Jesus’ Plan of Evangelism / Discipleship – Selection

Jesus’ method of ministry is all about influence.  Jesus came to earth and didn’t have a public ministry for the first thirty some years of His life, and then after His baptism He started to call to Himself disciples who would make disciples who would impact the world in Jesus’ name.

In John 1 we read that John the Baptist said of his cousin Jesus when He was walking by, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36).  Essentially John was prophesying Jesus’ death as a sacrifice of atonement for the world to bring the world into fellowship with God.  When two of John’s disciples heard this they began to follow Jesus and they spent the day with him.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two and after spending time with Jesus he was influenced enough by Jesus’ character to go grab his brother and say, “We have found the Messiah (the Christ).  And then he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41-42).  Jesus influenced people by His teaching and ethos enough to excite people to grab friends and family bringing them to Jesus to become His followers (John 1:43-51).

Do we have the character and persona to draw people to ourselves to point people to Jesus?

If not, what aspect of my character to I need to lay before the Lord and pray that the Spirit of God would change in myself so that I become more like Jesus and less like the world?

People of this world like to cut each other down and one-up one another in most conversations so that we can prop ourselves up as someone to be admired.  But the negative tone that goes with this way of being causes pain in others and even in ourselves when we sit alone and really think about how we engage people.  With this type of communication comes manipulative behavior and soon we can find ourselves driving people or being driven by the more powerful.  This is not the way of Christ.

Dr. Robert E. Coleman, who walked with Billy Graham, said this about ministry influence:

“Sheep, they wander without a shepherd.  The difference between sheep and cattle is you don’t drive sheep…you drive cattle.  You lead sheep.”

Robert Coleman is talking about influence.  Jesus earned the right to lead by His character influence and people wanted to be around Him so much so that when He called Peter and Andrew, James and John to “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” they dropped their nets and left everything behind to be disciples of Jesus (Matthew 4).

Notice the number of disciples Jesus called to Himself – twelve.  There were many other people who wanted to follow Jesus and who would for a time, but Jesus focused on “the Twelve.”  Within this group of men He focused His leadership influence primarily on three men – James, John, and Peter.  These are the three men who essentially led the Church soon after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus’ method needs to be our method.  Pastors should focus on influencing 8, 10, or 12 guys and after these potential leaders have been trained they should focus on 8, 10, or 12 people in the church replicating what they have learned from the Pastor.  If leadership of churches focused on leading churches this way, it might start out slowly but within 5 years or so the majority of the church will be shepherded and influenced to minister to one another and to new comers within the church.

I was reading a book a couple nights ago called “Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission.”  The authors, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, state that the church should break down into smaller, manageable groups called “gospel” or “missional” communities.  Within these groups every Christian should realize we are called to be priests and shepherd one another.  No individual is above another.  Pastors, even, need to be shepherded.  In other words, “We should encourage 360-degree pastoring rather than top-down pastoring.  We should be ready for mess and indeed welcome it… The message of grace in the cross must be at the heart of our pastoral care… Our aim is for people to experience joy in Christ.” (pp. 72-73).

Living out of the grace and the joy of Christ will increase our influence.  Speaking truth with grace and forgiveness will draw people to Christ and to a tight-knit community in which the love of God is the glue that binds.  This way of living needs to begin with leadership and as the leaders live this way, more people will be drawn into this Christ-centered community called “the Church.”

When people don’t want to be influenced by you, one of two things might be going on: (1) the person might see flaws in you and might feel like you are beginning to drive them; or (2) the person might not want to be influenced.  In these situations take a step back and ask someone close to you, “Am I legalistic or domineering? Is there some aspect of my character that needs to be refined? Do I try to over-pastor people?” And then go seek the Lord in the Scriptures to cleanse your soul and pray the Spirit of God helps you overcome this character flaw.

When people don’t want to be influenced by you, sometimes it is just them.  Let it go, move on to the next person (I don’t mean don’t be friends or don’t love the previous person who rejected you.  Still love them and reach out to them – but if they don’t want you to influence them then it is okay to stop or you might burn a bridge).  Don’t take it personally, but look for someone who connects with you and wants to learn from you.  Role with those who want to role with you and together seek the Lord and how to honor Him.

