Twice a day Jews all over the world pray a prayer. Morning and evening they remind themselves of a specific element of scripture, and ask God to help them live it out. For them, it is nothing short of an oath of allegiance. And it’s not just for Jews.
Before we discuss that verse and the implications it holds for you and me, welcome to “Mornings with Bishop Robert.” Grab a coffee and a comfortable seat. We’re going to have a great time. My goal is to introduce people to the Jesus they never knew, and help them get to know Him and His word personally – and better ! If our time together today speaks to your heart, then let me invite you to like, subscribe and share it with a friend!
I want you to stop here for a moment and think about a specific person. Out of all the relationships in your life, who is the person you are closest to; the one person you love the most? It may be a spouse, parent, child or sibling. Or it could be someone outside your natural family that is simply your very best friend. Whomever it is, THAT’s the person I want you to be thinking about as I weave this illustration. I’ll call them “The Closest.”
You and The Closest share the best of relationships. It’s not perfect, but you both are totally invested in making it better and better. When you and The Closest have an opportunity to spend time together, it’s a great joy. You look forward to it, relishing each moment. Though you can talk about anything with The Closest, and have likely shared your deepest pains and darkest secrets; being together is a joy even if neither of you are speaking. Just being together holds its own value. It’s precious to you, as are they. When the demands of life become overwhelming, The Closest is the one you turn to first, even if its just for a few minutes. When The Closest faces threats or challenges in their life, you are their first call. Your lives are intertwined. The more time you are together and the closer you get with one another, the better. When issues crop up in the relationship, you deal with them quickly, eliminate them thoroughly and forgive deeply and immediately. Why? Because you are committed to the relationship you and The Closest share.
Today’s verse says LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.
That’s a key element in the twice-a-day prayer of Jews. The expectation is clear. “ALL” is a pretty inclusive word. When we’re talking about ‘all” of anything – that is actually everything. What is held back from “all?” Absolutely nothing.
Do you know that the reason God asks you for ALL YOUR HEART and ALL YOUR SOUL and ALL YOUR STRENGTH? It’s because that is what He wants to offer you, as well. What God is offering is an opportunity for Him to be The Closest spiritual relationship in your life. Like the relationship you share with the person who is The Closest here on earth, He intends it to impact everything. He’s offering all He is and all He has to you, and inviting you to do the same. This sort of close relationship with God takes time, sacrifice and commitment; just like the earthly one. Its benefits are astounding. And the best part? Though death or distance will eventually end your relationship with The Closest on earth, there is nothing that can take you away from God’s love. Ever. When He is The Closest spiritual relationship in your life, that relationship is forever and ever.
A few weeks ago I was in Aspen, Colorado. It’s scenic and parts of it are quaint. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains with an elevation of close to 8,000 feet it is one of the highest cities in the United States. It’s hard to breathe there. Walking up a single staircase can be a major effort. Actually, walking anywhere can be major effort. Everything you do requires more effort than you anticipate, because the air has much less oxygen it is more difficult to breathe. In multiple stores one can find pocket-sized oxygen dispensers. They sell them like lip balm or hand sanitizer. Just another item to carry in your pocket to help get you through the day. Take it out and inhale deeply while depressing the button and you’ve got a dose of pure oxygen that will strengthen you for quite a while. When God breathes His Spirit into you it operates in much the same way. Take a moment to inhale deeply from His grace, strength and peace and it will strengthen you.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.
We need to be sold out to Him. “Sold out” is a term that typically means there is nothing left. If I go to the grocery store to buy cabbage and they are sold out, that means they have no more cabbage. Everything they had has already been sold. The cabbage shelf is empty. When we are sold out to God, everything within us is given to Him. ALL of our heart – our loves, our desires, everything we value and hold dear. ALL of our soul – our choices, the decisions about what we are willing to embrace and that which we need to release. ALL our strength – every bit of power and effort to accomplish the goals He has for us, the specific works He created in advance before the beginning of time for us to walk in. He gives us His Spirit to do it all, and draws us so close that we know He is The Closest, so we can be sold out to Him, having given Him everything.
The story is told of a math teacher asking a boy, “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were seven of you—your parents and five children. What part of the pie would you get?” “One sixth,” replied the boy. “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions,” said the teacher. “Remember, there are seven of you.” The boy’s answer is an illustration of God being The Closest for us. He said, “I’m afraid you don’t know my mother. Mother would say she didn’t care for any pie and give me her piece.”