Rejoice in the Lord, Always

Philippians 4 – Friday 

“TGIF”. Most people in our culture seem to only be happy when they are NOT working, when their weekend has started, or it is their day off. They long for the precious moments where they are not bound to the clock. It’s in our pop culture. Whether it is some teen-idol that is singing about what happened last Friday or whether we are all working for the weekend, many people think happiness is a 3-day-a-week affair. As Christians, maybe we think life is pretty dull until Sunday rolls around. That is the day where I get to be happy. 

However, that’s not what Paul wants for the Philippians. He says “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” It is a command. “REJOICE!” Maybe we think it’s a little strange for Paul to give a command to rejoice. “You better rejoice or else!” But that is not his point at all. Paul knows that if we truly understand the gospel we would see it for what it is… good news! 

Look at what is said in the following verses. 

The Lord is near.(4:5) Christ is coming soon to reward those whom he has saved. That is cause to rejoice!

God hears your prayers and supplications. (4:6) God is near and cares for our needs. That is cause to rejoice!

God will give us peace to protect our hearts and mind in the middle of trouble. (4:7) That is cause to rejoice!

The peace of God will be with us because the God of peace will be with us (4:9). That is cause to rejoice!

When you focus on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputably good, excellent, and praiseworthy, you are dwelling on good things that come from a good God. Every one of them is a cause to rejoice!

God is not a God of sorrow and somberness at all times. It is true he is a serious God. We should never take him flippantly or lightly, and he calls sins out when and where he sees them. But he is a God of joy, gladness, drinking deeply in the good things of this world. He rests in a world that he called very good. (Genesis 1). Therefore, God wants his creatures to rejoice to the praise of his glory. 

May this shorter devotion push you to praise God today, my brothers and sisters. 

May you focus on the true and good things, and may they cause you to rejoice. 

May you rejoice in the God of peace. 

May you rejoice that the Lord is near. 

May you rejoice, always. Again I will say it, rejoice!

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 15-16 and Colossians 1 (Devotions are focusing on joy/Philippians this week, but charge on with your reading.)

The Joy of Overcoming

Philippians 3

Paul is one of the few people who can write “Finally” and continue on writing for the same length that he had just written! He writes two chapters, puts “finally” and writes two more. Inspired as he is, obviously Paul thinks of most of what he writes from Philippians 3:1-4:7 as all one idea. To be fair, as you are reading today, he uses “finally” in chapter 4 as well. It reminds me of a “midwestern goodbye;” he keeps trying to end his conversation but doesn’t want to say goodbye just yet.

While Paul starts his writing in verse one on the happy note of “rejoice” in the Lord, he quickly moves to talk of things that we need to beware of and, I think, overcome. That means we need to live differently, have victory over, and to not be defeated by. 

Overcoming Others

In two places in this chapter, Paul discusses two kinds of unfaithful people and the way they live. First, there are those whom he calls “dogs” and “evil workers”. These are both the Jews and the Judaizing Christians who believe they follow God because they are circumcised on the outside and think all must follow them. However, their pride and focus on the law is actually showing that they have a false circumcision (3:2). Paul says that we are the ones who truly follow God, who follow him with a “circumcised” (or pure) heart. 

Secondly, there are those who have never come to faith of any kind. Instead of even trying to honor God through false rules and regulations, they focus on fulfilling their own desires, whether that is food, drink, or sex. They worship those desires as their god. Even, (maybe especially) in our world there are those who glorify their appetites that they indulge as “healthy”, “not-repressed”, and “liberating”. However, Paul weeps knowing that their end is not life, not joy, but destruction. (3:18-19)

Overcoming Ourselves

We need to not be like either of those groups, but that means overcoming ourselves. True, we need to overcome the teachings of those who say following God is keeping a bunch of rules and regulations, but it is easy to feel good about ourselves because we did keep God’s word. It would be easy for Paul, for example, to glory in who he is. (3:4-6) He fulfilled all the credentials of what a successful Jew would be. But he considers it “dung” (skubala) if he might instead have Christ. He would count all these things rubbish in order to have the far greater, far surpassing righteousness of Christ. (3:7-9)

Once we know that our best attributes are only dung in comparison to Christ, we may say we might as well live terribly because we can never measure up. But Paul encourages us to strive to live rightly. Ever upward into the call of God in Christ. He says, though we will never be perfect, let us keep living by the same standard to which Christ has raised us. (3:12-16)

How to Hupernikao (Overcome)

How are we to overcome? How are we to not fall into the traps of being legalistic or being completely wild with our living? We need to live LIKE CHRIST! That should sound familiar! If we live like Christ, forgetting what lies behind and pressing on ahead (12-16) then we will be conformed to him. We will suffer the way he suffered, being mistreated on both sides. We will sound to0 gracious to the “judgmental” and too judgmental to the “gracious”. We won’t look like those who are legalistic and believe that rule following will save them. But we also won’t look like those who believe that everything is OK and permissible.

