True encouragement can’t take place in isolation.” Matt Mashburn
A people person who pulls away from people.
A person who has been hurt, wronged, and wounded by others' actions or words.
A person who would like hide in a cave away from everyone.
What do all these things have in common?
They are all at times me…and maybe even sometimes you too.
No, you would probably never admit it out loud, but if you were looking deep down into your heart, you might see that it’s true. It wasn’t until church one Sunday that I discovered these things about myself. As I feverishly wrote down notes from the sermon (which you can listen to here, on 7/28/13 with the same message title) it struck me that he was talking about me…and to top it off, that “he” was actually my husband.
He and I had not talked about his sermon that day, which is rare since we usually do, so the frankness of his message hit me even harder when the reality of his words started to sink in. As a people person who has been in ministry for over ten years it was funny to me that this actually rang true in this season of my life.
Let’s dig into his sermon a little bit and see what we can uncover together.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)
Chances are you’ve heard this verse before in the context of going to church, which is true and important, but one of the incredible gifts the Bible has to offer is that it is multi-faceted and has many layers to it. When you peel back this verse a few layers you can see He is trying to show us something more.
When God tells us to consider how we can stir up one another to love and good works, it should not be just a passing thought. We are to spend time seriously contemplating how we can help each other to express love and do good. I would say that we should be strategic about helping the people God has put in our lives to love and do good works.
As Christians we need community.
We aren’t supposed to do life on our own, tucked away in our safe little bubble. Our community is our spouse, family, church, neighbors and those in our world. We don’t always get to pick who is a part of our community, but we can start to be strategic and purposeful about how we interact in these relationships.
What if you began to look at your relationships through the lens of sanctification? What does that mean? It is a big scary word, but it has a simple meaning. When we are saved, God begins a process of sanctification in our lives which is basically a process of making us more like Him. That process is not complete until we are withHhim one day in Heaven. So if that is true and our relationships are a vehicle for God to do that, then what does that mean when it comes to our preconceptions about our relationships?
In our marriages; we have gotten so focused on what we need to get out of the relationship, and how our needs are not being met. We may have spent our whole married life focused on getting our own needs fulfilled. But what if God intended our marriage to grow us closer to Him? And not only to grow us closer to Him but to use us to grow our spouse closer to him? Maybe God is trying to show you something that will bring you both closer to Him through a difficulty He has allowed in your lives.
In our friendships; If relationships are the context for sanctification, then how does that shape our friendships? Do we work hard enough at the ones we have? Have we bailed on some we should not have bailed on? Should we raise the bar as we enter into new ones? Should we exit some that are not fulfilling this purpose for either party?
Your relationships are there to draw you closer to God.
So, why is it that we start to pull away and draw inward? Quite simply we get hurt, and let’s face it, it’s not fun. The sting of rejection, the misunderstanding in choice of actions or words of friends can be enough to send us into a quiet little cave all by ourselves. The hard part is this…that we aren’t supposed to run away from it when it starts to get tough, but lean into it and see what it is that God is trying to show us through it.
It’s not always fun nor is it easy, but taking the time to look at these relationships through a new lens will help us redefine our approach to them. So, it’s time to come out of our caves and stick our necks out a bit. God is using these relationships to make us more like Him, and that is far better than anything we could do on our own.
Seeking JOY on the Journey,
A special thank you to my husband, Pastor Matt Mashburn, for sharing his notes and thoughts with me. To listen to the entire sermon, A New Lens For Relationships, click here.
If you have a teen, sex is on your radar. As I mentioned in last month’s article, we live in a sex-saturated culture, and try as we might to fight against it, cultural influences inevitably seep into our churches, our families, and ultimately, our teens’ hearts.
But the issue of teen promiscuity, I believe, goes much deeper than cultural influences, although the cultural tug is strong. It’s also an issue of biology, morality, and emotional health. As with any issue our youth face, we must approach our teen’s purity with honest analytical thinking and deep, authentic communication.
We must prayerfully initiate those tough conversations, always seeking to look past the surface to our kid’s hearts, fears, desires, struggles, and motivations.
Push for communication, even when it feels awkward
I’ll admit, sex is not a topic I like to approach with our daughter. Nor is it one she’s enthusiastic about. But it’s a conversation we must have, because if we don’t, she’s likely to adopt the ideas and beliefs of those around her and those ideas and beliefs may not always be godly, positive, or moral.
Begin by identifying and addressing your own conversation blocks
Linda* was sexually abused as a child, so conversations regarding sex were always a struggle for her. Because of this, she shied away from open and indepth discussions with her teens. Instead, she talked about it in a vague sense, focusing more on a “don’t do it” approach. Unfortunately, this didn’t address the obstacles her teens would face nor why sex out of marriage was harmful. All of her children became sexually active during their teen and young adult years. Three of them developed live-in relationships that ended poorly.
