask us, and we could probably name a few of the Ten Commandments. Maybe, though, we should start with this one: observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy. 

For when the Sabbath is holy, we see our holy God. The prosperity of Jerusalem, of God's people, depends upon it. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Good Covenant

A couple of days ago, we talked about the real problem with sin - which is not that we commit sin, but that we deny our sin and pretend we haven't done it. It's amazing how often we can see this subtle difference if we are looking for it in the Scriptures, even in stories we think we know so well. 

There is yet more proof that God accepts (though does not condone) our sin as part of being in a relationship with us, and it comes from, among other places, Jeremiah 11. Here, we see God keeping His promise to curse His people when they sin.

You might think, now, wait a minute. If God curses His people when they sin, isn't that proof that He isn't willing to accept sin as a part of our relationship? Doesn't that mean just the opposite of what you just said?

Actually, no. Because here's the beauty of this: God wrote sin into the covenant that He made with His people. That's what the curses mean.

The curses are part of the covenant because sin is part of the covenant. Because our falling short is part of the covenant. Because our turning away is part of the covenant. God knew that these were things that we were going to do, being in nature who we are as a fallen race of human beings, and He made provision for our sin in His covenant, so that we would know that He is still who He says He is even when we are not who He wants us to be. 

He wrote right into His covenant with His people, "This is how I'm going to act and how I'm going to love you according to my nature even when you have acted according to yours." 

In other words, when we're human, He's still God, and He made that part of the promise from day one so that we would never forget it. 

It's a strange idea. Most of us only covenant in the positive. We make agreements based on mutual good and it's why so many of our covenants end up broken. Because when someone else breaks the covenant, we feel justified in breaking it, too. That's not God's style, though. 

What God says is, When you break this covenant, I covenant with you right now that I will continue to covenantly love you. Think about that. We think that God's punishment is anger or disappointment or a disowning or a giving up on us, but it's not that. It's Him still loving us, just as He told us from the very beginning that He would. Just as He promised at the very start of the whole thing.
The curse? It's love. The curse? It's covenant. The covenant? It's real. The covenant? It's good. That's how you can tell you've got a good covenant - if it's a covenant still even when it's broken. Mind-blowing. 

And yet...amazing. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In a Foreign Land

Jeremiah talks a lot about the exile, about the punishment of God's people by having them taken forcibly away from the good land that He has given them. What was once called "the Promised Land," but has so comfortably become simply "home" that the promise is all but forgotten; the people take it for granted as theirs, forgetting that it was first God's and that He gave it to them. 

So they start doing what God's people always seem to start doing - they start worshiping other gods. Idols they've made. Ideas they've concocted. Spirits they've consulted. Statues they've bought. They take their cue from the peoples all around them, peoples also settled in what seem to be "home" lands and if this kind of worship is what other peoples do in their "home" lands, then maybe it makes sense for Israel to do the same in her "home." 

That's what the exile is all about. It's not, at its core, a simple "punishment" for what God deems disobedient, some kind of tough love lesson in covenant-keeping. It's not some big show where God demonstrates His power so that Israel thinks twice about getting on the wrong side of Him. 

It's simply a statement. God says that His people have chosen other gods, so they must go worship them in other lands. They can't do it here. 

This is His land. This is His promise. This is His provision, His deliverance. He settled them here. He made them everything that they are. This is His house. If they want to set up idols, then fine, but they can't do it in His house. If they want to worship other gods, then fine, but not on the ground of His promise. 

He is, through and through, a faithful parent to His children. What parent among us has not made that hard decision when their child starts to go astray? "That's the choice you want to make? Fine, but you can't do that in my house." Smoke? Not in my house. Drink? Not in my house. Curse? Not in my house. Name it. 

Not in my house. 

God has promised to give His people good things. The moment they start choosing bad things, He draws the line. Not in My house. Not in My promise. Not where everything that I'm trying to do for you is good. You want something that's not good? Then go to a not-good land and have at it. 

Enter Babylon. 

I think we misunderstand the exile as some kind of show of force, as some kind of disapproval, some horrible harsh punishment. We think that if we step out of line, God's going to do the same thing to us - He's going to cast us out to some unknown place where we'll slowly wither away and die or whatever. We fear what God could do to us if He wanted to...

But let's stop right there. God didn't want to exile His people. It wasn't just some whim that He had or some divine choice to "really give it to 'em." It was love. It's always been love. He's always been love. 

It was the consequence of their own choice. God was giving them not what He wanted, but exactly what they wanted. They wanted to be in a place where they could live by their own rules and worship their own gods, so He gave them that chance. He put them where that was exactly the life they could live. Not because He wanted to, but simply because He, as a loving parent, had one rule: not in My house. 

So off they went and lo and behold, wouldn't you know it, they discovered in their new houses that home was so much more than simply granted; it was Promised and given, with grace and love. 

It's why we should never forget what a place like Home truly is. 

There's nothing like it. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Word on Sin

You've probably heard the trick question: did God really say that money is the root of all kinds of evil? The answer, of course, is no - God said that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And then everyone laughs and says, "Gotcha." We've heard it so often that the question doesn't even trick us any more. 

So here's another one for you: is sin that big of a problem? 

On the surface, we'd all say, well, yes. From the very beginning with just one piece of fruit, we've shown that sin is a problem. Turn on the news, read the headlines, log in to social media, and you can see it plain as day. Sin is a problem. In fact, most of us would say that our biggest problem is sin. 

But maybe that's not what God would say. 

It's another one of those little subtleties that changes the way that we understand everything. Jeremiah 2 helps us to see it, confirms that this little bit of nuance matters. And this little bit of nuance is this: God is more upset with you for saying that you haven't sinned than for actually sinning. 

Read that again - the big problem is not that you're a sinner; the big problem is that you pretend that you aren't one, even while you go on sinning. 

