Saturday, February 14, 2015

A visit at Martha's House, part 14: What to do with hurt feelings

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42 NASB)

Martha had scurried around, trying to make preparations for her visitors, while Mary sat contentedly at the feet of Jesus. The longer Martha scurried, the more frustrated she became about the lack of help offered by her sister. Finally, Martha took her frustration to Jesus. I've always been surprised by this. I would have continued to fume and grumble, rather than take my anger to Jesus as Martha did, because I would not have wanted to risk a reprimand. I would not have wanted conflict, especially in front of others. 

Martha was willing to risk conflict for one reason. She believed that she was right and Mary was in the wrong. Martha would soon learn the same thing I have found. When we take our concerns to Jesus, He makes all things clear, and sometimes it is not what we expected nor what we hoped. When I take my frustration, anger, and hurt to Jesus, pouring out my heart, He is always gracious and kind, but He is also marvelously honest and unsparingly frank. The way He sees my situation is not always the way I see it. Sometimes, like Martha, I am frustrated and hurt, but also in the wrong. 

The beautiful way that Jesus clarifies truth for me is the same way He did it for Martha. Rather than hammering Martha with all the ways that she was wrong, He gently pointed out the ways that Mary had done what was right. His kind manner allows me to see not only my own faults but also the wisdom, the rightness, of the other person. It has taken me years to trust our Lord enough to ask for the insight to see a troublesome situation the way He sees it. It has taken years to want His view of things rather than my own. 

 Dear ones, it is only when I take my hurt to our Lord and allow Him to show me that hurt, that situation, through His eyes that I begin to experience the depth of healing that He desires. It is only then that my fractured relationship can be healed as well, and that is a work that must begin in me. Have you, like me, experienced that frustration of thinking you are right and that someone else, who has hurt or upset you, is in the wrong? If so, then take that frustration, that hurt to Jesus and allow Him to do more than comfort you. Allow Him to enlighten and change you. Allow Him to bring healing from the inside out, for you will find, as I have, that after the healing comes peace and joy.
If you are looking for a light-hearted and humorous devotional, consider The Clay Papers, available at the online store

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Visit at Martha's House, part 13:

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42 NASB)

There is a beautiful piece of wisdom here, and I don't want us to miss it. Martha, Jesus said, was worried about many things, but Mary had chosen the one thing that was necessary. What Mary had chosen, of course, was the Word of God, made flesh and sitting before her. She had chosen Jesus and His truth. This word translated as "necessary" is chreia, and can also be translated as "needed". Vine's Expository Dictionary tells us "This need represents a gap in the life which the wise word 'builds up', fills up solidly and surely." 

What Jesus was telling Martha was that there is a place in our life that needs filling, and neither many worries nor the many things about which we worry can fill it. It is that God-shaped void about which Pascal wrote. Only the wise words of God, only our Lord, can fill that vacant place, and fill it solidly and surely. 

For those of us who have sampled far too much of the world, perhaps that truth bears repeating.  

Only God can fill that vacant place in our hearts, and fill it both solidly and surely.

There is no elegant dining experience, no designer clothing, no fancy car, no gigantic house, no exciting or passionate relationship, no lovely home furnishings or near-perfect children that can fill our vacant places. Only God can fill that empty, lonely place, and when we understand that foundational truth, we will begin to make better choices. Those things that have occupied us and divided our heart become of limited value when our heart is solidly filled with the Word of God. How does that happen? We make the choice to allow the filling. We open our Bibles and read, study, memorize. 

If we still have a vacant, lonely place that needs filling, it is because we have not yet allowed God to fill our emptiness. Dear ones, offer that emptiness to the only One who can fill us completely, to the only One who can satisfy and immerse yourself in His words, His truth, His love. Let Him fill you completely, for only He can satisfy.

A Visit at Martha's House: The Clamor

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; (Luke 10:41 NASB)

Worried and bothered. 

Those are the words Jesus used to describe Martha, and they could likely describe us, as well. We saw in the previous post that the word translated as "worried" came from a root word meaning "divided". We turn now to the word translated as "bothered". The word is thorybaz┼Ź and is defined as "disturbed". The root word from which it is derived paints a wonderful word picture that describes a worried heart quite nicely. Thorybos is defined as "a noise, tumult, uproar" and is used to describe a clamoring, rioting crowd. Isn't that how worry attacks our mind? When we focus on our perceived problems or what might become our problems, they can occupy our minds just as a large number of people might fill a room past a comfortable capacity. 

