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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus' Conversations With Women: Martha and the Resurrection

Jesus had many theological conversations with women. For the last few days, I have been thinking about his dialogue with Martha in John 11. Martha gets a bad rap sometimes. We first see her in Luke 10, verses 38-42. In this chapter, she is making preparations for a meal, while her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”-Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)

Luke's Gospel tells us she is distracted by much serving. The word distracted makes me think at some point she had been doing what Mary was doing, or perhaps it means that she also should have been sitting with her.

The next time we see her is in John chapter 11 after her brother Lazarus has died. She and Mary send a message to Jesus that Lazarus is sick, but he doesn’t make it there before Lazarus dies. When Jesus is getting ready to enter the village, Martha hears he is coming, and goes out to meet him. This is the dialogue that follows:

So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”-John 11:17-27 (NKJV)

This is an amazing conversation and foundational to our lives as Believers. At the beginning of their dialogue, Martha expresses her pain that Jesus was not there when Lazarus was sick, but she goes on to demonstrate her faith in him.

Based on her words, it seems as though Martha has been transformed. No longer do we see the huffy woman in Luke 10 who is perturbed about all her serving. She is a new Martha. It seems as though she has been doing some sitting at Jesus’ feet as well, and she has become the Martha that she was always meant to be.

What caused the change in her? Maybe the answer is found in the conversation itself. They start out talking about Lazarus, but then switch to talking about who Jesus is!

When we first see her in Luke 10, she has her eyes on herself and all that she has to do. In John 11, she has her eyes on Jesus. He even goes on to teach her more in this moment. He switches her focus from in the future, to right now. Jesus says,

I am the resurrection and the life.

He is the resurrection (in the future) and the life (right now). Right now. In this moment. He is “I am.” The word life in that sentence is the Greek word “zoe.” Strong’s Concordance defines it as meaning “life, both of physical (present) and of spiritual (particularly future) existence.”

And then Martha confesses what ever person who has ever entered or will enter the kingdom has said in their heart and with their mouth,

Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.-John 11:17

She focuses her attention on Jesus now. In the moment. And then she receives a miracle. Jesus raises her brother from death.

Something else interesting to note is this event took place shortly before Passover. In John 12, we get to see Jesus and Martha together in Bethany again. Jesus would soon be entombed just as Lazarus was, and he would also be raised again! To prepare for this, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, and we see Martha serving again. This time there is no protest to Mary being at the feet of Jesus again, just the accomplishment of peaceful service.

As we get ready to celebrate Resurrection Sunday, and always, let us remember to focus our attention on Jesus in the now. In our everyday lives, in each and every situation we face, may the words that He spoke to Martha, go deep down in our hearts,

I Am the Resurrection and the Life.

Many blessings to you as you continue to grow in the knowledge of Him,

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Women in the Early Church: Phoebe and 1 Timothy 3

Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess (servant) of the church at Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord [with love and hospitality], as God’s people ought to receive one another. And that you may help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many, including myself.-Romans 16:1-2 AMP

Phoebe is the first woman listed in Romans 16, but she gets only two verses of this chapter of Romans. We can tell a lot from these verses though.

Her name means “bright" or "radiant." She is a Believer, because Paul refers to her as “our sister.” He also calls her a deaconess, a servant of the Church in Cenchrea. Cenchrea was a port in Corinth.

The word deacon in Romans 16:1 is translated many different ways, depending upon which translation you read. It is translated deacon, deaconess, leader, and servant. They all come from the same Greek word “diakonos.” According to Strong’s Concordance, this word can mean servant, minister, waiter, administrator.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul details the qualifications for a deacon in the Church.  At first glance, it looks like these qualifications are just referring to men. If they were just referring to men, why would Paul refer to Phoebe as a deacon? Upon looking at that passage a little closer, it seems like there may be an admonition to women as well in verse 11.

The women in like manner chaste, not slanderers, but sober, faithful in all things. -1 Timothy 3:11 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Some translators translated the word women in 1 Timothy 3:11 as wives. This has led most people to believe that the verse was referring to the wives of the deacons. If you look in some Bibles, you will notice the word "
their" often in italics before wives, which means the translators added it for clarification. Many translators used the word women, but one translator, Weymouth, chose the word “deaconesses.” It reads like this: 

Deaconesses, in the same way, must be sober-minded women, not slanderers, but in every way temperate and trustworthy.

