The Place Where Everything Changes

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.

Luke 10:38-40

Have you ever been so busy that you missed something significant—right in front of you? I was on a flight to India, and our group missed a domestic connection from Mumbai to Nagpur, yet my baggage made the connection…in other words, my baggage would be sitting in the airport for hours in Nagpur before I got there. My companions and I got a later flight and, due to the fact that I had been up for about 32 hours, I was fatigued and unusually distracted about my luggage. But we finally arrived in Nagpur.

When we arrived, there was an extraordinarily large crowd of people just outside the passenger-only area at the airport. The crowd was cheering and jumping up to look over each other at the people coming off the plane. I wondered what all the commotion was about!

I found out later that a Bollywood star was on our flight (Bollywood is India’s equivalent of Hollywood in the US)! It was then that I remembered seeing the flight attendants paying special attention to a single row of seats on the plane just ahead of me, which I didn’t think much about in the moment…and I missed the opportunity to meet them!

Think of this: Jesus. Is. In. Their. Home.

Luke tells us that Jesus was in the house of Mary and Martha. Think of this: Jesus. Is. In. Their. Home.

And while Mary sat at his feet, listening to him teach, Luke tells us that Martha was distracted by her duties.

In the original language, this word distracted carries the idea that she was overburdened and anxious.

Sounds a lot like our time. Distracted. Overburdened. Anxious. Martha is so stressed and upset with her sister that she starts giving orders:

Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Luke 10:40

Martha is so stressed out that she’s making demands of Jesus! 

“Of course,” she may have thought, “I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m serving Jesus!” But, the truth is she is stressed out and overwhelmed by what she thinks is important.  

Why is Martha overwhelmed? By the expectations she has placed on herself. Then Luke gives us Jesus’ response to her demand:

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41–42

Jesus tells her “Martha, you are burdened and stressed about things that are unnecessary! Instead of being concerned about the non-essential, be concerned for what is essential. Mary has discovered it. Join her. Spend time learning from me.”

While Martha is stressed, Mary is at rest.

While Martha is stressed, Mary is at rest. This is where peace is found. This is where hope is found. This is where reality is defined: at the feet of Jesus. Everything changes at the feet of Jesus.

Maybe you’re like me? I’ve been distracted and anxious several times this year.

Would you join me for a moment—right now—just to take a breath? Then, push away from whatever you’re doing to consider Jesus’ words. But instead of Martha’s name, put your own name here. Today, in your distracted-overwhelmed day, Jesus is saying:

“My dear _________, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Those who sit at my feet have discovered it, and it will not be taken away from them.”

Take this moment to thank him for his ongoing presence, his peace and his power to live His life through you. And, in those moments to come—when you are stressed and overwhelmed—remember:

Everything changes at the feet of Jesus.

Peace in the Pandemic

If there is a word that captures what we’re experiencing with this Coronavirus pandemic, it has to be the word “unprecedented.” I have heard this word used so many times in the past few weeks, and it does capture our global cultural moment. This virus has circled the globe disrupting everything: transportation, business, entertainment, sports, restaurants, church—even get-togethers with friends and extended family! It is unprecedented.

And while there is so much speculation about what could be coming in these unprecedented times, it is always helpful to step out of our moment and remember Jesus’ timeless words. 

In our everyday life, Jesus reminds us to avoid worry and instead focus on what is most important:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” 

  • Takeaway: God has you covered, and worry only depletes you. 

Then he adds: 

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” 

A green plant in a forest

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  • Takeaway: If God creates the seemingly random beauty of wildflowers all around us, He is able and will take care of your needs. 

Jesus uses birds and flowers as visual reminders that your Heavenly Father will feed and clothe his own—and he also helps us remember that worry is a warning sign that we’re losing perspective.

Worry can serve a useful purpose: think of it as a light that flashes on the dashboard of our car, telling us that our car needs maintenance. When worry flashes its anxious signal, let it be a reminder to lean in, trusting fully in the goodness of your Heavenly Father. 

Then Jesus sums up his teaching, giving us his prescription:

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:25–34

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else...” This is so good: instead of spending our time worrying, focused on all the things that could go wrong, refocus on what we know to be true about God: that he is a good, good Father who loves you and loves to give good things to His children. In this unprecedented time, this is the place of peace. 

