Most Christians are familiar with the scene in Luke 10:38-42 in which two sisters welcome Jesus into their home. Ever the hostess, Martha is busy cooking and cleaning for Jesus and His followers. She is working for her Master. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, chooses to spend her time sitting at Jesus’ feet. She is worshipping her Master. Most people read this as a story about priorities, and it is. But the events that happen next are often overlooked. It is there that we learn an even deeper lesson about God’s chastening and uncover which sister is really the better role model for believers today.
The Original Lesson
In that first scene in Luke 10, Martha is upset. She is working hard to accomplish the earthly tasks set before her. For years, I could relate a lot more to Martha than to Mary here. After all, day to day things have to be done; there is no getting around them. When more people help, it lessens the burden on the rest. But then as my own relationship with Jesus was strengthened, I realized that Mary was the smart one after all.
She had Jesus right there in her very own house. What other thing could possibly be more important than sitting at His feet and soaking up everything she possibly could? So, when Martha complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping her, Jesus chides her for her stress and lets her know that Mary is actually the one who is doing the right thing. She has “chosen the better part,” and He will not take that away from her.
The Next Scene
Fast forward to the next scene in John 11. Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus has died. As friends of the Messiah, they had sent for Him when their brother was ill, hoping that He could come to heal him. But Jesus had purposefully stayed away an extra two days in order to show the great miracle of resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. When He gets to their town of Bethany, Mary and Martha have a house full of people who were there to comfort them. It is the next verse that speaks volumes about the kind of servants the two sisters really were and gives a great lesson for us to learn.
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.”
The Sisters’ Reactions
God corrects His children. That’s how we know that we are His and He loves us. When Jesus chided Martha in that first scene, she probably felt embarrassed and remorseful. (I know that feeling all too well, don’t you?) After all, she was doing her best to serve her Master. She had missed the mark, and Jesus corrected her. The Bible doesn’t say what happened next, but I imagine her taking off her apron at that very moment and using it to dab a tear trickling out of one eye as she sat down on His other side. He had chastened her, and she had to repent. But, after her brother died, and she heard Jesus was coming to town, she ran to meet Him.
Mary, on the other hand, “sat still in the house.” When she heard Jesus was coming to town after her brother was already dead, she didn’t make a move to greet Him. Was she upset? Was she wondering how Jesus could have possibly let her down after she had been so devoted to Him? She had sat for hours listening, and she had even been the one who anointed His feet with ointment and wiped her tears with her hair. She was a great and devoted follower who prioritized time with Him over all other things, but when something happened in her life that she didn’t understand, she refused to run to Him. Maybe she even took offense.
It’s The End That Matters
In the Bible, it is never the beginning of thing that matters; it is always the end. Someone who starts as a great servant can fall away. Someone who gets it wrong but repents at God’s chastening can be restored. Now, despite her momentary hurt, Mary still belonged to Jesus. She came when Martha told her that He was calling for her. And, I’m sure when realized that Jesus was there to resurrect her brother, she probably repented of her earlier actions and apologized for doubting Him. I have been there too.
In fact, I don’t know about you, but I feel like at different times in my life, I have been both sisters at all points in this story. There are times when I’m the devoted one, forsaking everything just to sit at His feet. And there are times when I’m too busy serving Him to spend time with Him. Sometimes, I’m the one who runs to Him. And there have been times, to my shame, that I’m the one who has to repent for wondering how He could “let me down” in a time of need.
In John 11:5, the Bible says that Jesus loved both of the sisters, but it mentions Martha by name. She listened to His correction and ran to Him in love. As Christians, we will all endure God’s chastening. It is in those times that, like Martha, we must repent and run to Him with our whole hearts, never taking offense when we don’t understand His ways. After all, He has our best interest at heart.
There was a time not so long ago that doctors made house calls. Sick people never had to leave the comfort of their own bedrooms. Instead, medical professionals would travel the distance to treat patients and write prescriptions. Not many doctors make house calls today, but there is one who still does. Jesus has been called the Great Physician because of the many people he healed during His earthly ministry. He still heals today, not just illness and injuries but also the sickness that is sin. This is the story of how God came for me and healed me. He was the cure for my depression and anxiety.
Lost and Hurting
When God found me, I was a mess. Newly divorced from my husband of over 17 years, I was depressed and anxious. I had been rejected. A lot. For the last seven of those years, my ex-husband had refused to say “I love you.” No matter how many times I said it to him, he just wouldn’t say those words. In fact, he made it quite clear that he didn’t. For the last few years, he had been making frequent trips to the Philippines for business. It was there that he had plenty of time to think of all the ways that I wasn’t the perfect woman for him. He did, in fact, find her a few years later in the form of a Filapena about 16 years his junior.
