Friday, November 21, 2008

Daily Digest #180

Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. —Acts 5:4

I needed this reflection. It struck each instance where I have not shown any integrity in what i said or did. There were times when I advised a friend to love her enemies, when I myself have not done the same. I said forgive, yet I have not forgiven. I said look at the goodness in other people, yet I saw flaws and judged people in my mind. I said pray always, but I myself have refused to pray.

This serves as a reminder for me to search for and keep God's place inside my heart. Many times I have chosen to forgot or ignore His presence, which have led me to make unwise and unpleasant decisions.

For this, join me in this prayer: that He may help each of us to live with integrity. May His words be our basis for truth, and not our own opinions or judgments. May we learn to practice love and kindness at all times. Pray always.

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Jesus replied, "The most important commandment is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.' The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these." Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

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Today's guest devotional is from Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at Saddleback Church.

One of the most noticeable things about Jesus' interactions with others is how people love to ask him questions. Crowds press in with questions; Jesus' disciples call him aside for questions; and those who disagree with Jesus try to trap him with questions.

It's easy to dislike this third group, and it often seems as though Jesus is wasting his time when talking with them. Doesn't he know that their questions are just thinly veiled attempts to trick him into saying something they can use to accuse him? Yet he patiently listens to their questions, and he answers them one by one.

One day the questions are coming fast and furious. One group asks a question about paying taxes; another group launches into a series of questions about marriage. Jesus' answers are brilliant and right to the heart, as always, but it seems that maybe it's time to move on and talk to some who are more open to what he has to say.

Then a teacher from the edge of the crowd asks a question with a slightly different tone. There seems to be a genuineness to his question not heard from the others. He simply asks, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

In Jesus' answer is the most important statement about relationships you'll ever hear. As Jesus speaks, he leaves no doubt as to the value he places on relationships:

"The most important [commandment] … is this: … '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' " (based on Mark 12:28-34).

Jesus' simple, clear answer to this question has the power to take our breath away. By choosing these two commands as the most important of all of the Old Testament commands, Jesus tells us how deeply he values relationships. He values our relationship with God, and he values our relationships with each other.

Your relationships with God and others will last all the way into eternity. Jesus knows full well that the swirling wonder and pain of our relationships tempt us to move them down our priority list.

"Who needs this?" we say, and so reduce our lives to simple hobbies, tasks, and entertainments. That's not the answer!

When I try to make less important that which is truly most important, it only causes more confusion. A life without relationships may well be a simpler life, but it is also an empty life.

The path to the greatest life possible and the greatest joy possible is found in the priority that Jesus taught us to keep at the top of the list: Place the highest value on relationships.

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Today's devotional is excerpted from The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay (Zondervan 2008). You can find out more about this book at www.saddlebackresou

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