Monday, July 28, 2008

Discussing Mary & Martha Part 3

Hey Girls. Sorry for my absence. I took some time away to “stay-cation.” I celebrated my 3Xth birthday about a week ago. And I started stripping the wall paper from my kitchen – little did I realize it may take me until my next birthday to finish that process!

As promised, we’ll continue discussing Mary and Martha. This post references Martha and Mary’s story found in John 11:1-46.

Imagine you and your family are personal friends of Jesus. One of your loved ones becomes very ill and you send Jesus a text message telling Him to come quickly and heal them. Jesus, after all, was known for healing sick people. Jesus replies back, “His illness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God.”

However, your loved one dies shortly after that, and Jesus doesn’t come until the funeral is over. You are receiving guests with casseroles and flowers at your home when you hear that Jesus is only a couple of miles away. Although you asked Him to, Jesus did not prevent your loved one from dying. What will you say when see Him again?

What Martha did was go out and find Jesus several miles away while Mary stayed at home, mourning. Martha looked into His face and says to Jesus in that moment, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” That statement sounds like a complaint about Jesus running late. Perhaps it is partially a complaint, but it is also a statement laced with faith. And her next statement is all faith. She says, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Before she said another thing, Jesus tells her that her brother "will rise again.”

Martha remembered that several days ago Jesus had said Lazarus wouldn’t die from this illness. But Lazarus did die, so she figures Jesus must be talking about the future resurrection day of all souls. She mentions that. Jesus does not clarify that He is about to raise Lazarus from that tomb his lifeless body lays in, instead He explains something even more grand: that HE IS RESURRECTION LIFE.

Jesus reveals to her that resurrection life is not just a future spiritual event, but a living, breathing, walking reality embodied in Jesus – and that anyone who believes this will receive eternal life on that coming resurrection day. He asks Martha if she believes this – that through Him a person can live eternally even though they die physically.

Martha – who is most known today for being too busy in the kitchen to sit with Jesus – says in response: “Yes, Lord, I have always believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Martha took the heat for fussing over Mary and the cooking as we discussed in previous weeks' posts, but in this moment she takes the cake for having great belief in Jesus!

To us Martha’s declaration may seem like a stating of obvious fact. But this woman had not read the New Testament (it wasn’t even written yet), she had not done Beth Moore’s Bible study “Jesus the One and Only,” and she had not seen Jesus raised from the dead (He hadn’t been crucified), yet still she understood and believed that Jesus was the Christ and through Him people could be delivered from death. Can you imagine Jesus’ smile when she said that?

Then Martha then goes home and tells Mary Jesus wants to see her. Mary had been inconsolable over her brother’s death. The Bible says, “When the people who were trying to console Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to weep at Lazarus’s grave and followed her.” Instead she went to Jesus who had called her to His side.

It seems Jesus was somewhat agitated that the whole crowd had come along. He had been purposely staying just out of town, rather than going to the two sisters’ house with the crowd. I think He knew with all these witnesses, it would get back to the Pharisees that He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and they would surely come after Him and kill Him (which is exactly what happened next).

But Jesus felt deeply for Mary as she wept there at His feet over her brother. Jesus had loved Lazarus dearly too. And, Jesus cried along with them. Our Lord can feel our pain. I am so thankful for a Savior who has walked this dusty earth, feeling the emotions and dealing with the complexities of human life as we do.

Once He reached Lazarus’ grave, Jesus called for the stone to be rolled away from the tomb. Martha panics a moment at what it will smell like when that door is opened. Jesus reminds her, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

Are there some areas of your life you have thought “dead?” Like maybe, your savings account? Or your career? Or your sex-life with your spouse? Or your womb? Or a relationship with a parent, or child? What “can of worms” do you avoid opening for fear that it is too stinky to deal with?

Once the tomb was opened, Jesus says aloud towards Heaven, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so they will believe you sent me." Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" And Lazarus came out, bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go!" (vs. 42-43).

Look carefully at what took place in this passage – realize we may not always get to hear Jesus command the life to rise in us, or in our circumstances. Oftentimes we will just have to take that on faith. And realize it may not look or smell much like life at first. In fact, it might continue looking like a smelly corpse in graveclothes! But if we preserve in faith, unwrapping those graveclothes, we will find the miracle of resurrection life has gone forth.

