Martha

Luke 10:38-42

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.””

 

Isn’t it interesting how often when you’re really struggling with something in life, God will point out something to you to that makes you stop and think.

Recently I’ve been having a lot of really bad anxiety and panic attacks and as I sat suffering in my seat during the meeting a week or two ago this passage was read out. It stuck to me like glue. I sat there and read it on repeat in my head because I knew God wanted me to take something from it.

We have all heard this story before where Martha and Mary have Jesus come to their house while he was in town. We know Martha complained because Mary wasn’t helping her in the kitchen and that the Lord told Martha that actually Mary was doing a good thing by sitting and listening to him.

I had heard the story before plenty of times. So isn’t it amazing how at one stage in my life this story has just washed straight over me without too much of a second thought. But now, in the heat of my anxiety it clung to me and I immediately saw a lesson God wanted me to learn.

There was Martha, doing what she really, genuinely thought was best for the Lord. Serving and extending hospitality to him and his disciples. She was a really thoughtful woman. And she didn’t just think nice thoughts for Jesus but she actually acted on these thoughts. She was a doer and took initiative.

But poor old Martha became distracted and distressed because she had so much to do and so much going on in her head. All that worry took over and she found herself an anxious mess.

She went to Jesus with her struggles and this is what he said.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.”

That sentence is what really caught my attention. I have really been feeling that way myself.

I took a look into what the words anxious and troubled meant to get a clearer idea of what he was saying.

Anxious ~ troubled with cares, to care for, to provide for and to look out for.

Troubled ~ turbid, disturbed, disquieted.

So I didn’t actually know the exact meaning of turbid either so I looked that up too. I found it very interesting and very relatable when I think of how an anxious state of mind feels.

Turbid ~ cloudy, opaque and thick liquid with matter suspended in it. Confused and obscure.

During a patch of anxiety I definitely feel like my mind is in a turbid state. It isn’t clear. It’s thick and your thoughts are hard to move through. There are bits and pieces floating about everywhere and you just can’t seem to control where your mind is swirling to. You just feel stuck.

I know these feelings and Martha did too. In fact Jesus says she is anxious about “many things”.

“Many things” actually doesn’t just refer to all the things she was doing right at that time. It means often, commonly, a great deal, plenteous and abundantly.

I don’t believe this anxiety Martha was suffering from was a one off incident.

So what can we do when we are in that state of anxiety? When our minds are cluttered with turbid goo how do we control it?

“One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

What was that one thing Mary had chosen that was so good? She was at the feet of the Lord listening to him.

There I was. Sitting in the meeting. Worrying about whatever popped into my head. In a murky, panicked state. All the while, words of the Lord were being read aloud to me. All I had to do was stop, take a breath, remember to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen to him.

I have one last thing I wanted to mention.

Anxiety can make you feel pretty worthless and alone. I believe that Martha really did struggle with stress and anxiety. So I’m sure she felt all those feelings too.

Over in John 11:5 it says something wonderful. It says, “Now Jesus loved Martha…”. Despite all her worries, despite the fact she didn’t spend that time listening to him. Jesus loved Martha. And I know he loves me too. Anxiety doesn’t make me any less loved.

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,

nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Rom 8:35, 38-39

 

Lessons from the manna

If you’re wondering why the cover pic is a photo of some popcorn, that’s because I used popcorn for the manna in our Sunday School lesson a few weeks back… and it’s the only thing I could think to photograph for this blog post that’s kind of relevant! 🙂

While I was preparing to teach the lesson on the manna, I was thinking about the lessons I could draw out of it for myself, not just for the kids in my class. This brought up a few ideas that link into something I have been thinking about a lot recently, and that is mould (you will have to bear with me, it does at least sort of relate). Our stuff keeps going mouldy! I’ve lost several pairs of shoes to the stuff, as well as one of my favourite pillow cases, Sam’s guitar case, a bag, etc. It’s disgusting but it made me think of this quote:

Matthew 6: 19 – Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. 20: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

It’s easy to get obsessed with our possessions and getting more and more of them. I am always on ASOS looking for the next pair of shoes I can buy, but all of this mould has taught me a lesson. None of this stuff is going to last. You might have a huge rack of awesome shoes but next minute, they could be super mouldy… or as the quote says, stolen (if your thief is as crazy about shoes as you are). They’re temporary things that won’t last forever.

To relate it back to the manna – in Exodus 16:16, God told the people that each morning they were to go out and only gather enough manna for that day. If they gathered too much, it would breed worms and stink the next morning (verse 20). God was wanting to see if the people would follow His instructions (verse 4) but they also needed to trust in Him that he would continue to provide for them every day. As Matthew 6:34 says, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself…”

We shouldn’t be focused on building up our wealth and depending on that, because it’s all stuff that is not going to last. God will take care of our daily needs and we just need to focus on the kingdom and building up our treasures in heaven because these are things that you can guarantee won’t go mouldy 🙂

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you – Matthew 6:33

Joy

Everyone wants to feel as though they have joy in their lives. But sometimes it can feel a little elusive. Sure we have our moments that we feel pretty good, but overall there is no general contentment. We are never quite satisfied with how our lives are shaping up or things aren’t turning out to be quite as awesome as we expected. We worry about what will happen to us or others. We are anxious and even afraid about where our lives are headed or what is happening around us in the world. Sometimes our fear can be really paralysing and we desperately want to find a way to feel in control. But nothing we do helps. All we want is to find that peaceful feeling that can bring us some joy and ease.

joy

Did you know that joy is mentioned at least 388 times in scripture? That includes all its variations including joyous, joyful, rejoice and etc.

