I am the husband of a beautiful wife. And the father of three beautiful children. Monday through Friday I can be found solving computer problems at Gresco. On Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, I lead worship at Central Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA.
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.”
I’ve heard this story (Luke 10:38-42) dozens of times over the years, and only over the last couple of weeks have the incredible truths, claims, and assertions that it puts forth really taken root in my soul. I’ve often considered the story of Mary and Martha to be, foremost, a story for girls. Therefore, I have always read it, smiled and nodded, and moved on. But I guess where I am in life, and the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit, has really caused me to see this story with new eyes, as I had a very strong reaction to it when I stumbled upon it again last week.
These days, as I read this passage, I find myself identifying strongly with Martha. I’m appalled at the careless audacity of Mary. It’s as if she has thrown her sense of propriety and responsibility out the window. Like Martha, I feel the weight of every requirement bearing down on me at every moment. I am required to be at work at 8:00, and required to work until 5:00, required to sit at my desk and work hard, and required to come home and be a dad to my kids and husband to my wife, and I’m required to get the kids ready for bed, and I’m required to go to bed at a reasonable hour, because I’m required to be back up early for my requisite bible-reading and requisite prayer and requisite “love for Jesus.” I do all of this because it’s my responsibility to be a “Christian Dad/Husband/Employee.” That’s not even half of it. And in the midst of this, as I’m trying to meet all of these requirements, I fail to ever really meet any of them. As I try to cover all of my bases, I continually fail to live up to my own standard. So today, I am thankful to overhear the words of the savior as he speaks them to Mary, and, by the spirit, into my own soul as well.
“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.”
“Mitchell, Mitchell, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
What is this one thing that is necessary? This good portion that will never be taken away?
When Jesus knocks, the passage says that Martha is “distracted with much serving.” Distracted from her guest. In the very act of serving her guest she forgets her guest. She focuses instead on keeping up appearances, on making sure that everything is perfect, on being impressive. Martha just has so many important things to do!
When Jesus knocks, Mary has an entirely different response. She sits at the feet of God incarnate and gazes into the eyes of eternity. She completely forgets herself. She forgets about the glory that she could garner for herself with a well-cooked meal. Instead she takes the reckless, shameless, audacious tact of “self-forgetfulness:” true humility. When Jesus knocked, Mary forgot herself, and set her eyes upon him. She wasn’t lazy. She wasn’t trying to make Martha angry. It may have seemed that way to Martha. Rather, the concerns of the house just didn’t seem that important when cast in the shadow of eternity. The important matters of the house were not avoided, evaded, or run from. They were forgotten.
So, when Jesus knocks what will we do? Will we strive to be impressive, to keep up appearances, will we run to the mirror and gussy up? Or will we recognize that he is “our good portion” that will never ever be taken away. He is our impressiveness. He is our beauty. He is our satisfaction. He is our joy. He is our substitute. When I hit the snooze button four-times this morning, and failed at my obligation to get up early, he was sitting at the right hand of God, interceding on my behalf. There is no sin that I have committed that he has not already paid the penalty for, and there is no good that I could do that he has not already accomplished. So today, when he knocks, let’s set our eyes on him. Let’s do as he does. That may mean diligently completing a menial task. It may mean showing love to a stranger. Or it may mean simply sitting and listening as he pulls away the veil of eternity.
He is the good portion, which will not be taken away from us.
I recently read an interesting article about a study on the personality traits of centenarians (people who are 100+ years old). The study did not seem to take into account diet, exercise, or anything else. It was just seeking to find a common link between the personalities of those people who had lived to or near the ripe old age of 100. The research found that the vast majority of these “superagers” were gregarious, easy-going, and extraverted. Very few of them expressed any sort of neurotic behavior or attitudes. Overwhelmingly, they are light-hearted, easy-going, and carefree.
Basically, they are the exact opposite of me.
When I read this, I immediately thought about that great scene from “Star Wars”, right before Darth Vader orders the destruction of Alderaan. Princess Leia says to him:
The more you tighten your grip, Lord Vader, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
And isn’t that the case in our lives, so much of the time? We cling to life! We go on crazy diets. We fret. We panic. We worry. We retire. And then we die.
I’m going to die someday. And in spite of all of the hope that I have in Christ, that fact scares me like nothing else. There is so much that I want to do in life, so I fill my plate with all sorts of things.
Right now, I have a wife, a 4 year-old, two kids under 2, two jobs, a house to maintain, financial goals, career goals, I’m learning to do some programming, I started a side-business, I’m working on songwriting, I’m making a concerted effort to memorize scripture every day, reading my bible every day (gotta do that), making time for prayer (usually), an hour and a half commuting back and forth to work, I’m writing in my blog a couple of times every week, I have a huge list of books I want to read, and-and-and-and the list goes on and on. I can’t list any more for fear of a nervous breakdown. Oh yeah, I would like to find some time and money to play the new Madden as well…surprisingly enough, I’m short on both.