What are some practical ways that we can “Live righteously, seeking the Kingdom of God above all else”? Let me know what you think!

The Answer to Anxiety Pt. 2

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. —Philippians 4:8–9

Are you a list person? I live by lists. They help me remember what needs to be done—whether it’s a grocery list, project list, gift list—writing it down helps clarify what needs to be done and it is satisfying checking those things off. But have you ever tried doing a relationship by a list?

Last week, in part 1 of this series, we read Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6-9, encouraging us that instead of fixating on our worries, we ought to bring them to our heavenly Father:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6–7

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Philippians 4:6

Paul says to replace worry with prayer. Your mind will be actively working on something; better to go to the One who holds the solution than to fret about the “what-ifs” in a given situation. What does that kind of prayer look like? He describes it this way:

  • Simply tell God what you need
  • Then thank him in advance for what he’ll be doing through this situation.
  • And when you do that, Paul says, you will experience God’s peace—and this peace will continue to guard your heart and mind from further worry as you follow Christ.

Now, in the next two verses he takes this idea of dealing with anxiety to the next level. Instead of sliding back into old patterns of worry, he says to fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise.

So again, I don’t know if you’re a list person, but I see a list here, and my mind thinks “OK, let’s start running all of my thoughts through this list/grid to see how I’m doing.”

“OK, let’s start running all of my thoughts through this list/grid to see how I’m doing.”

If you do this, I can tell you what you’ll discover (what I discovered!): you will not experience peace, but create anxiety for yourself!

Reflection/self-evaluation is helpful. But when we begin seeing our relationship with Christ as performance-based, it creates anxiety. Instead of seeing God as a Father who loves his children, I begin seeing him as a cosmic bean-counter; “Our accountant, who art in heaven…” Totally wrong perspective.

When our relationship with God turns performance-based, it is only a matter of time before we hang it up. If there is one thing we know about the Gospel—the Good News about Jesus—it is this: our relationship with him is based not on what we do, but on what he’s already done.

Just before Jesus died on the cross he said “It is finished.” When he laid down his life to pay for every offense we’ve committed against God, he declared “It’s done. Finished.” Everything that was required to give us new life was completed. Now our part, as followers of Christ, is to simply live out this new identity, to love and follow him.

So, how can a list that’s supposed to help me, cause anxiety and give me a wrong-headed view of God? Keep this in mind: lists are a good basis for completing projects, but a bad basis for relationships.

Lists are a good basis for completing projects, but a bad basis for relationships.

If you’re keeping a list to see if your spouse measures up (or your children for that matter), it won’t be long before they disappoint you. No one wants to feel that their relationship is contingent on a list. That is fine for a legal arrangement or a contract, but it’s not a relationship.

No one is perfect; no one bats 1.000. That is why grace and forgiveness are the basis of enduring relationships. My wife’s father (I call him my father-in-love) reminds me that every healthy marriage is made of two good forgivers.

No one is perfect; no one bats 1.000. That is why grace and forgiveness are the basis of enduring relationships.

Instead of seeing Phil. 4:8-9 as a list to evaluate, think of them as a group of words that help us get our minds around the idea of God’s goodness.

What is true? What is honorable? What is right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise? In a word, it is Jesus. Simply Jesus.

When we keep our mind on what he did for us on the cross, that changes everything—and when we see others through him, it changes the way we see them. Paul describes it this way in his letter to the believers in Rome:

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Romans 8:31–32

The answer is Yes!! The cross is God’s declaration of love for you—and nothing can separate you from that love! Neither life, death, nor any other thing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ (Romans 8:39).

The cross is God’s declaration of love for you—and nothing can separate you from that love!

So, what has you anxious today? What has you fretting? Is it career-related? Is it financially-related? Is it family-related? Is it performance-related? Is it relationally-related?

So, what has you anxious today?

Instead of focusing on the “what-ifs” of life, focus on the what-we-know-to-be true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. Focus on Jesus. Focus on his ability to move mountains in your life. Focus on his limitless power to come to your aid.

Instead of focusing on the “what-ifs” of life, focus on Jesus.

If he overcame death, what can’t he do in your life? Focus on his resources to do what our resources could never do.

Today, instead of focusing on your problems, fix your mind on Christ. Continue to grow in the grace and understanding of him, then the God of peace will be with you.

What areas are most difficult to trust God for?