You can understand the Bible…
The whole purpose of Scripture is to apply to your life.
You can understand the Bible…
The whole purpose of Scripture is to apply to your life.
Have you ever had trouble loving people? Is there a co-worker who just grinds your gears? Or an in-law (or blood relative) that knows how to irritate you beyond comprehension?
We all have been there. I know I have. I remember someone I used to work for, and this individual would purposely do some really hurtful actions. I never murdered this individual, but I can sadly say I had so not-so-fond thoughts.
Most people know some of the Ten Commandments, one of which is, ‘You shall not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13, NAB) I’m working on a sermon that addresses this verse. Initially, I was intrigued. I have spent more than half of my life in church and have heard this command numerous times. The excitement of a new study excited me.
So, I set to work. Initially I began with a note pad and pen (which is my custom). However, about five minutes into my research I realized this job required something bigger. So I borrowed a white board from another room and set to work. In about ten minutes I had recorded most of the important material related to my study.
It was during this time of research that I found something incredible, and one that, I hope, will enable me to be more faithful in my love of others.
The word used for killing in Exodus 20:13 is רצח. I began looking for other usages of this, and once completed I summarized it with a basic definition of “to deprive of life.” Now, this is a very basic definition, I know. For in some instances, depriving something of life may save others. Or, it could provide the necessary sustenance for continued life. But for my study, I began to look at life in Scripture. Of course, life began in Genesis 1:20-28 with the creation of animal life and ultimately crowned with humanity. (You can check out my thoughts on the creation of האדם in a previous post.) Life, or נפש, is the key to our appreciation and ultimate love for humanity (and animal life too!).
Humans, however, are different. We were created בעלם אלוהים. And so, because humanity is the image of God, our lives are intrinsically valuable. That is, we matter because God matters. Or, God’s image in us makes humanity intrinsically worthy.
Now, it is possible to simply gloss over that. Chances are, you already did. But in the off chance that you are reading this contemplatively, humanity is intrinsically valuable.
It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes humanity worthy. It is the fact that they are human.
It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes a human being excellent. It is the fact that they are a human being.
It is not the color of one’s skin, the level of intelligence, or the physical or mental capacity that makes a human being invaluable. It is the fact that they are a human being.
Because “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 5:1b-2a, NAB) That is what makes a human being worthy.
Now, how does this help us love others more? When we stop looking at people in categories, we start to what is really there: people. She is not a Muslim, she is a human being created in the image of God. He is not queer, he is a human being created in the image of God.
When you and I begin to see God in others, our ability to love them is transformed. That is why Paul could write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NAB) There is humanity, gloriously and wonderfully bearing God’s image.
Do my words convey my belief that people are created in the image of God? Unfortunately, not always. But I am reminded of the weight of such ill-used words in Matthew 5:21-26. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day had broken the law down to manageable loads. In fact, the commandment regarding killing was boiled down to simple murder. As long as you don’t murder anyone, you’re good! (If these were the true standards, we would be much better off!) But Jesus wouldn’t let that slide. God’s standards are infinitely higher than we could ever imagine. Murder, as expressed in Exodus 20:13, does not involve just the literal taking of life. It goes beyond that to our words, the very basis of our communication to others. Whether it is Raqa or fool, if it does not proceed from the view of love and value, we are in trouble. (By the way, this does not absolve us for confronting errors, for in the next few chapters Jesus does just that, as well as recommending it in Matthew 7:1-5.)
So, are you having trouble loving others? Just see them the way God sees them: image bearers. I am amazed at what I can overlook when I see someone as a person, uniquely, incredibly, and fantastically made בעלם אלוה’ם.
P.S. I do not mean to convey that our own sins and shortcomings do not need to be addressed. When Jesus was speaking with the woman caught in adultery, his words were, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11, ESV) While Jesus saw her humanity, he did not simply condone her sin. Likewise, it would be a mistake in the desire to love others that we would ignore sin in our own lives.
I have recently read Terrace Crawford’s #Going Social, which I reviewed in a previous post.
In a follow up to that, Terrace has just unveiled his newest help, Ministry Downloads.
Here are a few people who will benefit from this: Senior Pastors, Student Ministers, children’s workers, and even small group leaders!