Because of the looming reality of death, I fill my life with more stuff than I can possibly handle, I put pressure on myself to do it all and to do it all well, and then (naturally) I become overwhelmed, and then I avoid all of it. And I do none of it well, and most of it I don’t do at all. And the end result is, eras go by, and I miss it. In all of my worrying about what I’m supposed to do, I forget to truly live.
I wish I could be more encouraging today. I wish there was a simple formula for the best way to live. I wish there was a law that I could abide by. A checkbox that will assure me that I’m doing a good job. I’m like the children of Israel in that way: walking toward the promised land, yet longing for the chains of Egypt.
For broken, neurotic, introverted, fretful me there is only one hope: Jesus. My prayer today is that we would be a people who would sit back, relax, and laugh in the face of death; because it has truly lost its sting.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he will never see death.”
Every four years, around this time, my inner political pundit really starts coming out. I start having heated conversations with my friends and family about the election. I shake my head when a car drives by that has a sticker showing support for the ‘bad’ presidential candidate…that person just doesn’t get it. I start directing insults toward ‘the mainstream media’ and anyone else who sheds any amount of unfavorable light upon my candidate of choice.
The frenzy, paranoia, and fanfare is such that it’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in it. And it’s so hard to be objective.
What can we do?
Our King Cannot Be Defeated
I think that the main thing for us, as followers of Christ, to remember is that our allegiance is not to an earthly nation but to an eternal King. Therefore, the outcome of a presidential election should have no bearing whatsoever on our hope for the future. It is a minuscule thing: insignificant in light of eternity. As believers in Christ, we know what the future holds: we win. Every leader who has come before and every leader who will ever preside over our nation is subject to Christ’s authority. Therefore, we should have no fear.
Our Faith Cannot Be Voted
When election-time rolls around, it is always prime time for Christians. The media will tell us all about this group of people called ‘Christian Conservatives’ or ‘Evangelicals’ who represent much of the base of the Republican Party. Of course, there is another group in the church who stands politically opposite to the ‘Christian Conservatives,’ for various reasons. So rather than explain the ins-and-outs of this dichotomy let me simply proclaim that it is all a myth. And to buy into it is to believe a lie. There is no such thing as a ‘Conservative Christian’ or a ‘Liberal Christian,’ there are only Christians. There are not different kinds of saviors for different kinds of Christians. There is only Jesus. Ephesians 4:4-6 says:
There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Across our nation, followers of Christ will cast their votes for many different candidates. And they are all Christians regardless of who they chose to vote for. That is hard for us to wrap our brains around, but God is “over all and through all and in all.”
Our Freedom Must Not Be Squandered
We would be awful stewards of the freedom that God, by his grace, has bestowed upon us if we chose not to vote at all. God is certainly the authority over all authorities, but he has also placed authority in our hands. By allowing us to live in a republic, he has granted us the authority to elect our own leaders. What will we do with that?
I think that it is imperative that we take great care in choosing who we vote for. We should make it a point to dialog with other believers about the different candidates, seek out wise counsel, and take the decision seriously. But our hope does not depend upon whether the ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ candidate wins or loses. If our hopes are dashed when a candidate loses, or our joy is complete when a candidate wins, we are worshiping an ideology. We are worshiping an idol.
As a bit of a music enthusiast I am constantly crushed by the timeless hymns of our faith. When I was in high school, my mom would buy old hymnals for me when she found them at thrift stores and such. I love thumbing through them and poring over the words. Without a doubt, my favorite hymn of all time is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It’s a song that most of us have heard a thousand times, but it’s so easy to miss the wonder of these words:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
It brings tears to my eyes just to type those words.
I love the imagery of God’s goodness being like a fetter: a chain. The truth is, God loves us, and he loves us violently. And I know, for my heart, no other kind of love will do. I’m in a constant state of distraction, constantly being blown wherever the winds of circumstance beckon me to go. But God’s goodness will never let me wander far. His goodness constantly snaps me back into reality. Even though I persist in wandering, he persists in keeping me.
God’s inescapable, unbreakable, ever-present goodness binds us to him like shackles! This truth gives me confidence, and it radically changes my perspective.
Do you have a favorite hymn or truth that you keep coming back to?
I’m a day late.
I’ve been making an effort to blog every Tuesday and every Thursday. But behold, today is Friday. And what was I doing while my millions (tens) of loyal (casual) readers (skimmers) were waiting around for their Thursdaypost? I was picking up toys in my kids’ playroom.
This blog is something that I’ve made a bit of a loose commitment to. I’ve committed myself to posting twice per week for the rest of the year. Because of this commitment, I have bestowed upon the act of posting a level of importance. Therefore, when I sit down to write, I immediately feel the weight of responsibility, a rise in anxiety, and a giant splash of fear. So, on days like yesterday, I succumb to the negative pressure and run away. I start depositing my toys into their boxes.
