In Defense of Martha

First of all, for those who have followed my blog in the past, I know, it has been a long time in between posts. There are many reasons I could name, but I won’t bore you with all of that. But I would like to thank those of you who encouraged me to get back at it again. It is appreciated. Now, to this week’s post.

Over the years, I have heard and read many messages about Mary and Martha. The passage that is usually referenced is Luke 10:38-42. The basic message of the teachings that I have heard usually ends up being pretty much the same. Mary is hailed as the one who chose what is best by sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him teach. Martha, on the other hand, is portrayed as the one who misses what is most important, being too busy working and serving to spend time with Jesus. However, in many ways, I think Martha has gotten a bad rap.

Don’t get me wrong. I think there definitely is a message here for the Martha’s among us. When Martha complains to Jesus, inferring that He does not care that her sister has left her with all of work, Jesus gently rebukes her. Jesus tells Martha that He will not deny Mary from pursuing what she desired. Let’s take a look at why I think Jesus rebukes Martha.

Jesus was not rebuking Martha for serving. Jesus tells her that she is “anxious and troubled about many things.” In other places in the New Testament, Jesus had told His disciples to not be anxious.  It might have been about when they would face tribulation or about what they would eat, wear, or how they would live. There are many other examples. In most, or all of these situations, Jesus is referring to the state of being worried or weighed down with the concerns of life rather than in trusting God. In a sense, this is what Martha is doing in this passage. She has become burdened and weighed down with her service to the point that it was distracting her from everything else, including taking the time to sit at the feet of Jesus. When our service pulls us away from our relationship with God, then it is time to pull back and evaluate. The problem is, like Martha, we usually don’t see it. We need someone else to help us make the connection.

However, I think many people take this one instance in Scripture and turn it into a model for bashing the Martha servants among us. This is the only recorded time that Jesus rebukes Martha. In fact, it was Martha, not Mary, who first welcomed Jesus into her home. In John 11:5, it says that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” It is interesting that Martha is listed first, almost as a place of prominence. When her brother, Lazarus died, Martha was the one who first went out to meet Jesus. In John 11:21-22, she is recorded as saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha believed that Jesus had the power to heal her brother. She also seems to indicate that even now, Jesus could still do something about the situation. Finally, sometime after Lazarus is raised from the dead, they gave a dinner for Jesus. At the beginning of John 12:2, it simply says, “Martha served.” No explanation. No rebuke from Jesus. She was simply serving Jesus.

As far as I know, this is the last we hear of Martha in the Bible. If we take into account all of the passages where she is mentioned, I think we come up with a different picture than is often portrayed. We have a person with a servant’s heart, who welcomed the Lord, believed in Who He claimed to be, and faithfully served in the way that God had created her to be. Yes, she was rebuked by the Lord, but if discount all those who were rebuked by God in the Bible, and remembered them only for their failures, we would have no one left. So, I think it is good to see Martha as a whole, and not based on one incident.

I think there are some in the church that might use the Mary and Martha comparison to justify their lack of service or involvement. They are content to “sit at the feet of Jesus.” Unfortunately, they never get off their backsides and do anything to serve the Lord or the church. They may attend a church week after week, but never do anything to serve others. They come in, get what they want from the service, and then leave. And, if they don’t like the service, then they go somewhere else and sponge off of another church for a while, until that becomes old, and so on.

There is an old saying that, in the church, 20% of the people do 80% of the work and 80% of the people do 20% of the work. In so many ways, that is true, but very unfortunate because both parties miss out. The 20% misses the benefit of the gifts and talents of those who don’t serve. And, quite frankly, they eventually can become exhausted and burned out. The 80% miss the joy and reward of being used by God to serve others. There are times and seasons in everyone’s life, so don’t misunderstand this as a broad-brushed attack on everyone who doesn’t currently serve in an active way. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we all err towards being one or the other, or maybe even both at times.

So, my take from the story of Martha is two-fold. Don’t become so burdened and weighed down with service that you forsake your relationship with the Lord. And on the other hand, don’t spend so much time “sitting” that you cripple the church with your lack of service and miss the joy of letting the Lord use you to glorify Him and bless others. May we pursue God with lives of worship, both in word and deed.

