Culture


The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.  The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: ‘It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses” (Isaiah 3:13-15 NIV). ”

One commentary says, “[ruined, plunder] Normally refers to that taken by violence, but this is probably Isaiah’s way of condemning a social order which allowed the powerful to grow rich at the expense of the weak, even though this might be done by legal means…all the more appropriate that Yahweh is here depicted as bringing the powerful to trial”

I find it interesting that this passage is probably on the verge of the Assyrian invasion and exile of the Northern Kingdom.  More liberal scholars would place the date perhaps after the exile.  Either way it is apparent here that although it would seem that the Assyrians are in control of history and the fate of Israel and Judah—it is actually Yahweh who calls the shots and is at work.   For instance, in Jeremiah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is viewed as the Lord’s “servant.”  That is, Yahweh uses him to bring judgment upon his people.  Not a very comforting thought, huh? As a side note:  I don’t think God deals with his people like this anymore, even if he does have to chastise/discipline us at times.  I will not get into it here in this article but let me put it this way…EVERYTHING changes within the life, death, and resurrection, especially the way God deals with his people and all people of the world.

I suppose that the invasion and exile caused many to blame the evil of Assyria or perhaps Yahweh.  Yet this passage here paints a different picture.  It is because of the evil of the leaders of Israel and Judah that terror came upon the region as judgment.  Yahweh is envisioned as The Judge in the court room delivering the accusations and verdict.  It is intimidating and fearful.  He is the defender of the poor and an ever watchful protector of them.  When those leaders whose essential role was to provide for and defend the poor instead exploit and rape them economically, socially, and emotionally, Yahweh intervenes on their behalf.

Although I am discomforted by this image of a forceful god, I am comforted by the thought that he is on my side—or rather I hope I am on his.  He is a god who is involved, and even though there are times where it seems as though he is silent, he is fully aware, attentive, and watchful–especially for the vulnerable.  Leaders should serve with fear because it is apparent from this passage alone that they will be held accountable for the way they lead.  Are they ethical and honest?  Are they egocentric and self-serving?  Are they mindful of the people or are they more mindful of their wealth, power and careers?

This is an important thought not only for leaders to consider but for those of us who live in a quasi-democratic society that “chooses” our leaders.  Who will you vote for for president of this nation?  What is our accountability when we choose leaders?  Are we aware that some of them may be getting rich or making this nation rich at the expense of the poor or third-world countries?  Do we care? What about the abortion issue?  If we vote for a president who supports abortion, is the blood of millions of innocent children on our hands too (an issue for many Democrats)?  If we vote for a presidential candidate whose answer to most foreign conflicts is war, is the blood of all those young men and women who are fighting for oil or our “influence” around the world on our hands (not to mention foreigners blood)?  That’s a typical issue for Republicans.  Or ignoring the poor or making fun of those on food stamps or government assistance.

These are big issues with a lot of consequences.  We must vote prayerfully.  I may even suggest not voting if you don’t have a peace of mind about who you vote for.  Don’t fall for these comments that people make that you are irresponsible if you don’t vote and have no reason to complain then.  That is a lie!  We have every reason to complain when what we are offered for candidates I wouldn’t trust them with cutting the grass in my backyard nonetheless running the government.  And frankly, I am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.  I vote for Christ because in the kingdom of God he is king and commander-in-chief and is such over this world if they recognize it or not.  My allegiance is the Christ first and foremost and the state is at best secondary.

Let’s also not vote for people just because they say they are a Christian.  I don’t want to hear they are a Christian, I want to see it.  I want to see the fruit of it.  And sadly enough, the Republican candidate who appears to be most Christian of the four stooges is a Mormon.  Then there is another who touts Christian values but has cheated on his wives more than my brother cheats in monopoly.  And that’s just the Republican field.  My point is, God is watching and is fully aware of their ploys and our votes.  Let’s not vote for who we want but for who God wants.  And if we don’t have a peace about anyone…vote for no one.  I believe that when it is our turn to give an account…God will understand that we trust in him and in good conscience could not vote for anyone.

Lord, help me to defend the poor and out of my substance and ability serve them.  I pray for the leaders of our nation that tend to hide behind the rhetorical veil of “freedom” “liberty” and “democracy” and yet either do or are tempted to be drawn by the lust of wealth and power.  May they serve the people like Christ serves and loves his Church.  In Christ name, Amen.

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The older I get and the more time I reflect on things, the more I become a pacifist.  I see no need for violence and war, even though many argue with me that we have the right to defend ourselves or protect the innocent.

