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Weekly Word

Entries in Distraction (2)

Wednesday
Oct082014

One Thing Is Needed

Serving is a big theme within Christianity.  Jesus himself is the inspiration for this and is often called a “servant-leader.”  Until Jesus this would have been considered two words that do not go together.  Yet, today we see service as an obligation.  So much so that it is hard for us to conceive that we can go overboard in it.  Is it possible to serve too much?  Perhaps better said, it is possible for us to miss the most important thing in our quest to serve more. 

Serving people can take on a whole life of its own that leads to the destruction of the very soul of the server.  Of course, we all need served in one way or another.  However, some are in a far greater position to serve than others.  It is easy to lay such a guilt trip on them that we lose sight that they are a soul loved by the Father in Heaven as well.  Have you ever thought about the truth that God loves the one who is able to give and serve just as much as he loves the one who is in great need?  Have you ever thought that God would rather we served less out of love for him, rather than to serve more and lose your soul?  Is that possible?

Today’s story is about two sisters who had become disciples of Jesus and even his friends.  They are the same two sisters who have a brother named Lazarus that Jesus would later raise from the dead.  It is thought that Martha was the oldest and may have been a widower because it is called her house and they seem to be well off enough to feed and care for Jesus and his 12 disciples on numerous occasions.  Let’s look at Luke 10:38-42.

Service Can Become A Distraction

The “certain village” is Bethany, less than 2 miles east of Jerusalem.  I want us to first see how Martha get’s distracted by her “much serving.”  I am not saying that service in and of itself is a distraction.  But, that distraction is a pitfall that we need to avoid whenever we are serving others.

Martha was clearly giving hospitality to this group of men because of Jesus.  He was the Anointed One and the Lord.  So there is a certain joy that comes from participating in the ministry of one so used of God.  She is also serving in very practical ways: a place to rest, wash your feet, eat food, and have drink.  All of these things are needed in life and great ways to bless others.  However, sometimes in our service to the Lord, we can lose sight of the people we serve on his behalf. 

The Pharisees had made such a mistake.  They had gone to great practical lengths to please God and serve Him.  They would memorize the Law and all of the traditions of interpretation throughout history.  They would tithe not just of their income, but even on the increase of any spices they acquired.  Yet, they were so fixated on serving God that they lost sight of His people.  God in and of himself has little need of our service.  He is not hungry or tired, and neither is he poor or lacking love and honor.  Jesus pointed this out when he said we serve him by how we serve those who belong to him.  The Pharisee’s understanding of service had little room for others.  In their quest to obtain great favor with God, they looked down upon and became a stumbling block to the very ones they should have been serving.  God wanted them to see the needs and serve His people.  He still wants us to be doing that today. 

It is ironic that, in focusing on Jesus so much, Martha actually lost sight of the heart of Jesus.  She wants to please the flesh of Jesus so much that she loses sight of the fact that Jesus was more concerned with spiritual matters than he was with material things.  Her desires and fallen nature were pushing her to try and please the Lord in ways that were not pleasing to him.  Like any good hostess, Martha had some vision of what she wanted to do and yet there were a lot of people.  In the midst of this drive to please Jesus, Martha becomes annoyed with her sister who is not helping her.  Now recognize that although Jesus and the disciples needed to eat and drink, Jesus is not going to be pleased by the amount or quality of the food.  He would appreciate anything that Martha could and would do.  There was no reason for her to be so pressured to do so much other than her desire to impress Jesus.  It is exactly at this point that she loses sight of Jesus and his message.  Meanwhile Martha’s sister, Mary, is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching.

Martha basically blows her lid and asks Jesus to command Mary to help her.  Thus her complaint comes from her bitterness that Mary wouldn’t help her.  We are not told if she asked Mary or not.  So we will have to put that aside.  Have you ever had something you were trying to do that you valued highly but others didn’t see it at the same level as you?  Perhaps you thought the project was so amazing that everyone should jump on board and help you.  We can become bitter at people when they do not value things at the same level that we do.  However, our complaints against them may be unwarranted.  Sure Mary could have helped her sister and that would have been good.  Yet, Mary wasn’t choosing to hurt her sister.  Rather, she was choosing to enjoy the presence and teaching of Jesus.  Why should Martha despise that?  She would only despise it because her sinful nature was pressuring her to do so.

