The Tree of Wisdom

wisdom

Human nature is to pursue wisdom. It’s no secret that we live in an instant world. Amazon has become the biggest online retailer. In 2005, it boasted just over $8 billion in annual revenue. Just 13 years later, in 2018, it brought in just shy of $233 billion. People are buying online and are addicted to instant delivery. It has created a shortage of truck drivers, and Amazon outsources to USPS, UPS, and Fed-Ex, all of which are overwhelmed. Efficiency is expected to increase where people receive goods on their doorstep no more than 24 hours after they click “place order.”

But it’s not just stuff that we want immediately. As mentioned, wisdom is something people have wanted since the beginning of time. God forbade Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But Satan tempted Eve with being “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). Satan promised that their eyes would be opened. Enlightenment. Answers. Immortality (a lie). They were promised all of these things. And, in one bite, they could have it all.

Shortcuts. Eve and Adam, and really all of mankind, learns, forgets, and bears the consequence for seeking instant wisdom and understanding. We don’t have to look very far to realize how arrogant we are becoming. There are so many “experts” on immigration, abortion, church growth, and you name it. Most people have a strong opinion and throw it around as if it is fact. There is mass confusion and downright hysteria. This is what the quest for instant wisdom breeds.

Genuine wisdom, however, is rooted in humility and can’t be eaten into existence. We can’t pray for a silver bullet or whip our phone out to get wisdom. True Godly wisdom comes from above. To gain it, we need to be refined, tested, and stretched beyond our foreseeable comfort zones. Godly wisdom helps other people. It instructs and gently guides. This is the wisdom we need to pursue!

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It’s More Blessed to Give Than to Receive

giving

Paul was a vocational evangelist. He was a tent maker by trade. He often told churches that he intentionally did not seek financial support from them, lest they come back and say he was “robbing” them. Paul worked very hard in everything he did. And he also gave. He gave of his time, money, and heart.

When he was on the beach at Miletus with the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20: 35 ESV).

There is an old adage: “You get back what you put in.” This is true of life. The person who works hard gets promoted. The one who gives of her time, money, and energy reaps a crop of righteousness. This doesn’t mean that those who give will be materially wealthy. But it does mean that those blessings will spread and endure. Others will be blessed. Kingdom work will be blessed. The poor will be provided for. They’ll be fed and clothed. The injured will have their wounds dressed and will find healing.

But we have to be willing to give. When we have the means to give, we should be extremely generous. Ultimately, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for others. We need to be giving of our talents, our tithes, and our time. Let’s challenge ourselves to give more and see how God blesses!

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Showing Kindness to Others

kindness on Malta

When Paul and the other prisoners were shipwrecked on the island of Malta, the islanders showed unusual kindness to them. They built a fire, welcomed them, and entertained them. Luke says that “they also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed” (Acts 28:10 ESV).

A few things about this story are intriguing. After a horrifying ship wreck, the prisoners managed to make it to the island unharmed. There were guards, so the islanders had to have known that this big group of stranded people were prisoners. But they treated them with unusual kindness. And that kindness was reciprocated.

These were pagan people who first thought Paul was a god then later thought he was a god. Paul healed a man named Publius’ father, who lay sick. Then the rest of the people on the island who were sick came and were healed.

So often Christians have a misconception that unbelievers are evil, corrupt, immoral, and so on. But this is a good reminder that there are a lot of kind people out there and that, as Christians, we should treat them with kindness like we should with each other. God blessed the Christians, prisoners, and islanders for those days that they spent on the island. We need to remember that God is the same today. He blesses our conversations and relationships with everyone. We should do good to everyone.

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What You Sow is What You’ll Reap

Reap what you sow

There are many passages in the Bible about reaping what you sow. Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for what one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Let us not grow weary of doing good. Why does Paul even have to say that? Isn’t it common sense that we should do good. The reason Paul reminds the Galatians not to grow weary in doing good is because it can be exhausting doing good. Helping others, being patient, exercising control, forgiving people who hurt us, it all can wear us down.