May God work in you this week to seek to be pastored and to learn to pastor others.  Pastoring a church is the role of every Christian in the Church, this is a calling of laymen and women, not of professionals only (see 1 Peter 2:9-10).  This is something we all should be doing, so turn to the Holy Spirit and to Scripture and to your pastor to equip you to learn how to shepherd each other in community.  The more we do this, the healthier the church will become and the watching world will look in and see our tight-knit-deep-love for one another and desire what we have and they will start asking questions (1 Peter 3:15).

GODSPEED

Aslan – False Teacher or Historian?

There is a new book out called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” that portrays Jesus as a:

“…zealous prophet type who didn’t claim to be God, that Christians have  misunderstood him, and that the Christian Gospels are not the actual words or  life of Jesus but “myth.”

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/07/22/liberal-media-love-new-jesus-book-zealot-fail-to-mention-author-is-muslim/#ixzz2a6dTqo6c

These are some strong assertions, which I know a thing or two about and need to comment on because the media is portraying Reza Aslan, the author of the book, as a scholar and the book as objective history.

First, about Jesus words and teachings being “myth” – if this is so, how does Aslan know? Does Aslan have some historical text, dated from the first century that points this out.  Outside of the gospels and the rest of the NT, we have Josephus (a Roman / Jewish historian in the first century) who wrote in Antiquities 18.3.3:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

I find it interesting that Aslan claims the words and actions of Jesus are Christian myth, when the opposite is supported in history.  To support his claims, Aslan also says in his book:

“…that we cannot trust the Gospel of Mark–because it was written 40 years after  Jesus’ death.”

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/07/22/liberal-media-love-new-jesus-book-zealot-fail-to-mention-author-is-muslim/#ixzz2a6gT6yx0

The problem with Aslan’s claim is most scholars agree the Gospel of Mark was written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD (Craig Blomberg, “Jesus and the Gospels” – pp. 122-123).  To say it was 40 years after Jesus lived is to say it was written in the early 70’s AD, after the destruction of Jerusalem and after the Apostles would have been martyred for their faith.

The truth about the gospels is liberal scholars have made a case for the New Testament having been written toward the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century, while conservative scholars have taught all of the New Testament except the books of John were written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  As more archeological discoveries have been made the weight of evidence has affirmed conservative scholarship and many of the liberal scholars’ theories have been proven false (for examples read Rodney Stark’s “The Triumph of Christianity” – pp. 54-57).

What Aslan is asserting needs to go both ways considering his faith – he is a devout Muslim (Muhammad didn’t write the Quran – his followers memorized his sayings and then they wrote it down – the same is true with Jesus and His disciples).  As a devout Muslim Aslan is teaching the Muslim perspective of Jesus, which is biased and doesn’t trust the New Testament.

For him to say Christians have made up a story about Christ and written it down in the New Testament to deceive people presupposes two things:

  1. That he knows something the Christians who walked with Jesus didn’t know.
  2. That the Christians who wrote the New Testament were liars and died for a lie.

If you lived back then, walked with Jesus, and saw the resurrected Christ a week after you had seen him die on a cross, and if you had heard Jesus say the words, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life” or “I Am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” or “I and the Father are One” or “Before Abraham was, I AM (“I AM” = the Jewish name for God)” wouldn’t you be thinking,

“I believe He is God’s Son, He claimed to be, in fact He claimed to be God…and now I see Him alive again…I believe and I need to tell everyone about this.”

Think about it.  Go, read Aslan’s book, but also read Blomberg’s book.  Consider both carefully.  As for the message of the Bible, God desires to save you through Jesus’ Christ His Son (John 3:16, John 14:6, John 10:30, and John 8:58).

