Distracted with Much Serving, Part 1

Today and tomorrow, Lord willing, we will focus on the passage from Luke 10:38-42 about Martha and Mary, especially that Martha was “distracted with much serving.” The illustration above was done by my daughter, Lindsay. Great work, Linz!

“Hey, Jesus! Don’t you see I’m busy working my fingers to the bone here in the kitchen all by myself? Don’t you care that I’m feverishly trying to take care of all these guests? Mary is not helping me; I mean…she isn’t doing anything. She is just sitting there on the floor listening to you. Why can’t you tell her to get her tail here in the kitchen to help me? You see, Jesus, my “ministry” is service and hospitality, and I’m trying my best to make sure that everything is just right so that everyone’s needs are met. But Jesus, I can’t do this all alone. There are meals to prepare, breads to bake, tables to set, drinks to fill, and dishes to do. Tell her to get in here and do something!”

The above words are merely my paraphrase, so please read Luke 10:38-42 to see how the Holy Spirit through Luke records the actual conversation between Martha and Jesus.

“Martha welcomed Him into her house.”  Martha was hospitable, that was her gift and her passion, and that is a good thing. In fact, God expects every single believer (including men) to be hospitable and to serve others. As God’s people we are all to use our homes and resources to share with others, especially with the less fortunate (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2,16).

Martha was a servant, a doer, and it seems that she had a very practical, no-nonsense personality about her. These are great character and personality traits and are very useful in the kingdom of God. She wanted to make sure that everyone was comfortable and well fed.  This is not the only time we find Martha serving guests and using her gifts of hospitality (see John 12:2). We are very thankful for the Martha’s in our lives. They get the job done, don’t they?

So what’s the problem? Isn’t Martha doing what she was supposed to be doing?  Is that not what Jesus had been preaching about all along?  Even Jesus said to be greatest in His kingdom, you had to be the servant of all.  At one point He asked His disciples, “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27).  Martha had that very heart, the heart of a servant, so Jesus was by no means correcting her for trying to serve others and to take care of others’ needs.

“Martha was distracted with much serving.”  What did Luke say?  What was distracting Martha? Much serving. You see men, Martha was not being pulled away by evil pursuits; she was just trying to be a servant to others. She was so involved in serving that she lost perspective on the reason for the gathering.  The dinner became the focus instead of the feast Jesus was offering. This is a vital point in the text here. She was not getting distracted with indulgence in sinful pleasure; she was getting sidetracked while using her gifts and talents that God had given her. The Scripture records that these things had become a “distraction” for her.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”  Martha, Martha.  Remember that Jesus loved Martha just as much as He loved Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5). Martha wanted more than anything to please her Lord, and it is clear from other passages in Scripture that she had a strong faith in God and a clear understanding of who Jesus was and what He was teaching (Please see John 11:20-27).

Martha was a dedicated servant to Jesus, but she lost her focus. Jesus, in His tenderness and patience, called Martha back to (#1) reality and (#2) perspective.

Here is the reality – Martha was worried and troubled over a lot of stuff. She was worried about the guests. She was troubled over all the preparations.  Sadly, she got all worked up over what she considered to be Mary’s lack of involvement.  And here’s the kicker – she was really bothered by her assumption that Jesus did not even seem to care that Mary had left her alone to serve all these guests!

Here is the perspective – Mary had chosen the good part.  Mary was not lazy.  Mary was not un-hospitable.  Mary was not less interested in taking care of others.  She, as Jesus said, had chosen to focus on the most important and pressing thing at the time, and that was to listen to what Jesus was saying. Both Mary and Martha “approached” Jesus, but for very different reasons.  Mary sat at His feet to listen to what He had to say, but Martha wanted to tell Jesus what to do.

More on this tomorrow, men. Meditate upon this. May we as men in the world today think about what Jesus taught Martha.

Warning: Graphic Biblical Punishment

“So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” II Chronicles 21:18-20

I read the passage above and I just cringe at the thought of what King Jehoram went through. When Elijah is pronouncing God’s judgment he says in verse 15 “you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.” So day by day for two years Jehoram suffered until he died in “great pain.” In my opinion, this might be the worst recorded death in the bible. But notice that the passage said “So after all this”. The Lord started by invading Judah and carrying away all the king’s possessions together with his sons and his wives, leaving only his youngest son. The youngest son was only spared for the sake of David.