Selah. Pause and consider.

Stop for a moment and think about the issues and possibilities that trouble you. Think about how quickly they can occupy your mind, becoming a tumult of confusion that crowds out your peace, your joy, your hope. Just as Martha found that her worries about the preparations for Jesus and His disciples crowded out her desire to sit at his feet and learn from Him, so, too, when we allow worries and fears to overtake us, they can crowd out our desire to follow faithfully. Our Lord intended that we have singleness of purpose, with our sole intent being to follow Him in obedience, trusting that He would meet every need. 

The problem often comes when He meets our needs but not our desires. It is then that we have the opportunity to press in, know Him better, allow Him to change our desires. What happens instead, all too often, is that we resent the provision He sends, demand more, then accuse God of not caring when he does not provide that which He did not mean for us to have. Our resentment opens the door to frustration and the clamoring crowd of worry and fear that can easily overtake us. 

We, like Martha, have a choice. We can turn our focus away from Jesus and allow the clamor of worry and fear to crowd our minds or we can turn our focus to Jesus and Him only, trusting that He will handle every need we have, every situation that comes our way. 

We cannot be a follower without following. Dear ones, if we claim to be followers of Jesus, then we must follow. There is no room for divided loyalties, no room for a heart and mind filled with the clamor of worry and fear. 

We learned this song as children, but there is great truth in the words.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."
Helen Lemmel, 1922(1)

Today, let's do exactly what these beautiful words recommend. Turn our eyes to Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. We might be surprised by the sweetness we find when His glory and grace replace our clamor and fear.

(1) Accessed 2/12/15

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Visit at Martha's House, part 11: the divided heart

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42 NASB)

To be rebuked by the Lord seems a terrible thing, but look how gently Jesus spoke to Martha. He could have told her to "sit down and listen up", but He did not. Instead, He gently rebuked her with love and kindness. Read what He told Martha aloud and you will find great tenderness in the words. Martha' rebuke should serve as encouragement for us to take any concern, any fear, to our Lord, confident that He will respond with tender kindness, even when a rebuke is in order.

The word translated here as "worried" is merimna┼Ź. It is most often translated as "worried" but can also be used to indicate "anxious" or "concerned". It comes from a root word meaning "to divide" and that is a pretty good description of what happens when we worry. Instead of staying focused on Jesus, Martha had allowed her heart and mind to be divided by many cares. She was likely worried about the meal preparations, how to feed so many men, how to stretch her budget to cover the expense, where they would sleep. She may have even worried about what the enemies of Jesus would do to her for welcoming Him into her home. Martha was "divided" and, as a result, she was unhappy and fussy, not only with her sister, but even with God Himself. 

This business of a divided heart is one we would do well to avoid. Jesus made it very clear that we cannot serve two masters.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24 NASB)

 He was speaking specifically about serving God and wealth, but it is equally true for anything that divides our heart for God. We cannot serve God wholeheartedly and also serve our own purposes at the same time. Martha found that to be true, and so must we. In contrast, when our heart is wholly devoted to our Lord, everything we do can become a service for Him. 

What about our own hearts? Are we worried and bothered about many things, or are we focusing all our heart on Jesus? Dear ones, only Jesus deserves the position of Master of our heart. He bought and paid for it with His own precious blood. What is it that divides your heart? What keeps you from serving Him with your whole heart? Let's give Him all the divided pieces of our heart and allow Him to replace those pieces with a unified, whole, focused heart, intent on loving and serving the One who loves us most. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Visit at Martha's House, part 10:

Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.'
Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."
But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:3-5, 7, 17, 40 NASB)

Chapter 11 of Luke began with the sending of the seventy disciples on a preaching and healing tour of the towns and villages to which Jesus planned to go. He promised them uncertain working and traveling conditions. They were to take nothing with them and were to go as "lambs in the midst of wolves." They were to eat whatever they were given, stay wherever they were welcomed. Physically, it was likely to be a hard trip, yet they went willingly, eager to do what Jesus had given them to do. When the seventy disciples returned, they were full of joy and bubbling over to tell Jesus about the adventures they had in His name. 

What a contrast to Martha's attitude! Instead of sending her out on a hard mission, Jesus went to her house, drawing closer to her by his physical presence. He and His disciples sat down and were prepared for a nice long conversation. Martha not only did not sit down with Him, she grumbled about the work she did to prepare a meal for Him. 