Now there is a subtle, second complaint.  Lord, why aren’t you doing anything about this lazy sister of mine.  Martha wants the Lord to line out her sister.  We may not recognize it at first but, those who give themselves to much serving and become resentful to the Lord Himself.  God why don’t you make more people help me?  This is such a great way to serve, why aren’t you blessing it?  Such “foxes” will destroy the vines of our desire to serve.  Our energy to serve will quickly shrivel up and we will become disillusioned to God, people and even ourselves. 

Jesus simply tells Martha, “One thing is needed.”  This word “needed” has the sense of an obligation or duty.  There is only one thing that is necessary, Martha.  Why do you insist on so many unnecessary things?  What a question for our life.  Do I insist on trying to do so many unnecessary things that I have driven any joy from my life?  What a tragedy this can be.

The “One Thing” That We Need

Martha’s complaint leaves something hanging that we need to deal with.  Does Jesus really care for Martha and her service for his sake?  Or simply put, Does Jesus Care?  There is an old hymn titled, “Does Jesus Care?”  The chorus goes like this, “Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares.  His heart is touched with my grief.  When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.”  Without question Jesus cares for Martha and for us.  All we need to do is look at the cross, as he sheds his life-blood on our behalf, and we cannot but be convinced of His great love for us.  But, Jesus cares about Martha too much to let her destroy herself with unnecessary things.  Martha is troubling herself with so many concerns and desires.  She has created her own emotional, perfect storm.  She is like the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee when the storm came up suddenly and threatened their lives.  She is a woman tossed and driven by many things that the Lord himself does not care about.  But, Jesus does care about her.  Jesus didn’t care that Mary had chose to listen to him instead of help with serving.  Why?  He didn’t care about that because it wasn’t as important.  Have you ever thought that God cares about you too much to let you have your way?  Perhaps that wall you keep running into is God trying to tell you to rest and let those worries and desires go.  “Peace, be still, Martha!”  You can almost hear our Lord saying that too us at times when we have driven ourselves into a panic.

Are you worried and troubled by many things?  Those are the words Jesus used of Martha.  The word “worried” here is the same used in Matthew 6:25.  “Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on it.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  In Philippians 4:6 we are told, “Be anxious(worried) for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Wow!  Even in our service to Him, it is not God’s desire for us to be filled with worry and anxiety.  He wants us to have His peace guarding our hearts and mind from those many desires and temptations that threaten to rob us of our joy.  The word “troubled” here is the idea of disturbed or uproar.  Thus, the picture of the storm in Martha’s heart is exactly what Jesus saw.  There is no end to the things that can cause us to worry.  If you let them they will surround you like the howling winds of Galilee and destroy your very soul.

Yet, Mary had chosen “the good part.”  Jesus challenges Martha’s choices during his stay by saying that Mary had chosen something better.  Why should I take that away from her?  Now the good choice is not between learning and serving.  Martha’s problem is not that she chose to serve when she should have chosen to learn.  Rather, Martha made choices that distracted her from Jesus and what was important to Him.

In Luke 18:22 Jesus told the rich young ruler that he still lacked “one thing.”  Sell all of your riches and follow me.  Again, it is not wrong that he is rich.  However, Jesus saw that his riches were distracting him from being able to truly follow Jesus.  The rich man needed to sell all his possessions.  Martha needed cut back on all the ways she was trying to serve.  To follow Jesus is to learn how to walk the way he walked.  The way of Jesus is a way of dying to those concerns that try to drive us, and learning to simply trust the Lord.  “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  Although some of the disciples were literally put to death on crosses, the words of Jesus are intended to go beyond the material world.  We all have things we need to die to in order to make godly choices.  Mary loved the Lord and it led her to choose to sit at his feet and receive his teaching.  Could Martha have simply served the Lord and his disciples because it was a good thing, rather than trying to impress the Lord with her much serving?  We need to quit trying to impress God with the things we do for Him.  In truth we are secretly trying to deserve his love.  Why would you insist on “deserving” something that is given freely? God loves you without much serving.  This does not mean we shouldn’t serve.  Rather, it means that we can freely serve.  It means that our joy can remain regardless of how much and how great we are able to do.