I am usually accused of being a coward or a traitor for not seeing the romanticism behind being a pawn of the state to be sent off to do the state’s bidding.   I am not fooled by the nationalism of a so-called Christian nation.  I have seen what it is like to be on the receiving end of capitalism and economic imperialism in a third-world country.

I think many Christians in America have fallen prey to the ambiguous axioms of “duty” and “allegiance” to the state.

Perhaps all this nationalistic romanticism would not be as appealing to Christians if they lived in another country.  It’s a different ball game when you live under a Stalin or a Gaddafi.  The romanticism of patriotism shows its flimsiness then.  I don’t buy the “just war” package.  It should be returned to sender, marked “Middle Ages!”

I believe that Christ’s life, death and resurrection changed everything.  He ushered in a new kingdom that I believe has the power to end the cycle of violence in the world and usher in Isaiah 2:1-5.  But it starts with the Church.  We have to turn the other cheek, leave the sword to the state, allow vengeance to be God’s, and not return evil for evil.  We are to give our lives to end the cycle of violence if need be…but not by storming the beaches of Normandy, dropping a bomb on Nagasaki, or sending an aircraft carrier through the Strait of Hormuz to see what kind of response we are going to get.

I find it awkward that I have actually lost close friends because I have these convictions and that I was grieved for days after the assassination of Osama bin Laden.  Not that I didn’t believe he should’ve been brought to justice, but because as a spokesperson for the Vatican stated, “Catholics rejoice at the death of no man.”  I grieve for the wasted life of a man created in the image of God and a continued cycle of violence.  Did America decrease the numbers of her enemies that day?  Some would laugh and say yes…one.  I believe we created dozens more.  And I pity the Christians locked into this mindset of cyclical violence that they subscribe to.

Christians ought to be the first people to see the reality of the kingdom present in the world, the true governance is God, that the real king who sits on his real throne is Christ.  Our allegiance is to him first and only.  If that makes us good citizens, that’s terrific.  If not, then we conform to Christ and not Uncle Sam.

Let us therefore be the first to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”  Call me naïve, but Christians have no business being in a military, under the whims of the state, and being dehumanized by putting bullet holes into other humans, beating infants heads upon stones, or urinating on the corpses of people God loves.

Some say I am extreme, radical or too loving and peaceful and that I live in a fantasy world.  Well, I trust that standing before the Judge in roughly six decades (give or take a few) I will rather be accused of being too loving and peaceful than not enough.

Is anyone else tired of hearing the Church constantly slammed by critics within and without the body of Christ?  As I visit different blogs, read different books, and listen to many voices, all I hear is about how horrible the Church is and how we are doing everything wrong.  I think I have had just about enough of the negativity.  I know I am guilty of it too.  I also am aware that the Church has to always be checking itself and critiquing.  Yet lately it seems to be getting so depressing.  As someone who often writes about the Church, it is always easier writing to criticize than to find the good things.  It is simple to shoot off every flaw and failure.  This is why many marriages end in divorce, because spouses begin to highlight the shortcomings of their partner instead of looking for the good.

What I am saying is that I am committing to write some articles where I explore the good in the Church and give you and me a taste of something different for a change.  Frankly, I am beginning to find the criticisms quite nauseating and I wonder what the complainers are doing to make a difference.  I hear all the statistics about what failures Christians are but I wonder how involved those folks are in Church and how committed they are to a devotional relationship with Christ.  I will be the first to admit that I have had negative experiences in the Church (some churches more than others).  Yet I have had such blessed and overwhelming experiences as well.  I have felt the presence of Jesus Christ in the company of my Church family as we live life together. I have known a deep sense of joy and peace in receiving a faith and even healthy traditions that run as far back as Christ and the apostles.

I invite you to begin to look for those blessed things that are in the Church this Christmas Season to begin with.  I for one am blessed by little children performing a Christmas play where they reenact the Nativity.  That is a powerful experience for them that begins to embed within their little hearts the story of our Savior being born!!!  As you are able I invite you to share your own thoughts as we go.  Thank you and God Bless you all!

At the beginning of Thomas á Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ he speaks of the most important thing a Christian can do in their life time is to study Christ.  Yet it is not enough to merely study him but to imitate him in our everyday lives.  The very practice of doing or saying what  Jesus said or did is to experience a bit of life through the mind of Jesus Christ.  Think about it, when Jesus didn’t ignore those who were often invisible in his culture (like children) but embraced them.  Such an act changes a person from the inside out.  One learns to see the disenfranchised with compassion and love.  Or when Jesus said to turn the other cheek or walk the extra mile for an enemy.  This sort of sacrificial living teaches that life is not all about us and that even the hearts of our enemies can be softened.

