-Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
-Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
-Luke 10:27…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.
These three New Testament Scripture passages all quote Jesus speaking words that would have been familiar to his Jewish hearers, the Shema. They’re words still used repeatedly in Jewish prayers. They all include loving God with your heart and soul which seems obvious. The inclusion of mind and/or strength is the variant that got my attention. I understand the access to mind and strength more than I do heart and soul.
This is the age-old debate: Is it strength of commitment or the exercise of the mind that fills the heart and soul? How do we figure out what’s required of us to prove our sincerity? It would seem even these Bible authors had their own opinion on that. Mind and strength? Mind? Strength? Do I have to choose one or the other?
Hillel was a famous religious leader in Jewish history. He was asked to recite the whole law for a dedicated student who would prove his sincerity and his physical strength by listening to it all while standing on one leg. That’s a funny mind picture isn’t it? Hillel’s short answer was probably pretty welcome to him; “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
This is the whole law…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” Now go find a comfortable spot, read, study and think. God will begin to write his whole commentary in your mind and on your heart to strengthen your soul
Matthew 13:3 Then he [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” NIV
I am a confirmed believer the Spirit of God uses repetition to direct my mind. Repetition of a recent word or thought gets my attention and that’s exactly what God desires. Remember my reference to the “mustard seed” in the last post? This truth about seeds just “happened” to pop up in this blog by raincitypastor, Richard Dahlstrom, Step by Step Journey.
“One of the most famous parables in the Bible is the story about the seed and the sower. “A farmer went out to sow his seed” is how it begins, and by the end of the tale we discover that not all the seeds reached their full potential. The seed, though, was never the problem; it was the soil. Too many rocks. Too many thorns. Not enough depth. It’s a powerful tale, because later in the Bible we’re told that “His seed abides in us.”
That thoughtful commentary recalled yet another recent repetition of thought for me – the book of Genesis and our future. We all know the long-ago story of Adam and Eve and their “original sin” that became our heritage. Thankfully that is not the end of the story at all. 1 John 3: 9 says “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”
I think God’s provision for Adam and Eve was more than clothing as they left that perfect Garden to begin a life of “painful toil.” He chose to leave a little seed of his “original innocence” within them insuring there would be a new heritage for all their descendants – the possibility of overcoming their own sin. Innocence was no longer a given but there would be “good soil” that could produce a crop of purity — “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Genesis 1 Cliff Notes – God spoke and…
1. Light was purposely separated from dark.
2. Sky was purposely separated from water
3. Water was purposely separated from land
4. Vegetation and fruit grew with the purpose of producing seed.
5. Stars and Planets purposely lit the skies
6. Life purposely appeared in water and on earth
7. We purposely became his reflection
That’s power! My cliff notes make it clear God did not waste HIS words. When he spoke it was both purposeful and creative! We are God’s reflection and we are the singular part of his creation that has been given the given the ability to speak. Our words are a gift from him. Words have power…and purpose. Author Gary Chapman wrote this; “There are two ways to speak the truth: as bullets or as seeds. Use the truth as a bullet, and you will kill relationships. Plant the truth as a seed, and it will take root and grow, influencing the person in whose heart it was planted.” [p164 of Love as a Way of Life].
“…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34b.
It’s very easy to shoot your mouth off and believe it just accidentally slipped out isn’t it? I’m absolutely certain I’m not the only one who’s had to repent of that. Here’s what I’ve come to believe; that’s not an accident at all, It’s God not wasting OUR words or our heart! His Word still has the Power of his purpose to change an empty heart into an abundant one filled with the missing pieces needed to be his reflection. That’s something to talk about!
Psalms 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. [NIV]
This Psalm may not be as familiar today as it was in past generations but it’s clearly a lovely word-picture that describes Sanctuary: a place of comfort, refuge and safety. Sanctuary is no longer an external place to search for. Our life in Christ has become that place of Sanctuary within us. That sacred internal place of comfort, refuge and safety the Psalmist describes in his prayer can become our reality too, with practice.
That’s a fact but there’s another reality. We need the practice of Sanctuary to cure us of sanctimony so when we pray “I lack nothing” it doesn’t sound like I have it and you don’t. Sanctimony is defined as pretended, affected, or hypocritical religious devotion. I found this quote on vocabulary.com “Sanctimonious is a twist on the words sanctity and sacred, which mean holy or religious. A sanctimonious person might think he’s holy, but their attitude comes across more like “holier-than-thou.” I suspect all of you have been there with me at some point. Remember that line from the Lord’s Prayer? “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” I think we could substitute sanctimony for trespasses there. Here’s where the danger of sanctimony is written.
Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.[NIV]
God has saved us to that beautiful place of refreshment where the reality is when we pray “I lack nothing” it’s because everything sacred is available to us. It’s a place of safety and refuge where Sanctuary guides us “along the right paths for his name’s sake” and even can save us from the judgment our sanctimonious selves deserve.
Posted in Matthew, Practice, Psalms, Sunday
Tagged Comfort, Internal Place, Life in Christ, Refuge, Sacred, Safety, Sanctuary, Within You
New Year’s Eve
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” [The Message]
This contemporary paraphrasing of the words of Jesus from The Message was the first version I read. Then I read the same verses in the NIV and the NASB. I feel the need to compare versions partly out of curiosity, looking for a kind of unity of thought between them and often because they make me think in new ways about familiar verses. Any of the three versions are a really good beginning place for a brand new year but two sentences from The Message really spoke to me. “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
The familiar desire of most Christians is to know God’s will. That phrase “unforced rhythms of grace” made me think of that in a new way. God’s will is a big part of daily life, more than you might imagine. Our effort to live within that will can be part of the struggle these verses are addressing. Tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Weary and burdened? Exhausted?
We are fooled into believing the will of God is something to be learned. We study the Bible for helpful hints from the the prophets, the Old & New Testament heroes and historical records. We listen to sermons and we pray for “thy” will to be done. It’s no wonder Matthew had to address weariness and our need for rest. Trust me, no matter how brilliant your brain is, no amount of mental gymnastics can accomplish what God already has already done in you.
Here is a radical idea that I’d like you to ponder: If you have placed your life in Christ, you are “living” the will of God. Here is the assurance of your repentance and acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ as your complete restoration to God.
• “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:” 2 Corinthians 5:17
• “We have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16
• “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;” – Galatians 2:20
• “You are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in…” – 1 Corinthians 3:16
• “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13
• ”All things that I [Jesus] have heard from My Father I have made known to you” – John 15:15
• Nothing…”will be able to separate [you] from the love of God” – Romans 8:38
These Scriptures ARE the will of God and they’re built right into you. There is not a moment, a thought, an action or choice – right or wrong, at the most elemental cellular level of your being that the will of God is not at work within you. You won’t always make the right decision or the right choice but you can depend on this truth; your life in Christ has placed you in the will of God. Now take Jesus at his word. “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn to live “freely and lightly” in “the unforced rhythms of grace.” Rest.
“A miracle has happened. You are new. You are a new creation in Christ. And on that glorious, confident basis, rooted in Christ and his saving work for us, now we have some work to do. And we do it with joy and with confidence [of] children of God. We are not trying to be children of God or get into God’s favor, we are in his favor rock solid through faith in Christ.” [read more from John Piper at https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/how-to-know-the-will-of-god
Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi were men who still had the desire for God in their hearts. Desire was why they watched for a sign. When they recognized the star they prepared their gifts and took that first step of a long journey expecting God would to lead them to a king.
People really do still have the desire for God in their hearts. God has pulled out all the stops for us during this season with many different and personal signs to guide us to “the one who has been born king,” the Big Event. This is our modern-day version of the journey but it’s still all about desiring God, watching for the signs, preparing our gifts of worship and then taking that first step expecting God will lead us to the King.
These are the perfect gifts of worship if you’re short on gold, frankincense and myrrh.
• Give Jesus your desire.
• Offer this new born priest your long journey.
• Let him be King of all your expectations.
God bless our journey.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The relationship of Mary and Joseph is confusing. “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph”…”Joseph her husband was faithful”…”he had in mind to divorce her”… but…“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Were they “pledged” or were they married? Why was divorce involved? Here’s what I found.
Marriage was considered far too important to be left to a matter of the heart. A pledge of marriage was made by family arrangements in the name of the couple. It was only a promise at this point but the next step really mattered. The promised couple must confirm their agreement with that family arrangement at some future point in time. Their agreement turned that promise into a binding contract that only another legal action could break. Legally they were now recognized as husband and wife but there was one more step that must happen. That’s where Mary and Joseph were at this point. It was the wedding celebration ahead that was meant to unite promise, contract and their relationship into the one flesh God promised in Genesis but there were those disturbing circumstances.
I can pass on facts I discovered about the culture of relationships of the time but I cannot explain why God would use these circumstances in Joseph’s life to fulfill his promise to all of creation. They were hard circumstances. Joseph could declare Mary unfaithful and possibly condemn her to death by stoning. He could stay in the relationship and deal with his own conflict with the law he was faithful to…or he could accept his dream and the words from the angel of the Lord as a truth and a blessing on their life together. God bless circumstances. Joseph’s circumstances and his response became a blessing for all of us that celebrate the Big Event. Wisdom and the Word still work to help the believer navigate circumstances today. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this scripture says it perfectly.
“Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God’s time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts.”