As I reread this passage this weekend, what stood out to me was the three instances that Martha’s faith was challenged (verses 4-5, 21-27, and 39-40) and she responded with belief. Had she not responded with belief, would Lazarus not been raised from the dead? I don’t know – it seems God already had this miracle planned out in order to demonstrate His power and glory. And we see that Jesus knew that from the start.

Jesus didn’t delay coming because He was just too busy to help Lazarus. Nor was He was numb to their feelings and plight. It's just that relieving their temporary suffering and grief was not the primary motivation for Jesus. Jesus was carrying out the will of God, being driven by a higher purpose, so God could be glorified and others (including Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) could see God and believe. That is not callous - there is no greater pleasure than seeing God. Verse 45 confirms that, “Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.”

So here is the challenge I take from this story. Jesus holds the resurrection power – do I hold the belief? If so, I will see God and His glory displayed. If so, I'll get to remove the graveclothes from the dead areas of my heart and life. And I will one day rise from my own grave. I have to rememeber the goal is not to avoid all suffering, but to see God and His glory.

I'ld love to hear what lessons you learned, or challenges you take, from this portion of the reading!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More on Mary & Martha

Hey Girls. I've been trying to get this posted since this morning, I guess better late than never! I loved reading everyone’s responses to the scenario of Jesus coming to dinner!! Some of your answers made me laugh out loud and some were very insightful too.

Most women quickly admit to being a Martha. But for years I identified more with Mary. Not because I thought I was super-spiritual, but because I knew I was not very domestic. While my home is (mostly) clean, it’s certainly not spotless. And while it’s (mostly) tidy, it’s certainly not clutter-free. There is always a load of laundry, either clean or dirty, in a basket somewhere waiting for me to manage it. There is typically a pile of mail at the end of the kitchen counter waiting for me to sort it. Dust perpetually awaits swiping on my mantle. And there’s almost always a stack of books and Bibles at the end of every table – and that’s because I’d rather sit and read or write about God than cook or clean. I enjoy that stuff more than the domestic stuff, and I’m better at it.

Also, I’m a big-picture kind of a girl more than a details kind of girl. Some people make task lists, and with joy check off each task as they complete them. I make lists, and then lose them … or abandon them because I don’t like to feel controlled by a check-list of tasks (even if I’m the one who made it)! Only when I’m super busy and super stressed do I resort to keeping a check-list, and actually obey it.

Jesus tells Martha in Luke 10 that she is distracted, worried, and upset over all the details. Being a big-picture gal, I couldn’t imagine Jesus saying that to me. I figured He’d be more likely to have to say, “Uh, Rachel, I need a fork to eat with. And do you have any napkins? Also, should I just set these books off the kitchen table onto the floor, or is there somewhere you want me to put them?” But when I considered the scenario I outlined for you in the last post, I realized my first impulse would be to launch into Martha-mode and worry about the food and the house.

Being domestically-challenged, I would quickly come to the end of myself there. So out of necessity I’d switch to more of a Mary mode and break out my Bible and pray. But probably not with entirely right motives. (If I couldn’t please/impress Jesus with my home or my meal, I would do so with my knowledge of Him.) Hopefully, however, while reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit would do that thing that He is so good at doing and hold a mirror up for me to see myself. And hopefully I would realign my motives and focus and become truly ready to welcome my Lord. Then I would do my happy-dance until He arrived!

Besides, if He can turn water into wine and multiply fishes and loaves – I can ask Jesus to make the dinner!

Considering this scenario showed me that my first impulse would be very Martha-like: to focus on things and tasks more than on relationships and people. I would drive myself and my family crazy trying to get us ready for Jesus’ visit. My perfectionist tendencies would rear their ugly head – somewhat in the name of my love for Jesus, and somewhat in the name of my desire to feel I produced a lovely evening. I think Jesus might smile over my frantic cooking and cleaning before He arrived in an effort to serve and bless Him. But I suspect He’d frown at me for driving everyone crazy because I wanted to be all successful and “perfect.”

