THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

February 7, 2018

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

As I began writing this week's devotional, it began to grow longer and longer in length, until I ended up with enough content to divide up into two devotionals. Please come back again next week to read the conclusion to this week's thoughts and insight.

I don't generally title my devotions, but if I did this time, it would be 'Jesus Loved Martha, Too'.

Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were all three siblings and were friends with Jesus. They are mentioned a handful of times in the New Testament, and it always seems as if Mary was the most devoted follower of Jesus. She seemed to be the one who always did what was right, showed her devotion to Jesus, and is often extolled as being favored over her sister where Jesus was concerned.

In fact, from many sermons or lessons taught about the two sisters, we are always encouraged to be Mary, not Martha. The idea presented is generally, "Be a Mary, not a Martha!" It is as if we are more like Martha, then we need to repent and strive to be more like her sister.

It is true that Mary loved Jesus and was very dedicated to Him and had a desire to listen to and learn from Him. She outwardly showed her devotion to Him.

In one story, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to what He taught; causing Martha to ask Jesus to tell her that she needed to come help her in the kitchen. Jesus' response was, "There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

In John 12:1-7 we read another story regarding Mary. Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus and Martha prepared a meal in His honor. Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume, and she anointed Jesus' feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. Judas Iscariot, who was still a disciple of Jesus at that time, complained that the perfume, which was worth a year's wages, should have been sold and the money given to the poor. He didn't really care for the poor, but he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples' money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, "Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."

Recently as I was praying, the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me, "You're a Martha (or like Martha)." At first, I immediately felt like I needed to repent for not being more like Mary. After all, that's what I've heard over and over again throughout my life in sermons: "Don't be like Martha, be like Mary!"

I felt a check in my spirit and it was if I heard Jesus speak directly into my heart, "I loved Martha, too!!"

I felt impressed to read the scriptures over again that spoke about Martha.... really read them and see what they said about her. As I read the few verses regarding Martha and began to research her story more, I kept hearing those words over and over again, "I loved Martha, too!"

Backtracking to the story in Luke 10:38-42, it starts out, "As Jesus and His disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home."

I had always thought of the three siblings all living together, but from different translations of this verse, it seems as if Martha owned the home. Different commentaries give opinions for this based on the customs of that day, but no one knows for sure because scripture doesn't say. Many believe that it was due to Martha being the oldest of the three siblings. Nothing is made mention of parents or spouses, so it could be due to them being orphaned and the property being left to Martha, as the oldest. It could be that Martha was widowed and the property was left to her from her deceased spouse. Their ages are unknown; they were perhaps teenagers and were not yet married, or they could have been older adults.

Due to Martha opening up their home to Jesus and His disciples, as well as others who may have came to hear Jesus teach, then later when Jews came to the home after Lazarus died, it is believed that they were somewhat wealthy; because the house was large enough to accommodate many people staying there.

It is obvious that Martha had the gift of hospitality and the heart of a servant. In two of the stories regarding her, she is preparing a meal for Jesus and those who were with Him. I see her as someone who enjoyed having family and friends get together, so she was the one who would plan dinners and cook and thrived on time spent with those she loved. She wanted to make sure that they had plenty to eat and left her table well-fed, and thoroughly enjoyed having those whom she cared for come together and spend time visiting and laughing and having time to relax and enjoy one another's company.

I see that same thing in myself. One of my very favorite activities is spending time with family. I like cooking for family and friends and seeing them enjoy a meal that I've prepared; visiting around the dinner table and laughing and enjoying one another's company. It is also in my heart to help out family and make sure that they are taken care of, and to try to lighten their load as much as possible. I find myself serving Jon, as my husband, by trying to make his life at home as carefree and peaceful as possible. I know that he works hard during the week, so don't want him to have come home and work; so I try to lighten his load of responsibilities as much as I can.

The name Martha means "lord", "master". Some scholars are not sure whether her birth name was actually Martha, or if that was a title/name that was given to her when she became the head of the household. Being the oldest, she carried the responsibility of all household affairs. At the age of thirty when Jesus left His natural home to begin public ministry, it never says that He returned there for rest or sleep. But He did go to the hospitable home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus on more than one occasion; for He loved the three who lived there.

This is just a side note and something to think about: There are those who think that Kyria, translated "lady" in 2 John 1, is a proper name, the Greek equivalent of the word Chaldee or Syriac word "moro" which means "lord," "master". One scholar believes that this Kyria was the same person as Martha of Bethany.

