Tag: Bible

Sibling Rivalry, 1st-Century Style

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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 all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

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

Luke 10:38-41

A friend and I had an argument a long time ago over this story. I’m Mary all the way and she was 100% Team Martha. I was the right one, of course. I mean, honestly! Jesus himself is in the room, teaching. What else is there to be done but listen to him? None of these people were in imminent danger of starving to death. If Martha had chosen to sit and listen like Mary did, then once Jesus was done talking how long would it have taken to knock together some pita and beans? 

Jesus chides Martha, but very gently. Did he feel sad for her? Martha wasted a rare opportunity to just be with Jesus. She was obsessed with something that would be forgotten the minute it was over. Mary, on the other hand, has a memory she will treasure throughout eternity.

People sometimes imagine where in history they would go if they had a time machine. The very first place for me would be right there, that day, that little house in Bethany. Sitting like Mary, just drinking Jesus in.

To be fair to Martha, when Lazarus dies it is Martha who shows the most faith in Jesus, not Mary. So I wonder if she took the lesson of that day to heart.

This story also illustrates Jesus’ view of women. None of the Pharisees of that day would have allowed a woman to sit right in with the men and listen to a rabbi. Women were little more than chattel then, treated much as women in Shariah-ruled countries are today. 

Finally, the story gives us another glimpse of God’s character, of what he values. I think he longs to enjoy just being with us. That day, Jesus and Mary gave us all a glimpse of what our relationship with God is supposed to be like.

You are Loved! Psalm 139

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Man, there’s a lot of crap out there right now. If I never hear the words “Covid-19” or “Coronavirus” or “social distancing” ever again I will be perfectly happy. Besides this global pestilence thing there were the fires in Australia, the hordes of locusts in Africa and the Middle East, whatever disaster hit California this year, and there was a 6.5 earthquake in IDAHO today. Nothing ever happens in Idaho, so part of me is thinking maybe the sh*t really IS about to get real. 

Who knows. I do think that God may be trying to get our attention. But even if he is, or if all this is happening just because we live in an unpredictable, dangerous, fallen world, we don’t need to be afraid. Just take a deep breath, step away from the media horror hype, and remember how dearly you are loved by God. He’s in control. If you are his, you are going to be okay.

Psalm 139 is a favorite pro-life psalm, with good reason, but it applies to all of us. It applies to me and to YOU.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. (verse 1-4)

Why is this comforting? The creator of all the universe and the sustainer of all life not only made you but he knows you intimately, better than you know yourself. He is beyond time, so he has an infinite amount of time to devote to you individually. He knows everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve ever thought, yet you’re still alive! So he must really, really love you.

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your right hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (verse 8-10)

We can never be away from God’s loving care. Even if we’ve sinned so badly we think we’re beyond hope, he is right there beside us. Remember the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31). He messed up about as much as anyone could, yet when he finally slithered back home he found his father was watching for him, and his father ran to him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Dad didn’t wait for Junior to come groveling and then humiliate or chastise him. That is so hard for us to understand! A judgmental, distant, displeased God, that is easy to imagine. But the creator of the universe, loving us so much that HE runs to US? For some reason that is hard to wrap our heads around. But it’s true. You are loved by God so far beyond anything you could ever ask or imagine. He gave you everything, literally. Not only did he give you life, but Jesus gave his life to pay the sin-debt that none of us can ever pay on our own. I am loved, you are loved, we are LOVED!

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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (verse 14)

It is always a good time to give thanks to God for our many blessings. Did you wake up today? Have enough to eat? A job to go to? Someone to talk to? That’s enough to give thanks for right there; everything else is gravy.

Verse 17 has two possible phrasings, according to my NIV notes. First one: How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

I interpret that as being amazed at the vastness of God’s thoughts, at how all-encompassing they are. A praise of God’s greatness.

Yet, according to NIV, the other possible phrasing of this is: How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

This makes the meaning quite different. It is then far more intimate, and illustrates how consistently God thinks about us. He can do that. He is beyond time, remember, so not limited Iike we are. He has eternity to devote to you. Being concerned about the other 8 billion people on the planet does not take away one moment of the time he has for you. 

I encourage anyone who reads this to take time to contemplate this psalm. Contemplate how you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Take five minutes just to look at your hands and be amazed at what incredible things they are. What magnificent little machines, more complex than any man-made machine could hope to be. Then contemplate the one who made you. Who has eternity to devote to you. Who knows you better than you know yourself. Who loves you more completely than you could ever hope for. Who proved that love by setting aside his glory and becoming a human being, by dying on a cross 2000 years ago and then by rising from the grave so you could rise with him. God is in control of even these crazy times, and if you are in Him you are safe, even if you have to go through really hard times. This life is short, Eternity is forever. And you are loved so dearly.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. … for all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13