But even after all this, I think the saddest part of the story might be the people’s reaction. They built no fire for him, they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings and “he departed with no one’s regret”. “No one’s” would even imply his own son showed no regret.

What could this man have done to deserve such a fate? How could a king of Judah fall so low that his own people wanted nothing to do with his funeral? You can read the details earlier in the chapter but in verses 12 and 13 we are told that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and caused Judah to play the harlot like the house of Ahab did and he killed his own brothers to secure his kingdom. He killed his brothers “who were better than you”. Verse 6 highlights that he walked in the way of Ahab “for Ahab’s daughter was his wife.”

The easy response for me would be to say “well I’d never do those things” or “what a terrible person…glad I’m not like him”, but I think there is something I can learn.

1. Walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, just like Ahab – Who influences me? What company do I keep? Do my friends and close associates draw me closer to God or pull me farther away? Young man, that special lady you’re dating, does she encourage a life of faith or of idolatry?
2. Caused Israel to play the harlot – What is the result of my influence on others? Are people encouraged when they are around me? Do I stimulate love and obedience to God in the lives of others? Or do I teach people how to chase false gods like wealth and entertainment and pleasure? Does my example show discontent and complaining?
3. He killed his brothers to secure his kingdom – “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:15-17). I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever considered murdering anyone. But I have closed my heart to a brother. I have ignored the needs of my brother when I could have helped. I’ve chosen to keep a safe distance so I wouldn’t be aware of their pain and their struggle so that my comfortable, tidy life wouldn’t be disrupted.

I can read passages such as this one in II Chronicles 21 and walk away feeling superior or I can take it as a warning, evaluate my life, and strive to me more like Jesus.

What Do You Do More Than Others?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not a “Minimum System Requirements” kind of religion. What is the least I can possibly do and get by? Nope, not with Jesus. He expects more. He gave us His absolute best at the cross when He died for us. He loves the enemies; He sends rain and sunshine down on even the most wicked among us. Jesus expects the same from us.

This does not mean that there are no consequences for bad behavior or that we never confront people who have hurt us. Jesus is addressing our attitude, our words, our prayers and our behavior toward those who are not treating us well. How are you doing with that?

What do you do more than others? Is Jesus saying that we should be religious overachievers and do more religious works than anyone around us so that we will stand tall and look pious? No, that is what the Pharisees (religious leaders) of Jesus’ day were doing. They looked good religiously, but their attitudes stunk and their hearts were corrupt (Matthew 5:20). God expects more. He expects us to be like Him.

What do you do more than others? If you love those who love you, what reward is there for you in that? Wicked people do that! Slimy politicians running for president do that! Oops, I guess I have to love the slimy politician, too…

  • How hard is it, really, to be nice to those at work who are nice?
  • How much of a strain is it to be kind to the checkout clerk when the line is short, she is in a good mood, and you’re not in a hurry? What credit is that to you (Luke 6:32-33)?
  • If you are polite to other drivers on the road as long as they let you into their lane, and there is not a traffic jam, and as long as your air conditioner works, what do you do more than others?
  • If you are kind to others only when they agree with you and do things the way you want them to be done, what do you do more than others?

So, men, today our encouragement comes from Jesus who calls us to a higher plain spiritually. He is leading us to a completely different way of viewing and handling relationships. Jesus calls us to do four very specific things for our enemies: love, bless, do good, and pray. Anybody can be kind to those who are kind. It is easy to thank God for my friends who are so good to me. It is not a challenge for me to go over and help someone with a project if he is always doing the same for me. Do I do those same things for the people that really get under my skin?

What do you do more than others? That is a high calling, men.

A Trivial Thing

It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him (1 Kings 16:31).

60 years had passed since Jeroboam had become king and brought significant moral and religious change to Israel. After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into 2 kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Jeroboam was the first king of the northern kingdom. There was never a righteous king in that northern kingdom. Jeroboam set the tone, and it just kept getting worse.

Jeroboam brought in a new priesthood, set up golden calves in the cities of Dan and Bethel, and he instituted a new feast day. All of these were “devised in his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33). All of these were in blatant defiance of what God asked Israel to do. At the time, this was a big deal, and of course, to God it never stopped being a big deal.

But 3 decades have since passed and now Ahab and Jezebel take the throne in Israel. The Bible says that Ahab thought it was “a trivial thing” to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, and he just kept doing “more evil” than all the kings who were before him.