We can also examine the lifestyle of Christ, how he spent significant amount of time away in prayer.  We all need this time of prayer and fellowship with God.  We can often fall into the trap of feeding our rational/intellectual side of being human and neglect the other basic need of being a social being as well.  We need that time to simply have relationship with God.  This is vital for becoming like Christ.  Paul encourages us in Romans to have the mind of Christ, to renew our minds.  A very big element of this is spending time, getting to know Jesus.  What does this do?  It helps us to truly think, act, and speak like Jesus.  I believe that this is the reason for so much nonsense in the world and even among so-called Christians who appeal to a gospel, that Paul says in Galatians 1, REALLY ISN”T A GOSPEL AT ALL.  Why?  Because they have perverted the faith of Christ, the apostles, the early Church fathers and mothers, and great men and women of God down through the ages for a lie.  How?  Because they do not truly know Christ or have not spent significant time in his presence getting to know him.  Instead they follow their passions, imaginations, feelings, emotions, lusts…to create something that though it sounds biblical because they use scripture, it is not biblical at all because they twist scripture.

In Jeremiah God speaks of false prophets crying out, “Peace, Peace” but the message and warning from God was that “there is no peace” but judgment.  Why is this important to recall?  Because we need to be in tune with God the Father and be aware of what is coming down the pike.  We need to be able to heed his warnings.  We need to be able to know the truth when we hear it and know what is false.  There is a lot of false teaching out there as we speak.  We live in a very pluralistic society where people are making up beliefs as they go along.  While studying philosophy in my undergrad, one thing that drove me nuts was that there was a philosopher for every crazy belief you could think of.  One day my professor said, “Philosophy is a dangerous thing, with the right charisma and eloquent rhetoric, a philosopher or orator could prove that a toothpick is God.”  Sounds ridiculous huh?  Well there are people that teach that god is in everything, in all matter and that that matter possesses the essence of God.  Therefore if God is in a tree and that toothpick came from the tree that housed God…the toothpick is God too.

So what is the safeguard to all of this.  Praying, and sticking to the faith you have received.  Pay attention to that check in your spirit that says, “You know…that sounds all nice and stuff but something isn’t right here, something is off.”  St. Irenaeus was a bishop in the ancient Roman province of Gaul in the second century AD.  He was very close to the time of the apostles and had received the faith that had been handed down to him by very trusted and faithful men.  In turn he taught the “barbarians” in Gaul, the simple folks who could not read or write.  Yet he says in Against Heresies if someone came and began to teach them a different Gospel than what the apostles had handed down to them they would recognize it immediately as a lie and would turn and run the other way.  It is a faith that many have suffered for, died for, and guarded, not only with their words but with their hearts, minds and lives.  We need to honor them by taking our faith as seriously as they did.

The moral of that story is that it is better for most Christians to not even listen to deception and to flee from it instead.  Now God has called many throughout the Church ages to practice what is known as “apologetics” or the defense of the faith.  Yet these individuals are usually deeply grounded in the teachings of Christianity and are very familiar with why we believe what we believe and most of the details behind our faith.  But the truth of the matter is that most Christians do not have the time, the resources, the interest or the calling to engage in this.  We are all part of the same body with different gifts, passions, and callings that are equally as vital and useful to our community as the next.  I have no ability in leading worship because I sing like a sick duck.  Yet I am thankful for those who are called into this ministry who can lead us into the presence of God through worship.

I say all this because it is necessary in our day to stay anchored in the faith and know what that faith is.  There are a lot of false gospels as Paul says in Galatians, but they are no gospels at all.  In fact, he says “If anyone teaches you another gospel than the one we have given, even if I or angels come doing so, let him be cursed.”  Pretty strong language that wouldn’t go over big in our day.  But his language emphasizes the urgency of his warning.  This is why Jesus was so sturn with those who departed from the true faith, same as the apostles, same as the early Church fathers and mothers.  Thomas Oden says in his three volume work Systematic Theology that “the vital question for Christians is not rather it is palatable but rather it is true.”  We are not interested in only the things we like about scripture but what is true…what is scripture and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles claiming is true.  That’s what we want to know.  That’s what we need.  That’s what God expects of us.