But this is the way Jesus lived. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners and yet told them they needed to stop sinning. If we live like him, we will face the suffering he faced, we may even be conformed to him in death. (3:10) But the GLORIOUS news is that if we are connected to him, believe in him, and live like him, we will ALSO be raised with him. If we die with him, we will also live with him. (3:11, cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-13)

It is because we have a savior who will raise us up, and glorify us as he rules over all things that Paul can say, in Philippians 4:1 “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Because we have a savior who will redeem us, we can rejoice in the Lord and we can be the joy of those who have trained us in the way we should go. 

May you, my brothers and sisters, overcome those who tell you to be more strictly following all the right rules that only they seem to know. 

May you overcome those who say live with abandon and do whatever it is that makes you happy and fulfills you. 

May you overcome the desires in yourself that push in you in those directions. 

May you instead be conformed to the life, suffering, death, and ultimately resurrection of Christ, as you seek to live like him. 

May you forget what lies behind, press on ahead, and retain the standard, while only trusting in Christ’s sacrifice to save you. 

Amen

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here Isaiah 13-14 and Philippians 4

On Doohickeys and Defining Joy

Philippians 2

I love etymology, or the study of the origin of words. How do words come to mean what we say they mean? It’s a fascinating subject for a nerd like me. And words sometimes, or maybe often, don’t mean what they sound like. One word that is used commonly in North America, and especially in my experience, in the South, is “doohickey”. For those unfamiliar, when someone says “hand me the doohickey”, they are saying “give me the item to which I am gesturing that you should see I obviously need.” Context, as they say, is key. You need to be in the moment to know what they mean, and you need to be paying attention to understand how you should behave, e.g. giving them the tool, instrument, or whatever they are asking for. 

When reading Scripture, we see that certain ways of being, believing, and living are better than others. These better ways should be the standard for those who are redeemed by God. However, we need to always remember that the words we read in scripture weren’t written down by some guy last week in USA-English, but were written down 2000 years ago by men (and women?) who were writing in a different time to a different context and translated to our language today. We CAN understand a lot about scripture; it is clear there is only one God, not 100, and that Jesus is his Son and our Savior. However, studying helps us understand ideas, concepts, and words more clearly. The more clearly we understand Scripture, the better we can live it out and the better our lives will be by living it out. 

Today, we are looking at the word “joy”. If we can understand how joy is used in the New Testament, that should shed some light on how joy is used in Philippians. 

First, joy (in Greek : charas) is the reaction of those who hear the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus. When Jesus is born, the angels proclaimed it was good news of great joy (Luke 2:10). When the magi find the home of Jesus, they are overwhelmed with joy. (Matt. 2:10) As Jesus is raised, the disciples respond in joy. (Matt. 28:8)

Next, joy is the response of the early church in Acts. The disciples not only receive the Holy Spirit but also joy! (13:52) The people had joy due to miracles being performed. (8:8) Joy came upon all the believers when Gentiles came to the truth of faith in Christ. (15:3)

Finally, Paul has his own way of speaking about joy. Paul looks to those he leads as those who bring him joy. Paul calls the Thessalonians his “glory and joy” because of their steadfastness in faith and proof that God is working through him. (1 Thess. 2:19-20) Paul sees his sufferings and persecutions as a cause for joy because of the work it may do for the message of Christ (Col. 1:24). Finally, over and over, Paul tell his readers that joy is the reality of Kingdom living, a gift of God, a gift God gives through connection to His Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17, Gal 5:22-23, 1 Thess. 1:6)

That’s a lot of verses to meditate on through today or tonight, but a bunch of verses does not a definition make. So we need to say what joy seems to be in the New Testament. 

Here is an example definition. I would encourage you, as you study the verses above, and others, to write your own definition, but this may be a helpful definition for you as we walk in joy this week. 