Don’t forget about biology
Many teens raised in church understand and agree with the dangers of premarital sex. Each year in youth groups across the country, girls participate in beautiful purity rituals, fully committed to following through. The problem is, many over-estimate their inner strength and underestimate their hormonal pull. Similarly, many parents focus more on the don’ts than the hows.
I liken sexual desire to food cravings. The more you’re around a plate of cookies, the more you’re going to want them. Sure, you may be able to resist the urge for a while, but in a moment of weakness, you give in. No big deal, right? So you shoved one—or twenty—in your mouth. Maybe you’ll gain a few pounds, or have to run a few extra miles. But with sex, the consequences are greater, and it only takes once. So how do we train our teens to resist this pull? We don’t. Instead, we train them to put up safety railings, discussing often and fully the strong pull biology can have.
Parents, this is something we need to constantly remember as well. Regardless of how smart or mature our teens sound, their brains are still undeveloped. In fact, they are a bit out of whack. Research shows their pleasure centers are heightened while their rational centers are undeveloped. Add to that huge biological changes, peer pressure, and physical and emotional insecurities, it’s a wonder our kids make it through high school at all!
Here are some “protective barriers” we have put in place:
We limit our daughter’s alone time.
Because here’s the deal—considering her current brain development, I expect her to fall pray to temptation (to surf inappropriate sites on the Internet, to engage in risky behavior, to flick to harmful television programs, etc.). The more time she has to be tempted, the greater that temptation will be.
We reduce our daughter’s level of privacy.
If this raises your hackles, hear me out. Our daughter has a cell phone, her own bedroom, a laptop, and a driver’s license. Wow, that’s a lot of freedom! And with freedom, comes temptation. So, in an effort to subdue her natural risk-taking tendencies while raising her rational thinking level, we’ve let her know we can and will read her text, Facebook, and email messages at any time. We will also randomly glance at her Internet history. This isn’t because we don’t trust her intentions. It's because we understand human weakness, and we don't expect her to stand strong against temptation perfectly. By knowing we will likely find out if she ventures into an unsafe area, she is less likely to take that risk.
We ask open-ended, purposeful questions and take the time to truly listen
Our motivation isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about training, and training, in my opinion, must occur at the heart level. Because of this, our goal is always to get to our daughter’s heart. To do this, we encourage her to talk about her views and feelings on the issue, showing her through our words, body language, facial expressions, and actions that no topic or emotion is forbidden.
When you foster a relationship of honest and open communication, a beautiful thing happens. Teens begin to see you as for them, not against them. This turns your parenting goals from a you-against-them into more of a team effort.
We continually communicate a love that never fails
Obviously, we hope our daughter makes wise decisions, but we also know she won’t always. So, we make a point to let her know, no matter what happens, no matter what she does, she can and should always come to us. We will always, always be on her side, and we will walk with her through whatever challenge or consequence she might face. Training our kids to remain pure and openly talking about the challenges of doing so and the consequences of promiscuity won’t insulate them from making mistakes, but the increased tools and support will maximize their chances of success.
Join me next month to discuss sexual harrasment in our schools. It's happening, and it's destructive. But what can we do about it?
*Name changed for privacy purposes
In the familiar story of Mary and Martha we see the tension between intimacy with Jesus versus activity for Jesus lived out in vivid color. The tension between intimacy and activity is as real as it gets in our “captivity to activity” present day culture. Let’s pull up a chair at Mary and Martha’s home and watch the scene unfold:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what He said. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to Him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NET)
I don’t blame Martha one bit for being caught up in the frenzy of preparations. A natural response to hosting the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in your home. I’m quite certain I’d be fretting right along with Martha.
Both Mary and Martha received Jesus into their home but in very different ways. Martha received Jesus as One to serve and to impress with her busyness and all the preparations she was making. Mary received Jesus as One to bow before and listen to what He says.
The Greek verb translated distracted is perispaō and it means to draw away. The Greek verb translated listened is akouō and it means hearing, to hear, listen, come to. Martha was drawn away from Jesus due to all of her activity for Him while Mary was drawn to come to Jesus in intimacy with Him. Distraction does that to us doesn’t it? Draws us away from intimacy with Jesus.
When Martha did finally come to Jesus, she came to Jesus complaining. Complaining about her sister’s lack of help and about Jesus’ apparent lack of care. Although Martha’s intentions to honor Jesus through her service for Him may have been sincere, her heart was not right before Him. Instead of Martha looking at herself and owning her busyness, worry, and lack of intimacy with Jesus, she blamed her sister and questioned Jesus’ love and care for her. Because Martha allowed the preparations to draw her away, her service for Jesus felt like a burden to her rather than a delight.
The danger of busyness for Jesus at the expense of intimacy with Jesus is that we end up serving out of the emptiness of self rather than the fullness of Christ.