Why was Martha's attitude, her joy in service, so different from the seventy? The difference had nothing to do with circumstances. The seventy had considerably more difficult circumstances. It had nothing to do with the amount of work involved. The seventy likely had longer hours and unrelenting demands on their time. The difference had nothing to do with the people around them. The disciples were as "sheep in the midst of wolves". At least some of the people by whom they were surrounded were dangerous and devious. Martha was, instead, surrounded by Jesus and His disciples. What better company could she have?

The difference was likely one of calling. The disciples were called by Jesus, appointed by Him, to do the work He had set before them. They willing agreed and eagerly obeyed. Despite the fact that their service was difficult, they had great joy because they were being obedient to the plan of God for their lives. 

Martha, by contrast, was working according to the call of Martha on her life. Jesus had come to visit, but Martha chose to cook and "make preparations" instead. She was at home, in the place most familiar to her. She was surrounded by good people whom she loved and could trust. She would sleep in her own place that night. Everything to which she was accustomed was readily at hand. Preparing for Jesus should have been a joyful time. Instead, it was an unhappy, grumbling time for her.

Attitudes, dear ones, are vitally important and they often begin in the understanding that we are doing what we are meant to do, what we are called to do. If we are unhappy in the midst of service rendered to the King of Kings, it is not likely to be the fault of the King. His plans are good. If we are miserable in our labors, it may be that we need to spend more time at His feet, but perhaps it is because we are not doing the labor to which Christ has called us at all. Despite the difficulty in the journey of the seventy, there was great joy in their obedience, and there should be great joy in our obedience, as well.

Are you joyful in your work? If not, why not? Could it be that the work you are doing is not what you are called to do in this time of life? Before the disciples undertook their journey, they drew close to Jesus, who gave them direction for their trip. We would do well to do the same. Draw close to Jesus, ask Him for directions for your life and your work, then do whatever He says with joy and great anticipation. The way may not be easy, but the joy you find will be worth all the difficulty you encounter. 

For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NASB)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Vist at Martha's House, part 9: The Ill-fitting Yoke

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:38-40 NASB)

Martha had been busy with preparations while her sister sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to every word. Martha was distracted and overwhelmed with the preparations and wanted help. When Mary, her sister, didn't volunteer to help out, she went to Jesus with an interesting question. "Lord, do you not care?" What she actually said was "Do you not care that my sister is making me do all this work by myself?" When was implicit in her words was another question entirely. "Lord, I did not choose to spend time with you. My choice is not working out well for me, and I don't like it, but don't you care enough to send me some help with my choice so I can keep doing what I chose?" 

Ouch. When we look at her question from that perspective, we see something we might not have noticed before. Martha didn't like the results of her choice, but she didn't seem to have any intention of making a different choice. She did not go to Jesus saying, "My choice to do housework instead of spend time with you is not working for me. Can you help me make a better choice?" She did not say, "How much preparation did You want me to make for all these people? Tell me what YOU want so I can please You." 

I am a master at being a Martha. It is so easy to see something I think needs to be done and forge ahead to do it. When I do that, however, it is not uncommon to find that the work is bigger than I imagined and there is considerably less joy in it than I hoped. More than once I have found myself at the feet of Jesus saying, "This burden is too heavy! This yoke is too painful!" Every time, our Lord has very gently whispered with that still, small voice, "That was never my burden for you. It was never my yoke for you." If we want the abundant life Christ came to bring, we must begin at the feet of Jesus. There is work that must be done, but it is in the work our Lord chooses that we find peace and joy. 

Are you overwhelmed with your busyness, burdened with your life and all the challenges you face? Instead of going to Jesus with demands that He help you keep doing everything you are doing, go to Him with open hands. Offer Him every responsibility and burden you have and allow Him to choose what remains. You can be sure that time spent with Him will be a high priority. It may be, however, that some of the responsibilities you carry are no longer His will for you. For those of us accustomed to an extremely busy life, paring down might seem a burden in itself. When you have time to enjoy our Lord, however, you may find that a pared life is richer and brings more joy than all the busyness you could pack into your days.

When the burden is heavy, when the yoke doesn't fit, there is only one place to go. Jesus. 