After the separation, I met my next husband very quickly. I was starved for affection, and my new man was loving and attentive. Despite the fact that I had always believed very sincerely in Jesus, praying and going to church, I had not given my entire life to Him yet. We started living together pretty quickly, even with my teenaged son still at home. The two didn’t always get along, and my son was dealing with his own issues. He got into drugs and made some stupid choices that hurt the whole family. My daughter had chosen to live with her father, and that hurt me deeply as well.
Heavy Medication Was My Solution
At that time, I was taking some pretty heavy medication for anxiety and depression. The doses started small when I was sad and lonely in my first marriage. But, over time, my system would get used to the drugs. Then it would take more and more to give me that “normal” feeling that everything wasn’t out of control. By the time I was set to be married again, I was up to 300 milligrams of Effexor XR a day. Two “red pills” at night kept me on an even keel during the days so I could function. If I forgot just one dose, however, I would jerk in the night and wake up groggy and disoriented. It was at that time that Jesus came for me.
But God Had Another Plan
First, God woke me up to the times that we are living in. He pulled off the veil so that I could see the truth behind government and Hollywood agendas bent on preparing the world for the coming one-world leader. He led me to prophecy sites and showed me that God doesn’t just listen, but He speaks to those who will hear. And then He called me into a deeper relationship with Him. I surrendered my life and started reading the Bible every day. He gave me His Holy Spirit, but that was just the beginning. He had to sweep my house.
I needed a lot of deliverance. While I was in the world, my sins gave Satan permission to bind and oppress me. I had opened doors that demons had felt free to waltz through. They had created strongholds in my life I didn’t even realize were there. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Bible speaks about warfare against those strongholds. It’s an active thing. Matthew 18:18 is all about binding and loosing. Again, it’s something we must do. The power to do it is in the name of Jesus Christ, but we must speak the words that rescind our permissions and close and lock the doors that Satan uses to gain access to our lives.
Steps to Freedom
I started by watching several Derek Prince deliverance videos, praying the prayers with him at the end. In Jesus’ name, I cast out any and all spirits that had attached to me. I took notes on the video for deliverance from generational curses, and then sat in my prayer closet one night and methodically went through every sin I could think of from both sides of my family that might be causing problems.
For over an hour, I prayed for the breaking of curses over myself and my children and rebuked, bound, and cast out all spirits of sexual sin, witchcraft, divination, addiction, depression, anxiety, pride, and more. I prayed prayers specifically to break soul ties to sever spiritual connections I had made through fornication. I learned to put on the full armor of God, and I was nightly in the Word of God, washing my soul with the pure water of Truth.
Free at Last
It was then that I got the idea to stop taking medicine. I asked the doctor for a lower dose, weaning slowly so as not to throw off my system. In about two months, I was down to just a quarter of my original dose every other day. And then I was free. I wasn’t taking any medicine for anxiety or depression, but I felt better than I ever had. I felt “normal” almost all the time. My relationship with Jesus was growing, and He was the one who filled my empty spaces. If I became sad or anxious, He calmed my fears with the promises He made in His Word to be with me and fight for me. He brought me peace and joy as I saw Him actively working in my life, changing me to be more like Him.
There are a lot of reasons that people take medication for depression and anxiety, and I’m not saying that there is never a medical necessity for it. What I am saying, though, is that for me – and maybe others out there – the answer is not in a bottle. The answer is about allowing Jesus to come to you for treatment. He can heal your broken heart and clean and mend your fragmented soul. He was my cure for depression. And to this day, He is my only medicine.
If you were a child before the 1990’s or 2000’s, you probably remember merry-go-rounds. They were fast, and they were fun. They were also, apparently, lawsuit magnets for the many injuries sustained when centrifugal force met gravity. There are very few merry-go-rounds left in modern parks, but as I was pondering the latest warning from God’s watchmen one day, it occurred to me how a merry-go-round is an excellent analogy for the judgement of God.
Merry-Go-Rounds Pick Up Speed
The first thing I thought of is the fact that merry-go-rounds start slowly but pick up speed. I remember taking turns doing the running and the rush of adrenaline as I pushed as hard as I could and then hopped on at the last second. If you could get an adult to do the pushing, that was all the better. That last arm swoop after the run was such a rush as the spin got exponentially faster.
The judgement of God also starts slowly as He gives the opportunity for people to repent. When we don’t, the natural consequence of living outside of God’s way of doing things is trouble. God is a God of justice and mercy. His judgement rolls both into one. He punishes nations so that distressed people will turn to Him for help. Historically, God has punished nations for sin using famine (lack of food), pestilence (illness), wild beasts (demonic entities), and the sword (war).
Think about how much more in-your-face evil has become in just the past few years. We are also hearing about old-time diseases like measles and tuberculosis making a comeback. Crop losses in the heartland this past summer have left empty shelves, and “rumors of war” are a daily occurrence. I don’t think it’s our imagination that the judgement of God is building up into one big “push” that will leave America spinning.