Often the two sisters are compared, in order to show their differences; and often to put Martha in a negative light. Martha, busy with household chores -- Mary, preferring to sit before Jesus for spiritual instruction. Martha, active and impulsive -- Mary, meditative and quiet. Martha, busy supervising the hospitality of the home -- Mary, anxious to seek only that which is spiritual.

I like what one commentator wrote: "We have no Scriptural warrant for affirming that the different between the quiet, pious Mary and her industrious sister is that of the opposite of light to darkness. In the church there are vessels of gold and others of silver, but we are not justified in saying that the character of Mary is worked in gold that of Martha in silver. These two sisters in that Bethany family had their respective, appropriate talents, and each of them served the Master accordingly."

Another scholar wrote: "To say that Mary stands in contrast to Martha is true, but it is inadequate. Too often, Martha has been held up to fine scorn as a worldly-minded and jealous creature, and Mary exalted for an indifference to the duties of hospitality, concerning which, for aught that we know, she may have at various times have been quite as zealous as Martha."

Here are some characteristics of Martha:

She was very hospitable. The first glimpse that we have of Martha in scripture says that "she received Jesus into her house." The provision of that home meant much to Jesus. One day we have Him saying, "The Son of man hath no where to lay His head," but the next day, "He came to Bethany.... and Martha made Him a supper." One writer said, "Knowing Martha as we do, we can be assured of this fact, that whenever Jesus visited Martha's home she never had any need to apologize for untidy rooms, a neglected household, or lack of necessary provisions. To her, home responsibilities were never a drudgery. Martha loved her home, was house-proud, kept it 'spick and span,' and was ever ready to entertain her divine Guest or others seeking a refuse beneath her hospitable roof."

Eugenia Price wrote: "The superb hospitality He found in Martha's home was extremely important to Him. No one enjoyed her cooking more than He enjoyed it. No one found her spacious home more beautiful, more inviting. But always He had the real issues in full view. He could not be distracted from them, even by His tired body and His human need of Martha's services."

Jesus was sent for after Lazarus become very ill, and when Martha heard that He was coming "she met him and bade him welcome" (John 11:20, 30). Even when there was death in the home, the energetic and practical Martha dried her tears and went out to meet the Lord, leaving Mary in the house still weeping.

Martha was meditative. We often think of Mary as being the meditative, spiritual one, and Martha as the practical one. We often think that Martha did all the serving, and Mary did all the sitting. But we see in scripture that Martha was also found at the feet of Jesus - "which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word." (Luke 10:39) So both sisters sat at the feet of Jesus and listened and learned from Him.

The phrase that Martha spoke, "She has left me to serve alone," suggests that perhaps Mary had joined her sister for a while in the kitchen, but then left her to go sit at the feet of Jesus. Mary did not feel as if serving was beneath her, neither did Martha think that sitting and listening to Jesus was a waste of time.

Both had sat before the Master, but while Mary thought that listening was better, Martha felt that feeding Jesus was just as necessary. Martha's practical side on His behalf was inspired out of her love for Him. Martha cooked and served and offered hospitality out of the gift of giving that had been placed within her.

The disciple Luke, who was a disciple of Jesus and wrote about this account, noticed that "Martha was cumbered about much serving," The word cumbered means "distracted." 1 Corinthians 7:35 says, "....I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible."

Being the one who managed the household and served, Martha found herself drawn here and there by conflicting cares. She loved Jesus and wanted everything to be perfect while He was visiting her home.

I understand that! When I have visitors in my home, even close family, I want their time spent here to be restful and relaxing and the best experience possible while a guest in my house. I want the food to be delicious, there to be plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom, clean floors so they can take their shoes off if they choose or put their babies down to play, have options available on drinks, etc. I try to anticipate and be prepared for whatever someone may want or need, so that their time in my home is enjoyable and they lack nothing. I try to precook as much as possible and get as much done before my guest arrive, so that I can enjoy visiting with them, but sometimes there are last minute preparations that need to be done after they get here. I have sometimes felt pulled; wanting to spend time visiting with them, but needing to get the food finished so I can serve them.

Martha was guilty of complaint. Ouch! Been there, done that!

Martha left her duties and went into the room where Jesus was, with her sister sitting at His feet. "Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to come help me!"

