The Greatest Commandments


Mark 12

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

I’ve decided this summer to explore what this means in a practical sense.  If it’s important to Jesus (and He says so Himself), then it should probably be important to me as His follower.

This is a passage that I’ve known since childhood – among the first of the many many memory passages that dear Jack Musikov helped me learn in third grade Sunday School.  Jack would assign us a verse or two, and when we were able to recite it back to him, Jack would cry.  He also usually gave us some little trinket as a reward, but in looking back, it was his tears that made the largest impact.

Anyway,  it’s a passage that is easily rattled off, and while I’ve often thought about it, I’ve never really dissected how it could be applied in a practical way.  Jesus has never struck me as a theoretical kind of guy.  While He spoke in stories, there is always an element of action implied.  He tells the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more.”  The paralytic is told to pick up his mat. And in the parable of the wise and foolish builders, He says flat out that “Everyone who hears these words of mine AND PUTS THEM INTO PRACTICE is like a wise man…” (Matthew 7:24)

Um.  Hello?!

So why is this so hard?  The distractions of our day are so many that it is easy to not be deliberate about practicing what Jesus considers to be the most important commandment!  There is so much talk these days about intentionality. (Which spell-check is telling me isn’t even actually a word. I can’t point fingers because I make up words all the time. However, when I looked it up in the on-line dictionary, it does appear.  So there, spell-check!)

Our society harps on about being intentional.  I see nothing wrong with that, but how about a little less talk and a little more action?  What does being intentional look like?  And how do we choose what to be intentional about?  Sometimes I think we are mostly being intentional about being intentional. The fact of the matter is, it is extremely difficult to be intentional about everything.  And exhausting.

So I’m going to choose a few things to be intentional about this summer.  And those things are loving God with all my heart.  And with all my soul. And with all my mind.  And with all my strength.

And the hard one.  To love my neighbor as myself.

I will explore these commands in posts over the summer – how I’m trying to put them into practice, when it works and when I fall flat on my face.   And to make it memorable, I’m posting the commands on my wall where I will see them as a mini-reminder every day.

Welcome to my closet. You’ll notice that, yes, I’ve hung my reminder with painters’ tape.  And yes, it is just printed on cheap printer paper.  And yes, the only nod to being even remotely artsy is that I played with fonts.  Not very well.

Hey, you use what you have!  I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.







I want to be like Jesus…Thoughts on Grace

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately pondering what it means to be a Christian.  I know WHAT it means, I guess I’ve been more focused on HOW to be a Christian.  What does it look like to be more like Jesus? And why is that so stinking hard?

I love Jesus.  I’ve known and loved Him practically my whole life.  I was given at birth that wonderful legacy of generational faith, all my people know and love Him too.  And while I never had a Road to Damascus type of encounter, I can recall a specific moment where the power of the Spirit was so strong that I could have no more said no to Jesus in my heart than I could have stopped a moving train.

But preceding that moment, and following it, life was not so significantly different.  There was no gutter to glory narrative for me.  I was the one, when around the fire at camp giving testimonies, always felt that mine was, frankly, kind of boring. Especially compared to the stories of others with their broken families or drug/alcohol problems.

Mine has been a comfortable kind of faith.  Like an old sweatshirt on a cold night.

But it has also been not at all like that.  Growing to be like Jesus is not simple or easy for any of us.  Just because I never dabbled in THE BIG SINS like sex or drinking, I certainly have plenty of inner (and sometimes outer) sinning.  And the kind that is far more insidious and hurtful. The truth is:  Sin is Sin.  And God hates all of it.  So I’m no better or worse than anyone on this planet, however I may judge their foibles to make myself feel better.

When I was a little girl I would pray, as I was falling asleep, that the next day I could have one perfect sin-free day, just like Jesus.  I figured that if He could live a sin-free life, then certainly I could make it through a day.  Then I would wake up and smack my brother, or sass my mom, or in general make life less pleasant for those around me.  FAIL!

I’m a pleaser.  I want people to like me, to think I’m hard-working, and friendly, and smart, and funny, and LIKE me.  The worst punishment I could face as a child was when my dad would look over his glasses in disappointment over something I had done or left undone.

So I want to please God.  I want to live a life that makes God proud of me.  I want to do the right things, and obey the right way, and serve the right ministries, and be the good girl.

Except it doesn’t so much work that way.  No matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough ON MY OWN.  Besides, within heartbeats I can vacillate between wanting to be like Jesus with my whole heart, to barking at my kids, or flipping off the driver ahead of me.  Oops.  FAIL!

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around grace and what that means.  I know what it means, theoretically, but how does that play out?  How does it work in my life? And how do I actually extend it to others?  I don’t want to be the wicked servant who was forgiven much, and then can’t pay it forward.  But I feel like I am, so very often.

I’m forgiven.  I know that.  I get that.  In my head.  And sometimes in my heart, but not always.  It seems to me, as an educator, that a student (me) can know the material, but when it comes to actually putting that knowledge into practice, can fall flat on my face. FAIL!

Part of being generationally Christian means that I know the lingo.  I can fellowship with the best of them. (And exactly how did fellowship come to be a verb?  This is one of those buzzwords that makes me kind of crazy. But that’s another topic.) I know all about grace, justification, sanctification, redemption.  But if I can’t let it move from head knowledge to heart knowledge, what is the point?

So here is what I cling to.  I’m a work in progress.  There is no way that I can get it right.  I will never be good enough on my own.  And this is where I need to let Jesus step in.  I need to let Jesus be perfect for me.  I have to hope, to believe that when I stand before the throne, I can point at Him and say “Look at Him, not at me.”  And in the meantime, I get up in the morning and try.  And know that even though I FAIL, He never does.  This must be an on-going and everyday process.  It’s a good thing His mercies are new every morning.