Scaredy Cats Sat in the Center
Second, everybody knows that different parts of the merry go round make for a very different riding experience. Little ones and scaredy cats always sat in the center. There was still a little bit of a whirl, but the ride was pretty safe if you held on tightly. Older kids, mavericks, and thrill seekers sat on the edge – or even on top. There, the spin was significantly faster, and the pull was intense. Even holding on didn’t necessarily guarantee that you would stay on when things got going fast. There was a risk involved. It was dangerous.
When the judgement of God hits a nation, where we are in Him will give us a very different judgement experience. Those who fear God stay close to Him. We will still see the turmoil, but the ride will be a lot safer with His protection. Those who choose to stay far from God will feel the full force of the world’s spin. The world has a powerful pull on a regular day. When times are tough, people might choose to do things they would never do in ordinary circumstances if they haven’t already made the decision to do things God’s way. Even holding on, there may be some who fall (away).
How Can We Position Ourselves?
Make no mistake, the judgement of God has already started in America and is picking up intensity. Now is the time to get closer to God. Now, before the last big swoop when things spin faster and start to seem out of control. Make time every day to read the Bible and spend time in His presence. Search yourself for areas of your life that you have held back from Him, and give Him your all. Practice leaning on Him and listening for His voice to guide you in every decision you make now so that when trouble comes, you will be protected in His shelter.
The parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price are back to back in the book of Matthew. Both stories are prefaced with “The kingdom of heaven is like,” and both stories seem to tell the same tale. Someone finds something of great value and gives up everything to possess it. Like many people, I have always interpreted both of them to mean the same thing: when people find Jesus, they will give up everything worldly to follow Him. But recently I came across another interpretation for the pearl story that is also worth examining.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
Unlike the parable of the treasure hidden in a field, in which a man just happens upon some treasure, in the parable of the pearl of great price, a merchant is actively searching for something very specific. He is an expert in pearls and knows exactly what he is looking for. When he finds the most precious one, he must have it. He goes away and sells everything he has to buy that one pearl.
In the typical interpretation, the pearl is salvation in Jesus Christ, the same as the treasure. But why a pearl and not a ruby or a diamond? And why repeat the same exact idea twice in a row? What if, instead of the pearl being Jesus Christ, Jesus is the merchant?
Jesus is the Merchant
Jesus is the one who does the seeking. In Luke 19:10, it says, “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He is the expert. He knows what He is doing. In fact, people aren’t even able to accept Him without God’s intervention, much less seek Him for themselves. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Jesus actively pursues us. He chooses us. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
He seeks us, He chooses us, and He buys us with the greatest possible payment: His own life. We are precious to Him, bought with a price. We are His beloved bride. That makes the pearl in this parable the church. Now, here’s where it gets interesting.
The Church is the Pearl
As most people know, pearls are the only jewels that come from a living organism. They come from oysters. A pearl is made when something foreign, called an irritant, gets into the oyster’s shell and injures the soft tissue there. Instead of ejecting the particle, the oyster begins to coat it with something called “nacre,” a shiny, iridescent substance that we know of as pearl. Layer upon layer is secreted onto the nucleus, that original piece of debris, until the beautiful pearl is fully formed.
Think about it. The center of the pearl is some sort of debris, like dust or dirt. When God created Adam, He formed him out of the dust of the earth. The dirt hurts the oyster, much like original sin hurt God. It damages its flesh, like the marring of the skin of Jesus Christ at His crucifixion. Instead of ejecting the debris, thrusting it out and away from itself, the oyster’s solution was to cover over the painful object with its own substance. Layer upon layer of pearl covers over the dirt until that irritant is slowly transformed into something beautiful and valuable.
We are the dirt: the foolish, weak, and base. After we are saved, the process of sanctification begins. Over time, reading the Word of God and applying it to ourselves, learning to hear God’s voice and obey, and spending time in the presence of God, we start to mature in Christ. He transforms us. We start to be less and less like our dirt-y self and more and more like our priceless Savior.
Ephesians 25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Jesus spoke in parables so that those who would seek to know the truth would be able to discern it, while those who were indifferent would not understand. Some, He explained to His disciples. Some, like the pearl of great price, He left for us to discern for ourselves. When we read with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is like a treasure map, leading us to precious nuggets of wisdom from above. And that, like the pearl, is priceless.
Eye witness accounts are a powerful thing, especially today when fake news rules the day. It’s one thing to read an article or even see a video. It’s another thing completely when people you know and respect say something happened to them. For Christians, there are two types of testimonies. Both can go a long way toward evangelizing the lost as well as giving hope and comfort to fellow believers.
Testimonies of How Jesus Saved Us
Some testimonies are dramatic. In the Bible, the demoniac of Gadara went from a raving lunatic who cut himself and lived naked among the tombs to a man who was in his right mind, devoted to Jesus, and bent on telling his story to everyone. Jesus changed him and gave him a second chance at life.