It irritated Martha to be busy trying to get the meal finished up and set out on the table for all of their visitors, while Mary sat in the other room conversing with Jesus. Perhaps she was also trying to get accommodations ready for them to spend the night, also. She may have felt a bit overwhelmed with everything that she felt like needed to be done right at that moment, and thought, "If I had a little help from my sister, I could finish faster, then we could all sit and listen to Jesus! It's not fair that I'm left to do all the work, while she just sits there doing nothing to help me!"

Have you ever felt that way in a situation? I have! It may not be while having guests in your home, but maybe in a church situation where it seems as if you're having to do the lion's share of the work/ministry while no one else pitches in to help. Or perhaps it's at your job, where you feel overwhelmed and think, "If I could just have a little help, this would get done a whole lot quicker! I'm overworked and there are other people sitting around doing very little!" It may even be with your spouse or kids where you feel like everything is being left up to you, and no one else cares if it gets done or not.

Sometimes we may even be working within our God-given gift/talent and doing what we have been called to do and what we thoroughly enjoy doing. Martha was operating in her gift of serving and hospitality. But sometimes we can feel that little prickle of complaint in our spirit that someone needs to come alongside us and help! We may even complain to God that if so and so would only get up and help us, things would be a whole lot simpler and easier and get done more quickly. But what we are wanting them to do may not be their gift or talent; it may not be what they are called to do. We can then complain that they aren't operating in their gift and fulfilling their role in the body of Christ as they should and criticize them for not doing as much as we feel like we are doing. Sometimes we see things from our perspective of busyness and feeling overwhelmed; which isn't necessarily how God is viewing the situation.

It may have possibly been that Martha was secretly upset with herself as much as she was with Mary, that her sister enjoyed the privilege of hearing Jesus' word while seated at His feet, while she could not persuade herself to do the same. Perhaps Martha feared that the meal that she had worked so hard on would be ruined if she let it go and didn't check on or finish it up, or that she wouldn't have a wide enough variety of foods ready to serve to her guest when they were ready to eat. She likely wanted to make sure that she had something prepared that everyone would enjoy eating.

There are times when we see what someone else is doing and wish that we could/would do the same; but we justify why what we are doing is much more necessary at the time... why we can't just sit and listen instead of finishing our work. But inside we are upset with ourself for not being able to let go of the overwhelming sense of responsibility for a short time, in order to do what we would really rather be doing.

In her vexed state of mind, Martha included Jesus in her rebuke. And of all things, it was recorded by Luke and written down for hundreds of millions of individuals to read about!

Had Martha went about her duties and not complained, it's likely that Jesus wouldn't have reprimanded her. Had she done her duties, with a joyful attitude, knowing that she was doing something to bless her guest and make their visit to her home more enjoyable and meeting their needs, there would have been no need for Jesus to have gotten involved. In fact, He may have complimented her on her hospitality and for serving her guest so lovingly. In fact, Martha may have been able to listen in to what was being taught as she quietly went about her business. But her thoughts got out of hand and caused her feathers to get ruffled, then she spoke out of that annoyance.

When Jesus answered Martha's complaint, there was no condemnation for her activity. He must have greatly appreciated her warmhearted, practical management of the household. He knew her heart and that her desire was to serve Him and the other guest with in the very best way possible.

When we are doing our best and serving God and others in the way that utilizes our gifts, we may get distracted. God knows our heart and that we are doing what we feel needs to be done. He's not going to discipline us for that; but sometimes He may discipline us for our attitude or for getting our priorities or focus skewed.

Jesus lovingly warned Martha of the danger of forgetting, amid her many responsibilities, the one thing that was needful.

I found this very interesting and thought provoking: When Jesus speaks to her, He repeats her name twice; "Martha! Martha!" The only other example of a twofold utterance of a name during our Lord's ministry was when he said, "Simon! Simon!" in Luke 22:31, when He is predicting that Peter will deny Him. From Heaven, He spoke and said, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me." (Acts 9:4)

Following the repetition in which Jesus spoke Martha's name twice, there was a gracious blending of kindness and sadness. There was an affectionate reproof. He reminded her that she was careful and troubled about many things, except for the one thing that was needful -- Mary had chosen the good part, and He would not take that away from her.

Jesus didn't tell Martha that she didn't have a part in Him, or that she was allowing the cares of life to choke the seed that was within her. He recognized that she was working for Him, but reminded her that she was permitting her outward activities to hinder her spiritually. Because of wrong emphasis regarding her necessary labor, her communication with Him was being hindered. Because of all her busyness and focus on everything that she felt had to be done right that moment, she became frustrated with Mary and her lack of help.