Now don’t run off on me!:) I am aware that terms like “morality”, “virtues” and “ethics” seem quite dry and archaic.  But I think that some of my readers that would initially tune me out here will find this post very encouraging and invigorating.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is a classical historical work by Edward Gibbon that was been a foundational authority on the Roman Empire for the past few centuries.  It is certainly not an easy read, but it is full of priceless information about the long period of time that the Empire existed.  This work is important to Christians because it is during the reign of this empire that Christ lived, died and rose again.  It was during this empire that the early church grew rapidly and thrived.  It was eventually this empire that would adopt Christianity as the state religion under Constatine.  And when this empire collapsed in the West, it was Christainity that remained as the leader of the West in its institutionalized form as well as in its pastoral role.

In one part of this great work, Gibbon addresses the phenomenon of how the Church grew so rapidly in the first several centuries.  Gibbon gives five solid reasons.  For the sake of this post we will examine one, and address the others in later posts.  The one I want to focus on in this post is that the Church grew rapidly because of “The pure and austere morals of the Church” or as he puts it later on “The virtues of the first Christians.”

Gibbon points out that the early Christians “demonstrated their faith by his virtues.”  That is to say, someone outside the Church could pick out a Christian based upon their virtues, moral and ethical behavior.  Imagine that.  In a contemporary society when pastors are divorcing their husbands or wives; ministers are having adulterous affairs or skimming off the top of ministries to buy a Rolls Royce or expensive clothing; Christians are suing Christians at the drop of a hat and so on.  Yet, these early Christians put strong emphasis on the transforming power of God to cause a change in their behavior that they committed to maintaining.

When they repented, they expected a “reformation of manners.”  Good ethical and moral behavior was expected of them.  We see this taking place even in Paul’s letters to the church of Corinth.  In the words of one of my professors, Paul was basically saying in those letters, “Stop acting like that…true Christians don’t behave that way!”  A life of vice was not acceptable.  So much so, that when the “most abandoned sinners” observed this lifestyle, many were attracted to the faith and the possibility that they too could be changed into the image of Christ.  They observed that the “driving passion” of these Christians was a “perfect life”, that is a virtuous lifestyle free from malice and vice.  In fact, they were so concerned with living holy lives, that if they were guilty of anything they were “guilty of an excess of virtue.”  Some of those early Christians would read scripture and take things very literally and at times perhaps legalistically.

The pagan world looked at that early Church and although they might not understand why there was a change in their ethical behavior, they were amazed by it and often drawn to it.  This is recognized by historians like Gibbons, who often states that he as a historian is not interested in establishing theological truths but understanding and stating history.  Yet it is also recognized by external evidence by secular officials of Rome like Pliny the Younger.  While emperor Trajan was in power, Pliny wrote to him asking how he should deal with the people known as Christians in the mid to late second century.  It is a priceless document because in it Pliny states that besides the fact that the Christians refuse to worship Caeser as a god, they are law abiding, loving, and good citizens.  He attests to their moral fortitude.  In fact, the early Christians thought it very important to be blameless citizens, unless the laws interfered with the laws of God.

Further on in the Roman Empire, Justin the Apostate came to power.  Under his reign he attempted to reestablish paganism as the state religion.  However, he admitted that he had an enormous struggle.  The struggle was that even though he had estabished a pretty efficient system of bishops and officials to oversee the practices of this pagan religion, the Christians’ moral and ethical behaviors, as well as their endless acts of charity far outweighed anything the pagans could do.

Gibbon and many other scholars point to this as one of the main reasons why Christianity grew so quickly in the Roman Empire and throughout the world.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Church today needs to return to this.  The Church needs a moral, ethical, love revival.  The Church needs to stop apologizing for its high moral standards found in scripture and tradition and begin to live it out.  Part of why we do and don’t do the things we do is because God expects us to be holy and different than the world.  There should be a contrast that is markedly different about us.  So that when it comes to issues like pre-marital sex, drunkeness, violence, gossiping, bickering, oppressing, ridiculing etc–the Church should be pure and blameless.

Many unbelievers argue that they can be moral and ethical too without Christianity.  I argue that they do not have the longevity, pure motives, and complete ability to do so.  I argue that all you have to do is walk into a mall and see just how well they live out those so called morals by the way they treat each other.  I also argue that the morals and ethics they have are not solely intrinsic but they are running on the fumes of morality taught to our culture by Judeo-Christian inheritance.  Lastly, I argue that any ability they have to give the appearance of morality is based upon what the patristic fathers saw as a mere imprint of the image of God that they were originally created in.  That is to say, that their morality is based upon an inward conviction that God has installed to warn them of what is wrong and right.