My story and many others have the same basic components. I was lost, hurting (and hurting myself), and hopeless until I met Jesus. He let me know that I’m not alone, changed me, and gave me a second chance to live for Him. My testimony is about going from lukewarm to red hot after truly giving my life to God and being born again (see my home page). I used to live for myself, keeping Jesus in His Sunday “box.” But I was changed, and now He is my everything. I have a friend who used to be an alcoholic, one who was a drug addict, and one who was a prostitute. Jesus didn’t leave us the way we were. He came for us and changed us, and now we can give our testimonies to those who are lukewarm, alcoholic, drug addicted, or in sexual sin.
Now think about your own story. Where were you before Jesus came for you? Can you find people like you were to engage for the cause of Christ? Jesus told the Demoniac of Gadara to tell others about what Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:39 says, “’Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.’ And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Who could you encourage or empower with your testimony today?
The Testimonies of How He Continues to Work in Our Lives
After Jesus was resurrected, the Holy Spirit was given to all who believe on His name. Then as now, His sheep hear His voice, and He knows them and they follow Him. He manifests Himself to believers by leading them to truth and giving comfort and guidance. He’s not a far off God. He speaks to those who will listen. These interactions with God can be turned into testimonies.
A Testimony of Love and Comfort
One time, I was coming out of the grocery store, and I saw some birds in a puddle. The scripture from Matthew 10:29-31 popped into my mind, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
When I got into my truck after putting my groceries in the back, a new song was just starting on the radio. It was “Sparrows” by Jason Gray. The chorus goes, “You may feel alone, but you’re not on your own. If He can hold the world, He can hold this moment. Not a field or flower escapes His notice. Even the sparrow knows He holds tomorrow.” I thought that was a pretty neat little “God wink,” and I thanked Him for speaking to me – but it wasn’t for me.
As soon as I got home, I checked into Facebook, and a sister in Christ was posting about how alone she felt. About how she thought no one cared and maybe even God had forgotten her. I was able to immediately relay the story and verse to her to let her know that God is very much involved in our lives. She may not have had a puddle handy, but my experiences, conveyed to her, gave her hope.
Every one of us has stories of times God has helped us or spoken to us in a way that gave us encouragement. Think about the times that Jesus has spoken to you and look for opportunities to inspire others with your stories. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”
Your Testimony Is Powerful
Our testimonies of conversion as well as all the times Jesus has shown up and shown out in our lives can be a powerful tool for evangelism. They can even be used to uplift and strengthen the brethren as we tell of the many times God has helped us in our walk with Him. Your testimonies, your eye witness accounts, about a supernatural God who is who He says He is can make a difference in people’s lives. Start looking for ways to give your testimony today.
God’s timing is perfect. Ours is not. It’s one thing to know it and believe it. It’s another thing to experience a situation in which we want something so very badly, and it’s not yet God’s time for it. This morning over breakfast, I think my dog taught me a lesson about God’s timing that I will take to heart from now on.
Bagels and cream cheese. Yum. I love them. My dog Angel loves them. This morning, I was sitting in bed eating my bagel. (I’m a teacher on summer break, so I can do stuff like that.) My dog was sitting with her little snout on my bed. Her eyes looking up so very longingly at my plate. The crispety, crunchety sound of bagel munching was in the air. Angel wanted a bite of my bagel. She licked her chops with a little sigh.
I took a sip of my coffee, surveying the bagel landscape. The bite at the end would be just perfect for her. It wouldn’t be too much to give her a tummy ache, and my own stomach would be satisfied by that point, too. I made my decision to give her the very last bite of my bagel. I continued eating, my plan firmly established. And then she left.
In that moment, I saw myself in the many times I have come before God asking Him for the latest thing I WANTED. I have pleaded with God over things in my life, looking up at Him with plaintive eyes and practically licking my chops. But how many times have I gotten tired of God’s timing and wandered away right before He gave me the thing I was asking for? Of course, I have no way of knowing, but it sure made me think.
The next time I come before God, asking Him for something in my life, I’m going to remember this breakfast. I’m going to stay at the altar until the situation resolves itself and the door is either swung open wide or slammed tightly shut. I won’t give up while God still has the bagel in His hand.
There are two kinds of pleasure: temporal happiness and eternal joy. For the lost, this world is all they have. They spend their lives in pursuit of the things that make them feel happy and contented in this life. For the children of God, we have those same opportunities, but we also have something more: eternal joy. It’s a spiritual pleasure that only comes from interacting with God. Taking time to think about where and how you find enjoyment can reveal a lot about your spiritual condition. Maybe it’s time to stop chasing happiness and choose joy.
Earthly happiness comes in many forms and, in moderation, is encouraged by God. Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.” There are many ways that both the lost and the saved can find pleasure in our world. The only time it becomes dangerous for the child of God is when seeking this pleasure comes before, or more often than, seeking the joy that only God can bring.