This is too easy to do at times! What we're doing may be really good, and it may even seem necessary at the time. But it may cause us to become so busy that we fail to stop and choose the good part; time with Jesus. Then we may begin to get frustrated or jealous or upset or critical, because someone else is growing in their relationship with Jesus and hearing from Him, and we feel stuck.

I've felt like that from time to time. Last month if felt as if I was constantly on the go and busy helping out others. Some days it felt as if I was running from the time I got up until time to go to bed at night. I found myself so busy at times, that I failed to stop and spend quality time with Jesus. Then I became frustrated with myself for not doing so; and when I heard others tell about what they were hearing from God, I had to sometimes reign in my thoughts of jealousy that I wasn't hearing anything. I prayed on the go, or in my car, or in spare moments, or as I was doing household chores; but that's not the same as finding that quiet time to just sit and listen to what Jesus is saying. What I was doing was good, it was necessary, and it was helpful; but I didn't always choose the one thing that was needed -- time sitting at the feet of Jesus. Much like Martha, I permitted my outward activities to hinder me spiritually. Sometimes God has to affectionately discipline us to get our attention and remind us to choose the good part... the spiritual part... choose Him above all else.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I've heard this story of Martha and Mary many times. But for some reason, I always pictured all the siblings as being middle-aged (by our standard; old by theirs). I never even considered that they could all be teenagers, or possibly younger. Maybe Martha was in her late teens, and could be thought of as a spinster. Maybe Mary was much younger, maybe not even a teen, yet. And who knows how old Lazarus was.

There are many people who think they only need to read the Bible once, and they never need to open it again. But many of the stories can mean different things at different times in our lives. And many have a different impact when we stop and consider that our old perspective and assumptions might have been wrong.

So, even if you have read about Noah before, or about Job, or Jesus's crucifixion, don't just skip over it. Go ahead and read it again, and stop to ask God if there is something new you should be getting from it.

ON THE MENEWE:

(I don't personally like Raisin Pie, but some people do, and I've been told this is good.)

Raisin Pie

1-1/2 cups raisins

Dash of salt

2 cups water

1 Tbsp. Vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. Vanilla

1-1/2 Tbsp. flour

Put raisins in water and boil for 5 minutes in medium saucepan. Mix together sugar (can use 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar), flour, salt, vinegar, and vanilla. Stir into raisins and cook until thickened. Pour into unbaked pie crust and cover with crust. Bake at 350 until browned.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

I love childhood memories. This past week my sister and I attended a funeral of one of our older cousins. Seeing family and friends that I hadn't seen in a very long time, brought about a plethora of memories. My cousin, whose funeral we were attending, and her husband used to go to one of my uncle and aunt's house fairly often and play dominoes. This was back when all of their kids were young. Occasionally, my mom and dad would go out and play dominoes with them.

There was a dad and his two sons in attendance; who we used to attend church with back when I was a young teen of 14-15 years old, with Janie being around 19 or so. Back in the day, we thought those two boys were so handsome. I was so shy back in the day, and from my perspective, thought that the one closest to my age was so popular; which intimidated me, so I doubt I spoke 50 words to him the entire time we attended church together. His mom was our teen Sunday School teacher. To make matters worse, in our Sunday School class, she would always say, "Now, who read your lesson this week? I bet Loretta did!" No, I never did! I would always cringe, thinking that her remark always made me look like a goody-two-shoes who always did what was right in front of the other teens; when I knew that I never actually ever studied or read my lesson in advance. My thought was, "I'm going to hear her read it on Sunday morning! Why read it, only to hear it again!?"

One summer my next to the oldest sister babysat the three kids of my cousin who passed away. Janie and I would go with her sometimes, to play with the two older kids. The youngest was probably too young to play with us. There was an old man who lived next door to them. He was a larger man and I don't think he ever drove, so he was always home during the day. I remember we would play like we were spies and would sneak over to his house and peak in his windows to see what he was doing. We were always so scared that we'd get caught! The only think I ever remember us seeing him do was lay on his bed to nap. We probably did it after lunch and he laid down to take an afternoon nap. Who knows -- he may have not been asleep and saw us peaking through his windows and was laughing at us!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Perseverance is not a gift, or even a personality type;

it is a choice that we make to refuse to give up when life gets tough. - Kris Vallotton

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org