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Entries in Mary and Martha (2)

Tuesday
Jul022019

Only One Thing Matters

Grace Fox, a career missionary, knows much about the pressures of ministry, but she has learned to focus on God's purposes for each day. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to have a biblical perspective on how we invest our time for greater intimacy with the Lord.

"So many voices and genuine needs clamor for our attention," Grace says. "So much noise fills our physical and mental space. Our busy lives pull us a gazillion different directions but in truth, only one thing really matters."

Grace echoes a truth I (Dawn) struggled with for years. So much to do, so little time. And it didn't help that I was determined to do it all—many times without checking in with the Lord.

Grace continues . . . 

I’m a recovering A-type personality who totally “gets” Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

She thrives on purposeful work especially when it involves those she loves. The day Jesus and His disciples visit, she invests her total self in serving them.

Martha slaves in the kitchen while her sister Mary lounges in the living room. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach and hanging on every word.

This scenario reveals two sisters and two demonstrations of love for Jesus.

He acknowledges both, but commends only one: “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her” (Luke 10:42).

What’s the all-important “one thing” to which Jesus refers? Time spent in His presence listening to His voice.

I’ve been involved in career ministry for more than 25 years, and I’m still trying to master the one thing. My human bent wants to focus more on the OTHER thing—service.

In the process, I treat Jesus like a second-class citizen:

“Sorry! I’ll meet with You tomorrow, okay? Right now I need to work on my book about intimacy with You. You know all about deadlines, right?”

I suspect I’m not alone in my struggle to keep first things first.

In his book Secrets of the Vine, Bruce Wilkinson admits that, as a spiritual leader, he’d “become an expert at serving God, but somehow remained a novice at being His friend.”

The process happened slowly, unnoticed, as Wilkinson gained more competence in doing ministry.

  • Activity done for Jesus eventually replaced time spent with Jesus.
  • Listening to the voices of those pressuring him to do and be more replaced listening to the voice of the Shepherd.

Wilkinson lost his joy and his passion for Christ.

Change came when the truth dawned on him: “God didn’t want me to do more for Him. He wanted me to be more with Him.”

Spending time building relationship with Jesus—that’s the one thing that truly matters.

The depth of our intimacy with Him determines everything about us, including how we spend time and money, how we treat others, how we respond to disappointment and suffering, and whether or not our lives bear fruit.

So, in the midst of crazy busy lives, how do we give the “one thing” the priority it deserves?

Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Rise Early.

As a mom with three young kids, I realized that enjoying regular quiet time with Jesus meant rising early. Waiting until later guaranteed other tasks would take precedence. So, I asked God to wake me when He wanted to meet with me.

Without using an alarm clock, I woke bright-eyed at 5 o’clock the next morning and every morning afterwards.

A quiet house void of distractions provided the ideal environment to focus on the Word. I anticipated sweet fellowship, and God never let me down.

Perhaps you already have a well-established routine in the Word. If not, ask God to show you when He wants to meet. He’ll answer your prayer, I promise.

2. Pray Continually.

Invite Jesus into every part of your day, beginning the moment you wake—“Good morning, Lord. What wonderful things do You have planned for us today?”

Share joys and disappointments with Him, but invite Him into the mundane too.

I cleaned other people’s houses for several years. Someone asked me, “How can you tolerate doing brain-dead work?”

The question shocked me: I’d never considered my work in such terms. I prayed for my family as I scrubbed, and mundane became an act of worship.

3. Seek Silence.

The busyness and noise clamoring for our attention distract us from intimacy with Christ. Solitude and silence promote it because they free us to focus and listen.

Turn off the phone and ignore your computer for a few minutes each week (each day, if you have that luxury).

Sit in silence before the Lord with no agenda except to hear His voice.

Ask Him to speak to you and expect Him to answer. Journal what He says.

Only one thing really matters. Nothing feeds our soul like intimacy with Jesus.

What’s one action you can take to deepen your friendship with Him beginning today?

Grace Fox is a career missionary, international speaker, and author of nine books. She’s on the writing team for First 5, a daily Bible study app produced by Proverbs 31 Ministries. For more information about Grace, visit her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marr Creative at Lightstock.

 

Tuesday
Nov212017

How to Protect Your Peace This Holiday Season

Debbie W. Wilson wisely counsels women on the kinds of attitudes that please the Lord. In this Holiday UPGRADE, she encourages us to forget about people-pleasing and focus on pleasing the Lord.

Debbie asks, "Has trying to please your family and friends drained the joy from your holidays?"

I (Dawn) am sure many of us feel that "drain" from time to time during the Thanksgiving-Christmas holidays. It's not just joy. It's peace too! And self-control. And a lot of other godly attitudes!

Debbie continues

One year, I mentioned how much our son enjoyed going to a relative’s house for special occasions.

“He probably wouldn’t feel that way if you did more,” my Thanksgiving guest replied.

Ouch.

Jesus’ friends Martha and Mary can teach us a lot about the pitfall of trying to please everyone.

Let's visit the sisters before we lose our peace and perspective this season.

Martha Stewart could have been named after the older sister. Martha’s table and foods delighted all the senses, and her culture applauded her.

As is often the case with siblings, Mary was her polar opposite.

Who cared what they ate or when? She was consumed with Jesus. Mary’s choice to learn from the Rabbi flew in the face of her culture and her sister’s expectations.

When we meet the sisters, Martha has opened her home to Jesus and His disciples. While she busily prepared a feast for them, Mary listened to Jesus.

When the banging of pots didn’t grab Mary’s attention, Martha stormed into the middle of the group and turned on Jesus.

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40 NIV).

Mary froze. This probably wasn’t the first time her sister had publicly corrected her. Dare she look at Jesus? Her cheeks burned, anticipating His reproach.

Jesus shocked the whole group. Instead of chastising Mary, He corrected Martha and commended Mary.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42-42 NLT).

He didn’t reprimand Martha for being busy, but for being worried and upset.

Jesus simplified her focus.

Have you ever let details and pressures rob you of the best?

It is easy to be distracted by our to-do lists and miss the reason why we are doing.

LESSONS from MARTHA

  1. A critical spirit indicates a wrong focus. Need I say more?
  2. Martha took her complaint to the right person. Jesus will tell us the truth. The truth set Martha free. He’ll free us from our bad attitudes and wrong emphases too.
  3. We can change. The next time Martha prepared a feast for Jesus, she hummed while she worked (read between the lines, John 12:2-7)! A single focus lightens our work.

Jesus loved Mary and Martha. And both of them blessed Him when they served Him with uncluttered hearts.

But Mary ministered to His soul.

At the gathering the week before His death, Mary anointed His feet with a pint of expensive nard. The fragrance filled the air and saturated His skin and the tips of His clothes. Someone suggested the fragrance lingered through His final week—even to the cross.

Of all of Jesus’ friends and followers, only Mary understood His mission. She believed He was headed to the cross and wanted the fragrance of her love to be with Him in what lay ahead.

And some of His followers criticized her.

LESSONS from MARY

  1. We have to please only One. Spending time with Him reminds us of what matters most.
  2. Choices that delight Jesus may offend some of His followers. On different occasions, Mary's sister and Jesus' disciples found fault with her.
  3. Staying tuned into Jesus nurtures us, ministers to others, and blesses Him! Jesus promised that Mary’s act would be remembered always (Mark 14:9).

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter the Christmas season, let's keep our focus.

A year from now, no one will remember the details of our holidays, but they will remember our spirits and love.

What helps you stay grounded in this busy season?

Debbie W. Wilson—drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher—speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Note: The Christmas to-do List in the graphic is a printable available from babyhintsandtips.com.