Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My Story Matters: Mary of Bethany


As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:36-42


Like this home in Bethany where Jesus visited, my home had three children – two girls and a boy.  

Just like this home, no three children could have been more different.  

It’s always odd to me just how distinctive children can be, who come from the same parents, are raised in the same house, under the same parenting styles.  

We already know that Martha, full of good intentions, was a “fixer.”  

Never one to sit still; she actively worked to make things happen, and, as a result, she was easily distracted.  

We know Martha was a complicated ball of commotion, yet unafraid to just be herself; and, Jesus loved her.  

Her sister was a polar opposite.  

Mary was sensitive, intuitive, quiet, reflective, easy-going, and focused; Jesus loved her, too (every bit as much).  

I love that Jesus loves diversity.  

He’s not asking us to be something we’re not.  

However, He does ask us to keep things simple; and to take time, from time-to-time, to be “women of one thing.”  

He says it's the better choice to sit at His feet now and again...

Please take note that Martha wasn’t wrong using her hospitality gifts.  

She simply had taken on too much.  

If she’d simplified, then Martha could have gotten in on the better part of the visit, time with Jesus.  

All our good strivings are often enemy of the better thing.  

Mary’s intuition served her well.  

Somehow she seemed to realize this was a moment that could never be recaptured.  

She knew she needed to glean all she could from the life of her Lord, for somehow, she had a sense that He would not be with them long (we’ll see this more clearly when we look at another snapshot of Mary’s life next week).  

I tend to be of the opinion that Mary realized she needed the words of the Teacher deeply imbedded in her heart for the journey ahead.  

Jesus was not about to rob her of that opportunity.  

Jesus has words for us every day – words for our journeys.  

He knows a visit with Him, through prayer and in Scripture, is the better part of our day.  

Yet, we often are robbed of that opportunity by all our plans, activities, and busyness. 

They aren’t bad things; we aren’t wrong in doing them.  

We simply need to streamline, prioritize, and carve out moments to sit at his feet...  

...let go of the distractions and listen...

Then, and only then, will we be ready to serve Him completely and effectively (we’ll see that next week, too).

Thursday, February 17, 2022

My Story Matters: Part 2, Martha of Bethany

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
John 11:20-22, 38-40

Ah, Martha.  Let’s not rush past her just yet.  

Last week we learned that Martha felt safe with Jesus.  She trusted Him enough to reveal the messy side of her nature to Him.  

Martha even had a measure of faith that most Jews didn’t possess; she firmly stated her belief in the final resurrection of the dead.  

Though she was disappointed in Jesus’ seeming lack of compassion when her brother was ill, she expressed a measure of faith that Jesus could still “do something”...  

Yet, in a matter of minutes, her measure of faith showed its limitation.  

When Jesus asked for the stone to be removed from Lazarus’ grave, reality rose to the surface.  

Lazarus had been in there for four days:  long enough for decay to set in; long enough for his soul to have departed (Jewish religion believed that on the fourth day following death the soul ventured away from the body); long enough for the “stink” to be bad!  

Ever felt a measure of belief, only to realize that it was stunted by a reality check?   

I, most definitely, have.  

I often come up lacking in this department.  

Like Martha, it is easier to believe in the BIGGER MIRACLE of eternal life and resurrection at the last day, but, then, find myself coming up short on the “smaller” miracle of raising the current "dead" that surrounds my life.  

For example, I don’t question my eternal life, or the “life-after-death” of my loved ones who are “in Christ,” but I do question whether the Lord will “raise up” dreams that have died, or a plan that has been taken away prematurely.  

I don’t question that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” but is He the resurrection of marriages which have lost their “soul”?  

Is He the restorer of “life” to the areas of my life that seem to be decaying before my eyes?  

Can He make perfume out of the things that absolutely stink about my life?  

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who wonders this...

Yet, I think this story is here to remind us that He cares.  

Jesus weeps with us for the things that are lost to us, the death of dreams, the vanished hopes, and the demise of comfort, satisfaction, and/or pleasure.  

He longs to show us His glory...if we believe.  

Someone once told me "the outcome of belief is always a revelation of the glory of God."

So...say it out loud:  

Jesus cares.  

He wants to reveal the glory of God; and, He wants to show us that He is still Lord over the grave...any grave. 

So, my response to this aspect of Martha’s life is to do what the desperate father (whose dreams for his son were slowly dying) did when he stood before Jesus:  

Immediately, the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 
(Mark 9:24)

Thursday, February 10, 2022

My Story Matters: Martha of Bethany

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to (Jesus) and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”  Luke 10:40

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  John 11:20-22

With a hop, skip, and a jump, we are back in the New Testament to glance into the life of Martha.  

Now, Jesus loved Martha (John 11:5).  

I love her, as well.  

I have often thought I could relate most to this woman of Scripture (I'm pretty sure we may share the same DNA) overzealous servant, filling my plate with too much do-gooding, having a bit of a case of “limelightitis,” and easily distracted with people-pleasing.  

However, throughout most of my life, I've only focused on the negative of Martha’s character.  

That’s often easy for us to do with other people, isn’t it?  