This exercise also made me realize that even when I do Mary-like behaviors, I need to check my motives for doing so. Is it just to stay within my comfort-zone? Is it to avoid doing something else that needs doing that I don’t want to do? Is it just because I know it’s the right thing to do and I want to be a good Bible-study girl? Or is it out a desire to truly worship Him?

One difference in my scenario and the story in the Bible is that I told you a friend called you to say she was bringing Jesus over tonight. In the Bible it says that Martha herself welcomed Jesus to stay with her (Luke 10:38). She invited Him. It was evidently her idea – not Jesus’, not Lazarus’ and not Mary’s. Martha wanted Him there … she just got distracted with the details and the tasks involved in making dinner once He was there.

Ah, so I not only need to watch my motives, but also my follow-through on what begins as a pure motive.

At times I have viewed Jesus’ comments to Martha that night as a harsh rebuke. I have cringed at the thought of Jesus having to correct me like that – in front of everyone no less. But in reality, He was also letting her off the hook she had created for herself with her self-imposed goal to produce a terrific meal and be a “perfect” hostess. Isn’t it just like Jesus to remove our need to perform so we can enjoy His presence, grace and love? And He let everyone in the room know as well that Martha was free to stop cooking and come sit down with the rest of them.

Perhaps because I never identified much with Martha, I’ve never read any books about this passage of scripture. Anybody who has want to share some insights they learned – and tell us which book its from? Or any one have additional comments on this section of our reading?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Talking about Mary & Martha

Hey girls, we’re going to discuss this reading in “chunks” over a couple of posts. First, I want to start discussion by asking you to consider this scenario:

Imagine with me … it is 2:00 in the afternoon, and you are at home when your friend calls to say she is bringing JESUS over to your house for dinner that evening at 5:30. You hang up the phone … amazed, excited and even a bit nervous … What do you do next?

You have known Jesus for a while now, but still – HE is coming to your house to eat and fellowship tonight!

How will you spend the next few hours until 5:30?

How will you spend the few hours that He is at your house for dinner?

Honestly, what would you probably plan or do? Why?

Me? I would certainly feel the urge to go into serious cleaning mode. And I'd worry over what to serve. I might even consider serving take-out from a restaurant that cooks better than I do. I can imagine myself wanting everything to be, look, and taste as good as possible.

Then again, I can also imagine myself feeling the urge to break out my Bible and read like crazy before His arrival. Not necessarily to "commune with the Father" so much as to brush up on my biblical memory and facts so I could talk intelligently with Jesus. I might even make a list of questions I wanted to to remember to ask Him while I had His ear.

It's also entirely possible I'd become paralyzed with indecision and call my friend back to say, "I can't do this! Can we just meet at your house for dinner with Jesus tomorrow night?" In fact, I'd probably do all three of these in this order!

What came to your mind when you considered the scenario?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reading Mary & Martha

We're reading about two women today, sisters, whose brother was a dear friend of Jesus. Their story can be found in Luke 10:38-42 and also in John 11:1-12:8.

Just click on them to read them online, but let's pray first before we read.

"Lord God, please guide me into all understanding as I read your Word today about these two women, their brother and their Savior. Help me to see their thoughts and actions through Your eyes. Speak to my heart today, please Lord. In Jesus' Name I pray."

Post your "I read it" here when you are done and we will discuss it here early next week.

Many books are written about these two women, and I'm betting some of you have read some of them. Feel free to chime in during next week's discussion with what you learned from them. But for now, just encounter the text and let the words of the Bible speak directly to you. Mull it over in your mind while you enjoy your weekend.

Can't wait to talk about these stories with you next week!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Giving God, a Giving Woman

Hi all. I have one more She Speaks story to share that ties in with the woman who wrote today's P31 devotion about going deeper with God. (If you're looking for the discussion on the widow with 2 coins, see below this post but don't missing reading this post too.)

On Thursday of She Speaks, the book tables were set-up in preparation for the attendees that would arrive the following morning for the start of the pre-conference track. Now, yall know I love books! A table full of books is like a gigantic magnet to me. So when I got a chance, over I went to look at all of them. P31 carries a lot of terrific books, but one in particular really grabbed me: Pierced by the Word: 31 Meditations for Your Soul. I wanted to buy it on the spot, but we weren't even prepared to sell them yet.