Together for His glory…

Ready

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:35-40 ESV

Holy Father, we come to You because You are the source of all things.  You have invited us to come before Your throne through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through Christ, we have been given all things, for in Him, all of Your promises are fulfilled.  Your ways are amazing, Lord, even though we comprehend so little of all that You have accomplished.

Amazingly, You have allowed us to partner with You in the building of Your kingdom and declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Forgive us, Father, when we forget that our highest calling is to glorify You.  We sometimes turn aside from the calling that You have given to us.  We allow our gaze to shift from what is most beautiful and lasting, and we try to satisfy our longings on the world’s empty and hollow promises.

Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith and to live each day with a desire to glorify You with our thoughts and our deeds.  Give us strength to finish the race running, and not sitting on the sidelines.  We want to be found awake and ready when our Savior returns.

What a glorious thing to consider that when He returns, Jesus will serve us.  This is just one more example of how You bless us beyond our ability to comprehend.  Help us to hold fast until the end.  Thank you, Father.  Amen.

Together for His glory…

Do Not Be Anxious

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’” Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, we come to you as the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  We praise You because You have blessed us with many good things, always providing what we need.  You are the sovereign and all-powerful God and there is nothing too difficult for You.

Forgive us, Father, when we doubt Your faithfulness and become anxious about the present or the future.  This always happens when we take our eyes off of you and start relying on our own strength and wisdom.  As You have promised, please provide us with the things that we need to accomplish all that You have called us to do for Your purposes and Your glory.

And Father, You know that we have many hopes and dreams for our future and for those we love.  Bless us with the desires of our heart.  However, where the desires of our heart are outside of Your perfect will, please lead us into the path of greater blessing for us and for the greater glory for Your holy name.

Give us wisdom and strength to appreciate and enjoy Your gracious gifts and to use them for the building of Your kingdom.  Help us to hold fast to the enduring hope that we have in Jesus Christ, trusting You to provide for all of our tomorrows, from now until eternity.  Amen.

Together for His glory…

Sleepless Night

One of my favorite musical artist is Fernando Ortega. I have several individuals or groups that are among my favorites, but he is at or near the top of the list. In fact, on my iPod, I have a separate playlist, simply entitled “Fernando.”

The reasons are pretty simple. His music and lyrics are memorable and easy to sing along with. The content of his songs are saturated with Biblical content. Most of all, though, I am continually drawn to his music because of his honest reflections about life and the struggles we encounter in our daily lives. He is straightforward about his own frailty and fears. He is sincere about his struggle with and his longings for God and His will. In other words, his songs are direct and honest about the joys and sorrows of living this life and seeking after God. While it is not Scripture, it is much like reading the Psalms.

So, sometimes, when I find myself in a funk and I don’t feel like reading the Bible, I don’t feel like praying, I don’t want to hear from anyone about anything, my fingers might navigate to the playlist called “Fernando.” I did that just the other day. As I was clicking through songs, it stopped on one of my favorites, “Sleepless Night” (YouTube, iTunes). The song starts out:

Another sleepless night of turning in my bed
Long before the red sun rises
In these early hours, I am falling again
Into the river of my worries

I don’t know whether this resonates with you, but it definitely does with me. Whether our worries are family, financial, school or job-related, or just wondering what it is that God is doing in my life and will I ever figure things out, we all can get lost in a river of worries. He continues:

When the river runs away
I find the shelter in Your Name

Jesus, only light on the shore
Only hope in the storm
Jesus, let me fly to Your side
There I would hide, Jesus

What a great reminder that there is a place of shelter and refuge. There is a hope in the storm. His name is Jesus. The next verse starts:

 Hear my anxious prayer, the beating of my heart
The pulse and the measure of my unbelief
Speak Your words to me, before I come apart
Help me believe in what I cannot see

Before the river runs away
I will call upon Your Name 

Jesus, only light on the shore
Only hope in the storm
Jesus, let me fly to Your side
There I would hide, Jesus

Psalm 91:1-2 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 33:18-22 declares “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

God never changes. His Word never changes. His promises never change and God will fulfill every single one of them. However, as we walk through life, storms and trials will come. Even good times will test us, because we can lose sight of God, even in the midst of blessing. Throughout it all, though, we have a refuge, if we place our trust in Christ.