A trivial thing. A light thing. No big deal. You see, Ahab grew up in this environment and he knew nothing different. For around 60 years, this is the way things were, so by the time he took the throne, the sins of Jeroboam were commonplace. He was desensitized to the things that God called evil. He did not blush when he should have blushed.

Men, my encouragement for all of us today is to consider this concept of “a trivial thing” in order to take inventory in our hearts. Are there things that you think are normal that 60 years ago by no means would have been accepted? Most importantly, are there things that you consider “a trivial thing” that are not trivial to the Lord? There are things we might laugh at or be entertained by, and we pass it off as no big deal, but have we thought about what God thinks about it? Is it a big deal to Him?

As Christians, we are living under the grace of Jesus, and for that we praise God! However, as Paul wrote in Romans, living under grace is not a license to continue in things that are not pleasing to God.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2).

May we take time today to pray and meditate upon this, asking the Lord to clean and renew our consciences, so that we will not be desensitized to the things that God calls sin.

Open the Door and Let the Lion Out

My good friend, Jason Salyers, told me yesterday about a great quote from Charles Spurgeon, and I thought I would share it with you this morning.

“A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries. This was how Christ’s first disciples worked, they preached Jesus Christ wherever they went; they did not stop to apologize, but boldly bore their witness concerning him.” From the sermon Christ and His Co-workers (no. 2467), preached on June 10, 1896.

Here is another quote by Spurgeon using the same point.

Brethren, the Word of the Lord can stand alone, without the propping which many are giving it. These props come down, and then our adversaries think that the Book is down too. The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries. Yes, without attempting to apologize even for the severer truths of revelation, seven times a day do we praise the Lord for giving us his judgments, so righteous and so sure. From the sermon The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace (no. 2004), preached on January 22, 1888:

Men, my encouragement to you is to stand behind the cross and simply point people to the word of God. Do not feel like you have to apologize for it or prop it up with your own clever wisdom and charm. Just teach the word. It is truly like letting the lion out of the cage.

So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:15-17).”

Rooted in God’s Love

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love”   (Ephesians 3:17; NLT)

I am reminded everyday how much God’s love for me matters in shaping how I see the world and how I behave in it.  There are some days in which God’s love seems to be the only love available.  It seems all I am dealing with is disappointment or inconvenience generated by others.

How can they love me if that is how they behave?  How can I love them if that is how they behave?  Without God and His love, it would be easy to have a negative outlook on life.  Yet, we do not have to live with a negative perspective of our life or the world if we truly love God and allow His love to be demonstrated through us

Just consider Paul’s prayer in the verse above.  How powerful is the image.  Think of a big oak tree in the middle of an old farm field.  We see the tree, its massive canopy sheltering birds of the air, its load of acorns in late summer or its beautifully transformed leaves in the fall.  Even as we consider the awesomeness of what we can see, we know that there is a vast and impressive root system below drawing up the nutrients required to sustain and grow this majestic tree.  We know, even though we cannot see it, the root system is there.  We know the roots are strong, and grounded in good soil because of the strength and size of the tree we see before us.

The same is true about love in our life.  As that old oak tree draws nutrients from the soil, we draw nourishment from the Father.  This is why we must be in daily contact with Him through His word and prayer.  Through His Word we learn the attitudes and behaviors that enable us to love others like His Son Jesus loved us.  The people in the world may not see these roots or the goodness of the soil, but they do see the tree that is our life before them every day.  We want others to see this glorious oak of a life in us, however, that isn’t always what they see because we do not always ground ourselves in Him.

Think about it for a moment.  What if that big oak tree had no contact with the soil?  What if the vast deep root system wasn’t there?  We know what would happen.  The tree certainly wouldn’t be alive, wouldn’t grow, wouldn’t bear its acorns, and would most likely topple over.

Are we wobbling or about to topple over?  Are we bare of God’s fruit?  Do you see something similar in your life when it comes to loving others and being a shining light of hope to those you come into contact with on at work, at school, at the store, etc.?  Do you find yourself being agitated or annoyed?  Does bumping into certain people leave you brittle, breakable, and fruitless?  Do you easily fall apart?

If so, your love may be grounded in the wrong soil.  It may be that your love is rooted in their love (which is fickle) or in your resolve to love them (which is frail).  John urges us to “rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16; NIV).  God alone is the power source.

How can we be kind to the vow breakers?  How can we love those who are unkind to us?  How can we be patient with people who have the warmth of a vulture and the tenderness of a porcupine?  How can we forgive the moneygrubbers and backstabbers we meet, love, and marry?  How can we love as GOD loves?  We want to.  We long to.  But how can we?