All day Friday I looked longingly at that book as I passed by on my way to meetings or sessions. But I thought to myself, "Rachel, don't buy it. Just leave it for the attendees to buy because you can always purchase one from the ministry or your local store later." Same thing on Saturday. I would periodically check and see how many had sold and if it looked like there might be a copy left over for me by the conference end on Sunday. Only on Sunday I was too busy to get over there before they began packing up the book table. No matter, I assured myself.

Then, just before I was leaving to head home, LeAnn Rice passed me and said, "Rachel, there is a gift that was left for you at the information desk." It was a lovely gift-wrapped package with a pretty purple bow. If I weren't so tired and ready to go, I would've torn into it right there. But I was aching to get on the road home to my family. Normally I have lunch with all the P31 gals on Sunday after the conference - it's a highlight of the weekend that I never miss - but this time I just wanted to head for home.

On down the road, I needed to stop for some lunch. I grabbed my Bible to read since I was eating alone and then noticed the pretty package in my bag. I grabbed that too. When I sat down to eat, I opened the little card attached. It said this gift was from Sharon - a sweet woman I know, but not real well (at least not yet). When I opened the gift - you guessed it - it was that book I wanted!

The next day I emailed Sharon to thank her, and ask her why she had given it to me. I wondered if she had seen me looking longingly at that book all weekend. She explained she had wanted to give me something just to bless me (she participates in the online Women of the Bible study here, and is a great supporter of P31 Ministries too) but she was unsure what to give. So she simply prayed and asked God what would be a good gift for Rachel. Then she got this book and wrapped it.

What really gets me is that she did all this in the weeks before the She Speaks conference. She carried that book all wrapped up for me in her suitcase. I didn't even know that book existed until I saw it at the conference. So God knew what I wanted before I even did! He truly knows the desires of our hearts ... even better than we do.

As I sat there in the restaurant holding the small, blue book in my hands, I felt God's love wash over me. The Creator of the universe had paused to give me the little book I wanted and to say, "I love you, dear one, and always remember I've got you covered." I realized why I was not having lunch with my P31 girlfriends that day - I had a lunch date with my Lord.

All this happened for me because one woman had a giving heart and a praying spirit. Pop over and check out Sharon Sloan's blog "Joy in the Truth".

What will you let God do through you today?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Discussing Widow w/2 Coins

It was Tuesday of the week Christ would be crucified. Jesus was at the temple. He had been there the day before, and was upset to see people selling things, turning the temple into a marketplace where they could make money. It was then that He famously overturned their tables in anger and sent them away.

The temple was to be a place of prayer and giving to God. It was not to be a place where people earned money for themselves by tempting others to spend their offering money before they could give it to God. Or, by short-changing people who needed to convert their currency to Jewish coins to make their offering.

Note: By New Testament times there were multiple coins in use: Roman coins (denarius), Greek coins (drachma, farthing), and Jewish coins (mite, pound, shekel, talent). The mite was a thin copper coin made of a poor grade of copper or bronze. It held the least value among the coins.

People poured into the temple from all over to offer their sacrifices by dropping coins into the trumpet-shaped chests along the walls of the temple court.

I imagine if you were wealthy and had lots to give, it could take you awhile to drop all your money in the top of that trumpet-shaped chest, especially if you dropped them just one coin at a time. Cha-chingching ... chingching-chingching ... chingching-ching. It would be obvious that you were putting much in as you stood there depositing coins, maybe even holding up the line for a minute until you were done.

It would also be obvious you were giving much by the type of coins you used. I served food for tips while in college. Sometimes my tip jar would seem full, yet when counted out, it would not amount to much as most of the coins were pennies or nickels and not quarters. I was always glad to see large, silver coins going into that jar rather than small copper ones! You could see who was giving much to God by the coins they were using.

On this Tuesday, Jesus was sitting across the way, in the section called the Court of Women, observing the scene as people gave their offerings to the treasury. The Bible tells us He saw many rich people putting in large sums. Let’s be honest, many religious leaders would be thrilled about this fact. It would mean a large total, guaranteeing that the temple would “meet budget.” And of course a well-funded temple can do many good things. It would also seem that God would be well honored by that day’s big offering, right? Yipee, lots of money raised for God!