This is what strikes me as funny:
My wife is a stay-at-home mom (most of the time), so seeing that the house remains in order falls under her job description. She is very diligent and adept at keeping our house running smoothly. But she is most likely to be tempted to procrastinate on household chores. The very things that I flee to when I’m procrastinating are the very things that she flees from.
Maybe I’m just an oddball in this. But it seems to me that the things that are most important in life are the things that I most violently resist. Or to put it another way, the things that I feel the most resistance toward are usually the very things that I need to be doing.
At least for me, it’s not the context or content of a responsibility that I have an aversion to, it’s responsibility itself. Give me a “task” and I will do everything in my power to avoid it. Give me a law by which to measure my success and I will undoubtedly feel the urge to break free, resenting the chains that have been placed upon me. Has anyone else experienced this?
Well, it’s time for me to head to the office, though I would much rather stay here and do some dishes and laundry. That sounds like my kind of day!
Does anyone else have this sort of natural aversion to responsibility?
Well, we are back from what was a wonderful vacation! I had such a good week hanging out with my family, sleeping in, sitting on the beach, and eating popsicles. But, at last, real life beckons me to re-enter the rank-and-file existence of all of you who do not live in the lap of luxury. After only a week away, it is so hard to get back into the swing of things!
My life consists mostly of habits and routines. Most of what I do I do without thought or resistance. It’s just what I do. But it’s amazing how a week of doing nothing can make it so hard to do something. Suddenly, the most mundane task requires a herculean effort and the most mindless responsibility becomes an existential crisis.
I’m probably the only one who does this, but my return from vacation is normally met with fear. Fear because I’m asked to return to a world filled with diligent and responsible people who seem to have it all together. I am not one of those people. By the grace of God, I have been given a great job, a great ministry, a great family, and great friends—-but I’m not deserving or worthy of any of it. I feel very mediocre. In fact, I feel a little bit like a fraud. I feel like there are other people who are far more deserving or far more qualified to inhabit my areas of responsibility than I am. What if going on vacation has given the rest of the world an opportunity to see how unnecessary I am?
So, as I return from vacation, I am resting in this precious truth.
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
This is my hope:
Not my strength, but Christ’s strength. Not what I have accomplished, but what Christ has accomplished. Not that I am qualified, but that Christ has qualified me.
This Saturday we will embark on a long-awaited family vacation. All summer, I’ve been sitting under the fluorescent lights of my office in my polo shirt and khakis. I’ve had to endure an endless stream of Instagram photos: all of my dear friends and acquaintances stuffing their sunburned faces with crab-legs, taking their sunburned children to the pool, and posing their sunburned families on the beach. And at last, this Saturday, 11 of us will settle into a condo in sunny Florida for our annual week of fun. I’m pumped!
Heather and I are determined not to waste this precious time that we have to spend with our family this year. Typically, we go into vacation with no plan whatsoever, it comes and goes, and I’ve accomplished nothing that I wanted to accomplish for the week. This year, we have resolved to have some semblance of a plan. My vacation plans include: focused time with my wife, kids, and brothers, loads of reading, a little exercise, and some long coffee breaks. My vacation plans do not include: electronics, computers, anything that resembles work, and (unfortunately) blogging.
So, I wanted to take this time, as it is a natural pause in the flow of new blog posts, to say thanks. I began this blog just as a means to garner some clarity of thought, and to practice clearly expressing ideas and such. I never imagined that anyone would actually read it! But alas, you have! It’s very flattering, and somewhat alarming—-but mostly, it makes me happy! I’m thankful for the grace to be able to do this for a season, and so glad that you have had the kindness to join me on my journey for the last few months.
I’ll miss you next week!
I’ve said it before: nothing has taught me about being a child of God like being a father of humans. Granted, I’m a pretty awful dad in comparison with the Almighty. He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8). I’m a curmudgeon. But even I, “quick to anger and abounding in steadfast impatience,” can sense on some small level the love that God must feel toward us.
The other day, after a long and demoralizing day of work, I came home and immediately plopped down in the middle of the living room floor. As I stared blankly at the ceiling, I heard the shuffle of two crawling babies scurrying toward me in delight. Nelson, from the left, grabbed a nice big chunk of facial hair and yanked and pulled relentlessly. Ann Margret, from the right, crawled up over me and began repeatedly pinching my nose. Both of them were giggling and squealing with delight.
You can imagine, this totally changed the trajectory of my day. As a dad, few things delight me more than seeing my children delight in me. That got me thinking: what will it be like when we meet our heavenly father?
If I’m a curmudgeon and even I have the capacity to delight in my children in this way, how much more must God delight in us when we delight in him?