The problem today is that the world looks at the Church and doesn’t see much of a difference.  People are not dumb, they know when we talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.  I argue that Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit have the ability to live moral and ethically pleasing lives before the Lord.  However, most Christians don’t even try.  We join churches (which are basically social clubs for many) take on the title of Christians, carry our Bibles, act special on Sundays and then lead worldly lives the rest of the week.  This is not good enough.  Paul would say, “That is not how Christians behave.”

 

I will start with a question: During the days of the early Christian Church, who was responsible for the advancement of the Gospel message to all the nations?  The most common answer would probably be…the apostles, evangelists, missionaries etc.  Afterall, we think of Paul and his three great missionary trips into Asia Minor, Macedonia, Rome, and perhaps as far west as Spain (if we are to believe some early traditions).  Or maybe we think of Barnabas and Mark splitting off from Paul and going into Cyprus or Philip in Samaria.  Or perhaps we have heard that Thomas witnessed in India and there became a martyr as did James in Spain. 

These great men and women of God are usually the ones that pop into our minds when we think of the spreading of the Gospel in those early decades and centuries.  Yet in my readings and research, I have found that although these anointed folks impacted the Christian Church and its message for all time, they were not the main thrust of the advancement of the Gospel.  In fact, perhaps our greatest gratitude should go first to the Holy Spirit, but secondly to the countless Christian men and women whose names we will never know until we join them after this life. 

These people were what we may call the “everyday person” or “the little guy.” They held no titles, no airs, no fame, no glory and no credit.  They were not bishops, elders, pastors, missionaries, evangelists, or apostles (and I do not mean to take anything away from those individuals).  They did not write any theological treatises, epistles, hymns, psalms, sermons, apologies, or rhetorical speeches.  No.   Instead they were slaves, servants, merchants, shop-keepers, black-smiths, sailors, fisherman, masons, carpenters, shepherds, farmers, peasants, and tax collectors.  They were masters, wealthy business owners, aristocrats, scribes, teachers, soldiers, jailers and patrons.  They were men, women, and children from all different walks of life, in various regions of the empire and beyond.  It is to these folks that the spread of the Gospel may be attributed to. 

One great man said, “the Church was built on the blood of the martyrs.”  I agree.  But I must add, it was built on the average joe Christian who shared the Gospel wherever they went.  They shared in at their jobs, in the market place, at the port, in the court room, at school, in the field, on the ship, or walking down the road.  They shared it with their friends, their family, their acquaintances and their enemies.  They shared the Gospel in fair weather and under intense persecution. 

The men and women we know by name such as Tertullian, Ignatius, Polycarp, Perpetua, Cyprian, John Chrysostom, and Augustine are but a mere sliver of Christians that boldly lived and died proclaiming the message of Christ and Him crucified.  We thank God for the voices of those named above whose echoes we may still hear in their faithful writings.  Yet we also thank God for those nameless servants of Christ who bore the Gospel in their daily lives and who died without leaving a single letter on a page.  However, their simple lives combined to form a powerful force that invaded the Roman Empire for the glory of God and is felt by us two thousand years later. 

I am encouraged by this thought.  We live in an age and culture of celebrities.  In fact, I am quite fatigued by the pretty faces of people who litter our Christian networks with perfect hair, makeup and polished rhetoric.  My eyes sometime hurt from the shimmering gold and silver decor that fancies their stages and backdrops.  We are almost fooled into believing that it is because of them that the Gospel is still going forward and the Church survives.  But I will not be counted among the fooled.  I believe that the Church would be better off without our television programs and slushy networks.  I believe that it is not the minister on T.V. with his tailored made suits and extravagant cars that is the beating heart of the Church and Gospel.  No friend.  I believe the Church today is built on the backs of the local pastor in his small church who is pouring out his heart and prayers everyday for his seemingly insignificant flock.  It is built on the Christian worker who gets up early everyday to go to a job he is not entirely fond of to provide for his family, all the while sharing the Gospel day-to-day with his co-workers.  Or the mother who never gets to turn off the “mommy switch” because she loves her family endlessly and will give all of her time so that her children can grow to be godly men and women for the kingdom of God.

