Live Poor

Lately I’m questioning my understanding of the very first line of the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” said Jesus in Matthew 5:3, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Poor in spirit” is often seen to mean a lack of spirit. We reflect on what this lack might entail. Yet the Greek word translated as “poor” in this verse is directly associated with material poverty. Jesus is saying something more practical, more straightforward, than what our read of the English rendering might suggest. Namely, he seems to be saying: Orient your heart toward being poor. If you can do this, you can find your home within the kingdom that surrounds and transcends the narrow kingdom of this world.

It is not a call to be poor literally. We need not reject and cast away the blessings that God gave us to steward. To be poor in spirit is instead to turn the heart away from the chronic desire to be more rich, away from the expectation that a material solution can be found for inner dissatisfaction. We give up on the hope that the next major purchase or the next expansion of our holdings will do anything to improve our inner life. It won’t. Even so, making this turn is difficult. In our society, to give up on this particular false hope is to become markedly weird.

Yielding Time

The fourth commandment is the command to keep one day of the week holy, to let go for one day out of every seven, to honor God by yielding time.

In the Greek in which the New Testament was written, the authors of the Bible actually had two different words for time. They had:

CHRONOS — This is tick-tock time. Linear time. Time as a finite and measurable resource. Whenever we say “time” today, we almost always mean “chronos.” But then there is....

KAIROS — This is Spirit time. Clarity time. Insight time. Kairos describes the moment of breakthrough in which the divine mind enlightens our human imagination, showing us the way to confidently take the next step.

The reality of kairos is the secret of the Sabbath rest. If you have never taken seriously the notion of this rest, give it a try for just a month. Leave every seventh day open and invite God to enter it. In the book, I talk about this much more. Those who claim they don’t have the time available to set apart in this way are seeing only the tick-tock time. They are missing the magic. With the Sabbath, the six remaining days deliver more than the seven days ever could, because the Spirit transforms chronos into kairos.

5 Questions About Love

In regard to how we should honor the Ten Commandments today, Romans 13:10 says quite a lot. Paul writes, “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.”

Love is the “most excellent way,” he writes elsewhere (1 Corinthians 12:31). The presence or absence of love determines whether any other spiritual gift from God is worthwhile. But what is love, and how are we to understand it?

A journalist seeking a thorough understanding of a topic asks a certain series of questions: who, what, when, where, how. Here are those questions applied to love:

1. WHO is love?

Answer: 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” And by the principle of equivalence, love is God. When we choose to act out of love, we choose for God to advance within that part of creation we have touched.

2. WHAT is love?

Answer: Not gushy feelings! Two different Greek words in the original scripture get translated into our broad English word, “love.” We usually associate love with the people or things we personally relish and feel happy about. In a Greek dictionary I have, this variety of love is entry #5368. (The number is easier than the Greek characters.) Yet when Jesus said to love other people, the word he used was entry #25. This variety of love has nothing to do with how you feel. It has to do with regarding a person as being inherently worthy.

3. WHEN to love?

Answer: Now more than ever. As time advances, said Jesus, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

4. WHERE is love?

Answer: Inside you. Jesus prayed that the love the Father had for him would also be in you (John 17:26). Accepting this is the starting point. The love that is God within you then flows out.

5. HOW to love?

Answer: In action. 1 John 3:18, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Don’t be content with just advocating love. The words become a lie if we don’t personally put them into effect.

Why a Hand?

Artist Cary Rohrer produced the cover design for my book about the Ten Commandments. She gave me a better design than what I asked for. The way she did this was by listening to the overwrought cover design that I described to her, then stripping away everything that was unnecessary to give me the simpler design I actually wanted.

Why an image of a hand? Why five fingers when the book is about “TEN”? The answers speak to ways of seeing the Ten Commandments that get fleshed out throughout the book. However, you can learn the main part of the answers to these questions for free.

In Chapter One, I introduce the connection between the statements inscribed on stone tablets within the Old Testament and the design of the human hand. Read a PDF of Chapter One right here.

About This Blog

This post is dated 2011, but I actually wrote it in 2020. I know the identity of our 45th president. I know about the pandemic. 

I’ve sent this post back in time to offer an introduction to my blog, which has changed over the years.

It began as a place to promote my first book by writing and sharing pieces in the same vein as that book—exploring some of the quieter currents running through the text of the Bible.

Over time, book promotion became the focus less and less, and sharing writing became the purpose more. The blog was a landing zone for pieces I wrote that meant something to me, whether or not they related to one of my books, whether or not they directly related to scripture. 

Most recently, I have discovered that the distinction between personal and professional writing no longer makes sense, because my heart is in all of it. Starting in 2020, this blog arrived at its simplest and broadest purpose so far: a place to post all my writing, so readers can find it all in one place. I hope you enjoy.