This is all the more reason why it’s important to be reminded that what we sow now is what we will reap later. Everything we do now has future implications, both good and bad. The Bible is full of references to helping the poor and giving to those in need–of not racking up debt for selfish gain. We must sow a harvest in love and generosity.

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A Servant of Justice

servant songs

I’m continually blown away at the volume of messages I get from people crying out that their church covered up abuse. It never ceases to amaze me what lengths these “leaders” go to to keep the victims silenced. I’ve had several messages this week from people who showed me the evidence–women who were hospitalized from husbands beating them and others where churches had private meetings about how reporting child rape to authorities is a “liability” to the church, so they decide to keep it a secret from their church and not report to police. How people can paint Jesus as someone who is OK with this is a leap that would confound even the devil. No amount of twisting of scriptures can account for this poor theology.

We make mock God’s justice if we blend oppressors and the oppressed together. If we silence the cries of the abused and embrace the abuser, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26, 27).

The servant songs in Isaiah do not depict a helpless Savior who rolls over and plays nice with oppressors. Instead, in Isaiah 42:1-4 we find a warrior savior who is destined to bring forth swift justice for the poor and oppressed:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice on the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice; or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

Throughout Jesus’ life, the oppressed flocked to him and the oppressors hated him. This is consistent with the servant songs in Isaiah, with God’s foundation of righteousness and justice in Psalm 89:14, and with Jesus’ mission to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, set at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18, 19). Jesus’ compassion was reserved for the oppressed, not the oppressors. Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

This was not a figure of speech. The people who cried out to Jesus really were harassed, and this drove his compassion. The religious leaders were relentless in their attacks. They wanted to silence the oppressed. They abandoned the poor. They were angry when Jesus healed people. Think about that for a moment. Imagine desperate people who, either they or their children had suffered for years, walking out of a hospital healed. Then imagine what it would take for people to become angry enough to march into the hospital and scold the doctors for healing them.

Jesus was a servant of justice. He brings forth justice because this is what love does. Love does not turn a blind eye to oppression and injustices. Love requires us to step in and protect. It requires us to call people to account who use force, coercion, and deception to get what they want. Yes, Jesus was a servant of justice. And this is good news to people who are desperate for help.

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I Am the One Who Helps You

desperate

I recently watched the 2013 Netflix documentary on trafficking called “Tricked.” It follows both former trafficking victims and current pimps who go on camera to talk about the industry. Human trafficking is a multi billion dollar industry that has increased exponentially in recent years. Because of the threats to prostitutes and the dehumanization of the victims, it’s virtually impossible to catch the pimps and incarcerate them. Police departments are completely overwhelmed and, because they are losing ground, governments are cutting money from the departments.

One District Attorney’s office said, “We’ve cut $1 million per year for three years. So they’re asking us to do more with less and with fewer people. At some point I have to weigh, can we continue to handle all these cases at the normal level? When somebody brings me four or five times the number of cases, I may not have the staff to handle all those cases.”

One of the detectives in the documentary said that pimps used to scout for women and young girls who came from broken homes or who had a past of abuse. With the advancement of technology, they said that everyone is a target, no matter how stable their home life is. He said that this is why trafficking has gotten uncontrollable so quickly. Trafficking is called “modern slavery” for a reason. Nobody goes into this “work” because they want to.

But it’s not just trafficking that has people distraught. There is a crisis at our southern border. Thousands of people every day are risking their lives to desperately cross into the US because they are running from dangerous gangs. There is a global crisis of oppression. The questions are “How did we get here?” and “What do we do about it?”

Many people will be packed into church buildings across the world on Easter Sunday to celebrate the risen Christ. I know there is a real temptation to use Easter as “outreach” in order to grow the church and reach those visitors. But maybe a better way is to talk about the desperation in the world and how Jesus came to redeem it. There is so much oppression, poverty, and sickness. The world needs redeemed from it. People need a refuge–a safe fortress. Isaiah 41:14 says, “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”

A few verses later says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” God feeds and waters the poor. He is a fortress and a refuge for the oppressed and weary. There is hope in the resurrection. We need to share in this hope. We need to let people know that only in Christ can there be restoration and redemption from the pain and suffering of this life. And Christians need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people who are suffering to remind them that God is the one who helps us.