They may never preach a sermon, write a book, go to Bible school or seminary, chase after Christian speakers and conferences, or go down in the Hollywood Hall of Fame of T.V. evangelists you will never meet or know if they are legit.  These celebrities will never wipe your noses or dry your tears.  They will never sacrifice time with their family so you can have a shoulder to cry on.  No, that will be your local pastor who may be living paycheck to paycheck and will never darker the lens of a T.V. camera.  Or it will be the Christian friend, family member, or co-worker who is there because they simply love you.  I thank God for those people in my life.  In my book…those are the Christian heroes and heroines of our day; those whose names may never be spoken in Hollywood or even the next town. If you are one of those people…I thank God for you.  And I thank you. 

(Note: I do believe that SOME, okay a select few, on T.V. are worth their salt.  However, one must be very selective and modest about who and how much time is spent listening to these folks.  What is more valuable is the time you spend with strong Christians you can look at face to face.  Secondly, spend more time with Christ in prayer than with Pastor Pretty Teeth on TBN).

We live in a culture of busy-ness.  Anyone who has spent more than two seconds in this country will come to understand that.  In Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, he says, “our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry,and crowds.”   We are often caught up in this whirlwind of doing that we neglect the state of just being.  When we allow ourselves and our time to be filled up with stuffwe leave very little room if any for listening for the voice of God.  This is an issue I have addressed before in another post called  “Listening For Silence In A Blaring World: For God and Self.” 

I bring this point up again because I believe this is one of the main challenges of why most Christians are not being led by the voice of God and lack a deep, meaningful relationship with him…because they are frankly, just too BUSY.  And when they do get a moment to hear from God, they fall asleep because they are worn out from always being in a HURRY to get things done.  But in the words of Carl Jung, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.”  Why?  Because all of this HURRY and BUSY-NESS keeps us away from God.  It blurs our understanding of God.  It blocks our ability to hear and listen for God. 

I call this the “Martha Syndrome.”  In Luke 10:38-42 I see Martha as the American in this narrative. 

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her (NRSV; italics is mine for emphasis).’

I want to point out a few things from this passage.  1) Martha “welcomed” Jesus into her home.  The world is filled with Christians who have welcomed Jesus into their home.  They invite him into their hearts and then go around telling everyone they “know Christ as their Savior.”  But then like many Christians do today, Martha got BUSY “work[ing]”  or for Jesus.  Slaving in the kitchen, keeping the grounds, being part of Church committees, pastoring, and all sorts of other ministries should never replace the time needed to spend listening for God. 

So we come to my second point.  2) Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”  Mary wanted to HEAR from Jesus.  She wanted to KNOW him and his teaching.  She took the time to FIRST listen to Jesus before she began DOING.  What was she doing?  She was putting KNOWING God above DOING for God.  Why?  Because only when we KNOW God will we ever be able to effectively and powerfully DO for God. 

You see, the passage says that Martha was “distracted.”  She was BUSY DOING.  Jesus even tells her that she was “anxious and troubled about many things.”  I believe that this is where most Christians in our culture are at.  Their anxiety to keep up with the Joneses causes them to be troubled with trying to obtain the American dream.  They feel that they have to be busy little bees because that is what everyone else does and a good work ethic means you never stop.  Arthur G. Gish says, “We buy things we don’t want to impress people we don’t like.”  Does that make any sense to anyone?

We have been sucked into our culture but not the kingdom of God.  In the kingdom of God, relationship is everything.   We need to be Mary-like Christians intent on LISTENING to Jesus and less Martha-like Christians being distracted by DOING.  DOING most certainly has a place, but it is never to replace LISTENING and KNOWING Jesus.  Christians that mainly DO but LISTEN little are shallow.  Yet Christians that LISTEN to and KNOW God and THEN DO are deep, fruitful, and effective.  

Which brings me to my final point.  We need to ALWAYS be in the state of LISTENING for God.  Even in the midst of the DOING, we need to be able to silence ourselves, to stop and LISTEN throughout the day to what the Lord is speaking to us.  If you are at school, block out the noise as you walk down the hallway and LISTEN.  As you are driving to and from work, turn off the radio and LISTEN.  If you are laying in bed early in the morning, instead of plotting out the day, LISTEN. 

I know many people who always do all the talking and hardly ever listen.  If I begin to interject a thought, they quickly interrupt and continue talking.  I can even tell by their body language and facial expressions if they are listening or not.  I have a feeling that those who have trouble listening to their brothers and sisters, probably are not listening to God either.  There are many people who are more impressed with the words that come out of their mouths than the words that come from the mouth of God.  Jesus said that humans live by “every word that comes out of the mouth of God.”  Notice that he does not say, “humans live by doing all of the talking.” 

Therefore in the words of James 1:19: “Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”

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