Sermons/Devotions

Strength Training requires Discipline

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love the Lord your God with … all your might – Deuteronomy 6:5

This one is easy. My Bible translates this word in Deuteronomy as “might.” My Bible translates Jesus’ word in Mark as “strength.” The point is the same, we are called to love God with all our might, all our strength, with all our umph, and with all our ability.

To put it another way, we are to love God with all our personal discipline.

We’re to be intentional about our faith.

We’re to practice our faith regularly. We’re to devote ourselves to devotion. We’re to be diligent in a our church attendance. We’re to attend purposefully to the Word of God. Our generosity and service are to be intentionally woven into the fabric of our beings.

Tradition regularly calls a Christian’s faith practices “spiritual disciplines.” Why? Because a rich and growing faith requires discipline. We are called, indeed, to love God with all our strength and might.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who knows what

he really needs to be

more disciplined with

(Why do I allow busyness

to be such a daunting excuse?)

 

Jesus adds the Mind(?)

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you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ – Mark 12:30

We’ve been reading through Deuteronomy 6. It’s a passage that Jews call the shema. It’s a call that Jesus calls “the first and greatest commandment.”

In Deuteronomy, we are commanded to love God with three parts of our being – heart, soul, and might (strength). In the Gospels – see Mark 12 above – Jesus commands us to love God with four parts – heart, soul, strength … and … our minds.

The mind in Jesus’ statement and translating from the Greek means exactly what you’d expect. It means insight, understanding, and intellect. We are thus called to love God with all our perception and discernment. We are to seek him with our reason and our acumen.

When I said yesterday that the soul yearns for truth, it would be easy to focus on the intellectual portion of that statement – “truth.” No. When talking about the soul, we need to focus on the yearning, the emotion. We’re passionate beings. And as we said yesterday, we’re passionate for more than just romance and relations. We yearn for wisdom, truth, and character.

So where does “the mind” come in? Our minds determine how we interpret experiences and channel emotions. Our minds influence how we pursue pleasure (and in what ways we choose not to). Our minds help us set priorities and define our goals and choose how we’ll achieve them.

The mind speaks of our conscious intentionality. Thus, Jesus is calling us to love God consciously, intentionally, purposefully. Jesus is calling us to consciously choose him and his ways daily.

And the question is … Do you?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who has taken

the Myers-Briggs

personality test.

I am more of a “thinker”

than a “feeler.”

This one is easier for me.

The nice part is that

God has woven into

each of our personalities

ways to connect with God.

So … how do you connect?

 

What is the Soul?

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love the Lord your God with … all your soul – Deuteronomy 6:5

If we’re to love God with all our soul, we first need to understand what the soul is.

Based on traditional scriptural understandings, the soul is the self. It’s the seat of our motivations and of our will. It’s the part of us that makes us us. (Have you ever said that while the body may die, it’s the soul who goes to heaven? Well, if that’s the case, then doesn’t it make sense that part of us that goes to heaven is the part of us that makes us us!)

What is the soul? Well, it’s been said that while the heart yearns for love, the soul yearns for truth.

To say that another way, the heart yearns for relationship; thus loving God with all our heart means pursuing a deep and satisfying personal relationship with God. But to love God with our soul means something different. It’s a call, instead, to desire God’s character and yearn for his ways. To love God with our soul means to hunger for God and his Truth.

To use an analogy, I love my wife with my heart. I treasure a rich relationship with her. But I also love her soul with my soul. I respect her character. I am guided her wisdom. And when she speaks truth – and my bride loves and proclaims Truth – my soul often soars.

Westerners often limit love to the romantic. Romantic (and relational) love is powerful! Wonderful! But while Scripture offers us rich relationships, it also offers us further forms of love too.

Do you love God in ways that absolutely revere his character? Do you love God in ways that submit to his Word, his wisdom, his commands? When you encounter God’s Truth, is your soul hungry? Indeed, do you see God’s Word of Truth, and when you do, does your soul soar?