Family Can Make Us Happy
Think about the happiness you feel with your family. Meeting your spouse, getting married, and building a life brings happiness. Children bring a whole new level of delight. Consider the birth of a new baby, your child’s first smiles and steps. Or what about all those days of summer picnics, first days of school, fun shopping trips and vacations, and the deep feeling of pride at their accomplishments? Graduations, first days at college, and grandchildren all bring a great sense of happiness. God has given us our families. Though great love can cause great pain, family can be a source of much happiness in this life.
Work Can Make Us Happy
Then there’s the happiness you feel about your work. From the smallest bit of contentment you feel about a freshly mopped kitchen floor to the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from a promotion or other career win, work can make you happy. God has given us all gifts that we can use for Him. Some of these involve skills we can take into the workplace. When we are good at what we do, it feels good. When we can earn enough to support our families and have enough left over for a decent car, a nice house, a good phone, and dinners out, it’s a good thing. God gives us the skills and opportunities. It is up to us to be good stewards with the resources He puts into our hands.
Physical and Mental Gratification
Happiness in mental and physical gratification is the one that is hardest for some to keep in restraint. Delicious food, vacations, rest, intimacy, and spending time with pets and friends can make us happy. Reading a great book, time on the internet, playing video games, or watching sports or appropriate movies can be fun. All of these can all be proper for the child of God when not taken to extremes.
But seeking for temporal happiness shouldn’t be our main goal. Family is crucial, but it can’t be the thing we think about most in this world. Striving after promotions and income can be important in God’s will for our lives. When done for their own sake, though, they can skew our priorities about the way we spend our time and attentions. Physical and mental gratification can bring us a happiness that is still good and right in the sight of God. They only become a problem when they are out of balance. If they are a substitute for God’s comfort or an alternative to spending time with God, that’s a problem.
Beyond the things of this world that make us happy, there is something more: the joy that only God can bring. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Hearing God, interacting with Him, and living our lives in tune with the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us is what separates those who are alive from those who are dead. The joy we receive from communion with our Creator is something only children of God can know, but we have to take the time to choose joy.
Reading the Bible Can Bring Us Joy
I have a friend who says, “People who are alive need to eat. If you aren’t hungry for the Word of God, maybe you aren’t spiritually alive at all. Maybe you are still dead in your sins.” That’s a pretty strong statement, but it makes sense when you think about it. Some of the greatest feelings of joy I have experienced have come when I was reading the Bible and God opened up something to me that I had never seen before. He can also use it to speak into the situations in our lives. He can teach us lessons in a way that we KNOW we are hearing from God. Setting an appointed time each day to spend time with God is His word is essential to building a relationship with Him. As any child will tell you, love is spelled T-I-M-E. We have to make time to choose joy.
Worshiping in His Presence Can Bring Us Joy
Whether you go to a brick and mortar church or worship by yourself at home, worship can bring some of the deepest joy there is. Wrapped in that feeling that He is there, we sing, praise, pray, and raise our hands. We relish in the knowledge that He is our king forever. One day, we will be with Him to worship Him in person. This life is not all there is. There is more, and it is ours because we are loved by God not just now but forever more. Jude 24 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” He will keep us from stumbling if we will but seek Him. Like the hymn says, we can have that “joy unspeakable and full of glory” both now and forever more. We can choose joy.
Living in Constant Connection Can Bring Us Joy
Bible reading and worship are specific things done at set times. But one of the greatest joys in life comes from living in constant focus on and contact with God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Waking up with God, meditating about the things of God, seeking His will for our lives, and watching and listening for His leading is a way of life for the child of God. When we are in tune to Jesus, we can see those little “God winks” that bring us joy. Maybe the radio plays the song that expresses our prayers or comforts us with an answer to those prayers. Maybe another Christian confirms an idea that we have been hearing from God. There are so many opportunities to choose joy throughout our day when we spend our time thinking about Him and being grateful for His sacrifice, His provision, and His promises.
We Can Have Joy in Distress
Some people seek food and drink or mindless entertainment to dull the pain that so often comes into our lives. They seek a substitute in a sensation or feeling of temporal happiness. But seeking God in times of pain can bring true joy. When I’m distressed, the Holy Spirit will often bring a Bible verse to my mind that puts the whole situation into focus. When I’m upset or sad, so often, the page I “just happen to be on” in the Bible will remind me that He is there with me and I will never be alone. Or even times that the devil is beating me up or lying to me, the Holy Spirit will simply alert me to his attack so I can fight back with the Word of God. Truly, some of the deepest times of gut-level joy have come out of my darkest days. The reality of a God who cares and takes the time to speak to me is far greater than any amount of sadness this world can bring.
Everyone, whether lost without Jesus or saved by His blood, wants good things that bring pleasure in this life. Pursuing those things through people and things is only natural. But, for the child of God, true joy can only be found in communion with God Himself. As His children, bought and paid for and no longer our own, we must examine ourselves regularly. Do our lives show a balance in the pleasure we seek from this world and the next? Are we substituting happiness for joy? Or, are we seeking after the joy that only a relationship with the one true God can bring. Maybe it’s time to choose joy.