GODSPEED

Jesus Plan of Evangelism / Discipleship – Incarnation

If you have been a part of the Church for some time you have probably heard the preacher speak on “The Great Commission” – when Jesus gave the command to His disciples to “Go make disciples…”  Jesus spoke these words before He ascended up into heaven.  These were His final instructions before leaving earth.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20…

18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In the Gospel of mark the commission begins with “Go evangelize…” (Mark 16)

In the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

He was giving these instructions to His disciples.  A disciple was an apprentice, one who was called to follow a rabbi (teacher) and to learn from the religious teacher and eventually take on his on disciples.  This speaks volumes about Jesus’ plan to reach the world.  We might think His plan would have been to save and disciple the masses; to save and disciple all of Jerusalem at once.  But this was not His plan.  His plan was to come and live among His people, call a small group of disciples to Himself, and train these men to reach the masses.

This plan is counter to how churches in the West try to reach and disciple the world.

The typical plan in the West: Bigger is better, right? And so we try to attract as many people as possible to an event at which we might share the gospel.  When people accept Christ, they might be directed to a discipleship relationship, but often there is not a plan in place and/or discipleship is not stressed as important and so the new Christian doesn’t make it a priority.  Then we place these people into leadership roles, often before they are ready, and they are not discipling people when they really don’t know what they are doing.

Now contrast this with the plan of Jesus.

Jesus’ plan of discipleship: Jesus did not come to save everyone on the planet at the same time when He came to earth 2,000 years ago.  He did not come in all His glory; He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  He lived with humans because He incarnated Himself, He moved into the neighborhood so to speak and influenced those He came in contact with.  When it was His time to enact God’s plan to reach the world, He started with 12 men; He called them to be His apprentices and He taught them everything they needed to know in order to reach the world.  True He preached to the masses, but His emphasis was not on the masses, but on the 12.  He lived among them, served them, worked with them, won them over, taught them, resolved conflicts among them, taught them about compassion, taught them truth, and then after His death and resurrection He said, “You’re your turn to take what I have taught you and go replicate what I have done with you among the people throughout the nations to the end of the earth.”

Jesus was commissioning the disciples to live incarnationally, to go back to Jerusalem and share the gospel and run with those who want to run with them, teaching them to be followers of Jesus.

Likewise for Grace Church leadership, Jesus’ plan is that our leaders would be like Jesus or the Apostles and share the gospel and run with those who want to run with them, teaching them to be followers of Jesus in the context of Seattle.

Likewise for us, Jesus’ plan is that we, Christians, would be like Jesus or the disciples and share the gospel and run with those who want to run with us, teaching them to be followers of Jesus in the context of Seattle (or wherever you live).

For Jesus to be incarnate in us, it takes us following Jesus, turning to Him as our master and perfect teacher who speaks with authority.  We need to commit our lives to Christ.  This requires that we read the Bible, especially the Gospels of Jesus so as to take on Jesus’ love and nature.  This requires prayer that our bodies cooperate with the Spirit to crucify our fleshly desires, which are counter to Christ-likeness so that we can display love incarnate – Christ in me.  If we, Christians, can live this way we will not need magical programs to reach the world.  Our current church events, and potlucks, and small groups, and home communities, and Sunday school classes, and fellowship in the foyer will be enough.  May we strive to know Jesus and strive to live like Him and strive for spiritual renewal as a Christian community.  Amen.

GODSPEED

New Tribal Culture

Recently there have been a few headlines about abortion laws being passed in Texas or DOMA being nullified by the Supreme Court.  Some of my friends have commented that Christians should stay out of politics and let the world do what it wants.  Others confuse being a Republican with being Christian.  I want to take this opportunity to talk about basic principles of decision making on such issues.

First we need to understand the difference between ethics and morals.  Morals describe what people are doing.  Ethics describe what ought to be done.  In a homogeneous culture there is an ethic that everyone agrees upon and lives by in order to preserve peace and harmony within a tribe, nation, or culture.  There might be renegades within that setting, but they are quickly excommunicated and shunned or arrested and jailed for violating a standard everyone assumes to be true.  Take for example Kovu being exiled in the Lion King 2 for being a part of a deceptive plot to kill Simba. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=the+lion+king+2+not+one+of+us&view=detail&mid=729AC795CBF4A5325CB9729AC795CBF4A5325CB9&first=0&FORM=NVPFVR
 
http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=the+lion+king+2&mid=C4A742FDE7909EBB5372C4A742FDE7909EBB5372&view=detail&FORM=VIRE7

Now take two cultures that do things differently and have them both migrate to a new territory – they will be challenged to live together in peace (for example Norwegians and Germans moving to Minnesota and Wisconsin – or the Irish and Eastern European Jews moving to New York – or Koreans and Egyptians and Hispanics and Africans moving to Queens).  In these situations tensions rise, ethics are questioned, and second or third generation children who grow up in that environment end up confused. 