So … what does it mean for you to love God with everything in you that makes you you? (And … did you catch that spiritual part of you is indeed what makes you truly you.)

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wonders

how you would have

described the soul

(I confess, I had

to look it up!)

 

Measuring the Treasure in Your Heart

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love the Lord your God with all your heart – Deuteronomy 6:5

This week we are looking at Deuteronomy 6, specifically the command in verse 5 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Today, we ask, How do we love God with all our heart?

Here’s the simplest way to evaluate what you love the most: Look at what you love, what you prioritize, what you “treasure.”  That’s Jesus’ own instruction. In the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:41 – Jesus says, For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.”

What do you love the most?

How do you really spend your time? For example, do you serve yourself more than serving your neighbor? Do you spend more time with your television than in God’s Word? Do we talk to ourselves more in our heads – solving problems, worrying about situations, or harboring frustrations – or do we talk to God more in earnest prayer? How about this: Are you more concerned with today’s news than God’s prophecy? What really is your treasure?

Ouch!

Honestly, that’s one of the scariest evaluations that I ever do! It’s not that I don’t love God and it’s not that God doesn’t love me, but I am constantly shortchanging myself, my family, our church, and God’s Kingdom by being weak, distracted, and double-hearted.

If you (and I) want more love, joy, and peace, (and patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), what do you know you ought to cut out and what do you know you ought to prioritize?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who needs to work at

turning off and tuning in

 

Family Ministry is included in The Greatest Commandment


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Recite … the commandment … [to] love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might … to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:1-6

As the Exodus draws to a close, what does God say just as Israel is about “1 cross into and occupy … the land” of Israel?

God gives them a commandment.

Speaking through Moses in Deuteronom07y 6, God says, “Now this is the commandment [you must] observe in the land … Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

That’s part one. Indeed, these words from Deuteronomy 6:5 are precisely what Jesus calls “the greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:36-37).

But there’s a part two. A second half of the commandment. Speaking through Moses, God speaks to faithful parents, saying, “Recite [these love commandments] to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.”

This is family ministry.

And this command has a purpose, a “so that.” Why should we love God and teach love of God to our children? “2 So that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life.” So that faith may continue generation after generation.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy whose greatest heroes

are parents who teach faith

to their children

 

Communing with the Life and Death of Jesus

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Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” – John 6:53-54

Holy Communion is way, way more than symbol! Nevertheless, sometimes Jesus spoke in symbolic language.

Bread and wine are symbols — and surely way, way more than mere symbols — for Jesus’ body and blood. But today let’s deal with them at a symbolic level.

In a symbolic way, the ancient world understood the body — the flesh — to be symbolic of life. While you are alive, you are living in the flesh; whereas, one day, you’ll be beyond the flesh in the spiritual realms (with a new resurrected body, to be sure. But you get the point, right?) Flesh equals life.

Blood, on the other hand, represented death.  When blood is spilled, what happens? Death.

Now put this together … in a symbolic way (and communion is way, way more than symbol, but in a symbolic way) what Jesus is inviting his people to do is to take part in his life and in his death. Indeed, we need to die to our life to take on his life. It needs to quit being about our wants and our desires and our purposes and our priorities; and it needs to start being about His goals and His purposes. It’s His Way and His Truth.

Do you remember the old bumper sticker that said, “God is my co-pilot.” Well, shortly after that saying arose, a new bumper sticker appeared: “If God is your co-pilot, change seats.” Dying to ourselves is changing seats. It’s allowing God to be in charge of our lives. It’s allowing him to set the agenda.

How many of us start the morning with our plan for the day? And fail to stop and ask God for his plan for our day, our week, our year, our life? I confess that I’m too often on auto-pilot. Through bread and wine and many and various calls throughout the pages of Scripture, God invites us to die to our life and take on his life (to partake in his life).

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is flesh and blood

… only what I really need is

His flesh (His life) and

His blood (a symbol of

dying to what’s killing me

and rising to real life)