Focus during a crisis is imperative. If you have done any flying, you know that before the airplane even takes off, flight attendants spend several minutes discussing safety protocols. That way, in the event of a real emergency, passengers will know what to do. Recently while on a flight, it occurred to me that the instructions for oxygen mask usage held a very good lesson about staying connected to God. They also show us how to handle ourselves when real-life turbulence hits.
Keep Looking Up To the Source
As you probably know, oxygen masks drop down from overhead compartments when cabin pressure drops. Keeping our eyes focused on where the oxygen comes from would be helpful in the event of a crisis. As children of God, we experience trouble on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes it is just little things that seem to add up to big things as Satan seeks to wear out the saints. That’s why we should keep our eyes focused on Jesus instead of the situation around us. Nothing we face is a surprise to Him. Nothing is too hard or too much. We should always keep looking up.
Start the Flow of Oxygen
Oxygen masks are attached by a tube to the air flow system in overhead compartments. You must give a tug on the cord to start the flow of oxygen. As our source for life, we must keep connected to God through constant prayer. He is the source of our strength and our peace. A strong prayer life is not just speaking to God but listening to Him by prayerfully reading the Bible. The tugging of our fervent, effectual prayers will avail much.
Put on Your Own Mask First
If oxygen masks come down, that means that cabin pressure is off. People can lose consciousness very quickly without the proper amount of air. If you are traveling with someone who needs help with a mask (like a child or the elderly), you are instructed to put on your own mask first so you don’t pass out before you can help those around you. Children of God must have the life-giving connection to God before we can try to help others. Otherwise, we’re just trying to share limited, frazzled resources, and that’s the quickest way to burn out. Think about the acronym “HALT.” If you are hungry, angry/upset, lonely, or tired, you are less likely to be able to react to situations in a godly manner. That’s why it is imperative for us to stop (or halt), take care of ourselves, and reconnect to God. He can refresh our peace. He can give us the strength to continue on and to help others.
Affix the Mask and Tighten the Tabs
For the mask to work, you have to put the mask’s cup over both your mouth and nose. If you leave your nose out of the mask, you won’t be getting enough oxygen because the nose is actually the main pathway to the lungs. We have to be “all in” for God. He must cover us completely as our only source for life-giving breath. We can’t withhold certain parts of our lives as “our own.” We have to surrender everything, or we will be leaving parts of ourselves vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.
Then Assist Other Passengers
After we have our own mask on, then we help others. This is a very important lesson that some Christians today seem to have forgotten. When we get wrapped up in our own troubles and drama, we forget that there are other people out there who need our help. By focusing our eyes on Christ and staying connected to God in prayer, we can take that peace and strength He gives and turn our focus outward instead of inward. We can look around us to find those who need our help.
The Bag May Not Inflate
The last thing the flight attendance mentions is the fact that the oxygen bag may not inflate. Even if it looks like there is no air in the bags, oxygen is still flowing through. This is the same thing with our faith. Just because we can’t physically SEE God working in our lives, doesn’t mean He isn’t there. We know by faith that He is. We have to trust that by staying connected to God through prayer, He will give us the peace that He promised us.
When travel gets bumpy and pressure is intense, it is imperative that we keep focused on and connected to our source for life. We must stay in constant contact and allow Him to refresh us so that we can help others and have faith even when we don’t see or understand what He is doing at the moment. It is in this way that we can make it safely to our heavenly destination.
Evangelizing the lost can be discouraging. The sheer number of people who are walking around without Jesus is immense. It reminds me of the parable of the starfish in which thousands of starfish wash up onto the shore after a storm and lay dying in the hot sun. But saving the lost isn’t about picking them up one by one and hurling them into the Water. It’s about being an ambassador and witness for Christ. It’s about planting seeds that God can water and praying, hard, for the harvest. And no matter how frustrating it can be when it feels like our efforts are in vain, the Bible gives us three very good reasons why we can never stop trying to get the starfish into the water. We can never stop trying to save the lost.
We Have to Keep Trying Because We Love Them
For some starfish, their lives on the beach are hard. Some of them are genuinely hurting, struggling, and gasping for air to breathe. They don’t understand their condition. They don’t know that there is a better Way. The connection between their pain and the lack of Living Water escapes them. Here is where we must be a witness. We must live our lives by constantly immersing ourselves in Christ. We must continuously refresh ourselves in the Word of God. Our lights will then shine brightly, and when they ask us, we will be prepared to give the reason why we have hope.
But what do you do when many of the starfish don’t want to go into the water? Their little suckers are attached to the sand with an iron grip. They don’t understand that they will die without the breath of life in just a short time. They are happy sunning on the shore in their sin. The good news of Jesus is little more than an annoying memo to them. But even if they don’t understand their condition, we do. Love says we must pray for them to have eyes to see. We must plant seeds that Jesus can water in His time to save the lost.