And who among us doesn't do this? Most of us consider ourselves good persons. We're decent human beings. We live nice lives and do kind things and give of what we've got to help others. Sinners? Yeah, we guess, if you're going to get all "religious" about this sort of thing, but in our day-to-day lives? We're just good people. 

Go back and read the stories. Eve picks a fruit...not a big problem. Eve gives the fruit to Adam and he eats it...a bit of a problem. Eve has a bite...still, a little problem. They hear God coming and fear they're about to be found out, so they hide in the bushes...big problem. You can actually hear the moment God's heart breaks, and it's the moment when Adam and Eve decide that it's better to be sinners and hide than to be sinners and confess. 

The Scriptures are full of this exact scenario, and so are our lives. Most of us have even convinced ourselves that we don't really need God; we just choose Him because He makes our lives somehow better, by whatever terms we've defined that. 

Read that again - most of us have convinced ourselves that we don't even need God. 

That's why it's the denial, not the sin, that's a problem. God loves us. He loves us so much that He's made for us a way back to Him...again and again, as often as we need it. That's for sinners. 

But in order for sinners to take the road back to God, they have to be willing to admit that they are sinners. They have to know how lost they are. They have to confess how far astray they've wandered, and that's what we're so unwilling to do. 

The big problem? The big problem is not that we've sinned; it's that we claim that we haven't. This breaks God's heart more than anything. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Servant of God

One of the arguments you'll often hear about Christianity is that it's foolishness. Why would I willingly enslave myself to some God when I can live a good, decent, generous life on my own and reap the benefits of my own good works? In other words, "I don't need God to be good."

And it's true. Plenty of good and decent and even wonderful persons are making this argument right now. They don't need God to be good; they're being good. What they're not being, of course, is saved...and a whole lot of other things that go along with that. 

It doesn't seem savvy in our world to become a servant. In fact, I'm not sure it has ever been the thing to do. There aren't many persons on earth who have ever said, you know, what I want to do with my life is live in someone else's house and do all of their hardest, dirtiest, most troubling labor in exchange for never being able to provide for myself or have my own family or build my own house. 

Yet, that's exactly it. It's that last part. It's that last bit that actually makes is so appealing, when you really stop to think about it. 

When you become a servant of God, you get to live in His house. He becomes the One who provides for your every need. You eat food out of His pantry. You do laundry in His river. You sleep under His roof. 

Not only that, but His family becomes your family. You get it all. You get everything. His sons and daughters are your brothers and sisters because you become His son or daughter. 

This is the thought that strikes me when I read Isaiah 65. And after all of that, just look at it. 

Here's what I'm telling you: you get to live in God's house and have all the benefits of the blessings of God and be provided for and cared for and sheltered and welcomed and have all of these brothers and sisters...and all you have to do is commit yourself to being God's servant, to doing His hardest, dirtiest, most troubling labor, which the way...just love. 

All this can be yours if you're willing to others. That's a pretty sweet deal. 

Throw in on top of that by committing to being God's servant and living in His house, you also get the one thing your "good" life can't give you; you are also being saved. Who wouldn't take that deal?

It sounds nice, being all independent and obstinate and not in need of anything from anyone, declaring yourself to be a free agent and "getting" to live solely for yourself and at your own discretion, but when you really dig down under the surface of it, I'd take God's deal any day. 

How about you?

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Eunuch's Name

Every once in awhile while reading the Scriptures, we come across a man who is a eunuch, or a reference to the eunuch. This is not an idea that we're very familiar with in our contemporary times, so let's start by establishing what a eunuch is. 

A eunuch was a man who was castrated very young so that he could be dedicated to some kind of service. Many eunuchs were in the service of royal households, although other households probably also had eunuchs if they were wealthy enough to do so. The idea was that if you take away a man's ability to have his own family, he will be more committed to yours. He will be indebted to you because you will be his only source of stability and provision. Additionally, you can then trust him around your young girls because he will not have a sex drive or the ability to woo them away (no girl wants a man who cannot give her children, not in a society defined by the family unit). 

Eunuch were typically honored, in that they were entrusted with a lot and often ran households more than their masters did, but let's not kid ourselves - that kind of honor, when everything else has been stripped away from you, is not really honor at all. 

Then, in Isaiah 56, something beautiful happens. The prophet talks about God giving His name to the eunuchs. 

God sees them. He sees these men who have had so much taken away from them. He sees these men who are never going to have their own name in the world. Whatever name they have, it dies with them; they will have no sons nor daughters to carry it on for them. That has been stripped away from them from a very young age, so young that they might not have ever had the chance to even dream about such a thing. They have known, from before they could even consider it, that their name was done. 

So God gives them His. He gives them a name, and not just a name, but the name - His own. He calls them by His name, recognizing them with all the honor and dignity they deserve as men created in the image of God, bearing Him into the world. Their faithful service, their sacrifice (though not willing), their honor does not go unnoticed by Him. 

Sure, maybe their households are just like, "Oh, him? That's Bill. He's mine; I own him." But God...but God is like, "Him? That's William. He's mine. And I love Him." 

No, Bill may not ever have children, but thanks be to God, William...William is going to have a legacy. 

Isn't it beautiful? Do you see how big of a difference that makes? 

And we're not just talking about the eunuchs; we're talking about you and me, too. Whatever it seems like we don't have of our own, God gives us of His and it's greater than we could ever have imagined. 

Just ask the eunuchs. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019


What does God desire of you? What does He want? Of course, the most famous answer to that question comes from the prophet Micah - to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (6:8). But Isaiah has something to say about it, too. 

What Isaiah says is this: it is not enough to just be God's servant. He has also made you His light for others. (We saw this on Monday, when we talked about being His covenant with others.) (Isaiah 49) 

A lot of us don't get this. We've got it somehow backward in our heads. We think that what God wants from us is for us to be "good Christians" - He wants us to go to church, to read our Bible, to pray, to volunteer every once in awhile for nursery duty or vacation Bible school. We think that what He wants us to do is to put the bumper sticker on our car, wear the T-shirt, and take care of our lawns. What God wants from us is for us to love Him...and for others to know that we love Him and to call us Christians because we are oh, so good Christians. 

