Wednesday, August 11, 2010


In Luke 10:27, a prominent religious person tries to test Jesus by asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life. As he often does, Jesus turns this question back on him and asks him what he thinks. The man’s response to Jesus included very familiar words. He said “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”

When I read those words, I was curious. Why is this basic sentence is repeated over and over again in scripture? When I was in youth group we had this really cool song we would sing which included these words as well. So I did some research….

This sentence is part of what Jewish people call the “Shema Yisreal,” (named from the first words, which are “hear Oh Israel”) that first appears in the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:5. The book of Deuteronomy is basically a long sermon from Moses. After he gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments, he continues to pronounce to them the words of God. He says the Shema, which also includes instructions about how they are to repeat these words, to commit them to memory, and speak of them often. Subsequently, the Shema is a very important part of Jewish prayer services, to be recited in the morning and the evening.

The words of the Shema are quoted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew and Mark it is Jesus who recites them. Since I find this so interesting, I am going to break some of it down and post about what I find. I hope you will follow along…

Friday, August 6, 2010

Smelly Roses

Someone asked me the other day to describe a simple pleasure that I have. I had a hard time answering the question, because a lot of things are simple pleasures to me. I would define a simple pleasure as something that gives one unadulterated joy or exuberance. I get joy from having good conversations, learning new things, being with kids and family, solving problems, talking and listening to God, being in nature, listening and playing music, and many other things. I think life would be very sad and dark without simple pleasures. Yet it is also a pretty common experience to forget these simple moments of joy.

In Luke 10, Jesus’ disciples return to him with a good report. He had sent them out to do good work among the people, and they were successful. Upon hearing this report, Luke wrote in verse 21 that Jesus was “full of Joy.” Then Jesus turned and thanked his father.

What simple pleasures do you have? When was the last time you thanked God for the pure joy that comes from simple pleasures? When you smell the roses, do you thank God?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Something powerful happened the first day I began teaching. When I started talking, they sat down and listened. When I passed a piece of paper to them, they inspected it carefully and kept it for future reference. Most people would think this is not a big deal, but it was very different for me. The further one gets in one’s professional career, these experiences tend to occur more often. All of a sudden your words matter. Your thoughts are coherent and meaningful at least to someone. You start to feel legitimate. It can be intoxicating.

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers to heal people and drive out demons throughout the region. Evidently they were very successful, because they come back to Jesus joyfully reporting “even the demons submit to us in your name.” It seems that Jesus shared in their joy, happy that they were doing so well. Yet he also reminded them, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

I think this reminder is absolutely essential to every Christ follower, especially in times of success. We need to know that knowing God is our greatest opportunity for success. Such a thought may allow us to remain humble as well as endure the struggles of life.