Jesus is tender with Martha here, even though she was being harsh with her sister.  Jesus wants Martha to experience his peace.  Even Jesus had to deal with this temptation.  Everywhere he went people clamored for the Lord to heal them, cast out demons, teach us, and give us bread and fish.  Although Jesus gladly gave himself to these things, we also see him slipping away to pray; and slipping away to other places.  The people would wake up and become frantic when they realized Jesus was gone.  “Where did he go?  Get in the boat.  Let’s follow him!”  Instead of being driven to heal everyone in the world, Jesus focused on what really was necessary to please His Father in heaven.

Let me just leave us with some things to consider in choosing the good part in our lives.  Of course, off the top, we need to walk away from those things that are definitely sinful.  “Go and sin no more.”  These things are clearly not the good part.  Yet, in choosing good things, we can be tempted to do too many good things.  Are you a parent of a young child and working fulltime?  Then you may have little time to do anything else.  There are some good things that we need to cancel altogether simply because our life is too cluttered.  Is this okay?  God loves you and doesn’t want you to grind all joy out of your life in the pursuit of something that is already yours (i.e. his love).  Also, in those good things that we choose to keep doing we might need to lower our expectations and desires.  As a parent you should not abdicate your responsibility to raise your child.  However, in choosing to raise them, we can put unrealistic expectations upon ourselves and upon our child.  First time obedience, every time, is going to fill you full of bitterness, worry, and fear.  What does God expect from you?  Did His children demonstrate first time obedience all the time?  This is not meant to be a cop-out for responsible parenting.  It is a plea for parents to understand that God wants them to have joy as a parent, even in the midst of trips to the hospital or to the principal’s office.  Are you choosing the good part?  Lastly, the good things that we continue to do and have simplified also need to be focused correctly by the heart of Christ and in thanks for his love.  What I mean is that we have to quit trying to impress Jesus and deserve him.  Rather we need to operate from the present reality of having his love and favor.  We need to do what we do out of joy and because it is the good thing that he has given to us to do.  Whether anyone helps us or not is irrelevant.  What is relevant is that I do all that I do as unto the Lord and know that it is enough.  Do it today.  Go through the list of all that you have to do and cancel some things, do less of others, and make sure you do all that you do out of thanks to the Lord for His great love!  

One Thing Is Needed mp3

Tuesday
Sep022014

The Cost of Following Jesus

Today we will finish Luke chapter 9 (vs. 57-62).  Jesus has been teaching his disciples what it means to be great in God’s eyes, in contrast to what they believed.  The capabilities of Christ seem wasted in merely dying on a cross.  This last section looks at three different men who are going to follow Jesus, but something gets in the way, whether they know it or not.  Jesus as a teacher points these barriers out to them, but also wants his disciples and us today to recognize the cost required in order to follow him.

Regardless of the Provisions

The first guy is found in verses 57-58.  He makes a bold statement of following Jesus “wherever you go.”  Jesus responds by reminding the man that he doesn’t even have a place to lay his head.  Now Jesus doesn’t mean that literally.  He is saying he doesn’t have a place of his own.  He is at the mercy of what God provides.  This issue of provision can become a stumbling block to many.  Christ makes no promise of earthly comforts to his disciples.  “Come follow me,” but I don’t know where I am going to sleep tonight.  The person who wants to follow Jesus is going to have to deal with the worry that rises in the heart of a person regarding provisions. 

This man desires to follow Jesus; however, Christ sees something in his heart.  He is a man who is us attached to certain provisions in his life.  It will be difficult for him to follow Jesus long if he doesn’t face the reality up front.  His good desire to follow Jesus is mixed in with many other desires.  The desire for comfort and certain provisions will eventually be challenged when following Jesus.  “Pick up your cross and follow me,” is no promise of great provisions.  It is a promise that he knows where he is headed and if we follow him God will take care of us.  God always provides, just not what we always desire.

Look at the life of Jesus.  He had meager origins and he lived by meager means.  Those who followed him in those days shared in that.  Even though he had donors who gave gifts to help him out, this is still a worrisome proposition for our flesh.  Thus if we are going to follow Christ then we need to sit down and count the cost.  This man only saw what he would gain in following Jesus.  But, Jesus wants him also to think about what he will lose, or at least might lose.  Jesus promises that if we lose anything in this world for his sake, God will make it up to us with so much more of something better.  Whether in this life or the life to come is not our concern.  God is more concerned with our spiritual growth than he is with our material prosperity.  Though it may serve His needs from time to time to bless a person with material prosperity, it is a test of faith as much as the times of little.  If my heart is overly attached to the material things of this world I will have trouble following Christ in difficult times.  The person who has little is tested in learning to trust the goodness of God.  The person who has much is tested in learning to give God the credit for the goodness and to use it for His glory.  Where your heart is there your treasure will lie.

