From a young age we’re told the requirements. Homework that’s required at school. An entrance exam required for that job you want. Or the wedding vows, required to prove your commitment.

For Micah the prophet, life in the community of God required something. It wasn’t sacrifices and offerings, right doctrine and theology. It was much more real to the earth than that.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Life in community – with each other, under God – requires more than just saying and believing the right things. It’s more than a weekly check or a monthly service. It goes to the core of who we are and how we treat each other.

Act Justly

Theologian and Yale professor Nicholas Wolterstroff wrote: “The fundamental principle of biblical justice is that you should never treat a human being as if they had less worth than they have.” Wrapped up in what’s required of God’s community is an accurate sense of worth.

Justice is treating everyone according to the worth they have. Not the worth you assign to them, or the worth you think the world should level at them. But the worth that God has bestowed on them.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” reads the Declaration of Independence. “That all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” That endowment is not just legal standing in the world. It’s our worth.

Just as Adam was formed from the dirt of the ground and bestowed with the breath of our creator, so has every human being been given the life-breath of God. And through that breath comes the image of God. We all bear it – every last one of us.

The image of God makes you worthy. Not our accomplishments or deeds. Not our failures or triumphs. We are worthy because we are created in God’s image. Everyone with breath in their lungs is worthy – whether a hater or a lover, a mom or dad or uncle, a villain or hero or prisoner. But everyday people are robbed of their worth. Don’t be a thief!

Who around you is being robbed of their worth? Or better yet, who are you guilty of robbing?

Love Mercy

If justice is refusing to rob others of their worth, mercy is showing grace to those who have robbed you of yours.

In this world, you will be wronged. Bad things will happen to you. But more distressing, people will do bad things to you. Sometimes without thinking. Sometimes with malicious intent. Mercy cancels out the debt that is created when bad happens to us.

We like mercy a lot, especially when we’re on the receiving end of it. But when it comes to dispensing it, we’re okay with small little doses. We handle grace with an eyedropper.

But mercy is best loved when it is freely and judiciously given. Mercy’s biggest lovers know how to spread grace around with large handfuls. And their tastes aren’t overly discriminant when it comes to who gets it. Jesus went as far as to say our enemies should be on the other side of that fistful of mercy we’re hurling.

Walk Humbly

Humility is just understanding your own worth. C. S. Lewis famously said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” To walk humbly takes knowing who you really are.

Pride has two sides – a dark side and a right side. The dark side wants to inflate and exaggerate. The right side of pride is married to humility.

Our humility will also be evaluated by how we see others. If we have a positive and accurate view of our self-worth, we reflect that to others. Those who have a right sense of pride are rarely jealous or envious, degrading or disrespectful. Humility will lead to honor and respect, grace and dignity, especially in the presence of those who disagree with you and seek to dishonor you.

On a day like today – I wrote this on Martin Luther King Day, 2017 – these requirements are so very important. This verse is required reading. But we can’t leave it at that. Required reading must become required thinking, required living, required action, and required treatment. We must make these principles part of our personal life, and then let that justice flow like a river from within us to every person we encounter.

That’s what living in the real community of God is all about.

Greater Than

So there was this guy named Nathan (His real name was Nathanael, but everyone named Nathanael nowadays goes by Nathan, or Nate). When he first heard about Jesus right away he was like, “Um, no. That guy is from Nazareth and we all know that nothing good comes from that nothing town.”

But somehow Jesus knew what he was saying. And he totally called him out on it. “I heard what you said, Nate,” he told him. And Nate’s response? “Wait, what? You heard? No way because you were way over there and I was way over here under this fig tree.” But Jesus said, “You’re shocked that I could see into your heart and know what you were saying? Brother, have I got news for you…”

“You will see greater things than that.”

John 1:50

Jesus tells Nate – and anyone else within earshot – that he was about to see some amazing things. These things were signs that pointed to who Jesus was: the Messiah, the Son of God come to earth. And right then the writer of the Gospel of John takes us into this incredible story of Jesus performing these amazing signs, one greater than the other, leading up to the raising of his dead friend Lazarus! And then, while eating a final meal with his disciples – and we think that good ole Nate was probably there – he tells them that he’s going away, he’s dying, and he’s going to raise again and go be with the Father. But he says, “Don’t worry! This isn’t the end…”

“Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”

John 14:12

And that’s where our real story begins. Not in the signs and wonders performed by Jesus, but in the presence and power of Jesus that has been with us everyday for the last 2000 plus years! We are direct descendants of that last supper dialogue. We are the ones called on to do greater things. Are you ready?

Greater Than

Let’s zoom back from that 2000 year landscape and take a brief 365 day jaunt. What was last year like for you? For many it was harrowing and horrible. For others it was amazing and astounding. Each year is like that, full of ups and downs.

For me personally, it was the best career year ever. I made more opportunities than I’ve ever had. I wrote more than I ever have. I even started my own LLC. Whodathunkit? I experienced the highest ups…but also some of the most depressing downs. Health issues in my family and a few bumps in the road weren’t so fun.

What can last year teach us about this year? If the words of Jesus are true we should anticipate “greater things.” We should be looking for him to take us to higher heights and newer places. We should be looking for opportunities to do greater things in this new year.

The first step is to evaluate what you did last year. Then see how it can be outdone or improved this year. What areas were lacking? What days did you let slip by without making meaning in life? What ups prepared you for the downs, and how can you carry that into the new year?

Next, how can God be greater than anything else in your life this coming year?

Greater than any struggle or rest.

Greater than any tragedy or triumph.

Greater than any loss or gain.

Greater than any win or loss.

When we put our selves on the little side of that “greater than” symbol and God on the other, no matter what comes our way we know we can overcome.


That name – Nathanael – names are important in the Bible, and guess what Nathanael means? “God has given.” The words of Job tell us that God “gives and takes away” (Job 1:21). God gives, but really he gives me exactly what I need and takes away what is in the way.

Last year each of you were given some great things by God, but you also lost some things. This year, the things you will get may be greater than anything you got last year. But the loss may also be greater. The bigger the ups, the downer the downs. But when God is the giver we can be sure that no matter how high or how low we go, he is always  there. As we focus on him, he will be greater in our sights.

What greater thing are you preparing for in the new year? How can you achieve greater things in your personal life, your professional life, and your spiritual life?