We Have to Keep Trying Because We Love God
For starfish, the ocean gives them the oxygen they need. Time spent outside of the water means a countdown to death, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The sea is vast and teeming with life. There is enough room and provision for all starfish to live. God gives breath to all creatures, and Jesus died so that all may live eternally. When we tell other people about what Jesus has done for us, it honors God. When we give witness about the things God is doing in our lives, we give Him glory. Not every person we talk to about Christ will accept Him. In fact, for some, our love for Jesus will be the very thing that makes them hate us. We can’t give up, though. Our motivation should be to please and honor God, and that must sustain us.
We Have to Keep Trying Because It Is a Command
The storm in the parable explains why the starfish were washed to shore, but what explains the little boy’s desire to restore life? A different child might have been more interested in poking the little creatures with sticks or pulling off their legs. Kids learn what they are taught at home. This boy’s family taught him that life is valuable. Maybe his father even suggested that he go down to the beach to see what he could do to help. As for Christians, we are commanded by God, our Father, in Mark 16:15 to do our part to save the lost. “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” It’s not an option. It’s not just for a few. The commands in the Bible are for everyone just as much as the promises are. We must be obedient to God even when we are busy or tired, and even when it takes us outside our comfort zone.
That’s Why We Can Never Give Up
Jesus Christ has the Water that gives life. He offers hope and comfort for today and eternal life for tomorrow. As His children, we know Him and how amazing it is to be a part of His kingdom. It’s not for us to keep our great God, Comforter, and Friend a secret. We can’t sit around in lawn chairs building sandcastles while people are hurting and dying all around us. We must be His hands and feet to bring others to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Until that day, and as much as is within us, we must love people, love God, and be obedient to His call to “go.” We must never give up on the starfish. We must continue to try to save the lost.
There probably aren’t too many American adults who have never played the game Monopoly. In fact, people from all over the world have experienced hours of fun (and in some cases friction) rolling dice, buying properties, and generally trying to bankrupt their closest friends and family members. But if you have ever stepped out of your immediate family group and tried to play with others, you probably heard someone say, “We don’t play that way.” While the official rules remain the same all over the world, “house rules” can change drastically depending on who is playing. In Christianity today, we see that many churches have added “house rules” that appear nowhere in the official playbook of the Bible. Christian deception has become pervasive, and people are adding to and taking away so much that they really aren’t even still playing the same game.
House Rules Can Make the Game Easier
Monopoly has lots of rules about loaning money. Properties can be mortgaged to pay debt, but the money must be paid back with 10% interest. Houses may be sold for quick cash, but they go back to the bank for half the price. And, no loans may be made to other players outside the banking system. I don’t know about you, but we never played by any of those rules at all. We bought and sold property and loaned money to each other, but the bank never saw a penny above what it loaned to us. Houses were sold back to the bank at full value.
Some people in the church world today are making Christianity easier by ignoring what the Bible says. Greasy Grace says that sin is inevitable, but that’s okay because the more you sin, the more grace God has for you. Once Saved Always Saved says that if you said the “Jesus prayer” one time in your life, you are saved forever no matter what your conduct is or how much or little fruit you produce. The idea of the “Carnal Christian” says that people can live like the world six days per week but go to church on Sunday and they are still on the narrow path to heaven. This is Christian deception. Christianity is not supposed to be easy, and all of these bypass God’s mandate for holiness to the Lord. We must take up our crosses and follow after Him. We must seek Him and submit to His will for our lives.
House Rules Can Make the Game Harder
But while some people make up rules that give more money and chances, others make up rules to make the game harder. Some people play that you can’t buy property your whole first way around the board. This is in direct opposition to the rules that actually state that no property, once landed upon, will remain unsold. If the person who landed on a property doesn’t have the money to buy it, there must be an immediate auction to sell it to the highest bidder. For those who allow the property to remain unsold, some make up additional punitive rules past that. They actually bar players from future purchases if they can’t pay the first time.
In the church world today, the Hebrew Roots movement has a large and growing following. In it, people are going back to the Old Testament and obligating themselves to follow as many of the 613 rules found there as they possibly can. All those old rules were supposed to do was to show us how impossible it is to be perfect by the hand of man. We need God to make us perfect, so Jesus’ sacrifice for us took away our sins in a way that the blood of bulls and goats could never do. Our righteousness now depends on our relationship to Him. Going back to the Old Testament laws takes things back out of God’s hands and puts it into the hands of man to be right with God. It is also in complete opposition to most of the book of Galatians in which Paul warns us not to go back to that particular yoke of bondage. This is Christian deception. Their success can lead to pride and independence instead of humility and submission. Their failure can lead to hopelessness and takes away the power of Jesus Christ to save them.
House Rules Can Make the Game More Fun
When I was growing up, the first order of business for the banker after passing out the money was to put a crisp $500 bill in the center of the board for “Free Parking.” All fees and taxes went to the center too, and when someone landed on that space – payday! It was like a built in “lottery,” and every time we went around the board, we crossed our fingers that we would land on that space. This is the way we always played, and it was fun. But did you know that the rules actually explicitly say that no money will be paid for Free Parking? It is just supposed to be a place to rest.