Over the years I've learned that each negative trait has a flip side to the coin that is positive; and, I’m convicted of my judgment toward Martha, and want to honor that other side of her.   

In fact, if we look more deeply, Martha has many good qualities, and, one in particular stands out.

Let me you read the Scripture above, what stands out to you?  

Martha’s self-pity(?); or, maybe her attempt at putting a guilt-trip on Jesus?  How about her “bossiness”?  

Yes, I can see some of those things, too.  

However, as I was reading her story this morning, something else hit me – her honesty, vulnerability, and
authenticity with Jesus.  

That's when I realized, Martha felt SAFE in the love of Jesus.  

She felt so safe, in fact, that she was able to be herself – her very messy, very confused, and sometimes, very self-centered self.  

While it tells me a lot about Jesus, it speaks volumes about Martha.  

She had no trust issues where her Lord was concerned.  

She knew Him intimately, so she trusted Him equally.

Because she trusted Him, she could be REAL around Him.

Sadly, many days, I am reminded that, unlike Martha, I do have trust issues.  

Often, I am careful how I petition the Lord in prayer.  

Sometimes, I color my pain with pretty colors.  

Now and again, I dress my heart up in its finest, and put on a good front - yep, even with Jesus! 

Every once in a while, I even build a big brick wall, put a padlock on the gate, and dig a moat that I fill with water and crocodiles, hoping that He gets the message: stay out of this area of my heart.   

BUT, Martha reminded me this morning that Jesus is not over-advertised; He is just under-trusted.  

Jesus is not over-rated; He is under-estimated.  

Jesus is completely, 100% safe, and He doesn’t care about the mess our souls are in, nor is He bothered with how tangled and twisted the barbed wire has gotten around our hearts.  

If there’s any place we can take our sorrows, distractions, and frustrations, and not be condemned, it’s to Jesus.  

May we learn this lesson well from a woman who came before Him boldly, in all honesty, and placed her pain in the palm of His soon-to-be nail scarred hands! 

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

My Story Matters: Miriam, Part 2

Were I Miriam (the sister of Moses), and able to write the ending to my story, I’d make it a good one; one that would leave people smiling.  

However, this is not the way Miriam’s story ends.  

In Numbers 12:1-15, we’re told that Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife.

While this is the excuse they used to grumble against their brother, the real reason went deeper.  

“Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked.  “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”  And the Lord heard this (12:2).  

Ruh, roh!

Envy put them in a bad temper.  

Envy does that...

Their jealousy set them “talking against” Moses (let's call it what it was: bitterness of spirit!); and, God heard.  

The Lord God calls the three of them to the Tent of Meeting (something akin to being called to the principal’s office, I reckon).  

There, the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud.  

Of the many things the Lord says to them, this stands out (vs 8), 

“Why...were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 

God’s anger burned against Aaron and Miriam...  

...and when the cloud lifted...well, there stood Miriam, her skin looking like a stillborn baby, and covered with leprosy.  

Now, God can do what He wants. He is God.  

Yet, I have to wonder why Aaron wasn’t struck, as well...perhaps it had something to do with Aaron’s priestly duties. I just don't know...and the text doesn't say.  

However, Aaron was first to plead Miriam’s case to Moses with repentance in his voice.  

From there, Moses went directly to the Lord; and God, in His mercy, confined Miriam outside the camp for seven days.  

Seven. disgraceful. days.  

Seven long days and nights of a “time out.”  

Time out to remember the past.  

Time out to reflect on the present.  

Time out to repent from her sin.  

Time out to return humbly to the Lord.  

As I did, you might be questioning, doesn’t this seem a bit severe?  

At first, I certainly thought so...  At least until I remembered this from the New Testament:

Jesus final prayer in the Garden before his crucifixion focused on love for one another and unity.  

When someone is about to die, their heart is exposed.  

What is most important is laid bare.  

For Jesus what mattered most boiled down to the love and unity of His followers.  

Jesus, we know, reflected the Father’s heart.  

So, the same must hold high significance to God the Father, as well.

May those who will believe in me be one... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:20, 23).

The tongue is a dangerous instrument.  

In this particular instance, it had the potential to set an entire people-group ablaze in disunity.  

As God the Father led His children to the Promised Land, He needed a people united as one --- children who would represent their Father, harmoniously standing in one accord.  

 (I still think as the Lord leads His kids to our Heavenly Promised Land, He still wants His people united as one, standing in one accord, representing their heavenly-daddy!)

So, while God forgave Aaron and Miriam, there were consequences.  

These consequences were a reminder that the tongue reflects the heart, and a leprous heart has the potential to infect an entire community.  

Because "God so loved" His children, like a good dad, he disciplined; and, He still disciplines the sin and always extends grace to the sinner.  

Don’t you know at the end of seven days, Miriam recognized this truth...AND, no doubt felt the significance of grace extended as she was embraced again within the camp? 

May her story be a word of caution to all of us to guard our tongues, look out for one another’s interests, encourage and edify our community, speak truth in love, and strive to live in symphony with each other!

When we do, the world knows that our Jesus loves them!