But remember that that is only the first command, but the second is like it. And that's what Isaiah is saying, too. It's not enough to just love God; we have to also love others. It's what He's created us to do. 

And this...this is what we're doing less well. 

You've probably heard that the worst time to do anything in America is Sunday around noon, right after church lets out. This is the worst time to go to a restaurant, and heaven forbid you actually work in one on Sundays. Christians are impatient, pushy, and often leave minimal (if any) tip for their wait staff. This is the worst time to go to a grocery store because Christians are in a hurry, pushing and shoving through the aisles, huffing about lines. 

For Christians, we'll tell you that the time most of us are "least Christian" is on Sunday morning just trying to get to church. We yell at our families, curse, mumble under our breath, trying to get everyone and everything in order, shouting at one another in the car, reaching over the seats from the front, threatening the kids to settle down so that we can be presentable when we get to the building to show how much we love God. 

All the while, we are failing - even on Sundays, before and after church - to love one another. (And during church, but let's not talk about that, shant we?) 

Yet God's word is abundantly clear, and in so many places - it's not just about how we love God; it's about how we love others. The New Testament says how we love each other, placing an emphasis on the Christian fellowship, but let's be honest...we're not even doing this. But this has been God's plan even before there was a church, even before Jesus said it. It's the foundation of the Law - love God, love others. 

And Isaiah makes it clear. It is not enough to just be God's servant; you were created to also be His light. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Here's another big difference between God and an idol: the weight. 

Consider this: you're packing up your house, getting ready to move to a new place. You're undertaking a new thing, and all your stuff has got to come with you. Now, you have to find more space in yet another box to put your idol. You have to pick it up, put it in the truck, take it out, carry it into the new place. 

Isaiah says that idols are a burden on the weary animals that carry them. A burden. And he's not just talking about the donkeys and camels and oxen that carried the heavy loads for the ancient Israelites; he's talking about the Israelites themselves. 

We are the weary animals that carry our idols. 

And it's not just the physical weight; it's also the emotional and spiritual weight of these things that we carry around with us that do us no good. As we saw yesterday, every idol has a past and a present - a story about how it came to be, and how it came to be so precious, and an ongoing mythology about what it's doing for us. 

But when we move, when we do something new, most of us take our idol with us and it becomes more than just a weight; it really is a burden. How can you ever do a new thing with an old thing slung over your shoulder? 

You move into a new house, but the old idol on the mantle makes it your old house. You start a new job, but the old idol on your desk makes it your old job. You have a new baby, but the old idol from the last baby makes it the last baby. When you hold onto an old thing in a new place, it makes it an old place. And then, well, how are you ever supposed to move on? 

We carry a burden from one place to another and then wonder why it is that we're never really free, that we're never really able to do anything new. We wonder why it is that we can't seem to shake the old ways, even when it's right there in front of our face that we're still doing the old things. It's a burden, just as the prophet Isaiah said so long ago (Isaiah 46). 

Yet, here is what we must not forget. Here is what makes our God different from our idols. Here is what makes Him greater - 

Though we are weary animals who carry our idols from place to place, the Lord our God carries us. 

He carries us. He picks us up and takes us from an old place to a new place, from here to there. He sets us on solid ground, puts us where we can truly do a new thing. It's not a burden to Him; He does not weary of it. Because there's no weight to it. There's no being bogged down, not with the promise of a truly new thing right on the horizon. Not with, as we saw yesterday, hope - a future, something to hang onto. 

When God carries us, we don't have to travel with all of our past on our shoulders; we travel with hope in the air. We are drawn toward something, not dragged. And we're not dragging all our junk behind us. Whatever we need, whatever's worthy, whatever's valuable is waiting for us there already. We go with hope, with promise, with anticipation, even when we're weary. For God carries us with hope from an old thing to a new thing. 

We just have to remember not to take our old things with us. Leave them where they belong, in the past. In their scene in the story. In their place in time. Our next scene is coming, our new place promised. And God is taking us there. And He carries us. 

We weary animals.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Past, Present, Future

When you read through the Old Testament, you can't help but notice how often the issue of idols comes up. Again and again, God reminds His people that idols are not the same things as gods, that no carved or graven image can ever have the same kind of power, compassion, mercy, love....investment...that He does. He cares about His people. 

Idols? They just sit there.

But perhaps one of the most profound differences between the Living, Eternal God and idols of wood and clay that weather and crumble comes in Isaiah 44, where God says plainly that although every idol has a past, none of them has the future. 

Every idol has a story. It has a place from where it came. You can tell your children the story of how you came to have this image sitting on the mantle. And they can tell their children. And they can tell their children. And one day, some day further down the road, some kid finds out that his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather carved this idol from the leftovers of another project he was working on, set it up, and the family has prayed to it ever since. 

Which is cool, I guess. Most of us have some kind of family heirloom with this kind of story. But it's nothing in comparison to the stories we can tell about the God who carved the heavens and the earth out of nothing and set them in His heart that we might learn to live and love on them according to His will. It's nothing in comparison to the stories we can tell about the God who provides a ram in the bushes, an ark in the rain, a path through the sea, a Savior on the Cross. 

And every idol has a present, too. If it didn't, the people probably wouldn't keep it around. What happens is that this thing comes into the house and then something happens that is considered good (sometimes, something happens that is considered accursed and an idol becomes feared, but most idols are loved for their goodness), and our human minds create an illogical-logical connection between the two events and we come to attribute the good thing to the new idol. So we talk with each other about what our idol is doing for us right now - growing our crops, protecting our household, increasing our wealth. Whatever it is. (These are the big three, I think.) And we figure that as long as that good thing continues to happen, the idol is responsible for it and is worth keeping around. 