Joy is the state of happiness and contentment as we hear the gospel message and respond in faith. In that response, we are given God’s Holy Spirit, that will allow us to ground our joy in the truth that God is our loving Father and we are his saved children. Then we are able to see the difficult and painful circumstances of life as opportunities for God’s glory rather than as cause for us to lose our happiness. Joy is, therefore, not an emotion like happiness and sadness, but a way of living in response to the work of God and Jesus where we are continually hopeful and peaceful in every situation. 

May you, my brothers and sisters, find THAT joy today. May it fill your hearts and minds, and may it pour from the spirit of God into your spirit.

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 9-10 and Philippians 2

Identity in Christ: A Well-Dressed Knight

Ephesians 6

Last week, we talked about our identity in Christ, grounded and rooted in him and made new in his grace and mercy. Today, we have one last look at this identity, and I think it’s important to read Ephesians 5 and 6. In response to this new identity, we are called to a new and better way. 

First, husbands and wives are called to love and to submit to one another in reverence for Christ. (5:21-33) Children are called to honor their father and mother. (6:1-3) Fathers are called to train and instruct their children. (6:4) Relationships between slaves and masters were expressed to show a better way to treat common social relationships in that day, and that Christ makes slave and master equal. (6:5-9) Praise God that as we have expanded on the promises of Scripture, slavery has been eradicated in the US and is fought against around the world. 

BUT, what I really want us to look at is how we are called to dress. I really enjoy renaissance fairs. It’s great; enjoying nature, seeing people dressed in amazing costumes, laughing at jokes and enjoying fair food! Who doesn’t love gnawing on a GIANT turkey leg or getting ye olde bratwurst? But my favorite part is the jousting tournaments. Knights dressed in armor, charming on horseback. In most jousts, the joust is real : they don’t plan who will hit the other, who will unseat the other, and who will win. How cool is that?!

I know Paul was thinking about Roman armor, but when I think about the armor of God, I imagine a medieval knight. A shining breastplate, a broad and defensive shield, a powerful sword! But is God really calling us to dress with armor, Roman or medieval? He is using the armor as a metaphor. We are in a war, but we protect our heart with righteousness and our head with salvation. We run in peace and wrap ourselves up with truth. When it finally comes time to battle, we pull out the sword of the spirit, the word of God. This means both Scripture and the gospel message, the written and living word of God! 

God is calling you to live in response to your identity in Christ. In how you treat your family and friends, in how you fight your battles, your identity in Christ should define everything about you. 

May you allow your identity in Christ to better your relationships. 

May you fight your battles against Satan, evil, and sin in the power and grace of God. 

May you be more like Jesus, this day and every day. 

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Isaiah 5-6 and Ephesians 6

The Early Church : The Purity and Persecution of the Early Church

Acts 5


Today, I’d like to focus on two more aspects of the church, both of which defined the church in its earliest days: purity and persecution. 


Purity


Yesterday, we read how God used his church to care for the least fortunate. No one in the church had any need. One of the ways this was accomplished, remember is that those who had property would sell it and give the proceeds to the church. There was no demand or command to do this, but those who did were honored by the church. In Acts 5:1-11, we read about a husband and wife duo who tried to buy the affection of the church. They sold a piece of property, but kept back a portion. But that wasn’t the problem. In verse 7, Peter asked Sapphira whether this was ALL the money they received for the land. THAT was the lie. They wanted everyone to think they were just as good as those who gave ALL their money to the church. 


But the church is not about building up our own ego. The church is about caring for those who need help. When Ananias and Sapphira lied, they lied to the Holy Spirit and they lied to God! In our world, some use church or religion for their own status. God has shown since the birth of the church that he’s not fooled. He desires to keep his people pure, focused on his mission, his goals, and not on themselves. 


Persecution


The disciples kept proclaiming Jesus. Those who were powerful were being told there was someone more powerful. Those who denied the resurrection were shown there was a resurrection. Those who considered themselves righteous were proven to be wicked. That is going to make people mad. They had told them that they couldn’t preach in the name of Jesus, but the apostles reply “We must obey God rather than human beings!” What an AMAZING testimony. They are not worried about people. They aren’t worried about the commands of men, of governments, of those who can kill the body but not the soul. 


God said “Go!” and so they go. Jesus said “Disciple others!” and so they disciple. The Holy Spirit gives them words and so they speak. 