We’re always impressed by large amounts of money and equate it with success. But God is impressed by a large heart — that’s His measure of success.

Jesus noticed a poor widow drop two small, low-value coins into the offering. Ching-ching. It probably took her two seconds to drop those two measly mites in and walk away. However, in Jesus’ eyes, she'd just dropped the equivalent of 2,000 mites into that chest! It was an offering He couldn't miss.

If you have a loaf of bread and you and your neighbor are both hungry, is it very difficult to break off a piece and share it with her? But if you have only one slice of bread, and you and your neighbor are both hungry …

Jesus got really excited about this woman’s tiny offering. In fact, He didn’t point out any of the big donors to His disciples – as we probably would’ve done – but He called them over to notice her. It’s not that Jesus wasn’t pleased with the wealthy people’s large donations; He was. It’s just that He knew it wasn’t as much of a sacrifice for them. They had plenty of money to meet all of their needs, afford many of their desires, and to give to the temple. Plus, they had the ability to easily earn piles more. Not so for a poor widow.

Jesus explains to His disciples that the widow had actually given the most that day because the others gave out of their surplus, or their plenty. The Hebrew word here is perisseuso, which means “excess” or “leftover” money. This widow did not have any excess or leftover money. Yet she gave what she had ...

Because the temple is to be a place of giving to God.

Our hearts are actually the temple of the Lord.


If you back up and read the passage right before this widow’s story, you’ll see that Jesus wanted to teach His followers to pay attention to motives, and not just actions. In Mark 12:38-40 Jesus said, “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”

So it’s not just about how much we give, or how long we pray. Though giving much and praying much are noble actions. It’s also about the sacrifice involved and the motive for doing it. This widow shows us that pure motives and a willing sacrifice are worth millions in the kingdom of God. She didn’t give for show, but God himself saw and commended her. I wonder if she ever knew He saw that.

Do you give? Or, were you convinced before reading her story that you didn’t have enough extra money to give? I fall into the trap of thinking that at times. If God is speaking to your heart to give a gift in faith, check out the two Christian, non-profit organizations in my sidebar, or give to your local church. But don’t give because I’m encouraging you to – only give out of a pure motive of a true desire to show God your love and obedience. And don’t tell us that you gave – let that be for God alone to see.

Even if we are not poor widows lacking in extra money to give away, chances are there is some area of our life that we feel “poor” in. Where are you lacking “excess” or “leftover?” Are you lacking in hospitality? Are you lacking in willpower – to fast, to lose weight, to exercise, to stop spending money? Are you lacking in patience with others? Are you lacking in discipline… maybe to hold your tongue, or to serve your husband? Are you lacking time to call or visit that person you keep meaning to talk with? Are you lacking excess energy at the end of the day to pray or read about God? Where are you feeling “poor?”

Let’s try, like this widow, giving out of our places of lack with a pure heart, as an offering to God. Let’s not worry with how small the amount seems compared to others, or how silly the non-monetary gift seems compared to a gift of money. Let’s just give … because just a few days after watching the widow give all she had to live on in the temple, Jesus went to the cross and gave His all for us. Let’s give because the temple of the Lord – our heart – is to be a place of giving.

Care to share your two-cents worth on this woman's story?

(sorry, the word-geek in me couldn't resist the pun!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reading Widow w/2 Coins

Friends, it blessed me to read your comments on my last post ... to see you soul searching, sharing your struggles and being vulnerable. Truly touching. In fact, nothing jazzes me up more than seeing women get real before God and one another. I am praying for each of us.

Ready to read another woman of the Bible together?! It's been a while and I've missed our discussions so let's jump in. We're going to read about the Widow with Two Coins. Her short story can be found in Mark 12:41-44 and also in Luke 21:1-4. Follow the link to read it online.

Before you begin, let’s pray.

“Lord, please forgive me and cleanse me right now of any wrong-doing, wrong thoughts, or wrong attitudes. Please remove my distractions while I read. I want to stand before You, wrapped in the blood of Christ, and hear You speak to me through Your Word today. Open my eyes and my mind to see You and Your truth, in Jesus’ Name.”

Post your “I read it” here.
Then think it over as you go about your day, and we’ll discuss her here tomorrow.