Which is also cool, I guess. But it's nothing in comparison to the God who is present in our lives, to the good He is working out for us right now. It's nothing compared to the God who provides in our poverty, who nourishes in our hunger, who shelters in our storm. It's nothing compared to the inexplicable joy that we have in a broken and fallen world for no other reason than that we know God is with us. It's nothing compared to a peace that passes understanding in a moment so far from it that no idol could save us. 

But no idol has a future. No idol is set up with a promise of tomorrow; it's all about where it came from and what it's doing for us now. We have to keep doing what we're doing to make the idol worthy. 

God, on the other hand, keeps doing what He's doing to make us worthy. He has for us a promise for tomorrow, sealed with the blood of His own Son, who is already living it. Jesus is already living that life after death, that same life that He promises to us, and so we know that it's real. In other words - it's hope. Not as in, gosh, gee, I wish there might be a tomorrow, but as in, praise God for tomorrow. 

An idol may look like it can do a lot of things, but one thing it can never do is give us hope. Because it doesn't have it. It doesn't have tomorrow; it doesn't have a future. 

Only God does. 

And only because of Him do we. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

A New Covenant

You are probably familiar with the idea that the church is not a building; it's a people. More specifically, you are the church, the temple in which God dwells. No longer must we look to Jerusalem, to stone and mortar, to a mere structure; now, we must live as the church. 

You have probably also heard that under Jesus, the old covenant has been fulfilled and that we are now a new covenant people. That all the law-keeping, rule-following, ritual-performing requirements of Old Testament faith have passed away and the new law, the new rule, the new ritual is love. (We could, and probably should, talk for a minute about how much we've twisted that and how wrong we're still getting it, but...not now.) 

But what does all of this mean? 

Interestingly, we get a clue from the prophet Isaiah, long before any of this even mattered. Long before it was even imagined. Steeped in the times of the Temple, of ritual worship, of the Law, the prophet talks about something that most of us don't seem ever to have thought about. 

We are the new covenant. 

We get that we are the new temple and that we live under the new covenant, but what we don't often understand is that we are the new covenant. We are God's promise to the world. 

Isaiah says it in so many words (chapter 42) - God has appointed you as a covenant for people, to be a light and to heal and to free. All the things that Jesus called us to do, sent us to do, we do because we are the sign of God's covenant in the world. 

Think about that for a second. No, really think about it. God has given all kinds of signs of His covenant and His character in the Scriptures. He gave a rainbow after the flood. He gave a child to the childless. He put dew on fleece....and put fleece on dew. He moved the shadows ten whole steps. He delivered a long-awaited Messiah through a virgin.

And yet, He also says that the world will know that He is who He says He is, that He is the Lord our God, that He is Creator, Master, Lover, His people who illuminate, who heal, and who free. 

They'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes...but they'll know He is holy, amazing, wonderful, gracious, generous, powerful, present, God by our love, by our love. This world will know that God is for them when they see that we are for them. They will know that He is love when they see that we are love. 

It's more important now, in an age of science, than ever before. Because we think we can explain the rainbow and we know how to help infertility and through the invention of sperm banks, yes, even a virgin can bear a child, but we still cannot explain why one man loves another so deeply as to sacrifice himself for him. We cannot explain a love that goes beyond the barriers we've constructed for it. We cannot tell you why we care so much about someone we've maybe even never met before. 

Of course, as Christians, we know why. And most of us are fairly willing to tell others all about it. 

But let us show them instead. 

For we have been appointed as a covenant for people, that they may know the God who loves them. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Roots and Fruits

The Bible uses a lot of natural imagery to explain to us our existence. We often hear about vines and branches, roots, and fruits. Even Isaiah has something to say about this, as the prophet reminds us that we were meant to grow roots downward and bear fruit upward (Isaiah 37). 

On the surface, we already know this. This is how plants work. They put roots down into the soil and grow upward into the sky. If it grows under the surface, it's not a fruit; it's a vegetable. And the Bible never commands us to go forth and bear vegetable. So it only makes sense that our roots go down and our fruits go up. 

But if we're being honest with ourselves, our practice is just the opposite. Most of us are trying to put roots upward and bear fruit underground. 

Here's what I mean: 

The things that are supposed to be roots in our lives - our spiritual practices, our faith, our disciplines - these are the things that we're living on full display. We read our Bibles in front of others, or we read them so that we can tell others that we do. We pray when we'll be noticed praying. We go to church so that we can say that we go to church. Our exterior is Christian, through and through, but these things aren't actually putting down any roots in our lives; they are just things a lot of us are doing for show. So that others can see that we are Christian. Because it seems the most important thing about being a Christian these days is making sure you get credit for it. 

At the same time, whatever fruit we bear in our lives, we try to hide and tuck away for ourselves. Every good and beautiful thing, we want it to serve our own needs. We store away our money and protect our time. We take our blessings and swim in them privately. If it's good, it's ours, and we take it to make our own lives better, more comfortable, more eased. We hoard all the good in the world as though it's scarce and we're in famine, and we're taking our own fruit and using it to maximize our own living. 

What ought to be anchoring our life is floating free and our fruit is rotting under our own roofs. 

That's exactly what Isaiah was trying to warn against when he talks about this. That's exactly what he was trying to remind us of. Our faith is meant to ground us. It's meant to be lived out in the depths of our hearts, in the hidden places, in the places where it can set us firmly into something. A solid foundation. A good place to grow. 

The good stuff in our life, our fruit, is meant to be shared. It's not for our comfort or ease; it's for blessing the world around us. We're afraid that if we give away our fruit, there won't be any of it left, but just the opposite is true - the more fruit that is consumed around us, the more seeds that are exposed. The more we share our blessings and our good things, the more good things and blessings there seem to be in the world. 

We know that's true - we see it in our headlines and our social media feeds every day. One person does something for someone else and then it sets off a chain reaction of neighbors loving neighbors. We talk about these stories like they're rare, but the truth is these little things are happening every day, and they ought to be. That's what fruit is for. 