Because of this, they were flogged (v40) and ordered not to speak. And the reaction of the disciples is fascinating. They were rejoicing. Rejoicing because they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace. Counted worthy to suffer. God thinks of them highly enough to be humiliated. 


Because in our humiliation, in our suffering, in our rejection, we look most like Jesus. God reverses our fortunes in the same way that he raised Jesus from the dead and sat him at his right hand.

In our humiliation, God gives glory. 

In our suffering, God gives joy. 

In our rejection, God gives acceptance. 

In our weakness, God gives Jesus. 

May you, my brothers and sisters, be more like the early church, today. 

May the message fill your mouth and the mission compel your feet. 

May the Spirit of God give you power and the love of God give you passion.

May the dedication of the apostles and the purity of the church define your own worship of God. 


May you do all this so that God is glorified, Jesus is honored, and many find faith. 

-Jake Ballard

Jake Ballard is pastor at Timberland Bible Church. If you’d like to hear more from him, you can find Timberland on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TimberlandBibleChurch/ ) and on Instagram (https://instagram.com/timberlandbiblechurch?igshid=t52xoq9esc7e). The church streams the Worship Gathering every Sunday at 10:30. Besides studying and teaching God’s word, he is raising three beautiful children with the love of his life, plays board games and roleplaying games with amazing friends weekly and recently celebrated both Cinco de Mayo and May the Fourth (Be with you). If you’d like to reach out to talk Bible, talk faith, or talk about Star Wars, look Jacob Ballard up on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336 )or email him at jakea.ballard@yahoo.com
God bless you all!

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 21-22 and Acts 5

The Early Church : The Growth of the Church

Acts 4


If you are an older reader, especially who was around for the 70s and 80s, you probably remember the Church Growth movement of the 60s and 70s. During this time, many people in the church focused on increased numbers; more people in the pews. In the 80s and 90s, the big push was for “seeker-sensitive” Christianity, making churches open and safe for those who were just beginning to seek Jesus. The impulse to grow and have more people come to Jesus is not wrong in any way! One way to define the mission of the church could be “more Christians, better Christians”: growing in quantity and quality. Both are important. A lot of really mediocre Christians, with no intention of acting and being better, is bad; a handful of super quality Christians, with no intention of growing, is bad.  


What did growth look like in the early church? In Acts 2, we read one example of growth. In verse forty-one, we read these words : “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” 


Three

THOUSAND?!


Peter must have had a very clever marketing strategy. He must have understood his target demographic. I wonder who his social media manager was and who worked his SEO. Of course, it’s none of those things. Those things aren’t bad; but anachronistic. Peter must have given them something else.  We do know why so many came to faith that day. 


He gave them Jesus. 

Jesus said “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) We lift up Jesus, we tell others of what he has done and how great he is, and he draws people in. 


In Acts 4, we see the qualitative growth of the church as well. After Peter and John are told not to proclaim the name of Jesus, they prayed to God. And God causes them to grow. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke boldly. They shared all their possessions, they cared for one another, they made sure that everyone was taken care of. 


The early church, by lifting up Jesus and living the way he lived and taught, grew in number and in character: more Christians, better Christians. When we look to our own churches, we should pray that we see the same growth, the same kind of growth, that the church got in Acts. We should be praying that God would use us to tell more people about Jesus, so they can come to know him, and we should be praying for God to make us better followers of Jesus today than we were yesterday. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 19-20 and Acts 4

The Early Church : The Passion of The Church

Acts 3

The early church was a special time in history. Jesus has just been raised. He has gone up, bodily, into heaven, and has poured out his Spirit upon those who follow him. (Rom. 8:9) In our day discussions about doctrines and divisions about drivel develop daily. 


BUT in the EARLY CHURCH, they were passionately pleading for the Pierced. They didn’t argue and debate about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin (to be fair, no-one has ever really debated that question). We can get so distracted from what was the early church’s singular focus : giving everyone and anyone the message of Jesus, and changing their world with the power of Jesus.


In chapter three, a man who had been begging for years is healed. This is the first of many, many miracles recorded in the book of Acts. The disciples were passionately sharing the message and gift of Jesus with everyone! They tell their fellow Israelites that God healed this man because of his servant Jesus. They tell the Sanhedrin and high priest about Jesus. They count it as a joy when they are persecuted and beaten for Jesus. They know their reward in heaven is great, because the righteous are persecuted by the wicked (Matt. 5:12).