Let me explain, the first generation immigrant has a certain ethic they grew up with, which they try to pass on to their kids.  Their kids try to follow their parent’s way of doing things, but when O’Reilly goes to school with Rishta down the street and thinks he’s a nice guy and doesn’t want to offend him by questioning his beliefs, O’Reilly begins to ask internal questions, which can lead to compromise.  Eventually the third generation is born and brought up without clear ethical convictions being taught in the home and so that child takes on the morals of the new culture that has been made in America and which highly values tolerance and a ‘live-and-let-live’ mentality. 

The sad reality is the original ethics of each of the different immigrants coming to this culture had more similarities than differences (e.g., murder is wrong, adultery is wrong, rape is wrong, marriage is between men and women, religion is important, be kind to your neighbor, etc.).  The problem is that when cultures clash, ethics (even the ethics people agree upon) are questioned and in this process people experiment as they try to establish what they believe to be morally right and wrong as they try to survive a hostile world.

This is the culture in which we live in America.  There are so many different cultural ethics from around the world that are brought to America, the ‘melting pot of the world’, and with no fixed ethic to live by the bar of morality is always changing without much accountability unless it is written into law and actually enforced.

Take for example marriage – I have read world history, I have studied world religions, I have traveled to 27 different countries and I so I have learned that the majority of the ethical systems of the world are very similar.  We might disagree on how many wives a person can have, but we would all agree you can’t just take any woman you want, especially if she is already married.  We might disagree on the punishment for stealing, but we would all agree you can’t take from someone whatever you want without asking.  We might disagree about who God is and what He is like, but the majority of people agree there is something supernatural, which governs the universe and which we should worship.

So back to marriage – up until the last 20 years, there has been a fixed ethic about marriage – that it was an institution established for the begetting and raising of children, and for companionship between a husband and wife.  As worldviews clashed in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s – people began to emphasize happiness and pleasure as virtues over family and commitment with delayed gratification.  The result – “no fault divorce” – in the 1960s 4% of children were raised without both biological parents.  Today 37% are raised without both parents in the home (http://www.divorcemag.com/statistics/statsus.shtml).  In cities (where cultures clash more frequently) this statistic tends to be higher.  As divorce has increased, marriage as an institution has been questioned by many Millennials under the age of 30.  Now many couples are “shacking up” to test if the relationship will last before they decide to get hitched.  (In other words, people are experimenting because they did not like the moral choices their parents made and don’t want to make the same mistake.) 

But is “shacking up” the best solution? What happens when you get pregnant but haven’t made the commitment of marriage? The same decisions need to be made – but how do you make the right moral choice when ethics are not fixed?

So people go to their doctor, “I’m pregnant, but my boyfriend and I are not ready to be pregnant, what should we do?”

And so the doctor, who tends to have a humanistic, survival of the fittest moral ethic thinks –

This couple is not ready to have children, this guy might bail on this girl, if that happens this woman will be alone in raising this child, she might make $25,000 or $30,000 grand per year and have to live in a dangerous part of the city to survive, and then the government will have to give her welfare assistance to take care of the child, or pay for food, or pay for medical insurance…hmmm…my tax dollars pay for that and it leads to our country being in debt to itself…I know what I will recommend…besides…it’s just tissue like removing a wart…

And so the doctor says, “You should go to Planned Parenthood to terminate the pregnancy.”

All the above results in the ethic of marriage as an important institution being questioned, and so when proponents of gay marriage complain,

“I was made this way, why should I have to be alone? Why am I being discriminated against? Why can’t I get married? Besides, you ‘all don’t really take seriously marriage anyway with a 50% divorce rate! So who do you think you are to sit on your high horse and look down on me if I want to make that life-long commitment, which you heterosexual can’t even keep?” 

(Before I continue I have to comment on the 50% divorce statistic – truth be known the percentage of American adults who have ever been married is 72% and the percentage of American adults who have ever been divorced is 22%, which means 30% is the actual divorce statistic – http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelmedved/2010/06/23/al,_tipper_and_the_myth_of_a_good_divorce/page/full).

Back to the appeal of gay marriage proponents – they make their appeal, which is not an appeal to an ethical standard but rather an appeal to the morals of what is happening in between 2-10% of society – and then they use the term “bigot” to pigeonhole people who disagree with them saying, “You are intolerantly holding to an ethical standard based on your creed or religion or politics without being open to another person’s views or opinion.”

People don’t want to be called a “bigot” because the dictionary definition carries with it a tone of hatred and disposition of blind ignorance.  And the powers that be use the media to present the case of proponents of gay marriage that you are a bigot if you disagree with gay marriage.  And so people in our culture think, “I don’t want people to think I hate them or that I am uneducated or ignorant…”  And so they compromise.  

QUESTION: Does it really matter what we think is right or wrong about these subjects? There are almost as many opinions on these subjects as there are people, hence the reason for the confusion and the ever changing morals of our culture.

QUESTION: If God exists and if God created us with a purpose (ethical standard to live by) and if God will judge us based on if we actually live by God’s ethical standards and purpose, then shouldn’t we seek to know what God’s ethical standards and purposes are so that we can strive to morally live up to God’s standards?

QUESTION: Where do we find these ethical standards for the purpose of life?

The Bible has three answers: (1) the Bible (Luke 16:16-17 & 2 Timothy 3:16-17); (2) Jesus; and (3) our conscience (i.e., God wrote His laws on our hearts – Romans 2:12-16).

You might say, “That’s circular reasoning, how can you say the answer of the Bible is that the Bible has the answers of what is God’s ethical standards for the purpose of life.”  Well, how can a written work be the Word of God if it doesn’t claim to be the Word of God? The Bible claims to be God breathed, God inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) and to have come about by the will of God as the men who wrote it were carried along by the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:20-21).  So, either this is true or it is not true.  But if this was not written in the Bible, then who would have the authority to say it was of God. 

QUESTION: Does any other religious text outside of the Bible claim to be the Word of God? If you find one, show me I’d like to see it.

Related to Jesus teaching us the ethical standards for the purpose of life – He says so Himself that His words are in agreement with Scripture (read Matthew 5-7 or Luke 16:16-17 or John 1:1-18).  Jesus has authority to speak for God because He is the only one who was with God in the beginning and who came to exegete (i.e., explain) God to us (see John 1:1-18, specifically vv. 17-18).

Our conscience directs us because God gave us a conscience and the basics of His ethics are written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15).  The conscience is placed inside of us by the Holy Spirit, which is why we feel convicted when we hear or read the Holy Spirit written Word of God – in other words the Holy Spirit presses down on our conscience to convict the world of sin and righteousness (John 16:7-15).  This is why people either fall on their faces in repentance when their conscience is pricked by the Spirit of God or they want to run or suppress the truth (see Romans 1:18-32).

In my humble opinion, this is the reason the term “bigot” is being used against those who would speak up and stand for natural marriage.  This is a way to frame the argument and suppress or silence those who do not want to be labeled with such a strong word.

I have much more to say and not enough time.  Please know I am asking questions and trying to get us all to think through what is right and what is wrong.  I have come to the conclusion the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the Savior of the World – I was not brought up this way but have come to this conclusion by exposure to Christians – I have seen the light by how Christians live differently and I want to live by God’s ethical standards in Christ who justifies me and makes it possible to have this relationship with God through Jesus.

True there are people who claim to be Christians who are living a double life.  To them I say stop it.  And you should tell them to stop it as well.  Say to them, “If you are truly a Christian, shouldn’t you live by Christ’s ethical standards?”  When I first became a committed follower of Christ at age 18, I started pointing out how we ought to be living as Christians and it was thrown back in my face, “If you are truly a Christian, shouldn’t you change that part about your life as well.”  They had a good point and so I started reading the New Testament so that I would know how I should change.  If you believe I am still not living by some Christian standard, I ask you to please show me and I will pray for God’s help to change.