But fruit doesn't come without roots. Which brings us right back to where we started and having that firm, solid foundation from which to grow fruit to begin with. 

A lot of us have our lives backward, trying to show off our roots and hide our fruit, but the faithful life doesn't work like that. Actually, nothing works like that. 

Roots grow downward; fruit grows up. 

So get growin'. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Change of Plans

Most Gracious and Holy, Loving God, I come before You today to ask just this one thing, and I hope that You will not deny me. For I have lived a righteous life, loving others and doing good works, and it would be most glorious to see You favor me in this way. Lord, I ask, please, that You simply smite my enemies. Smite them good. Make them wallow in the dirt and die a terrible and painful death for being absolute jerks and totally against me...I mean, uhm, against You, Lord. Smite them. In Jesus' name, I pray (so that You have to do it). 


It's tempting, right? Especially for those of us who are trying hard to live a good and faithful life, who maintain our integrity, who love and serve and have to watch the wicked thrive among us. We have to watch as those who do ill harvest good, don't seem to have the troubles that we have, seem to actually create troubles for us. We do our best, and it's not good enough, and they do no good and it's all sunshine and roses. It's tempting for us to want nothing more than for God to smite our enemies. 

We're not the only ones. When God's people came under attack from Sennacherib, that was their plan, too - God should just smite him. Smite him good. Hurl holy arrows down on this guy who is trying to attack the sacred and holy land of God and end this thing, once and for all. 

But that's not generally the way that God works. In fact, if you look in the Scriptures, the only ones God tends to smite right on the spot...are His own people. His enemies, He takes a different approach with. 

In this case, God does not smite Sennacherib. Rather, what He does is bring news from far away and cause the man to change his plans and go home. Instead of continuing the siege against God's people, Sennacherib walks away from the ramps he's been building against the walls, he stops his shouting, he stops his threats, he rolls up his battle plans, and he goes home. 

At home, his own people kill him in his own temple worshiping his own god, who is unable to save him even at his most holy place. 

This is such a critical, but important balance. God can't - He can't - make His people untouchable in the world. He can't just come to their rescue and smite everyone who comes against them all the time. That's not how life works, and most importantly, it would eliminate the opportunities for His people to show what faith looks like. What He looks like. If God just smites everyone who is not for Him, no one new ever comes to be for Him because there is no witness; nobody can get close enough. And what we have is a powerful God, but not much need for faith. We don't have to demonstrate a way to live in this world because we don't live in this world - we live in a bubble that God's not allowed to let anyone burst. 

But at the same time, He does protect us. He does find ways to turn our enemies away, to send them back to where they came from. He manages to put them in the place where they feel most safe and then expose their weaknesses, which destroy them from within. He didn't do it to them; they did it to themselves because they did not have what we have - a living, active, meaningful faith in a real, powerful, loving God. In a weird way, their downfall, though not a smiting, is still a testimony to our God. It's still a witness. 

We want so much for God to just show Himself, to just be powerful and put everyone in this world in their place. And He does, but not in the way that we think. He doesn't show Himself in might and power; He shows Himself in witness - through you and me and, yes, even our enemies. Through using His strength to expose what is weak, His wisdom to expose what is foolish, His righteousness to expose what is wrong. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Rock

Every time I read about God our Rock in the Bible, I go back to Exodus and the wilderness, where the people were griping about not having enough to drink. There, God commanded Moses to strike the rock and bring forth water for them, and he does, and the people drink to their heart's content. Interestingly, 99% of the references to God as Rock come after this moment; there's only one in Genesis, and it comes late. 

So then I'm reading in Isaiah, and I see the prophet talk about the "everlasting rock," which is our God (Isaiah 26). 

This brings to mind something that Jesus said much later, to a woman He met in Samaria at a well. She had come to draw water in the heat of the day, hoping to avoid unnecessary interaction with other women from the town who were a bit...judgy. She had a reputation, and it was just easier for her to work herself under the hot afternoon sun than to deal with others in the morning or evening, as would have been customary for such a task. 

Jesus calls to her and asks for a drink, then tells her that He could actually give her a drink if she would just understand and believe in who He is - living water. 

These two images come together for me, then, when I read Isaiah's words talking about an "everlasting rock." It's a rock in the wilderness, divinely struck, from which flows the living water that Jesus talks about, the Living Water that He claims to be. 

Our Everlasting Rock flows with Living Water. 

It's a beautiful image, and it's more than just that. It draws together for us these two places - actually, three - that so dominate our experience in the flesh.

It draws upon the wilderness, where we wander and hunger and thirst and hope and ache and question and long. These are the places where our greatest questions linger, where we stand on the edge between one thing and another, where we're no longer where we were but we're not yet where we're going. When it seems most barren, this is where this image takes us - to the Rock. 

It draws upon the well, where we toil and labor for the things that we need for our living. These are the places that seem unavoidable, that must be encountered, that must be met. Here is where we seek provision, but also protection (as the woman sought in her solitude). When it seems most mundane, this is where this image takes us - to Living Water. 

And it draws upon the exile, which is where Isaiah spends so much of his time. The people of Israel are staring down Babylon, and hope is fading fast. Their eyes are set on a place they do not want to go, but to which their feet march them anyway. When it seems most defeated, this is where this image takes us - to our Everlasting. 

Everlasting Rock. Living Water. Grace. This is the Lord. This is our Lord. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


Light is one of those things that often escapes our awareness. Not in that we don't notice whether it is light or not, but rather that we often look right past the light itself and focus on where it appears to be originating. We look, for example, more often at the light bulb as the light, but it is not the light. 

And that is, of course, if we are looking for the light at all. Most of the time, we're just looking at all of the other things that the light enables us to see. 

Isaiah talks about the moon and the sun, both objects that we associate to some degree with light. These are the celestial bodies that guide our way during the day and the night. It is the sun's ability, by day, to emit light that gives us the sense of being able to see. And it is the moon's design, at night, to reflect light that illuminates what would otherwise seem vast and vacant in darkness. 