Romans 8:15 explains our position in relation to God when we place our hope in him:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
When we stand before God, we will stand before him as sons and daughters. He will be so much bigger and stronger than us, infinitely wise, supremely powerful. Everything about him will dwarf us on a far grander scale than I dwarf my children. In light of this, will we cower before him? When I get home from work, do my children run away and hide in fear of me? No. They rush to greet me!
When our faith at last becomes sight, and we see our heavenly father face to face, I think our reaction will be akin to little kids when their dad gets home from work.
We will rush to him with smiles on our faces; our tiny hands grasping for his giant nose.
What do you think?
We know all know the story by now. We know that Dan Cathy, COO of Chick-Fil-A, was purported to say some extremely “anti-gay” things. Before we go any further, let’s look at the statement in question, from the original source:
Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
I’m not going to argue whether or not what he said is “anti-gay.” My opinion is that what he actually said is far more innocuous than most people would have us believe.
Things like this occur, and for some unknown reason society takes hold of it, draws up battle-lines, and chaos ensues. That’s the way the culture-wars work. There are those who literally hate Dan Cathy for affirming his support of “traditional marriage.” Or perhaps you are a believer who is uncomfortable with the above remarks, and you feel like everyone is against you. When public opinion turns against us in this way, what are we to do? Luke 6:27-31 holds the answer.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
When culture presents us with an idea, we in the church tend to do one of two things: we embrace it, or we oppose it. So often we do not even consider the third option: to engage it.
When talking about abortion, our options are not limited to protesting outside an abortion clinic, or getting behind the “pro-choice” movement. If we are truly pro-life, we will engage, we will do something real and costly about it. We will do things like adopt children and care for unwed mothers.
If we say we are for the “traditional family” we will diligently keep watch over our own marriages and teach our children what it means to be a husband or a wife, or a father or a mother. We will befriend homosexuals and simply seek to understand. We’ll give them the courtesy of listening, truly listening, rather than trying to shout over them…even when they are trying to shout over us.
It’s easy to support DOMA, or vote for candidates that oppose Roe v. Wade, or eat a chicken sandwich. It’s much more difficult to ask and engage the bigger questions like: why do we even need these laws or have these conversations in the first place? The world has a sin-problem, and the only solution for that is Jesus Christ. As citizens in his kingdom, as his ambassadors on earth, let’s do the hard work of imitating him as we converse with our culture. Let’s make it our aim to win people, not arguments.
I don’t know if you are anything like me, but I often bemoan the fact that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. By the time I wake up, go to work, get home, eat dinner, and put my kids in bed, my body puts me flat on my back again for that daily waste of time known as sleep. Rinse and repeat.
I have this tendency to mourn the loss of every day. Bedtime is a tragedy in my mind. Another day gone. Another step closer…to death.
So with that…
Allow me to welcome you to the most encouraging blog post ever!!!!
Truly: if this life is all there is, isn’t it such a tragedy? We come into this world with such a zest for life. We feel immortal, powerful, like we can conquer the world. Our ambitions and dreams are massive! We think that we can have it all. Only for a few of us do those massive childhood dreams ever become a reality. And for those who do see them come to fruition, they show us that these dreams of a perfect life that we conceive in our young hearts are not all we thought they would be. There’s this constant yearning, this constant striving for more, more, more.
For all of my scheduling and diligent work, sleep comes for me long before I’ve accomplished all that I wanted to accomplish for the day. And like the night, I’m certain that death always comes just a little bit too soon. For all of my efforts to cling to life, it will, undoubtedly, slip through my fingers.
What are we to do?
If life doesn’t break us, death most certainly will. For all of our well-intentioned hopes and ambitions, doesn’t the power of death always get the final word?
If then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
To me, this provides such wonderful perspective. My life is hidden with Christ in God.
A Tale of Two Outcomes
Let’s say, I continue where I am. I’m a struggler, far from perfect, but I trust that God is making me perfect. The pinnacle of my human achievement so far is finding a beautiful woman who was actually willing to marry me (never saw that one coming). Also, this blog post is definitely up there on the list of my top-ten greatest accomplishments. But let’s say I die before the movie based on this post is ever made. What will be the sum-total of my life when I die?
Jesus. My life is hidden with Christ in God.
Let’s say by some remarkable movement of grace upon my life I’m elected president in 12 years or so. And I become the greatest president that this country, dare I say, the world has ever seen. Let’s say, because of my presidency, the world enters a period of peace and prosperity the likes of which have never been seen. And because I speak openly about my faith, millions of people come to know Christ because of my influence. What will be the sum-total of my life when I die?
Jesus. My life is hidden with Christ in God.
That is such a freeing thought! Whether I accomplish much or little in this life, the outcome is the same. Jesus Christ accomplished what I never could. He defeated death.