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Mary, Martha And Judas

Recently we were driving somewhere and our son said he had a question for us. I turned down the radio and asked what it was. He asked, “Which are y’all: Mary or Martha?” I laughed that such a question would come from a 9 year old. His question is in reference to Luke 10 where Martha is busy serving Jesus while Mary just sits at His feet listening. My wife responded, “Sorry, son. You were born into a family of Martha’s!” He asked if that was a bad thing. I explained that it wasn’t because we need both Mary’s and Martha’s. The Martha’s of the world simply need to learn to not be so anxious when things don’t get done perfectly and they also need to take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and recharge. Both types are important to the Church.

We see Martha and Mary two more times in Scripture. The next time we see them is in John 11 after their brother Lazarus had died. When Jesus showed up four days later, it was Martha who ran out to meet Jesus while Mary stayed in the house. Martha expressed that if Jesus had been there, her brother wouldn’t have died. She also expressed that He was the Messiah and could raise him up. After their conversation she went to get Mary to take her to Jesus. Mary expressed the same things. It was the other people who doubted and accused when they implied that Jesus gave sight to the blind, but couldn’t keep Lazarus from dying. After that, we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

The last time we meet them is in John 12, about two months later, just before Jesus is crucified. Martha was back to serving everyone while Lazarus ate. Verse 3 says, “Then Mary took a whole pint of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house” (GNT). Immediately Judas saw this as a waste of money and criticized her act of worship. In these stories, there are three types of people: one who worships with service, one who worships at His feet and those who criticize. I’ll ask my son’s question to you. Which are you? It’s all right to be a Martha as long as you’re not so busy you miss hearing Jesus. It’s all right being a Mary as long as you share what you learn at the feet of Jesus. It’s not ok to stand back from afar and criticize the way other people worship while never drawing near yourself. Each of us must worship in our own extravagant way and take time to hear what Jesus is saying to us.

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Unquestionably Free

Several years ago, before I did Bible verses on Friday’s, I did “Free Friday”. I had attended a conference and heard people discuss all kinds of fears and self limiting behaviors they had. My idea was to write each Friday about getting free from the things that hold us back or slow us down when trying to move forward. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to lay aside anything that hinders us, slows us down or ensnares us. The understood emphasis in the sentence is that it’s up to us to do it. The only way I have the power to lay aside any sin that’s holding me back is if I’m still holding onto it after I’ve been forgiven of it. Every one of us are holding onto things that hold us back and are keeping ourselves imprisoned because of guilt or shame. It’s a trap of the enemy to hinder our growth and freedom.

Remember that Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. That means once Christ has forgiven you, He no longer condemns you for that sin. If you’re feeling it, it’s usually self induced and needs to be later aside. Remember that according to Galatians 5:1, it was for freedom that Christ set you free. He freed you so you could live and walk in freedom from your past. Yet, so many of us rarely walk in that freedom because we allow shame to hold us back. We allow ourselves to be ensnared in a mind game that tells us we must live the rest of our lives paying for our past. Paul, who wrote those verses, called himself the chief among sinners. He killed Christians for a living. If he was able to live in that freedom, you’re allowed to as well.

In John 8:36, Jesus reminds us that we are God’s children who are no longer enslaved to our sin or our past. He said, “So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free!” (TPT) If Christ has forgiven your sins, you are unquestionably free from the eternal effects of them. You don’t have to live this life paying penance for your past. Every time those thoughts come in, chase them out with these words of Jesus. Every time guilt creeps in, chase it out with Romans 8:1. You are no longer a slave to your past. The blood of Jesus is stronger than anything you’ve ever done. It has the power to forgive and to set you free. Begin today to live unquestionably free and let God use your life to accomplish the purposes He created you for.