But let us not confuse either of these bodies with the light itself. The light alone is the light, and the prophet goes on to tell us that when we understand what true light is - the Lord of Armies, Christ the Lord - then these other things, these things we so often praise and look to in our present lives, will be disgraced

In other words, they're posing. And the time is coming when they are about to be exposed. 

Think about that for a second. What seems like light in our world is about to be exposed for its darkness, for its not actually being light at all. That's astounding. 

It puts so much else into perspective for us, as well. Think about everything that we credit God with letting us see in the world, everything we see in reflection of Him. Love, for example. What is love? We see love around us - real, brotherly love - and we think of Christ. But the reflection is so much less than the embodiment. 

Anything, really. We see goodness, and it echoes in our soul. We see righteousness, and we feel it. We see grace and mercy and sacrifice and honor and integrity and dignity and peace and a whole host of other good, wonderful, sacred things and who among us hasn't seen these and said to ourselves, "This is God. This is Christ"? 

But it's not God. It's not Christ. It may be holy, and it may be a reflection of Him, but every good thing we see in this world, every wonderful and loving and seemingly-godly thing we see in this world, is going to be disgraced when we are enveloped in Goodness Himself. When God reveals Himself in full, all these things in our world that are good are going to be revealed as posers. All that seems light is going to be shown in shadow when it stands before Him. 

It's mind-blowing. He's that much greater than whatever we know. That much. He is being in a way that we look right past in our world. We look at objects, but He is essence. We look at living, but He is life. It's right in front of our faces, but so easy to miss because we can't possibly fathom it. Not yet, not now.

And that's the rub. We know that the sun is not light, nor the moon. We get that. We get that light is more than the object where it seems to originate, but we have no way to fathom, no way to capture, no way to express what light is without its object until we ourselves become its object, until it is revealed and wrapped around us in such a way that it needs no explanation at all. It simply is.

As He always has been. 

And always will be. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Climate Change

You've probably heard a lot about climate change in the past few years, but not that. I'm not planning to talk about whether the earth is warming or cooling, whether pollution is the cause, what we can do to clean up our ecosystem and our oceans, or whether plastic straws are of the devil (although that last one might be at least a bit theological, if you spin it just right). 

What I am going to talk about is a real pollution problem that we have in our world, one that demands addressing right away - one that must be cleaned up, but, sadly, may not be in this life. I say that with some certainty because it's the same pollution problem that Isaiah wrote about thousands of years ago and we haven't found a way to fix it since then. 

You see, the real trouble in our world? The real poison? The real problem? 

It's "transgressed teachings, overstepped decrees, and [the breaking of] the permanent covenant" (Isaiah 24).

In other words, the most toxic thing on our planet right sin. It always has been, and until Christ comes back and renews creation, it always will be.

Still, there is some hope. These are some very specific troubles that Isaiah identifies, and if we look at them for what they are, we can see some things and hope to gather some wisdom to help us live more disciplined lives in the world and avoid contributing to the pollution problem. 

Transgressed teachings means that we have been given the information that we need to do what is right and to live and to love well. We know what the "right" answer is. But we aren't listening to it. We aren't following it. Rather, we are doing what we know doesn't fit with what we've been taught. That means we're going against the wisdom that we've been given. We're going against common sense, against the experience of those who have come and gone before us. We take these teachings and think that we know better, so we do our own thing...and it knocks the world out of balance. It knocks our lives out of harmony. We can't just do our own thing, nor do we need to. So many of us spend our time trying to re-invent the wheel when we ought to just be driving. 

Overstepped decrees indicates a refusal to submit to authority. Well, to submit fully. You see, it's always someone in authority who issues a decree. They're the ones who get to decide what to do and how to do it and to what degree to engage in something. When we overstep this, we take that authority into our own hands and do more than we're permitted to do. Again, we're trying to do our own thing, this time with a starting point of being told we can do something...but we take it to mean we can do anything we want

The breaking of the permanent covenant is all about fidelity. It's about keeping faithfulness. Imagine a marriage where one spouse is absolutely perfect, incredibly loving, attentive, sensitive, everything...yet the other chooses not to stay. One remains married; one does not - there is no longer a marriage. We cannot walk away from a marriage that God intends to stay in without calling ourselves divorcees, yet we are unwilling to be honest about it. Most of us think that we can walk however far away we want, since God will always love us anyway and will be there when we come back...just to walk away again. That's not a covenant; it's a game. And our lack of fidelity poisons our world. Just as we are unfaithful with God, we are unfaithful with each other. It's just no good.

So here we are with three guides for good living - wisdom, proper authority/submission, fidelity. When these things get out of whack, the world gets dirty. It's polluted. It affects everything.

It did in Isaiah's day, and it does in ours.

Maybe the climate isn't changing so much after all, but know this - it wasn't supposed to be this way. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Planting and Harvesting

As fall approaches, it seems like only a natural time to talk about harvesting,  but it's also where our journey through the Bible has us these days - in the growing parts of Isaiah, where the prophet has something to say on this subject. Namely, that even if you're a sinner, God will still let you plant and work the fields. 

He just won't let you harvest them. (Isaiah 17)

It seems almost unfair, doesn't it? Most of us only undertake projects that we're sure about, in one way or another. None of us sets out to do evil, none of us sets out to fail. Before we even get going, we have some confidence about what we're doing; it's what inspires us to plant. 

In fact, we're so certain about what we're doing that we'll even toil for it. We're willing to work the fields. We're willing to get our hands dirty. We're willing to sluck through the muck and the mud and the mire to bring about whatever it is we dream about, whatever we're envisioning. 

For a lot of us, this even includes having already asked God about what we're supposed to be doing. We believe He's asked us to do something or even called us to do it, so we dive right in and go about it without checking our hearts first. Without cleansing our souls first. 