Today in the church world, there is a whole group of people who are capitalizing on the very idea that God is holding some sort of lottery system. The Prosperity Gospel or Word of Faith movement says that God always wants His people to be healthy and wealthy. All you have to do is have faith, they say, and all your physical and monetary troubles will be over. God is obligated to give you money and prizes if you will just believe hard enough for them. Name It and Claim It is an offshoot of this. It cuts God out of the equation completely. All you have to do is SPEAK what you want into existence, and it’s done. No praying is even necessary. This is Christian deception and ignores God’s sovereignty. Sometimes it is God’s will for His people to suffer lack or physical illness. It is in this way that we can learn the lessons necessary to fulfill our calling or do His will. He is, however, our resting place, and He will never leave us or forsake us.
House Rules Can Change the Object of the Game
One game of Monopoly can take hours and hours to complete since all players but one must go bankrupt. People who don’t have time for the whole process but want to get in a quick game often change the object of the game. Some people use a timer and count up holdings at the end of the time limit to see who has the most money and property. Some people set a monetary amount, and the first person to hit the goal wins. Changing the object of the game changes the decisions one makes in the game. Instead of investing in properties for the long term, players can instead choose options that raise cash flow.
Kingdom Now Theology, often called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), Joel’s Army, or Seven Mountain Dominionism, has completely changed the object of the game for believers. The object of the game is no longer winning souls for the Kingdom. The object is to take over as many of the seven spheres of societal influence as possible. Those are: religion, family, education, government, media, arts and entertainment, and business. According to them, when Adam and Eve sinned, God lost control of the world to Satan. It is up to a special elite group of Christians, many of whom have supernatural powers, to “take back” the world in order to hand it over to Jesus when He returns. Systems are now the goal instead of souls. This is Christian deception and completely ignores the book of Revelation. In it, we see that Satan will increase his control over all seven of those areas. Believers are not the champions of the story, and they will even be overcome for a time. Jesus is the hero and the star of the show. He will vanquish the devil at His coming.
House Rules Can Change the Attitude of Players
Some people play friendly games. My family always played that when we landed on someone else’s property, we dutifully handed over the rent. The first time I played with a family that went by the actual rules, I thought they were being mean. They did not just immediately hand over the money. Instead, they waited to see if the person who owned the property would notice and ask for the money. This is actually in the rules. It says that if the next person rolls the dice before the landlord notices rent is due, the person who landed there does not have to pay. This changes the responsibility from the person who lands on the property to the property owner him/herself.
Today in Christianity, some churches are so interested in making people happy that they forget that there are rules about where responsibilities actually lie. Churches that affirm and even celebrate homosexual lifestyles just want to please the people. They want to “love” them and support them and affirm them. But, they are disregarding what the Bible says about the matter. They are also ignoring the sinner’s responsibility to turn away from sin once accepting the Gospel message. This is Christian deception. While in the natural, it can feel “mean” to tell someone he/she is not right with God because of behavior, it is actually the most loving thing we can do. Truth will save the person from the consequences of continuing to live in sin.
House Rules Can Change the Pieces of the Game
Playing Monopoly using the Boggle timer would be tough. The sand rushing from one chamber to another would speed up all actions of the game, changing the whole atmosphere. Imagine the possibilities if you added a Twister Spinner or Scrabble tiles. As kids, bored on a summer day before video games and good TV, the possibilities were really endless. The only limits were that of our own imaginations, and we could come up with some wacky versions of the game. Someone wandering by and seeing the pieces might have still thought we were playing Monopoly, but up close, the games bore little resemblance.
Today, some churches are adding pieces of other religions and still calling it Christianity. Grave sucking is necromancy, in which people try to “suck up” the anointing from a dead Christian by lying on his/her grave. Angel cards are just tarot cards, asking demonic entities for advice on love, life, and the future. Both of these are occult practices, but Christians don’t stop there. Lots of churches hold what they call “Christian yoga” sessions. This is using pieces from the Hindu religion with poses that venerate other “gods” and breathing and thought patterns that open people up to demonic connections. This is Christian deception. Slapping on a Christian label and changing mantras to Bible verses doesn’t negate the harmful practice. In all cases, the people are opening themselves up to demons and making themselves inhospitable to the Holy Spirit of God.
Whether in Monopoly or Christianity, some people just play the same way they learned, never bothering to read the rules. Others have read the directions but have made up their minds to follow their own “house rules” anyway. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” People can play Monopoly any way they agree to play, and it is totally fine. For Christians, though, the Bible is our playbook. Adding to or taking away from it is a dangerous move, and it really isn’t a game at all. It is Christian deception, and it’s deadly serious. For Christians, there really is only one way to “play,” and that’s by the Book.