Regardless of Timing

The second guy is found in verses 59-60.  We see some of the same issues in the next two guys.  So I will focus on the timing issue in this situation.  Here it is Jesus asking the guy to follow him.  Yet, the guy asks for more time in order to deal with his aging father.  Apparently he wants to follow Jesus, but the timing isn’t good for him.  Though the text says he needs to bury his father, it is highly unlikely that he means his dad is already dead.  People were buried very quickly after death.  Most likely his father is old and failing in health and he wants to go back home and wait until this situation has ended.  Of course then the estate will be divided and since he is following a man who can’t promise any provisions…  Well, you get the picture.

God often calls us to do things that are not good timing from our perspective.  “Go talk to your neighbor about their soul.”  Answer: But Lord, I’m not ready yet.  “Follow me.”  Answer: But Lord I have too many things I want to accomplish first.  When I’m retired I will really get down to business in serving you.  It is this “lack of timing” that causes to surface precisely what we need to deal with.  God’s timing is not bad.

We also see that here that good things can get in the way of God’s things.  There is nothing wrong with caring for family, burying those who die, and inheriting an estate.  However, such things can also divert us from doing what God is calling us to do.  In some cases, like missionaries, we have to say goodbye to many good things and simply trust the Lord.  In other cases, we must learn to do those things AND serve the Lord; at the same time.  We must be careful of thinking, “I will do this first and then serve God.”  If God is calling you today, then you either don’t need that which you will have to leave behind.  Besides, maybe he is calling someone else in the family to step in and care for dad.

The response that Jesus gives sounds strange.  “Let the dead bury the dead, but you follow me.”  Jesus is speaking spiritually here.  If the spirit of God is speaking and you are spiritually alive then you need to obey and follow God.  But if you are dead to the Spirit of God then by all means stay and do what you want.  There are many spiritually dead people in this world pursuing the joys and pleasure of this life without a thought for what God wants them to do.  But if you are alive then you can’t live like that.  What are God’s purposes in this world?  And, how do I fit in with those purposes?  These are the questions we need to answer and then act upon.

Regardless of What We Leave Behind

The third man is in verses 61-62.  This man also wants to deal with his affairs and say goodbye to his family.  His seems to be less of a wait and yet a wait nonetheless.  Let’s focus on the things we have to leave behind.  Sometimes family ties can hold us back from God’s call.  Even the mother and brothers of Jesus tried to restrain him from doing what He knew God was calling him to do.  So Jesus understood this problem well.  Dad and mom may not always understand what God is calling you to do.  If you let your good attachments to them get in the way, you may never follow Jesus for yourself.  It is not wrong to love family.  But our love for family should not be greater than our love for our Lord.  We use the phrase, “inordinate love.”  It is a love that is not given the correct order in relation to God.

Jesus also uses an image from farm life: plowing a field.  This metaphor demonstrates the importance of not looking back.  We must keep our focus on the task before us in order to do it well.  Distracted work is not done well.  Jesus does not want us to be distracted workers.  God is worthy of our undivided attention in the task that He gives us.  Thus learning to serve God with a whole heart is primary.  When the Lord calls us to salvation we can be tempted to look back to the pleasures of this world.  Those friends of the world will not be our friends any more unless they follow Jesus too.  It can be difficult to accept such things.  Even in service to the Lord we can be looking back to easier days and “better” things.  We can pause or even stop in our following of Jesus.

In each of these cases, Jesus is not trying to dissuade these men in following him.  But, precisely because he knows the path ahead is difficult, he requires us to count the cost in advance.  We do a disservice to people when we try to remove all the barriers to getting saved and following Jesus.  This is not real life.  Later, when you are not there to remove those barriers for them, they will falter.  God gives us truth so that we can make a decision that is based upon reality rather than fantasy.  May God help us to follow him regardless of these things to which we too easily become inseparably attached.

Cost of Following Jesus audio