“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 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.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions." Mark 12:28-34
Have you read this part of the Bible before? Or perhaps I should ask, how many times have we read these words? Have they sunk in? Let me offer the following story as a parallel to the one above...a modern day encounter with the Teacher.
The day started after a poor night of sleep. The first appointment was at 7 a.m. so I had to scoot. Bathed, dressed, make-up, hair done, cute outfit....ready for the day. Meetings happened and all was fine; however, I did notice a strange feeling, a disconnection throughout the day. It was as though I was not really IN the day but participating at a distance. I was just going through the motions of the day but no real connection. It was a distraction but no real issue... probably just a lack of sleep the prior night.
Late in the day, I headed out to my last meeting of the day and the best part of my day. We call the gathering, Chinese Bible Study. We gathered, we ate, chatted and sat down to begin a new study. And thus begin my unraveling.
As we opened the box of newly delivered books...alas, the wrong books had been shipped. No, I had not bothered to open the box and check the shipment! So, I decided to go ahead and teach these fifteen people from a new book, that I was barely comfortable with, and one that they did not have in front of them. Warning bells were ringing in my head. The day had already been strange but forge ahead, I did. Have I mentioned that of the fifteen people gathered, we had multiple countries represented: Russia, China, South Korea, Bangladesh, Yemen and the US? Did I also mention that some of those gathered spoke really great English and some spoke practically no English. Some were new believers in Jesus and some had never before heard His name.
But, off I went and begin to teach or something like teaching! Between the language barrier, the new book, my before mentioned 'off-ness', a bunny trail of explanation of evil in the world and loud children in the room next door...I was slowly losing my
And, we got it...a loud thud from the room next door and suddenly loud crying. Mothers jumped up and ran to help, more people got up to help, more crying began as other babies became frightened too. I felt like crying but didn't think that would help the situation too much. After a fe-e-e-e-w-w minutes, things calmed. But I had checked out. I was done. I knew of no way to bring the group back together. All my own issues from the day began to mount in my head, the doubts swirled, the assault of words begin in my head....(did I mention that we were studying Genesis and the role of the serpent?)...you cannot do this, you are not a good teacher for these women, stop, stop talking. And I did.
Our main leader took over the chaos, calmed us all and closed us out for the evening. Whew! Inside my mind and spirit, were thoughts of inadequacy. I remembered the preparation, the outward appearance, the effort to appear unflappable...I was none of those things in that moment. And I was out of sorts. My human effort had fallen very, very short.
I escaped to the kitchen and joined a Chinese sister. She immediately asked me, "Do you have a bucket list?" Thankful for the change in thoughts and conversation, I engaged with her. And almost immediately she offered to share her top bucket list item. "I want to talk to God," she said. I, being the wise teacher again, said, "Oh, you want to pray more." "No," she said. "I want to talk with Him just like you and I are talking now. I want to hear His voice. That's number 1 on my bucket list!"
There I stood, defeated and helpless, and heard the Word of God spoken directly to me.
As the Mark account refers to "burnt offerings and sacrifices", I suddenly realized what that meant in my daily life. In this day, my human efforts had failed. I was bringing my whole effort, my modern day burnt offerings and sacrifices but they fell woefully short. And, in that kitchen with a young woman who's eyes blazed with a new love for God, I was blessed, so very blessed to be reminded....my efforts, my performance are not the issue. GOD loving us first is the issue and then our response: Love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
Number 1 on my bucket list: I want to hear His voice.
"We as modern-day believers often grow content with so much less than what’s available to us in Christ. We grow content with programs, sermons, worship, and Bible study that’s void of God’s presence. We believe that the Christian life is one solely marked by discipline and moral living rather than transformative encounters with the holiness of God. Pursue the greater things today. Press into the heart of your Creator that you might know how truly near he is. Seek him and discover the wealth of his presence and love that has been available to you all along. Instead of programs about him, may your life be marked by meeting directly with your good and loving Father." First 15 Devotional, September 27, 2017