John T. Willis

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Struggles with Priorities--Luke 10:38-42

After encountering the lawyer declaring the Parable of the Merciful Samaritan, Jesus moved closer to Jerusalem and came to the house of Martha. This is related in Luke 10:38-42. Like the entire Bible, Luke focuses on God through Jesus Christ. This paragraph deals with three individuals: Jesus, Martha, and Mary. Each person in this story has a significant function. The fundamental issue is struggling with priorities. Let us examine each individual in this story. I. Martha: a good woman distracted. a. John 11:1; 12:1-3 (see Luke 19:29) says that Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, lived in Bethany, a village near Jerusalem. When Jesus came to Bethany, Martha "welcomed" him into her house. Martha was very hospitable. Undoubtedly, she washed Jesus' feet (see Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3; Luke 7:44-46) and tried to make Jesus feel at home and comfortable. All Christians should feel and act like Martha in treating all other people. See Hebrews 13:2; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:9-10; Titus 1:8. 10:38. b. Martha was a hard worker. In fact, she was a "workaholic." God encourages all human beings to work hard. That is a very important aspect of life. Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; 2 Thessalonians 3;6-15; Proverbs 31:10-31; 1 Timothy 5:11-15. 10:40. c. Martha was very concerned to provide for Jesus' physical needs. She was disturbed because her sister Mary was not helping her to make all the preparations necessary to honor and serve Jesus. It is very important to provide for the needs of others. Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:15-16. 10:40. d. But Martha had a major weakness: she was "distracted" from the most important thing in life by her "much serving," by the "many things" she felt like she had to do. A major human problem in serving the Lord is that of not having enought spiritual strength to say NO to things which are good and fine in and of themselves in order to concentrate on the one person in life who makes all the difference--Jesus Christ our Lord. Human history is filled with examples of individuals who set out on a worthy task, never to finish it because they allowed themselves to be distracted by other good, but lesser goals. One must make a decision to choose between what is GOOD and what is BEST. Martha makes a good choice, but not the best choice. 10:40-41. II. Mary, a wise chooser. a. Unlike Martha, Mary had the ability to choose the very best out of several good alternatives. She chose to sit at Jesus' feet and hear his teaching. Learning from God through Jesus through his word is the primary need in the life of any individual because God's teaching is good for the soul and without it we cannot grow spiritually (Psalm 19:7-11; Matthew 4:4; John 6:35, 66-69; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2), one is being still and listening to God, not talking; and reflecting on and meditating of God's proclamations, nature, and mighty acts (Psalm 1:1-2; Joshua 1:8; Acts 17:10-11). 10:39. b. Mary did not retaliate when her sister Martha criticized her, but left all this up to Jesus. If a person becomes a serious student and follower of the word of God, others will criticize that person. Others will claim that person is a bookworm, not spending enough time with other people. But the Bible requires that a truly follower of God through Jesus Christ must meditate on God's word day and night. Many churches suffer tremendously because they simply do not know the word of God. It is so easy for all Christians to be distracted by everything and everyone else in life and not focus on God throught Jesus Christ as instructed in the Bible. 10:40-41. c. Mary chose the "one thing," the "better part" needful in human life. The Bible often commends those who have the ability to choose the one most important thing in life: Psalm 27:4-6; Philippians 3:13-14; Matthew 13:44-46.10:42. III. Jesus attempted to help Martha and Mary by struggling with the problem of priorities. a. Jesus tried to calm the anxieties and troubles of the heart of Martha. Martha was too self-centered, even though she did not realize this. It is not wrong to be anxious, but it is wrong to be anxious about people and things which count for little or nothing (see Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 4:4-7). b. Martha was anxious because her priorities were wrong. She was more concerned about material things than about spiritual relationship with Jesus. Jesus urged Martha not to be mastered by things, but to master things. (See Isaiah 55:2). 10:41. c. Martha was wasting her time because she should have been taking this golden opportunity to listen to Jesus rather than preparing an elaborate meal. See Ephesians 5:15-16. d. Jesus praised Mary for choosing the one thing which was most needful for her, something which would go with her throughout life, a personal relationship with Jesus which grew out of listening to his teaching. 10:42. Yes, it is very difficult to make good choices, to select the best priorities. This text in Luke 10:38-42 is very helpful. Let us all listen to this message from God. Share YOUR opportunities and struggles and realizations with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis b.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I know the plans I have for you--8