 

The bible talks a lot more about joy than it does about happiness. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same thing, they are in fact quite different.

“Hap” means chance. It is the root of many different words. Happen, happening, haphazard, hapless, happenstance and happy. Happiness is actually a chance thing. Your circumstances dictate whether or not you feel happy. HAPpiness depends on what is HAPpening.

 

Joy however is different. Joy is not dependant on external events. Joy is inward. It is that peaceful calm you feel (regardless of your situation) when you know that God is present in your life. When you truly believe that all things will work out in the end because God loves you and will always look after you.

 

God actually commands us to be joyful. In Philippians 4:4 it says “Rejoice in the LORD alway and again I say rejoice!” The word rejoice here is a variant of the word rejoice. We are told we are always to be rejoicing in the LORD. It doesn’t say “whenever good things happen to you have joy” or “don’t worry, I know bad things happen and I don’t expect you to have joy in me at those times.” No. It says rejoice in God ALWAYS.

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On the other hand God doesn’t expect us to be happy all the time. He knows we go through hard times in our lives where being happy is impossible. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 it says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”.

 

So if joy is a lasting thing then can we lose joy? Yes! Joy is the trust we have in God outworking His mighty purpose. We can lose that joy in several different ways.

 

  1. When we stop studying the bible. When we stop putting God’s word in us every day we can quickly lose sight of the very real and very active hand of God. Reading the bible helps us see how God worked with people in times of old. It teaches us about His love for us and it tells us how He will work in the world around us now.
  2. When we sin. Sin can drive a big wedge between us and God. When we do something really wrong we can feel so guilty that we try to push God away. We feel we don’t deserve God’s love so we remove Him from our lives. We limit God’s mercy.
  3. When things go really wrong in our lives. Now I know I said that joy isn’t circumstantial and it doesn’t have to be, but sadly on occasion it can relate to what is going on in our lives. When something really tough happens it can be easy to blame God for it. To think He’s punishing us for whatever reason. Or to get mad at Him for allowing something so awful to happen to you. When we do this once again we can push God out of our lives thinking we no longer appreciate His input and try to solve things yourself.
  4. When we allow this world to take over our hearts. It is just so easy to do this. When something really big and exciting comes up in your life how easy is it to get so caught up in it that you actually forget all about God? When I have a big project I’m working on I just want to devote all my waking hours to it. All of a sudden when the project is over I realise that I have neglected the important things in my life and without the project taking up my time I am actually left pretty empty.  

 

Joy is largely composed of gratitude and trust. When we feel our joy lacking we have to step back from our immediate circumstances and see the bigger picture. We know what God has done for us. We know we can trust Him with the direction of our lives.

 

Despite things that may not make us feel very joyful we have something many people don’t that can bring us exceeding joy. We have a future hope. He has given us such precious promises that far excel anything this world has to offer. He is working with us in times of happiness and trials. Whatever is going on in our lives is happening for a reason. He is moulding us so we are fit for His Kingdom. This is a comforting fact which can bring us great joy no matter what.

Worship

If I am going to be completely honest, I have found it very hard to be motivated to study the bible and pray like I should over the last two to three years. It’s not like I never do but I don’t feel as though my life is devoted to learning more about my maker and being more like Him like it should be. It is only when I start to feel guilty for not having done anything ‘spiritual’ or certain that every bad thing in my life is happening as a punishment that I make myself do something. Studying worship in the bible got me thinking deeply about what my motivation is to worship God and I have realised that I have been worshipping out of fear rather than love so this concept is what I have been focusing on for this study.

Do you worship out of fear or out of love?

For this topic I have found it useful to look at the life of Job. I believe that Job was initially worshipping God out of fear, at least partially anyway. There are several verses that suggest this:

Job had offered sacrifices for his children just in case they had done anything wrong – “Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (chapter 1:5).

In chapter 3:25 Job says, “For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me”.

In chapter 31:23, he lists the good things that he had done saying, “For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty“.

I don’t think that worshipping out of fear is entirely a bad thing. If there were no consequences to our sins, and no fear of death, then it is unlikely that we would ever worship God so I think the things that we have to fear are, in part, there to draw us to Him. But if you only look at it that way (and I must admit, this has been my mindset at times in the past), then you are probably going to view God as an angry God, threatening people with death if they don’t worship Him and you will be completely overlooking the real reason that God wants us to turn to Him.

In Jeremiah 7, God wants the people to worship Him and not other gods because He knows that those gods can’t do anything for them, not just because He just wants to be praised. Really these people are only hurting themselves: 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame?

In Deuteronomy 30:20 it says, “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

God wants the best for us even though He is the only one truely worthy of all good things. He wants us to live forever and inherit the land, how could we not praise Him for that?! I have found that remembering this while doing this study has made worship come naturally, rather than by force and I believe that true worship is a natural response to understanding that God’s commandments are in place for our own good and for the good of others.  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome”. It is so hard to worship God properly when we are only doing it because we don’t want anything bad to happen to us. As 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.

1 John 4:23-24: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”