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Getting Daily Manna

When I started writing devotions back in 2012, it didn’t take long before I started to have a problem with fear. Each day I was afraid that I wouldn’t have something to write about. I started to keep a list of topics that I could write on in case I couldn’t think of anything. Still, each night and morning I had trouble wrestling with the fear of not having something to write about. I expressed this fear to another writer and asked them how they dealt with it. He replied, “You’re looking at God wrong. You’re approaching Him as if He is a well, and they run dry. God is a River always flowing and always fresh. He is the all creative One. If you will take your bucket to Him each day, ask Him to fill it with fresh, living water, He will fill it.” I have done that for over 8 years now, and God has never failed to meet with me and fill my bucket.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites has left Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. It was about a month and a half into their journey when a similar fear came over them. In Exodus 16:3, they complained to Moses that they didn’t have any meat. They wished God had just left them in Egypt where they were slaves, but at least they had food. God replied, “Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day” (GNT). God provided fresh manna each day, but the people had to gather it and only get enough for that day. God continued to meet their need each and every day until they entered the Promised Land.

Fast forward to the New Testament in John 6. Jesus fed 5,000 people with a few pieces of bread and some fish. The people ate, were filled and had leftovers. The next day they were asking for more food and a miracle again to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus referred to God providing the manna, and the people asked Jesus to do the same for them. In verse 35 He replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to me and you will never be hungry. Believe in me and you will never be thirsty” (TPT). Jesus reiterated to them, and to us, that if we will come to Him each and every day, He will supply our need with more than enough. However, each of us must seek Him daily, spend time alone in prayer, hold out our buckets and ask Him to fill it. He’s providing fresh manna for us every day. We just have to go get it.

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True Worship

Worship is one of those Christianese words that we use, but struggle to define. You can look it up in the Hebrew, the Greek or in the Webster’s dictionary, but it won’t quite define what true worship is. In the Bible times, the Jews believed God resided in Jerusalem, so they would come to Jerusalem to worship and go through the motions of worship. Worship became a ritual and an act rather than a response to God’s presence. Many times the God rejected their worship because it was hollow or meaningless. They didn’t understand the worship He desires from us. I’m not so sure we’re that different these days. We’ve contained worship to a set of songs we sing on Sunday at church. We’ve made it about a certain place and practice as well.

The woman at the well asked Jesus who was right about where to worship God. Jesus told her that it wasn’t about the place or the act, but the heart. Our worship is expressed in many ways when we have a holy reverence for who God is. It can be expressed in bowing down, singing, crying, serving others or sitting silent in His presence. Worship is an attitude as much as it is an action. Remember that God looks at our heart- our intent- rather than our actions. He’s not interested in worship that is merely going through motions. He wants us to respond to His majesty, His goodness, His kindness, His might, His sovereignty and His presence. When we see God for who He is, we will worship Him in Spirit and Truth from a heart that honors Him.

Here are some Bible verses on true worship.

1. From here on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who worship and adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.

John 4:23-24 TPT

2. Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; Tremble [in submissive wonder] before Him, all the earth.

Psalms 96:9 AMP

3. Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.

Hebrews 13:16 MSG

4. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

Romans 12:1 NLT

5. Let us be thankful, then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe.

Hebrews 12:28 GNT

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Be Courageous

When I was a teenager, the scouting program I was a part of gave us a code to live by. Today, we would call them values statements or core values. One of the eight values was courageous: he is brave in spite of danger, criticism or threats. I didn’t realize then how important that particular one was as a teenager, and even more so as an adult. It taught me to be strong in the face of things when they weren’t going my way or even against me. Being courageous means you don’t run away in those moments. You do what’s right no matter what going on around you.

In the last several chapters of John, Jesus was talking to the disciples on the night before His crucifixion. He was telling them what was about to happen to Him, and also what would happen to them going forward. He wanted them to have peace in the chaos, and to let them know that He was going to send the Holy Spirit as a helper who would live inside of them to combat the outside pressures against them. Then, just before He prayed and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33 TPT)

He reminded them, and us, that we are going to experience times when the world is against us. We are going to have troubles and things not go our way, but we are to be courageous. He said these things because He wanted us to look past our current problems knowing that He has already won. We can be brave because whatever we’re facing is not the end and it won’t conquer us because He is in us. We have to keep reminding ourselves of this verse when things look bad or like there’s no tomorrow. We can be courageous in spite of what we’re facing by trusting His promises.