God's VISION is to partner with all nations. From our perspective, this is beyond our comprehension. This is why our vision is far out of sync with God's Vision. If we get serious about God's VISION, we must focus on God's partnerships. We have already discussed God's partnership with his chosen people and with individuals. Now one naturally turns to God's partnership with all nations. The Bible portrays this partnership in four ways. 1. God repeatedly summons ALL NATIONS, ALL PEOPLES to come and worship and serve Yahweh. Just one example is Psalm 47: Clap your hands ALL YOU PEOPLES; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king OVER ALL THE EARTH. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the king of ALL THE EARTH, sing praises with a psalm. God is king OVER THE NATIONS; God sits on his holy throne. The princes OF THE PEOPLES gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields OF THE EARTH belong to God; he is highly exalted. It is crystal clear that Old Testament speakers and writers knew very well that Yahweh was not limited to having relationship with his own chosen people, although this is significant, but has relationship with all nations and all peoples. This truth offends many people. But this is the Biblical truth. II. The same God who brought Israel out of Egypt brought all nations out of where they lived formerly to where they are now. A clear example of this is Amos 9:7: Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel, says the Lord? Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? God's primary concern is ALL PEOPLE ON PLANET EARTH, not merely God's chosen people. Rather, God chose a certain people to bless all peoples on earth, as emphasized in a previous blog. See Genesis 22:15-18; 26:3-6; 28:13-14. III. When the Israelites or Judeans were in Babylonian Exile, God declared that he will reunify all nations. A great text on this truth is Isaiah 19:23-25: On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage." IV. The Bible is full of examples of God working directly through all nations. One clear example is the story of Pharaoh-Neco, king of Egypt, related in 2 Chronicles 35:20-24. After all this, when Josiah [king of Judah] had set the temple in order, King Neco of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him. But Neco sent envoys to him, sayhing, 'What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today, but against the house with which I am at war; and GOD HAS COMMANDED ME TO HURRY. CEASE OPPOSING GOD, WHO IS WITH ME, so that he will not destroy you.'But Josiah would not turn away from himl, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. HE DID NOT LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF NECO FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD, but joined battle in the plain of Megiddo. The archers shot King Josiah and the king said to his servants, 'Take me away, for I am badly wounded.' So his servants took him out of the chartiot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. There he died, and was buried in the tombs of his ancestors. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah." This text shows clearly that NOT ONLY Pharaoh Neco CLAIMED that Yahweh commanded him to hurry to Carchemish and avoid Josiah and Judah, but the inspired Biblical composer or writer STATED that this message came from the mouth of God. Thus, God worked in tandem with a non-Israelite king to carry out God's purposes. We all need to realize two major truths: 1. God works in all nations, not just in our nation. God works among all people, not just among the church of God in Jesus Christ. God is not limited to his chosen people. When we think differently, we become haughty, arrogant, self-centered, protective--like JONAH!!! 2. God's VISION begins with ALL NATIONS, NOT with a local church. God moves from the nations to local churches, not from a local church to all nations. If we can only focus on God's VISION to reach out to all nations, this will change all of our churches. Genesis 1-11 starts the entire Bible with this truth. God first created all human beings, and only later chose Abraham and his descendants so God would use these people to bless all nations on earth. Share YOUR insights and failures and problems and questions with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Parable of the Merciful Samaritan--Luke 10:25-37