The amount of help on this site is incredible. One of the neat aspects of this hub is that people can contribute to it! Have you ever taught a series and it was spectacular, but you weren’t sure how to share it? Well, Terrace handles that problem for you. In fact, you can actually profit from your work. Head over to their website for the details on that.
Also, if you have some cash to spare, go get Terrace’s book. Even if you are familiar with social media, you can always learn some new tools for your life and ministry.
Where would we be without mothers? As a man and a father, I can say that on this side of eternity I will never truly understand everything they do. My own mother as well as my wife cause me to stagger in unbelief at the amount of work they accomplish, the love they shower on the family, and the countless hours spent worrying and caring for us.
Scripture, the Tanakh and the New Testament, was written during the patriarchal period. I doubt many people would argue with the fact that women were treated unequally, to say the least. However, several prominent women stand out as incredible women of virtue. Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, and Abigail, all women of wonderful faith.
But one sticks out to me: Mary. I was raised in a independent, fundamental baptist church. In order to keep from ‘compromising’ they put Mary on the back shelf, in order to not appear to ‘worship’ her, as they accused Roman Catholics of doing (which is absolutely absurd, but let’s stay on task). So I never really thought about her, other than that she gave birth to Messiah.
Mary stands out as the preeminent mother in Scripture.
But when I really began to look at Mary, I was overwhelmed at her simple faith and trust-informed action. I wish to spend the next few moments with you looking at Mary and hopefully encourage our mothers (my own mother and my wife stand as examples of this as well).
One of the first aspects of Mary’s life that draws me to mirror her life. This poor girl, unknown to the world of first century Israel, became the mother of God, the theotokos. This betrothed young lady is visited by Gabriel, an angel.
Let that sit in just for a moment. Just meditate on the fact that this simple lady, waiting to join Joseph, has Gabriel (consider his history in Israel, that was an incredible honor!) come and declare a wonderful announcement: she would bear the Messiah.
After being told she would bear Jesus, her saintly reply was, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Can you imagine that simple faith? Even when she asked how it would be possible, she was not asking from a position of doubt but of curiosity of means. What simple faith!
Contrast that with our own lack of belief. When God says that he will never leave us, our reply: Why are you so far off God? When God said that he desires to be with us every day, our reply: Only when it is convenient for me, God. But Mary? Her reply: whatever you say Lord! That is the essence of simple faith.
After being told that her Son would die and she would experience a pain compared to a sword piercing her heart, Mary simply believed. That is simple faith.
Another act of simple faith (and should we say profound faith?) is her interactions with Simeon. During a prophetic utterance, he mentions something terrible, “…and you yourself a sword will pierce…” (Luke 2:34). This, of course, is a reference to the horrific torture and death her Son would endure and the pain a mother would be overwhelm with at the thought and eventual sight of it. Now, as a father, I cannot grasp this. How could a parent cope with such an utterance?
How can Mary, after being told such a thing, have simply “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”? (Luke 2:19) Again, this is the essence of simple faith. What a challenge to us! If God were to tell me of some horrific death one of my children were to undergo, I confess that my faith is weak and that I would struggle. I would take them and flee for protection. But not Mary. Mary trusts in God, that God would protect them. This is such a challenge to me, and as a mother she is an incredible example.
Trust-informed action? What in the world? Let me break this down and then we can look at this in the life of Mary. Action is our efforts in accomplishing a task. For instance, if I want to build a bookshelf I set up plans, procure the materials, and then begin the work. Now, it would be foolish if I were to just grab some two-by-fours and start building. My action would be building, my truth-informed aspect is that planning and procuring part.
Mary’s life was trust-informed. She knew the Scriptures. If one was to compare her song (Luke 1:46-55) with that of some of the songs in the Tanakh (see Exodus 15:1-21, for example) one would see how close they are. Though Scripture is silent to this, I imagine she would think of the many Psalms that speak of the Messiah as her Son grew up. Whether she learned this through Synagogue or attending Temple doesn’t matter, the fact is Mary’s faith was informed by Scripture.
Mary’s actions were informed by the sweet Scriptures.
But it did not stop in her head. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” And then she spent her life raising her Son, the Messiah.
Do our lives reflect this? Do we know the Scriptures like Mary, and do we follow through with it?
Mary’s life as a mother is incredible. My wife and mother are incredible. Happy Mother’s Day, and may we all be more like Mary!
What makes you you? Finding you is a great place to start on your prayer journaling journey.
For others who are artistically gifted, art may be the avenue in which they pray. If they need strength for a difficult time, painting a picture of a field with a rock while meditating and praying to the God who is their rock may prove to be helpful. The bottom line is to find out who you are and then proceed to the type of journaling. I’d also recommend taking an Emotional Quotient test and a multiple intelligence test.
Do you have the ability to write? Or do you prefer painting? Not only should the specifics of the journal and the means of journaling come into examination, but also the time. What does your life best equip you for? Does your career demand work regardless of time? Do you maintain a 9-5 job? Learning the best time to journal is as important as journaling itself. Being consistent is the key to helping you in your walk as well as deepening your perception of God.
I love the old world: leather-bound books, verbose works, and beautiful handwriting. So I use a leather-bound journal, I have a felt-tip pen (thanks Mrs. Burnside!), and I love crafting the beauty of the written language as I create a prayer to God and an extension of myself. If drawing your prayers is your preference, then get quality materials for the art. Make it a beautiful extension of your soul to God’s.
Prayer Journaling, as I mentioned in a previous post, completely transformed my prayer life. But how? What are the benefits?
Certainly, prayer journaling is not for everyone. However, I (and others) have found it to be immensely helpful. Here is a small sampling of the benefits I personally found. I’d love to hear yours! Please comment below!
A fellow blogger mentioned that journaling helped her not be so repetitive. I couldn’t agree more! When I began prayer journaling, my prayers became more focused. No longer did “Father”, “Lord”, “please help so and so…”, fill my prayers. Now my prayers are focused. They are well-thought out. They are precise. And I love it.
My prayers are precise. And I love it.
I don’t know if others have found this to be true, but there is, for me, a certain reverence when writing to God. I feel his presence, that calm, still, small voice, right there with me. It is always quiet, as I tend to wake up early to spend time with him.
Whenever I look back at some of my older journals, I am always encouraged. My prayers become more focused overtime. My walk with God deepens, and I feel a closeness the longer I spend time with him. Whenever I remember a problem I faced, I return to that period in my journals. I am always excited. I saw God work in that time, and now, with that knowledge, I can look forward to what he has ahead.
I ask again, how has prayer journaling helped you? May God sweetly guide you on this journey!
About five years ago my prayer life was changed. I mean radically changed. I’ve always read books about men and women who had thriving prayer lives. These wonderful people would report a closeness with God that, to be honest, baffled my belief. I began to ask, ‘How could I have that kind of prayer life?’
There were so many mornings I would get up early, before work, and try and pray. I would fall asleep, get distracted, or simply get involved in preparing for work that I would remember three hours into my shift that I had failed to pray. I was frustrated at my own lack of self-discipline and my weaknesses.
Then my lovely wife offered a simple suggestion that would transform my prayer life, ‘Why don’t you journal your prayers?’
How do you journal prayers? If you are of a crafty bent, check out Sparkles of Sunshine.
Journal my prayers? Journal? I admit, I was incredibly doubtful. I grew up in a church where long prayers were seen as spiritual prayers. Added to that the over usages of ‘God’, ‘Father God’, and ‘Lord’ and you had the right formula for a good prayer. But Journaling? How would that even work?
Regardless of my doubts, I went out and purchased a small journal. I am of an aesthetic bent, so I wanted a rustic, older
looking journal. It was a brown, faux leather journal of about 180 pages.
And then I started. It was weird at first. Instead of speaking verbally to God I was writing to God. What do I write? Is God going to read my prayers? In my mind, however, I was speaking to God. The pen and paper were simply a means to help focus my thoughts.
I cannot overestimate how helpful prayer Journaling has been.
Almost over morning (I pray in the mornings!) my prayer life changed. I was amazed! After years of being a Christian, years of failing, I had finally found a perfect avenue for speaking to our Father. The longer journal my prayers, the more beautiful it becomes.
What has helped your prayer life? Have you ever journaled your prayers? I’d love to hear about it!
Also, be on the look out for my thoughts on the benefits of prayer Journaling!
Brandon Adams replied with a great thought, “Journal entries become altars to God’s faithfulness in our lives.” In addition, Brandon has some great helps on prayer. Check him out!