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Controlling Our Anger

Have you ever noticed how we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions? We give ourselves a lot more grace than we give someone else. Whenever I accidentally change lanes, but don’t see the car in that lane, I sheepishly duck my head, wave and mouth “sorry” hoping they understand. However, when someone does that to me, I see it as an attack of a negligent driver who is intentionally trying to kill me. I got from zero to angry in .5 seconds, honk my horn, shake my fist and scream at them. Now that I realize I’m judging them differently than I’m asking them to judge me, I’ve had to learn to give more grace in these situations. Chances are high, they simply made a mistake, like I do sometimes, and they’re not intentionally trying to run me off the road.

It’s scary how quickly I can go from singing along with the radio to straight up anger when that happens. The problem is, that’s not the only time or place I have a tendency to do that. We even do that when someone is talking to us. We judge ourselves by the intention of our meaning and others by their words and our interpretation. We can easily get angry without listening to everything they’re saying or the intent of their heart. Once anger comes into play, listening goes out the window and words usually come out of our mouth. Even when they try to explain, our anger has shut out reason and withdrawn any grace we had to give. These things happen to all of us, and if we can understand the hypocrisy of our own thinking, it can help us tone down how quickly we jump to anger.

Another way to slow down the anger train is to keep our mouth shut long enough to listen to their heart. James 1:19-20 says, “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose” (TPT). That last sentence should give each of us pause. Anger is never a tool to promote God’s purposes. When we’re angry, we’re usually out of control and saying thing to hurt the other person. Anger is a legitimate emotion God gave us, but He also told us not to sin while we’re angry (Ephesians 4:26). We’re either promoting or destroying God’s purpose with our lives. Anger has a tendency to destroy it. When we change how we judge others actions and words, we can begin to control those flare ups.

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Seeking Approval

Not long after a baby is born, we begin to condition them to do things for someone else. When they eat from a spoon, we clap and cheer them on. When they roll over, we cheer. We record their first steps as we applaud their efforts. The list goes on and on with each milestone. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate these things or that we shouldn’t encourage our kids. People need both of those things. However, from the moment we’re born, we’re taught to do things for applause. When we don’t get it, we think we’ve done something wrong or maybe they didn’t notice what we did. So we try to get someone’s attention and do it again so we will be recognized for what we’ve done.

Paul recognized this need for approval and how it can affect our work if we don’t get it. In Colossians 3:23 he penned, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men” (AMP). Sometimes, if we’re doing something we know we won’t get recognized for or think that no one is watching, we don’t give it our best effort. Paul reminds us here that no matter what we do, we shouldn’t be doing it for man’s approval or recognition. It should be done as if we were doing it for the Lord because ultimately it is. Anything man rewards us with is temporary.

When Jesus was in the Temple watching people give, there were those who made a big show of their giving. There was also a widow who quietly gave all she had. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about a person who prayed louder than others thanking God they weren’t like those other people. He pointed out that they were seeking the recognition of man, and while they got it, they wouldn’t be getting God’s recognition because they weren’t after it. He pointed out the sinner who wouldn’t lift their head and praised them. In both of these cases, Jesus was pointing out that we should be seeking God’s approval and doing things for Him instead of men. Remember, man looks at our outward appearance, but God is looking at our heart. Whatever, you have to do today, whether big or small, do it well and do it for God’s approval and you will be fulfilled.

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Seeking God

When I was younger, I would go to the library and check out “Where’s Waldo” books. It provided page after page of hard searches. I would spend lots of time scouring the pages to see if I could find him with that red and white striped beanie. There were always distractions and decoys to throw me off. When I couldn’t find him, I would start at the top left and work across to the right, looking at every face in there going from top to bottom. Sometimes it was easy to find him, and other times I really had to search. There were even times when I required the help of others to make my search successful. It taught me to seek and to search and to not give up when it didn’t happen right away.

The Bible tells us over and over to seek God’s face. Sometimes it can feel like a Where’s Waldo book. How can I seek the face of God when I can’t see Him? But there’s a promise in Jeremiah 29:13. It says, “You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart” (GNT). When I can’t seem to find Him in my seeking, I wonder if I gave up too early or of I searched for Waldo longer than I searched for God. Unlike Waldo, God wants to be found. He reveals Himself to us, but we must seek Him with all of our heart. Our desire to find Him, to know Him and to hear from Him has to be stronger than our desire to do other things. God is able to be found when we’re seeking Him wholeheartedly.