We can…by LIVING LOVED.  We first receive the love of God and let it fill us up on a daily basis through the study of His word, meditation on His principles, and continual conversation with Him through prayer about what is going on in our lives.  If we do this, we will bear fruit of the spirit which observed by others over time, will provide the opportunity to answer questions like “why are you so happy?”, “where does all this hope come from?”, “how can you love that person?”.  Put down deep roots in God’s love and you can’t help but love.

Know Your Why

Here is a short video by comedian Michael Jr. on “Know Your Why.” He used an audience member to make an incredible distinction between “what” we do and “why” we do it.

Here is the full version of the episode “Break Time” to which Michael Jr. referred in the previous video.

I encourage you today to think long and hard about your “why,” your purpose for doing “what” you do.

Blessing

If you saw the picture above and read that Irish “blessing,” I hope you got a chuckle out of it. Of course, we shouldn’t hope for our enemies to turn their ankles…I only hope for the non Big-Ten teams in the NCAA tournament to turn their ankles. That’s not much to ask is it?

The word “blessing” in the New Testament is from a Greek word which really is “a eulogy,” meaning “to speak well of” someone. When we bless God, we speak well of Him and we seek His glorification. When we bless those around us, we are speaking well of them and wishing God’s favor upon them. Sometimes we wait until the official “eulogy” to speak well of someone, but God calls us to bless or “eulogize” people today while they still live.

A more traditional Irish blessing goes something like this:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Blessing is most definitely a Biblical concept, but more than a concept, it is a command from God. God wants us to speak well of others and to invoke through prayer His favor upon others. As men of God, we are called to bless God and bless others.

In the Old Testament, God instructed the priests to bless the people in this way:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27).

Psalm 20 is another wonderful example of a blessing as David calls for God’s favor upon others.

In the New Testament, we also are called to bless God and bless others. Specifically, Jesus calls us to “bless” our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14). James adds that our mouths are a fountain that should not be sending forth both bitter and sweet water, meaning that we should not bless God in one breath and curse our fellow man in the next (James 3:8-12).

One more thing about blessing: Jesus was sent to bless us, but how? He was sent to bless us (call God’s favor upon us) by delivering us from our sins. Notice in the passage below that is how Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham.

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:25-26).

Today, ask for God’s strength to use your mouth and your words as a blessing to Him and to others.

React or Respond

Do you typically react or respond to things in life?

  • A reaction – Reflex, impulsive action, immediate. The first thing that comes to mind.
  • A response – Thoughtful, considerate, patient, reasoned behavior.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

React

  • Emotions
  • Quick fix
  • Impulsive
  • Incomplete information
  • Tunnel vision
  • Assuming the worst
  • Based upon fear

Respond

  • Reason and logic
  • Long-term
  • Reserved and thoughtful
  • Getting all the facts first
  • Looking at the whole picture
  • Looking for the best
  • Based upon faith and God’s love

Consider for a moment this morning how our interactions turn out with others when we react to people and situations. How does your day at work or school go when those around you are impulsive, emotional, going on incomplete information, assuming the worst and living based on fear?

What difference can you make (with God’s help) when you chose to respond to others rather than react? When you choose to focus on the facts and reason in order to gather all the information first, how will that help yourself and others? When you choose to live based upon faith, not fear, and when you choose to look for the best in people, how does that affect your attitude? How will that influence others in your circle?

Here are a few Proverbs for your meditation today as you seek to have a character and spirit that responds to situations rather than reacts to them.

  • He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city (Proverbs 16:32).
  • He who gives an answer before he hears, it is a folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13).
  • The first one to plead his case seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17).
  • Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit (Proverbs 25:28).
  • A fool always looses his temper but a wise man holds it back (Proverbs 29:11).

Correction to Article – “A Moral People”

I missed one very important word in my article from last Thursday entitled, “A Moral People.”

This was the original sentence in the paragraph about our “Primary Focus.”

It does mean that we are not involved in the political process, because many of God’s children in Scripture were involved in political leadership.

I intended to put a “NOT” in between “does” and “mean.” Here is how the sentence should have read:

It does not mean that we are not involved in the political process, because many of God’s children in Scripture were involved in political leadership.

Thanks to my good friend who pointed that out!!!

It has already been corrected on that article, and I am sorry for any confusion.

Aaron