Monday, January 20, 2014

Choosing the Better Way

"...Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:42

This story about Mary and Martha is so familiar it is easy to look over, but I asked the Lord to show me something new as I studied it this morning. I read about Martha opening her home to Jesus (she was very hospitable). When He came in, her sister Mary chose to sit down at His feet and listen to what He had to say. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted (the complete opposite). She chose to busy herself with all the preparations she felt necessary to host Jesus as her guest.

As I read these verses the Lord revealed some key points in a different light. First, Martha opened her home and welcomed Jesus in, but then left Him sitting in the living room, so to speak, while she busied herself with household tasks to host Him. If this were happening in modern times, she might have run to put fresh sheets on the bed, dusted and vacuumed the guest room, picked some fresh flowers to put on the dresser, laundered the towels and put fresh ones in the guest bath, straightened up the kitchen, unloaded the dishwasher so she could load the dirty dishes in the sink, pulled up her recipe boards on Pinterest to see what she might make for dinner, run to the store for a few ingredients, donned her apron and slaved over the meal, set the table with fine china, lit the candles, and then took a quick shower, whew! ...before announcing, "Dinner is served!" All the while, her sister sitting at Jesus's feet, hanging on His every word. 

Mary had much to do to feel ready for this guest she'd already invited in, so it's understandable why she'd be a teensy bit frustrated with her sister for not helping her. But Jesus said, "Martha, are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her." I believe this parallels well with our walk with Christ. We ask Jesus in to our hearts and lives, go to church and worship Him on Sundays, then leave Him in the living room all week and fail to spend time with Him. 

Mary chose to lay busyness aside and sit at the feet of Jesus. She chose to give Him her full attention as their honored guest. She chose to be fully engaged and listen intently to the words He spoke. I believe she drank deeply of the wisdom He shared, allowing it to penetrate her heart in a life changing way. 

Mary wanted Jesus there. There was no question about that. She was the one that invited Him in after all. But before she took time to visit with Him and hear His heart, she chose to do other things. This very concept is one the Lord has been teaching me at new levels in recent months. I always want Jesus near, desire to spend meaningful time with Him, and with my whole heart I want to do the things He calls me to do, but many times my obedience has come with distractions or was delayed. Sometimes I've been up to meet with Him, but found myself so distracted by the cares or to do's in my mind that I wasn't fully present and hearing what He had to say. Or I would put Jesus off in a sense saying, "Lord, I'll meet with You this morning, but first let me..." Or, "Lord, I will work on that project You've asked me to do, but first I need to do such and such." The Lord has convicted me of the "But first's..." We can be so busy trying to prepare to spend time with Him, that we never really get around to spending undistracted time with Him. I am trying to be much more diligent about saying, "First, I'm going to spend time with Jesus, then I will..." Or "I'm going to [work on this project] out of obedience to the Lord first, then I'll run my errands or meet my friend for coffee." In so doing, I'm learning that busyness returns void, but God and His work do not. I'm choosing Him first.

Father God, I am human. I mess up. I have flaws. I get distracted with the best of them and I like to have my "to do" list all checked off. But I have found a better way. You are the better way. When I choose to put You and Your work first, all that really needs to be done gets done. Help me to keep putting You first. Help me to be fully engaged when I spend time with You and in Your Word -- only then will I be changed by it. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Right Heart

"He answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27

A lawyer, testing Jesus with his questions, asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies with two questions of His own: What is written in the law? And, how do you read it? Verse 27 (above) is his reply, to which Jesus tells him he answered correctly.

What the lawyer describes is a heart that is first, right with God. And second, right with others. The first, loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, represents a vertical relationship with the Father. It's what enables me to live in right relationship with Him. (The key to salvation is to be in relationship with Christ.) In this place my wrongs are confessed, my sins are forgiven, my trust is in Jesus, and my life's energy is focused on my God and the things He has called me to do. The second, loving my neighbor as myself, represents horizontal relationships. It is striving to live in right relationship with those around me; those in my sphere of influence in as much as it depends on me. In so doing I want to reflect Christ with my words and actions as I interact with others. I'm not perfect in this by any means, but it is my deep desire to honor the Lord in this way. When I am wronged, I must choose to forgive so my heart is right with God and towards the offending person, whether or not they ever receive it. It also means meeting the needs of others according to my means as God makes them apparent. In short, it's having a right heart with God and loving others the way I want to be loved -- in a way that looks like my Jesus.

Father God, Thank You that my name is written in heaven. Today and every day please help me to live in right relationship with You and with those in my circle of influence. I want my life to be a genuine reflection of my relationship with You. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Deceived No More

"...Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name." Luke 10:17

Having been sent out by Christ, the disciples returned to Him with joy. Though they had surely endured trials, opposition, discouragement and the like on their mission, they came back joyful talking about their successes. Primarily, their success when employing the power of Jesus' name: "Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name." They were acknowledging the truth that all victories over Satan come through the power of Jesus' name.

We as believers, just like the disciples, have access to the power of Jesus' name. It is through Christ's name and His alone that the power comes, and to whom the glory must return. Whatever is done in Jesus' name, honor must be given to His name. Satan's rightful place is under Jesus' feet. "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand until I make a footstool for your feet.'" Psalm 110:1. "...the saints have no greater joy or satisfaction in any of their triumphs than in those over Satan. If the devils are subject to us, what can stand before us?" (Henry)

As this new year begins, give your spiritual life a fresh perspective. Refuse to believe the devil's lies! Decide to no longer be deceived by the evil one. Ask the LORD to reveal the enemy's schemes in your life and then rebuke Satan in Jesus' name. Proclaim truth where the enemy would have you believe lies. And give glory to the Father when the enemy flees. You have power in Jesus' name!

Father, I thank You that my name is written in heaven, and because it is, I have power and authority over the enemy in Jesus' name. I ask You Lord to reveal Satan's schemes in my life. Show me where I've been believing lies. Empower me to stand against the enemy in Your name, and stand up for Your truth. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

This is how I did this exercise this morning...

I took a blank sheet of paper and a pen and sat before the Lord quiet and undistracted. Praying, I asked God to reveal the enemy's schemes in my life. I wrote down every lie that came to mind that I had been believing, trusting that God was answering my prayer. Using that list, I confessed them one by one out loud to the Lord and rebuked the enemy. (This is done audibly so the enemy can hear me - only God is omniscient - Satan cannot hear my thoughts.) I penned a prayer like this one in my journal to use, and ad libbed or adjusted as I prayed and the Spirit led. I repeated it for every item on my list.

Sample Prayer

Dear Lord, I have believed (insert one of the lies or schemes God showed you). I now know that is a lie from the enemy and I refuse to believe it any longer. Your Word says (insert a truth from God's Word) and I choose to believe the truth. As a child of God raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, I rebuke the enemy in Jesus' name and command Satan to leave my presence in this area and never return. He has no power or authority over my life because I belong to God. Help me Jesus, to walk in a way that honors You and reflects this truth. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.