Psalm 27:8 says, “Lord, when you said to me, ‘Seek my face,’ my inner being responded, ‘I’m seeking your face with all my heart.’” God is worthy of us seeking Him with our whole heart. That means we cut out distractions, open His Word, spend quiet time in His presence and ask to see Him. I’m often guilty of seeking His hand to provide for my needs rather than His face so I can see Him. There’s a lot of debate about what does it mean to “seek God’s face”. I think it means to search for His recognizable attributes. If you seek those, you will discover more of who God is. He’s not hiding from those who seek Him, but He can only be found when we’re searching and looking for Him. He’s calling each of us to seek Him. Like the author of the Psalm, we must reply, “I’m seeking you with my whole heart.” Pray today that God would open your eyes to see Him as you seek Him.

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Be Generous

Over twenty years ago, I started paying attention to the people around me that had the most money. I was looking for similarities to see if there was anything I could replicate. They all worked in different fields with different positions. Some were very educated and some were not. One of the things I noticed that was similar between all of them was that they were generous. They didn’t hoard their money. They gave, they sponsored and they helped others. I thought, “Could it be that the secret to having more was giving more?” When you look at Scripture, it fits. Give and it shall be given. When you’re faithful over a little, God will make you faithful over a lot. You reap what you sow. I began to pray them, “God, if you can get it to me, you can get it through me.” I wanted to be generous with God’s blessings.

One of the antonyms of generous is selfish. We seem to be bent toward selfishness. I’ve also observed that a lot of the problems in the world and in our lives are the result of selfishness. As believers, we’re to be known for our love for others, not self. God asks us to break away from selfishness and even offers blessings if we’ll be generous. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, we have the ability to be generous. Generosity is a matter of the heart. When we look at the things and money we have as God’s, then it’s easier to give them away. If I look at myself as the provider and the things I have as a result of my own work, it’s harder to give away. If we get that perspective right, giving comes naturally. Look around you today for opportunities to be generous. Pray for wisdom and ask God to show you where He wants you to be generous with His love and blessings, then you will know where to make a difference.

Here are some Bible verses on being generous.

1. Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor.

Proverbs 22:9 MSG

2. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.

2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT

3. Life is good for the one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth.

Psalms 112:5 TPT

4. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous, and this [generosity, administered] through us is producing thanksgiving to God [from those who benefit].

2 Corinthians 9:11 AMP

5. Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped.

Proverbs 11:25 GNT

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Fighting With New Strength

Growing up, I spent countless hours playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the Nintendo. The goal was always to go through the progression of fights so you could fight Mike Tyson. At times in the game, I would swing away at the characters hoping to connect a knock out punch. All of a sudden, my guy would drop his hands and start panting. At that point, he became vulnerable in those fights, and I had to dodge punches to keep from getting knocked out. After a few seconds, his strength would return and I could start fighting again.

To be honest, I never beat Mike Tyson. I got to the point where I could get to him every time, and could even go several rounds with him. At some point, my character would get tired and Mike would knock me out. I would get so frustrated because the guy would get winded at the worst times, and there was nothing I could do about it. I actually can relate to that guy a lot more now that I’m getting older. Battles seem to get more difficult, and I seem to get winded more quickly.

There’s a famous portion of Scripture in Isaiah 40 that speaks to this. Israel had begun to think that God had abandoned them in their battles, and they were tired. God spoke and asked how they could think that. Then in verses 29-31, He said, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (NLT).

If you’ve been getting winded in your battles, and you’re starting to wonder where God is, these verses are for you today. Don’t get anxious and swing away, which only wears you out. Wait on and trust in the Lord. He will give you the strength you need to endure, and He will help you knock out your biggest opponent. Whatever your Mike Tyson is in life, God is there with you to help you fight it without growing weary. He is the everlasting God. He never grows weary or weak.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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