At the beginning of Romans 16, in verse 1, Paul commends Phoebe to the Church there at Rome. Naturally thinking, I thought that word meant "to send."  But I looked it up in the Greek just to be sure, and it doesn’t mean send. It means “stands with” as in the sense of supporting someone. Wow. That just changed the entire passage for me. Basically Paul was saying, I endorse her, so do whatever she asks you to do, and help her in whatever way she needs help.

In verse 2, he asks the Church to welcome her in a manner worthy of the Lord, and then to help her in whatever she needs help with, because she has been helper of many there, as well as a helper of Paul.  The word helper in the Greek word "prostastis."  Strong's concordance defines that word as " a female guardian, protector, patroness."  Thayer's Greek Lexicon also agrees with Strong's, but also adds in the definition " a woman set over others."

So, we can ascertain by these two verses that Paul endorses her, and that she is coming to the Church in Rome with purpose. He calls her a deaconess, which is a servant, as all people are called to be in the Body of Christ. But, what was she coming to do?

We don’t really know, but because of the tumultuous times in Rome, it was probably necessary for Paul to let them know who exactly she was. It was dangerous for Christians in Rome. Nero was emperor in Rome when this letter was written. He would eventually set fire to Rome, and then blamed the Christians for it. It could be dangerous for her traveling into Rome, and well as the Christians receiving her, who might not possibly know if someone was a Believer or not.

It is often presumed that she carried the epistle to the Romans, to the Church at Rome. The scriptures do not state that she was the carrier, but it would have made sense if she was going there anyway. Again, it was a dangerous time. If she was the carrier, what an awesome responsibility for her. Paul must have trusted her very much. The epistle to the Romans is a very important book of the Bible for Believers today. It was Paul's longest letter.  It is where we learn how salvation comes about in Romans 10. We learn about justification by faith and how we have peace with God in Romans 5. Such an important letter!!

We can learn many things about Phoebe, from just these two short verses in the Bible. She was brave. She was commended by Paul. But most importantly, she loved the Church, and went to great lengths to serve Her wherever she may be.

Many blessings to you as you continue to walk with the Lord in whatever places you serve,


Friday, January 19, 2018

Loving the Real Jesus

I never get tired of hearing about Jesus, about the true Jesus.

I know why people sat there and just listened to Him until they were hungry. I know why women followed Him around and gave Him their money and supported His ministry. I know why the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment poured it out on His feet. I know why people got healed so easily and frequently in His presence.

Because He was just oozing love for them. His presence was one of perfect love and perfect peace.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is after He was raised from death. The disciples had gone back to Galilee, and were fishing. They hadn't caught anything. Jesus is standing on the shore and He yells at them, "Children, do you have any food?" There is something in that one sentence that blesses me so much. It is so endearing that He called them children.

They were in some in-between moments where they didn't really know what was going on, so they went back to that life before Jesus. And Jesus appears and meets them where they are at. They are just fishing. And then Jesus directs them, and they catch a lot of fish, 153 to be exact. It is reminiscent at the beginning of His ministry, how when Jesus used Peter's boat, and He filled the boat up with fish afterward.

And then Peter jumps out of the boat to swim to Jesus. What kind of love would evoke a grown man to jump into the water and swim to Jesus?

He is still the same Jesus. He is still lovingly calling to us. He is still caring for our emotions. He is still caring for our physical needs. And I believe that if we hear enough about and get to know the real Jesus, we would all be just like Peter, willing to cast it all aside and just run into His arms.

My prayer is that we would all grow to know His love to this measure. Blessings to you on your journey,


Friday, January 12, 2018

Simplify: Five Minute Friday

Today I am participating in Five Minute Friday where we freewrite for five minutes flat on the prompt, Simplify.

Simplify.  Ahhhh.  One of my favorite words.  It was actually my word about 7 years ago.  It started a string of words that just seemed to blend all together.  But I believe “simplify” or “simplicity” was the first.

I became very interested in minimalism a few years after that. Minimalism is the art of simplicity.  It is reducing the amount of clutter and making room for the important.  That is a practice I have tried to implement in my own life.

For Believers I believe simplifying is incredibly important. In Mark 4, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talks about the different type of ground seed is sown on.  Later he explains the parable to His disciples.  

The third type of ground is where the cares of this life and things of this world come in and choke the word, causing it to be unfruitful.  What does that mean?  I believe it means that when we are so consumed with worry about anything, or when we are bombarded with an endless amount of things to do, and stuff to care for, the Word can have no place in our lives.  It has no room to grow and produce fruit.

The good news is that this is something we can change, simply by simplifying.  We can simplify our thoughts.  We can simplify our consumption.  We can make room for God’s Word and it will produce in our lives.