Martha felt alone in the work she was doing and I’m betting she also felt the sting of jealousy over Mary’s intimacy with Jesus. What strikes me is why Martha didn’t push the pause button on her flurry of activity and sit at Jesus’ feet too?
What is it within us that compels us to continue our frenetic busyness?
I love how Jesus responded to Martha. How He exuded compassion, truth and grace in His care for both Mary and Martha. Jesus curled Martha’s pointing finger back on herself by naming what Martha’s real issue was, by lovingly and compassionately telling her the truth about herself and the condition of her heart. Jesus diagnosed Martha’s problem and He offered her the solution, the one thing she needed: intimacy with Him. Jesus said to Martha, “Come to Me, what you need is Me. You don’t need to drag your sister into your frenetic flurry. And you don’t need to start doubting and questioning My love for you. You don’t need to blame things or people or external circumstances for your worried and troubled heart and mind. Martha, Martha, what you need is time at My feet listening to Me.”
The story of Mary and Martha reminds us the being loved part (intimacy with Jesus) is foundational to the loving God and others part (activity for Jesus) of our journey. Let’s rightly bow before Jesus, sit at His feet, soak in His Presence, absorb His words to the depths of our DNA, and then serve Him with joy and gratitude out of the overflow of our fellowship with Him. Keep the one thing needed the one thing needed at all times and throughout every season: an intimate walk with Jesus Christ that can never be taken away. No matter what.
“Martha, Martha, come to Me…”
For the one thing needed.
The best part.
The incomparable part.
Jesus is mine.
And I am His.
“Martha, Martha, come to Me…”
https://twitter.com/#!/carolechaput Copyright 2013 Lighthouse Publications. Used by Permission.
 Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
 Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
It’s true that things don’t often go according to plan. I was scheduled to speak at a dinner in the evening, and had designed a bookmark as a small gift for the ladies who would be attending. The place holders just had to be printed and cut at the copy shop. I was already thinking about the quiet lunch my husband, Steve, and I would be able to share before we headed back home – bookmarks in hand.
But there was a small problem. The printer was unable to produce a copy with the same colors that were on the original bookmark. Their machines weren’t calibrated correctly. I could feel myself begin to tense up. But it was only a little after ten, and there were several other copy shops in town.
Two stores later, and no closer to a finished product, I was getting really concerned. Steve dropped me off at home so I could review my notes for the banquet, and told me he would take care of the bookmark dilemma.
True to his word, Steve handed me a completed stack of photo-quality bookmarks as I headed to my presentation. I couldn’t have done it without him.
A priceless attitude
His actions demonstrated selfless love. I know he had a thousand things he could have been doing: catching up on things around the house and yard, or spending time with our pets. But instead, he was willing to help me with a project I should have completed earlier in the week. What a guy!
With this one act, my husband showed me what a Christ-like attitude looked like. He willingly set aside what he had planned for the day, to tackle my project. His words were encouraging and kind. He didn’t get frustrated with me for not getting the bookmarks done sooner.
What Jesus did
Jesus is the ultimate example of helping those in need. His mission was to reconcile sinful man to a holy God – to meet the spiritual needs of mankind: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10).
But on the road to accomplishing this goal, He cared for their physical needs as well. It’s impossible to miss His heart of compassion as He ministered to people wherever He went. He opened the eyes of the blind. Made the lame to walk. And fed the multitudes.
Getting to the Master
Jesus was a busy man with a public ministry. He poured His life into the twelve disciples and was often thronged by others eager to hear or dispute His message. But He was never too busy to meet the needs of those who sought Him out. Jesus knew these were not irritating interruptions, but divine appointments.
I’m reminded of the time Jesus traveled to Judea and taught the people. I’m sure He wasn’t taken by surprise when the Pharisees began asking controversial questions, trying to trick Him. And there was another group of people waiting to gain an audience with Jesus as well – some women with their children.
Imagine the scene as the disciples tried to act as body guards, monitoring Jesus’ every move, and attempting to control the crowds: only giving access to those they felt were worthy of the Master’s attention. Surely, they reasoned, Jesus’ time was too important to spend with these ladies and their little ones. The disciples chided them for approaching Jesus and began sending them away.
A rebuke & a blessing
But Jesus’ attitude was much different. He valued these women who came to Him, and rebuked His disciples, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God…And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them,“ (Mark 10:14b,16).
What a valuable lesson. Selfless love makes a lasting impression. And points others to the Savior.
How do you react when your agenda is interrupted? What step will you take today to demonstrate selfless love and point others to Christ?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for the examples in Your Word and life that teach me what it looks like to express unselfish love. Forgive me when I live as if it’s all about me. Help me take advantage of the opportunities You give me to serve and bless others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational/devotional writer and speaker. Her passion is to share the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She makes her home in sunny Georgia with her husband Steve, daughter Riley, two dogs, and a cat.
Visit her on the web: www.mariaimorgan.com and download a free copy of her devotional eBook, God Speaking.