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

Visit at Martha's House, part 8

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:38-40 NASB)

I don't know that Martha was the older sister, but she was certainly bossy enough to be. What strikes me as remarkable is that Mary was able to sit down at the feet of Jesus and stay there, despite her sister's protest. Martha was clearly in charge and was scurrying about making the preparations needed for the visitors. The fact that Martha approached Jesus, asking Him to send Mary to help with preparations makes me think that she had already tried and failed to get Mary's attention and call her to the work as well. Mary was stuck like glue at the feet of Jesus.

What was Mary doing? She was sitting, worshipping, listening to every word. In fact, Mary was making preparations of her own, but neither she nor Martha likely knew that. At this point in Jesus' ministry, His time on earth was short and, if His followers were to be prepared for the hard times that would follow His death, the persecution that would follow, the sorrow followed by joy that would follow, they had to take advantage of time spent with Him while they could. Mary was savoring time with her Lord, spending it worshipping at His feet, and she was commended for it. 

Certainly she could have been whipping up something special for the meal, preparing something lovely to give Jesus, but her gift of time and attention pleased Him far more than the effort her sister expended. Martha gave Jesus a gift of service, but Mary gave Him a gift of love. It's easy to forget how important that love for our Lord is to Him, but a quick look at the greatest commandment should remind us. 


All our service matters little if love is not at the root of it. Dear ones, in order to be prepared for whatever is ahead, in order to please our Lord, we must spend time at the feet of Jesus. We must choose that service of ready attention, of worship, first of all. Being the hands and feet of Jesus is important,  but we must also have the heart of Jesus, and that comes only by spending time with Him. We, too, must be like Mary, stuck like glue at the feet of our Lord, not distracted by the busyness the world offers. 

When it comes to service, we have a choice to make. Let us first choose love.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Visit at Martha's House, part 7: Whose Work Matters

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40 NASB)

When you look closely at this verse, what Martha said to Jesus is really shocking. It appears, from the way she addressed Him as Lord, that she had an understanding of Jesus as Master. He was not just a poor, wandering preacher. He was not just a family friend. He was Lord and He was in charge. It seems as if Martha had a basic understanding of this, but Martha had a problem that most of us have as well. Martha thought that she was also in charge. She approached Jesus as if they were on equal terms. 

Jesus did not tell Martha what preparations needed to be done. Martha decided that for herself. She then attempted to perform all the work she had decided was necessary, but it was too much for her. There is no indication that Martha spent even a moment saying, "Is all this necessary? Is this what Jesus wants me to do?" Martha had made her decision and she was sticking with it. (Does this sound familiar at all? Isn't this something that we do, as well?) 

To make matters worse, Martha decided that her agenda should also include Mary. In essence, Martha's plan for Mary became more important than Jesus' plan for Mary, at least in Martha's mind. I would expect that Martha had signaled Mary more than once, trying to get her to get up and help! Mary, however, kept her seat at the feet of Jesus. 

What is astounding to me is that Martha marched right up to Jesus and demanded He reassign Mary to The Martha-Work-Crew! Don't forget that Jesus was not just a man. He was Almighty God wrapped in flesh, sitting in her home, and Martha was trying to boss Him around like she was His equal. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

I'm not going to pretend that I've never done this, but I hope I have better sense now. What about you? Do your prayers sometimes have a "Martha-esque" tone about them? Do we find ourselves demanding that God do whatever it is we want and hop to it? 

We would do well to remember that there is a God and we are not it. His Word tells us that He has a plan, for good and not for evil. It makes sense to desire that good plan, but all too often we want our own plan, instead. Even worse, we demand that God give us what we want. 

When she first became overwhelmed with preparations, Martha would have had a much better day if she had stopped to ask herself, "Is this what I need to be doing? Is this what Jesus wants me to do?" We, too, could benefit from using our frustration with life as an opportunity to consider that maybe what we want is not what God wants. Shocking idea, isn't it? It is also a very freeing concept. 

If you're frustrated and overwhelmed with life, it is time for some serious soul-searching. Is the work you are trying to do, the lifestyle you are pursuing, that for which you long, really what God desires for you or have you made your own plan, expecting God to bless it? It may be that your plan needs to be relinquished for the one God has for you. 

What, then, should you do? Do what Mary did. Begin by positioning yourself at the feet of Jesus. Listen to His words. Seek His face. Ask for His plan, then do what He says. 

Hear, and heed, the words of Jesus: 
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)