In our lives, are we passionate about the message and work of Jesus then and now? If you aren’t don’t try to be passionate!


Instead, remember your sins, your mistakes, your failures. Remember that for even the smallest, you were separated from God. You were condemned to destruction, because that is the fate of those without God. And remember that God loved you enough to give you Jesus to redeem you. Jesus loved you enough to die in your place. They love you SO MUCH they love you just as you are, and they love you TOO MUCH to let you stay there, and want to make your life better, freer, holier, more and more wonderful. 


The early church was passionate because they knew the truth of Christ. We will be passionate when we remember it. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 17-18 and Acts 3

The Early Church : The Power of the Church

Acts 2

So far this week, we have been speaking of “the early church”, but that is a bit anachronistic. Because, today, we come to the founding, the start, the inception, of the church. Pentecost is a Jewish high holy day, one of the great feasts through the year, and it is 50 days after passover. Pentecost, of the Feast of Weeks, of Shauvot was to commemorate the giving of the Torah to the people of God. On THIS Pentecost, something new was given. 

In verse two of chapter two, we see that there is a great sound, along with fire that came among the people. But verse four is where the new thing God was doing happens. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”. Of course, reading a verse like this, a few questions come to mind. What is the Holy Spirit?What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?How is this new?


The Holy Spirit is the personal, powerful, presence of God. In John 13-17, Jesus teaches his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come, guide, teach, comfort, and council them. In Acts, the Holy Spirit speaks to the apostles and decides on what the church should do. (See Acts 8:29 and 15:28-29) The Holy Spirit is listed alongside the Father and the Son in certain salutations and greetings to the church, and as part of the authority in which we should be baptized as believers. The Spirit, in other places, is like water poured out on people, as fire that burns up the chaff, as wind that moves over the face of the world. It is not easy to pin down. It’s not easy to understand.


However, these followers weren’t getting a strong theological point on the Spirit. They were drenched in it, spoke various languages by it. To be filled with the Spirit in the book of Acts was to display the power of God in signs and miracles (like speaking in tongues or raising the dead, keep reading Acts!). But they were also filled with the Spirit in order to be bold. (Acts 4:31) The power of God was in all these people, changing both their outward actions and their inward personalities, making them into people who could confidently face anything that came their way because they were connected to God by his Power in the authority of Jesus. 


And the Holy Spirit had never worked that way until Pentecost. This amazing, moving, shaping, guiding power of God had come upon specific people, leaders like Moses and prophets like Aaron. When it came upon these specific people, they could lose the power of the Spirit, like Samson or Saul. But in Pentecost, anyone who believed that Jesus was the Messiah was given the Spirit to speak the word. That is why Peter quotes Joel in vs. 17-21. It proves that Jesus, in giving his people the Spirit, he was both fulfilling prophecy and giving them the power they would need to be his witnesses. 


Monday, we were left with the difficult question : will you follow Jesus?Yesterday, we were left with another doozy : will you be his witness, near, far, and to the ends of the earth?


Today, I want to encourage you : you can’t do it! (That’s not helpful!) No, those questions are too big for me and you. But with God, all things are possible. The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the grave is available to you in grace. You don’t HAVE to follow Jesus on your own, or be a witness in your own wisdom and power. You can join with the early church, and this power will come upon you and empower you. Peter said “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” God’s Holy Spirit, his power and presence, will be in your life, guiding and teaching you. It will fill you to the brim with power, but more importantly with courage, with confidence, with grace, with forgiveness, with hope, and with love. 


The more I study the Holy Spirit, the more questions I have. But I have learned one thing : I want more of it in my life.


Join me in asking for God’s Holy Spirit to fill your life, today. 

-Jake Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 15-16 and Acts 2

The Early Church : The Fate of the Apostles

John 21

In John 21, Jesus has a number of more appearances to the disciples. After the disciples go fishing, Jesus shows up on a beach, and feeds them. Jesus takes the time to “restore” Peter. After asking him three times if Peter loved him, and hearing Peter’s three replies, he says in 18-19


“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”


Very often, when we first start following Jesus, we may think “Well, now life will be good!” We may hear preachers say “just pray and believe” and then life will go really well. And Scripture itself says that “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) But we need to be careful before thinking this means we won’t have troubles, pains, and even death in spite of, or even CAUSED BY, following Jesus. Jesus himself warned his followers that they would have trouble (See John 16:33; “you will have trouble”). And the early church, especially the lives of the disciples, prove that we will have trouble. 