For many others of us, our new ideas and projects are a way we're hoping to cleanse ourselves. We think that if we do this good work, if we throw ourselves into this good project, if God will favor what we are doing, then it will somehow wipe away our sin for us and we won't have to go through all that messy confession and repentance stuff. We can just show that we're a good person, and our minor lapses of the past will just disappear. 

So we dive in, knowing that we're good people doing good things that will make us good and overshadow all of our bad. And God lets us do that. 

But He doesn't let us reap the rewards of it if our hearts are not pure. If we're not clean. 

What's up with that? 

I think it's simple, really. I think God wants us to know what hope feels like. I think He wants to encourage us to be inspired by it. I think He wants us to understand how energizing it is, what it feels like to have something to work for, to put our hands to something, to labor for something we love. All of these are good and holy things. They aren't redeeming things; they are redeemed things. They don't save us from our sin, but they remind us what a life saved from our sin can be. 

He wants us to want to do good. He wants us to get moving and contribute something to the world. He wants us to love our neighbors enough to make a difference for them. He wants us to have all of that. 

He just doesn't want us to think we did it ourselves. 

And that's the heart of sin - the false belief that we don't need God, that we're "good" people just fine without Him, that we can put our own plans in motion and reap the benefits of them. When God doesn't let us harvest our fields, it's because we've lost sight of the fact that our fields are His fields. That every good work comes from His hand, not ours. 

But once we have this hold on hope, once we have this kick in our spirit, once we have our hands set to it and our hearts involved, He uses that to draw us back to Him. To remind us of His role in our plans...and our role in His. To bring us to that confession and repentance we so desperately try to avoid, so that we cling to Him the way the dirt clings under our fingernails. 

He reminds us that our good work should also be a holy work. And when it is, would you just look at that harvest? 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Conspiracy Theories

How many conspiracies do you know of in our world right now? How many theories can you think of? I can think of at least a half-dozen current ones right off the top of my head. That's because we live in a world that thinks that nothing is what it appears to be and comes up with all these stories of what's "really" going on. 

I'd name a few, but that's getting into politics, and this is no place for politics. The point is that it's easy for us to listen to these stories claiming to tell us what we don't know about what we think we know, and then we always wonder what is the truth? What is real? What happened here? 

We aren't the first people to wrestle with such a thing, and we probably won't be the last. In fact, the prophet Isaiah was competing with the same ideas way back in his time. He even says, in chapter 8, that the world thinks everything is a conspiracy. 

But he also offers wisdom for the faithful life: don't fall for it. Don't get yourself wrapped up in conspiracy theories. 

Fear only the Lord. 

On one hand, this is a great comfort. On the other, it could be a bit of a conundrum if we don't have our faith on solid foundations. 

It's a comfort because it's absolutely true. If God is who He says He is and we believe that, if He is good, if He is loving, if He is compassionate then that's all we really need to know about the world. If God is, as He says He is, working all things together for good, it doesn't matter what's going on; God's got this. 

Ask yourself - whatever you're worried about, does it matter? Does it really matter, if God is good? If you know God and trust God, then whatever's bothering you today is already in His hands. So the wise thing to do is to know God, trust God, and fear God and let Him work things out the way that you know that His heart will - for good, for love, with grace. It really takes a lot off of your plate, doesn't it?

At the same time, we know that things don't always seem good. We don't always get to see them worked out. And this raises questions about whether God is who He says He is.

Here, we have to remember what we know about Him. That He's working all things for good, not that He only allows good things. That to Him, a thousand years is like a day. That He's far more worried about your heart than your circumstances. That He knows more than we know, that He can see more than we can see. It's easy for us to question what we know about God when it doesn't seem to be working out the way that we think that it should because we trust Him...but if we trust Him, we need not question His goodness even when it seems like it's not coming. 

What we know about God is, then, the answer to both of our sets of doubts - it is our answer to our doubts about the world (conspiracies) and it is our answer to our doubts about God. If we can keep believing what we believe even in the face of questioning it, then we will know all that we need to know about this life - God's got this. 

God's got us. 

That's the only truth we need. That's the one we should be clinging to. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


What has God done for you lately? If you're struggling with faith, maybe the question is, what has God ever done for you? 

It's tough sometimes. We look at our lives, and they aren't what we think they should be. We look in the mirror and see a sinner staring back at us. We hold out our empty hands and wonder why they aren't more full. If this God we serve and love is so good, why aren't our lives...better? Why aren't we...better? If God is good, why aren't we...good? 

The greatest challenge of having a perfect God is looking around and knowing how imperfect everything else still is. What are we supposed to do with that?

Isaiah has some wisdom here, and it comes in two parts. First, it comes in chapter 5 where the prophet acknowledges this reality. What he says is basically this, that God has done everything He can for us, but we're still sinners. It's not God's fault we're still sinners; we just are. He's done everything He can do to make us not be sinners, but we still sin. 

If you're a parent, you understand this. You do everything you can do for your kids, but they still make mistakes. They still mess up. They still make bad choices. You can tell your toddler not to touch the hot stove, but he may still touch it anyway. You can tell your teen not to run with that particular crowd, but she might run with them anyway. You can tell your college kid not to drink and drive, but he may still get behind the wheel. You can tell your daughter that man will break her heart, but she might end up with his baby anyway. As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your kids from taking the hard road, but it seems most of them take it anyway.

Does that mean you aren't good? That you don't love them? That you didn't, in fact, know what was best for them? That you didn't desire what was best for them and will it for them? Of course not. Your aching heart is proof of your love. But your kids are still sinners. 

Sorry. It's the truth. 

But then we move on to Isaiah 6, just one chapter later, and we see the second bit of truth. Namely that sometimes, God does not redeem you until you've felt the full weight of your rebellion. 

This, I think, is true even of wisdom God's already planted in your heart before you went astray. God doesn't necessarily have to come and pull you out of the pit for you to realize He was right all along. You get down deep enough in the muck with enough burden on your shoulders, and something inside of you just clicks. All of a sudden, you get it - you understand what you never thought was meaningful.
When that happens, you realize God loved you all along...and He still does. 

