I’m so glad you’re back! My desire with this second ‘intro’ sort-of post is to write something in between the introduction and the official start – so not exactly a quiet time but more of a ‘I think this is so cool and I really want to share this with you’ kind-of post, to include you on the journey that has shaped and molded the study we’re about to embark on.
In my attempt to find a rhythm and structure for our project, Mark 12:30 kept coming back to me – and I have begun to understand why, as the legacy of Mark 12:30 is far more significant than I ever before realized.
To enable ourselves to really have a full picture here, would you please go ahead and read Mark 12:18-34 for reference and a full picture of what was going on when Jesus himself spoke the words of our ‘lantern verse.’
Mark 12 is an example of how the Sadducees and Pharisees berated Jesus every opportunity they could get. Desperate for him to slip up, they often quizzed Jesus with questions about traditional Jewish law, something they knew quite well. In a couple of our guided quiet times, we’ll see where Jesus offers his own opinion of typical Pharisee behavior. For now, let’s step back into a time where some of the hallowed Jewish laws were put into place by the Almighty Father himself.
Please find Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and read it thoroughly. What does Moses relay to the Israelites from God in verse 5 specifically?
What similarities do you see from the two sections of Deuteronomy and Mark?
The verses are very similar, yet, who spoke Mark 12:30?
Jesus. Not from God to Moses to the Israelites, but by the Son himself.
To me, I think it’s fascinating that Jesus offers the addition of the word MIND to the statement we just read in Deuteronomy. According to my ESV notes, in the original Hebrew text “heart included what we would call the mind.” Yet in the New Testament, the Greek addition of mind was necessary – and Jesus had an audience that was very concerned with the matters of the mind.
We will continue to examine uses of the words heart, soul, mind and strength throughout scripture – but for now, know that these four ways to love God with all we’ve got will be our guides for each week of discussion and study.
The repeated instruction on how to love the Lord follows an additionally important claim in Deuteronomy 6:4 and Mark 12:29 “The Lord our God, the Lord is one”
The combined statements (in Deuteronomy specifically), are called the Shema and are considered “the most fundamental expression of the Jewish faith” according to the Lexham Bible Dictionary, this statement/prayer was and still is very much a part of the Jewish culture and upbringing, as the Shema is something Jewish children are to be taught as soon as they can speak.
Within Jewish culture, the Shema is to be the beginning and ending thoughts and words of each day. “The Shema summarizes the heart of God’s covenant with His people. Yahweh alone is Lord, and covenantal faithfulness to Him involves every part of one’s being.” (Faithlife Study Bible)
What I find incredibly fascinating here is that Jesus saw fit to re-affirm the Shema, not only to prying religious higher-ups, but to us, as well. To Jews and Gentiles, the Shema is still relevant. It is a first and foremost calling to the Christian’s life.
Reciting the Shema as the first and last thoughts is a practical practice as well as a holy one. And if you don’t mind – there’s a visual I’d like to try to break down for a minute.
I don’t know how you are – but I struggle with exhaustion. It seems like everywhere I go, there’s something or someone who needs my time or attention. When we give to something new, something else already in existence will be taken away from.
A group text will steal my attention at the dinner table.
A dirty kitchen can claim my morning quiet time.
A favorite sitcom occupies my evening instead of intentional conversation with my husband.
A tired spirit can keep me on the couch when I originally planned to exercise.
A jam-packed schedule keeps me from checking on my friend who needs encouragement.
Even just typing out that list makes me a little tired. I can get frustrated by only having 24 hours in a day, and only having energy for about 12-16 of those hours. My own, very real humanity humbles me all. the. time.
One of the more frustrating things about ‘adulting’ for me has been the mandatory choices between better and best. There are so many fun and sweet things that I have either wanted to do or been invited to do – and I hate saying no. But if my 20’s taught me anything, it’s the importance of practicing a polite no.
Because if we’re called to give God everything we’ve got – we will have to prioritize our efforts.