Most of our knowledge of the apostles come from church tradition; we don’t know the following, but it is generally accepted. Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, Simon the Zealot, and Matthias were all crucified by Rome. James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alpheus were both killed in Jerusalem by the ruling authorities. Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus/Jude and Bartholomew/Nathanel were all killed while speaking of their faith. Paul, the thirteenth apostle “to the gentiles” was beheaded after a long time in prison. Only John, as Jesus prophesied, died of old age. 


I don’t bring this up to scare you or to make you depressed. I want you to know that a bunch of hillbilly fisherman from the backwoods of a small nation oppressed by an Empire changed the world. The truth of Christianity is proved in these men. They gained no power, no prestige, no wealth, no control by dedicating their lives to the gospel message. They truly believed, to the point of death, that a man named Jesus lived, taught, died, and was raised again. They didn’t go out conquering with armies. They gave their lives so others may find life. They lived knowing that God would work everything out for the good of those who love him; because they were called according to his purpose, they would be raised according to his son. 


That is the kind of passion and dedication I want to have for Jesus. I am asking myself “if Jesus sent me to speak his name, would I go? Would I be willing to die to make sure that others could find life?” I want my answer to be yes. 


How about you? How would you answer that question? Jesus is turning to you and saying “Follow me!

-Jacob Ballard

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Samuel 11-12 and John 21

Will you choose the Good?

Luke 10

Today, the scene is set in Martha and Mary’s home. Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem, and this story is propelling his journey to the cross. Mary and Martha, sisters, are arguing, as sisters do. Martha has invited Jesus and his crew of AT LEAST twelve hungry men (possibly more if some of the seventy or seventy-two disciples have come along) over for dinner. She’s got a lot of social pressure placed on her, because to have people in her home and NOT feed them, and feed them well, would look bad on her whole family. It would be shameful. 

And Mary is just sitting at his feet. 

Martha, rushing, busy, sweating, harried.

Mary, content, lounging, comfortable, relaxed. 

I feel for Martha. “LORD, don’t you care that my sister isn’t working as hard as I am” she says in frustration, with slightly gritted teeth. “She isn’t serving you the way that I am, isn’t trying to be as good for you as I am! TELL HER TO GET UP AND HELP ME!” Of course she is troubled, worried, bothered, anxious. 

We are all Martha. We are all so worried. So anxious and bothered. So troubled. 

But Jesus just calls out to her, to us. “Martha, Martha…” Can you hear the compassion when he says her name? When he says your name? You are so busy, so laden down with cares and concerns, with worries, about how you will succeed, how you will make sure everyone is taken care of, how you will serve. But Jesus isn’t worried about all that. He calls out to you and says something beautiful. 

There is only one thing necessary. It’s the good thing that Mary chose, to sit at his feet, listen to him, rest in him, love him. 

Will you choose the good?

Is that your one thing? Do you want to serve, to prove how strong, and powerful, and mighty, and good, and honorable you are? Or are you willing to sit at the feet of Jesus, to learn from him, grow from him, but most of all love and rest in him? To be sure, there is a time to serve. Jesus is in the room teaching how to live. But, will you listen to his words? We can get so busy “serving him” we don’t actually hear what he says. There are those casting out demons and performing miracles who don’t know the Lord, and whom the Lord doesn’t know (see Matthew 7).

The one that is necessary, listening to the words of Jesus and resting in him, give our service purpose and grounding. 

Will you choose the good?

Will you choose to rest in the one whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light, who will give your soul rest?

Will you choose the good?

Jesus, primarily, calls us to himself. There will be a time for service, but the first and foremost command is to be with him, in peace and rest. Are you listening to that call? For some of us, the command to “come and die” is terrifying. But for some of us, “come and rest” is worse. We have to admit that we are not superheroes, no matter what we tell ourselves. We might just be people, like everyone else.

Will you choose the good?

Jesus gives us rest. This is the upside down kingdom we receive when we have a relationship with Christ. We take up his work so we may rest. We serve with him so we may reign with him. We take in his death so that we may live.

Will you choose the good?

-Jacob Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway – Deuteronomy 3-4 and Luke 10