Such should be my posture and the posture of those who follow Christ.  And with this posture we as Christians should do what we can to engage in the dialogue and join the discussion of morality and ethics in our culture by pointing people to Christ.

GODSPEED

Devotion to stimulate spiritual renewal

What are your devotions like? Do you spend time with the LORD?

I have been studying and meditating on Deut. 6:4-5 and Mark 12:29-30 to try and gain insight from Scripture and the LORD about a life devoted to the LORD.  In this Pastor Chat I would like to share with you what these two Scriptures teach us about loving God and how God is speaking to me.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 says, “Hear oh Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”

In Hebrew the word “Hear” is tantamount to saying, “Obey”.  This could mean, “Israel we need to obey the LORD our God who is one” or “Listen up Israel, the LORD our God is one.”  The idea of oneness can mean one of three things: (1) that there is only “one” God and this God is the God of Israel; and/or (2) the word “one” means a “unity” like Adam and Eve becoming “one” flesh (see Genesis 2:24 – the implication in Deut. 6:4 being that the Trinity, three-in-oneness, is a possibility); and/or (3) that the God of Israel “alone” is God.  All three of the above are possible at the same time in interpreting Deut. 6:4. 

There is another interesting interpretation of a word in this verse, the term Elohim is a plural form of the word for God.  This does not mean there are multiple gods that make up the LORD, but rather it means God is to be thought of as either: (1) beyond our comprehension; or (2) a plural of majesty.  The plural of majesty is like the royal “we”; for example when a King speaks on behalf of the royal throne he might say “we” meaning the King, the Queen, and the Prince who make up a unity who sit on the throne.  This is a possible interpretation, which opens up Deuteronomy 6:4 to be a verse possibly supporting the idea of a Triune God.

The second verse in this great prayer says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  The word love implies an obligation of Israel to love God based on His covenantal kindness to rescue Israel and become their God.  The words “with all your heart” describe the seat of the intellect; it is the equivalent of the mind or rationale of humankind in the West.  The word “soul” is the invisible part of our being that makes up the essential person.  The word “strength” means physical being.

When I meditated on these words yesterday I thought of two things: (1) despite my back hurting, it is always good to bow physically before the LORD and get on my face; and (2) that I need more times of stillness before the LORD knowing and acknowledging that He is God.  Combine this with my devotional the day before from 2 Chron. 16:12, which talked about seeking the LORD in sickness made me think I need to seek the LORD concerning my back pain. 

In my devotional time today I looked at Mark 12:29-30, which Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  I was reminded of two things: (1) that this prayer was a prayer of confession said by pious Jews two times daily; and (2) that Jesus called this the Greatest Commandment.  If Jesus considered this the greatest command in all of Scripture, to confess who is God and to love God with all your being, then shouldn’t I take this prayer seriously and pray it myself even though I am not a part of Israel (though I am a part of the Church).

The Greek words of heart, soul, mind, and strength also give insight into how we are to love God.  The word “heart” describes the seat of one’s spiritual and intellectual life.  This is where doubts and hardness of heart come from, it is also where faith and obedience originate.  One commentator reminds us that conversion begins when God opens the heart to believe. 

The word “soul” is the life of the inner being that lives on eternally and will either be fit for heaven or hell.  If we love the LORD it will be prepared for heaven.  The third Hebrew word from Deuteronomy is divided into two Greek words, one meaning “mind” and the other “strength.”  These two words together describe the physical person, but also the mind or conscience or disposition of a person in attitudes related to faith.  If we love God with our mind / strength our will is bent to the LORD so that one is able to spiritually, physically and mentally engage God in prayer.

As I prayed today meditating on these verses, I found it hard to keep my mind on track.  Like a teenager with ADD it is hard to focus on the words of Scripture and to hear from God what He might be saying.  I found that I can be easily be distracted, hence the reason prayer should be done in a quiet place away from distraction.

I have committed to continue to contemplate these verses for a week and seek the LORD for personal spiritual renewal.  I encourage you if you are struggling spiritually to take some verses of Scripture, even the verses mentioned above, and seek the LORD with your whole being.

GODSPEED