Isn't that cool? Even when you're not listening to Him, God plants the seeds of His love in you so that in full season, you will know it. Without a doubt, you will know it. 

We wonder how it is that a perfect God would let us still be sinners, would let our lives be such messes. How He could tolerate that...for us and for Him. But what we don't often realize, until we hit rock bottom, is that even in not saving us from ourselves, He is saving us to Him. He's planting the seeds that are starting to grow faith, the little hints of love that remind us who He really is...which we see most clearly in those times when we discover who we really are. 


Loved by God anyway. 

A God who always knew better, but waited patiently for us to find it. To find Him. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What Do You Know?

Knowledge is kind of like money to most of us. In that, I mean, how much is enough? Just a little more. We research and study and contemplate and consider and research some more and ask questions and ask our friends and seek opinions and use different keywords in our searches and seek to discover just as much as we possibly can about whatever topic is of importance to us at any given time. This is especially true when that knowledge is supposed to lead us to a decision of some sort. 

The trouble is that we do this same kind of thing with faith, with God - always researching and studying and seeking just a little more, just a little more, just a little more knowledge. Always wanting to know one more thing or one thing more certainly before we are willing to make a decision to act in faith. 

The irony, of course, is that acting in faith means, to some degree, acting on limited knowledge - certain of what we are uncertain of. That's faith. 

And while we've convinced ourselves that all of our researching, our seeking, our thirst for knowledge is the best thing we can do for ourselves, the truth is that at some point, we have to just decide how to live and get living. 

Ecclesiastes tells us as much: you can read and study all of your days, but it is better just to live. 

It's better to be out there gaining first-hand experience, seeing what it is that works and doesn't work in the world. Seeing where life takes you. Discovering new things, not more things. You can learn absolutely everything there is to know about something, but the truth is that there will be many more things you know little to nothing about. As soon as you move, you'll encounter something new and your reading and studying and seeking will start all over again. 

It's paralyzing. Just as anything is when what we have of it is just short of enough. 

We're not generous with our money when we think we have just barely enough of it. A little more, and we'd start to give - but we get a little more and realize we still need a little more, so we never start giving. We're not generous with our time when we feel our clock ticking away. A little more breathing room in the day, and we'd have time to help others - but we get a little breathing room and want a little more, so we never start helping. 

We don't choose faith because we don't think we know enough about God. Just a little more revelation, and we'll get there, but it's like we looked at last week - God always has His mysteries. The more we know about Him, the more we realize we don't know about Him, so it's never enough. Learning more, studying more, reading more is never enough. We never embrace faith. 

Yet when we choose simply to live, faith comes to us. We can't help it. We find, in the process of living, that we need a little faith and we find, in the process of living, that faith is enough. We could never read or study ourselves into believing, but put us in a place where faith is real - not where it is fact, but where it is real - and all of a sudden, it's an easy choice. 

If you find yourself stuck somewhere, unsure of what to do next, not knowing which path to take or where to go or how to be, if you've exhausted yourself reading and studying and seeking and still aren't sure, take heed of this wisdom from Ecclesiastes and try just living. It will reveal to you things you never thought you could know. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Poor Man's Wisdom

Ecclesiastes tells us that a poor man's wisdom is despised, no matter how much good he does with it. From the studies that I have done in the Hebrew language in other Old Testament Scripture, I know that the Hebrew word so often translated "despised" by English translators is something more similar to"thought lightly of." 

In other words, not much is thought of the poor man's wisdom, no matter how much good he does with it. 

And isn't that strange? We tell ourselves that we're a people who seek good wherever we can find it, that we want to know the secrets to living a good life wherever we can expose them. And here, we have a man who is potentially doing an incredible amount of good, who knows the "secret" to blessing, who overflows with wisdom in such a way that it's manifest in all the good that he does through it...and we don't care. Not only do we not care, but it seems no one has ever cared, ever. 

For no other reason than that the wise man is also a poor man. 

It's not what we think wisdom should be. We think if you're wise, you ought also to be wealthy. You ought also to have a vast array of worldly resources to work with. After all, wouldn't you put that wisdom to work for you? Wouldn't you take everything you know about living in the world and make it pay off for your own worth and value? Wouldn't you have everything you wanted first before you share what you know with others?

If you have the winning lottery numbers, you don't just share them with everyone. No, you buy yourself a ticket and hold it close to the chest. Right? 

So it doesn't matter how wise you appear to be, if you're not also wealthy. Because your inability or unwillingness to use your wisdom for your own financial gain proves your foolishness. If your wisdom truly worked, no matter how much good it does, it would return its investment for you. If it hasn't, we just assume it's all smoke and mirrors. 

But here are a couple of little truths that we have to keep in mind. First, wisdom does not necessarily mean wealth. In fact, the wiser someone seems to be, the less he often cares about things like wealth. It's true. Those who have learned to live most wisely in the world and who do so much good in their communities don't even think about things like wealth. They think about others more often than they think about themselves, and they're happier for it than any financial gain could ever bring them. Even this is wise. 

Second, we have to remember how often poverty is praised in Scripture. Even think simply of the poor widow in the Gospels. The two mites she threw into the collection box were worth more than the thousands of dollars given by the wealthy. And why? Because she alone knew the true value of what she was giving. Wisdom. 

We live in a world that's reluctant to listen to anyone but the wealthy. We think lightly of the poor, no matter how much they seem to be getting right. No matter how much good they are doing in their communities. No matter how much they have to give. And apparently, we've always lived in this world. The Bible is talking about this same mindset all the way back in Ecclesiastes. 

But what if we didn't think lightly of the poor? What if we treasured the poor as much as Jesus did? What if we listened to their wisdom, which might tell us more than merely how to live well in the world? It might also tell us that wealth...isn't the measure. 

It never has been, even if we have always thought it was.