It is great to have reminders like this song from Fernando Ortega, to help bring my focus back to where it should be. But far greater still are the reminders of God’s Word. We need to continuously let His Word wash over our minds and lives, sinking our roots into His truth, and not the noise and distorted philosophies that barrage us from the world. In addition, we need the benefit of the imperfect church. We need to remind each other of these truths, and even more, as we see the day of Christ’s return approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25). None of us have it all together. Every one of us stumbles and falls. As a group, we can sometimes be a mess. But the church is a gift from God. Let’s continue to spur each other on until the day Christ returns. For there is refuge and joy in Him.

Together for His glory…

Glad to Be a Fool

I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but I remember that I had been talking with our son, Caleb, and something he said made me think this would be a good opportunity to teach him something about God. So, I asked him, “who is the only person who knows everything?” At first, he was not sure how to respond, but after some prodding and after I had repeated the question a few more times, he finally responded. “Mom?” Well, not exactly the answer I was looking for, but we got a good laugh out of it. And, in the end, it is not a bad answer, especially if you are talking to mom!

Obviously, the answer I was looking for was “God.” When you think about it, it is quite astonishing to think about the vast knowledge of God. There is absolutely nothing that escapes His knowledge or attention. There is nothing that he can’t comprehend. No thought, however brief or secret, that He does not know perfectly. Darkness does not hide anything from Him. Psalm 139 is a great reminder of this truth.

God has perfect knowledge. In Romans 11:33, the apostle Paul exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” However, for many, or most, people in the world, His knowledge and wisdom are ignored, dismissed, or even ridiculed. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 that Christ and His cross are a stumbling block and folly to the world. While, in reality, Christ and His work accomplished on the cross demonstrates both the wisdom and power of God. And Paul reminds us that the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God exceeds the wisdom and strength of man (1 Corinthians 1:24-25).

When we hold fast to the truth of God’s Word, we will not be applauded by many people. Biblical truth is seen as irrelevant, out-of-date, exclusive, inconvenient, or foolish by much of the world. Even for many that enter the doors of churches and call themselves “Christians,” they are looking for “truth” that will make them feel better or confirm what they already believe or practice. But don’t push biblical truth on them.

However, by avoiding truth, we actually do ourselves a great disservice. Yes, God does know everything. Yes, He is a holy God. Yes, God judges sin and we are sinners. But God also loves us with a perfect love and He has extended to us His perfect mercy and grace. And if we confess our sins and receive His FREE and perfect gift of salvation and eternal life, God justifies us and declares us to be His sons and daughters. He views us as if we had never sinned. That is amazing!

If you have not received the forgiveness of God through Christ, then you should be terrified to realize that God knows and sees everything. Unfortunately, many people view God as far away and unconnected. If there is a God, then either He doesn’t care, doesn’t know, or will just accept most of us anyway. Only the really bad people, like Hitler, will be judged and punished by God. But that view completely overlooks the tragedy of our sin and that it is utter rebellion against God. It belittles the sacrifice of Jesus, bearing our sins, so that we could be declared righteous and find freedom and joy in Him.

As Paul said to the Corinthians, it is foolishness to the world. It’s a demonstration of weakness. Nothing has really changed since then. Christianity is still viewed as trivial, foolish, or as a crutch. However, it is important for us to view this from the viewpoint of God, not the world. Jim Elliot, a missionary who died taking the gospel to an unreached tribal group, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jesus said it this way. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39).

The world may ridicule us for trusting in God and for following Christ. The world may mock us for what we give up in our pursuit of Christ. But I would rather lose everything this world has to give in order to gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-11). It is not always easy. It is sometimes hard to see with the eyes of eternity when the temporary is staring us in the eyes and bombarding our senses. We get tired and weary. But I pray that we can have the strength to hold fast to the eternal and to see the glory that awaits us. For, in the end, I would rather be a fool in the eyes of the world than a fool in the eyes of God.

Together for His glory…