If we want an end goal of Holy Grit, and a life pleasing to the Lord – we will have to evaluate our schedule, time management, relationships, hobbies, motivations, sources of inspirations, and efforts.
Recently a few friends and I were talking about feeling like we’re trying to give God all we’ve got and somehow still trying to give everything to everyone else, too. As I mentally chewed on the conversation throughout the day – I felt conviction over all of the ‘extra’ things I do and worry after. The more-than-necessary things that keep me exhausted and distracted seem to be the loudest, and most in-my-face, immediate-seeming tasks.
I will not be able to be beautifully re-made if I am hurriedly chasing after good-yet-earthly things. Practicing Shema means giving God the first and last thoughts of every day – not keeping a running to-do list next to the bedside table.
The comforting and also somewhat intimidating thing here though, is that our God sees all. He sees and acknowledges our efforts to walk closer to him. In James 4:8a, 2 Chronicles 15:2. Lamentations 3:57, Zechariah 1:3, and Malachi 3:7; we see the Lord acknowledge and affirm us with statements like ‘draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.’
So whether this completely overwhelms you to think about – or it fires you up in the best way – know that we can rest in the promises of God. We may feel as though to become tough, major changes and a life overhaul are the task at hand, or perhaps just a pivot in our priorities is necessary. Wherever we’re at – whatever challenges lie in front of you today – God sees. He sees the inward intentions of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
I hope to show you through scripture that when we love God with all we’ve got, we will be beautifully re-made. One pivot at a time, one best yes after another, with each new page of our story – He will draw near to us as we do to Him.
One last (very figurative) visual:
On our trek towards Holy Grit, imagine we are hikers. We’ll drive to a familiar landing, bags overpacked with gear and supplies, ready for adventure. We’ll begin our trail upwards, through windy paths and occasionally rocky terrain. Some of us have started out on this trail before, but perhaps never made it to the top.
As our bags get heavy from the hike, we’ll begin to eliminate supplies and belongings we really didn’t need all along.
Slowly but surely, the hike will get tougher as the air gets thinner, but the views increasingly spectacular.
As we journey, there will be short breaks were we’ll rest, refresh, and reflect on how far we’ve come, knowing we aren’t finished yet.
With each stop, we’ll drink more water, and negotiate what items can go, and which must stay. We’ll narrow down our belongings to the bare minimum.
As we continue to climb, the terrain becomes challenging. Some quit, turning back around to what is comfortable and familiar.
But the rest of us have seen just enough glimpses of what’s ahead that we press on – forgetting sore muscles and scraped elbows.
We slowly climb, anxious for the final peak.
Sweaty, tired, and out of breath, we call out to each other to keep going. Our backs ache as the trail continues.
Another step, one more upward climb, and each awkward trip get us closer to the finish.
The others are probably already home, resting while they justify quitting.
Beginning to see the final clearing, we cheer with excitement, and sigh with relief.
We reach the landing as the wild, windy air refreshes our flushed faces as the sun cheerfully beckons us to look out.
Greens, blues, greys, and browns – there are shapes and sights for miles.
I try to hide my tears as they quickly run down my cheeks and drip off my chin towards a full and grateful heart.
We lay down on the warm rock, joyful, exhausted, triumphant, smelly, and ecstatic.
You see, I’m not much of a hiker, but I’ve been training for months. Every quiet gym session and local trail prepared me for this day. Most of the time I trained by myself, desperately wanting to be one of the finishers.
And here we are. Resting at the top.
We take a few photos, solidifying the experience with permanent mementos. But the permanence will not be lost with us. We’ve all done something we’d never done before – pushed harder than ever before – and seen beautiful sights like never before.
We take one last look and quietly begin the descent, reflecting on each of our own experiences.
We’ll be back before long, showing others the mountain, trained and ready – we’ll lead a new team, anxious for adventure, and life beyond the living room.
Can’t wait to begin our hike together friends. Praying for you as we pack our backpacks and prepare our hearts.
Love to you and yours – RLD