After Jesus' prayer to his heavenly Father and instructions to his disciples, a lawyer tested Jesus, and Jesus responded by giving the Parable of the Merciful Samaritan. This appears in Luke 10:25-37, and falls into two parts. I. The Lawyer tests Jesus. Luke 10:25-28. a. Shortly after Jesus gave instructions to his disciples, a Jewish lawyer stood up to test Jesus. He addressed Jesus as TEACHER, and asked: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responded by saying: "What do you read in the Law of Moses?" Thus, instead of answering the lawyer's question, Jesus challenges the lawyer to answer his own question. Now, whose time must answer this question? Luke 10:25-26. b. The lawyer answered: Love God with all your being [which comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9), and love your neighbor as yourself (which comes from Leviticus 19:18; see Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:9; James 2:8). The lawyer may have assumed that the second commandment is to love a fellow-Jew or a fellow-Israelite. Jesus replied: Your answer is correct; so DO this and you will LIVE. 10:27-28. II. Jesus states the Parable of the Merciful Samaritan. Luke 10:29-37. a. The lawyer responded to Jesus to attempt to justify himself: "Who is my neighbor?" The lawyer wanted to show he was right in posing the question he had originally proposed to Jesus. 10:29. b. Jesus responded by giving a stunning parable consisting of three groups of people, which typify people living here on planet earth. 1. The first group of people was ROBBERS. As a Jewish man was going down from Jerusalem (over 2500 feet above sea level) about 18 miles to Jericho (770 feet below sea level; NOTE: this is NOT the Old Testament Jericho, which is Tell es-Sultan, but the town founded by Herod the Great about a miole and half to the south on the western edge of the Jordan Plain where the Wadi Qelt open on to it which is Tulul Abu el-`Alayiq) on rocky and desert territory, robbers attacked this man, stripped him of his clothes, beat him, leaving his half dead. At a distance, travelers would assume this person was a corpse. ROBBERS have this attitude: What you have is mine, and I will take it. Unfortunately, many people on earth have this same attitude. 10:30. 2. The second group of people are a priest and a Levite. A priest who probably had been serving in the Jerusalem temple was traveling back to his home from Jerusalem to Jericho or beyond. This priest saw the wounded man and passed by on the other side, probably thinking this is a corpse, and to touch a corpse is contrary to the Law of Moses (see Numbers 5:2; 19:2-13). This would contaminate a priest. Later, a Levite was travelling and he also passed by when the saw the wounded man. The PRIEST and the LEVITE have this attitude: What I have is mine and I will keep it. Unfortunately, many people, even in the church, have this same attitude. This is MINE, I deserve it; YOU cannot have it. 10:31-32. 3. The third type of person is the Samaritan. In the first century CE-AD, Jews normally considered Samaritans as almost pagans. John 4:9 says: "Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans." YET, when a Samaritan was traveling along this same road and saw the wounded JEWISH man, "he was moved with pity." He is nothing thinking of this man as a JEW, but as a HUMAN BEING made in the image of God [see Genesis 1:26-27]. Thus, the Samaritan did the normal thing: he bandaged the wounds of the Jewish man. He poured oil on the wounds because olive oil softens wounds (Isaiah 1:6). He poured wine on the wounds as an antiseptic. Then the Samaritan put the wounded Jewish man on his animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, the Samaritan gave the owner of the inn some money (two denarii, which is two days' wage for a laborer), told the innkeeper to take care of the Jewish man, and when the Samaritan he returns, he will pay the innkeeper any more money he needs. The attitude of the Samaritan is: What is mine is yours, and I will share it with you. This is the ONLY acceptable attitude of a follower of God through Jesus Christ. 10: 33-35. c. Jesus then asked the lawyer: "Which of these three was the neighbor to the man who was attacked by the robbers?" The lawyer responded: "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus responded: "Go and DO likewise." The Samaritan was MERCIFUL. And this is the ONLY right attitude of the heart. Often, so-called non-Christians put Christians to shame because of the way they ACT. Our actions are clear expressions of the heart. And God is concerned with the heart. 10:36-37. This message of God through Jesus Christ is central for God's people. How do we think of other people? How do we act toward other people? This is what REALLY matters. Share YOUR insights and thoughts and concerns and feelings with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis