We are excited to start back with our Monday Musings Blog after the holiday break. The New Year hits us all in different ways. Some of us are exhausted from the holidays, fighting sickness and just trying to get through till spring comes. Others of us face the New Year excited about the opportunities and challenges ahead. Personally, I love cold weather, but the days of little sunshine tend to close in on me and I often struggle with my health this time of year. I’m a planner, so I ordered my pretty new planner and got it all organized, made my list of all the things I want to accomplish during the year and find I’m already behind, and January isn't even over yet!
Regardless of our personalities, circumstances and check list of things to accomplish, there is one thing that will help us focus and make this a year that has purpose and significance for our personal spiritual lives and those with whom we engage in relationships and community.
Choosing to spend time in the Word, studying and meditating on the beautiful stories and lessons in Scripture will give your days purpose and guide you as you make decisions for your life. Our desire at Restore Ministries is to give you some devotional blogs this year that go a little deeper than the typical blog. You will need to devote more than a minute or two to take in the truths, but our prayer is that they will encourage and challenge you in your journey of faith.
Today, we continue in the Feast for Your Soul Bible Study teachings with a three part series entitled “The Women of Bethany.” We are learning so much this year as we travel through the gospels to study some of the Scriptures where Jesus feasted with the people and taught us so many wonderful faith lessons. As part of this blog series, I encourage you to listen to the audio below of the drama Sherry and I wrote. It is a live recording, so please pardon the background noise. Our hope is that listening to the drama will help you enter into the Scripture and better understand the hearts of the women who lived in Bethany. In the drama we give our interpretation of lives and encounters these women had with Jesus.
If your days are really busy you could choose to listen one day and then read each part of this series over several days. These Scriptures hold rich truths to guide our lives if we will simply give them some time for study, reflection, and prayer. My experience has been that it takes more than a few minutes to soak in truth in a way that brings transformation in my life and it's always worth the time and effort! We will present the audio of this drama in three parts in the weeks ahead.
We hope that you enjoy the audio version of The Women of Bethany, Part 1, a drama based on the familiar story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42. It is the first time we meet these intriguing women of the Word who loved Jesus and welcomed them into their home. We had so much fun writing and trying to imagine what it might have been like to be Mary and Martha in the small village of Bethany in the home that Jesus loved to visit.
The role of Martha is played by Sherry Barron and the role of Mary is played by Kathy Drake.
Here is the link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSXq0TYjzZ8&feature=youtu.be
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
This is such a beautiful story in Scripture, one that most of us know well. There is a common thread in the passages I will be posting in the weeks ahead. Over the next three blogs we will explore three powerful stories in Scripture that all took place in the little village of Bethany just two miles from Jerusalem on the carriage road to Jericho. Bethany is located on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. It is known as a place of almond, olive and fig trees, a place where travelers could find rest in the shade. Jesus visited Bethany often.The women and their brother Lazarus were all part of the stories, faith building lessons and miracles that took place there. This is a family whose hearts were forever changed and interwoven together with Jesus.
So what are the faith lessons we can learn from the women of Bethany? These are women with whom Jesus often feasted, visited, and taught. It is interesting that so many significant Scriptures took place there in the three years of Jesus ministry while living on earth.
As I studied the stories, I began to ask myself, why Bethany?
What do we have to learn from what happened in this little village for our own lives?
So let’s look at the Faith Lessons of the Women of Bethany from our first encounter with them in Luke 10:38-42.
A place of love
Bethany first and foremost is a place where Jesus is loved and loves His own. Jesus came so often to Bethany because He was loved there. He was despised in so many other places where He traveled. As we go through the faith lessons of Bethany, we see a beautiful picture of what it looks like to love Jesus and be loved by Him. In the weeks ahead, keep that in mind as we walk through the encounters with Jesus in one of His most favorite places on earth. It all ultimately comes back to love.
A place of feasting and welcome
The hospitality offered in Bethany came from that heart of love. Jesus and his disciples were offered meals and lodging there. Physical and emotional needs were met in Bethany. They knew they would be welcomed. Jesus valued the hospitality He was given there. That is one of the reasons He returned to that beloved place so often. Bethany was a place of feasting, a place where Jesus broke bread with dear friends and his disciples. From this story we learn that to welcome others into our lives and homes requires a heart that welcomes others and is willing to serve.
A place of service
We will learn some valuable lessons throughout the encounters in Bethany about what a servant heart should look like through the life of Martha and Mary. The most glaring lesson is that there is a time to serve and a time to sit at the feet of Jesus, and we must be careful to discern the difference.
Martha thought that her worth before the Lord lay in her good motives, her gifts, her hospitality. She wanted to prove her value to the Lord. She was so grateful for what the Lord had done for her and her family and wanted to give him something in return. But for Jesus, inviting Him in means focusing on who Jesus is, not what we want or who we are, even when it is a good thing that is an expression of our love.
Our service should flow from communion with Jesus.
When it doesn’t, it’s easy to become bothered, anxious and worried about many things like Martha.
The word for distracted in Luke 10:40 in the Greek means to be preoccupied, pulled in different directions, mentally driven about.
Have you ever felt that way? I know I can totally relate!
When we are distracted our nerves get frayed and we lose our tempers in ways we wish we could take back. Her distraction leads her to blame Jesus for not caring. But Jesus is kind in his response to Martha. He doesn’t belittle her, but calls her name twice in tenderness and directs her to the most important thing, the One thing, Christ himself.
I’ve definitely been a Martha. It is a dangerous thing to be so busy for the Lord, even in ministry, that you don’t make time to seek His face or wait on His direction. Most Mary’s have been a Martha at one time in their lives.
I can remember a time in my ministry years ago as a young wife and mother when I became so exhausted from doing the Lord’s work that I came to a place where all I had left was to cry out to God. I was experiencing a season of loss in the death of my father, trying to care for my mother, my children, trying to be a loving wife and work a full time job in ministry. In the demands of the “job,” I lost sight of the priceless value of simply sitting at the feet of Jesus, hearing His voice and seeking His truth to guide my life, my choices, and my ministry. My heart was to serve and give Him the best of my gifts and life, but the temptation to do it on my own strength in the mad rush of my life and “to do” lists had crept in. It was all so subtle that I hadn’t noticed until that day when there was simply nothing left to give. The tyranny of the urgent needs and demands of people had taken over my life. In the middle of the night I fell on my face on my living room floor and cried out to God, “If this is all there is, it’s not enough.” That night before the Lord was the turning point for my life and ministry. He had been waiting for me to come to the end of myself. The Lord spoke into my heart that He was more the enough to carry me through if I would be faithful to give Him the best of my day and sit at His feet. Of course, I knew this truth in my mind. But I had to come to a place of complete surrender in my heart. The power of the Holy Spirit took over and my life has never been the same. Unfortunately, at times I have let the pressing demands take over again, but He is faithful, always there waiting for me to choose the “One thing” I need for my life. At His feet, I have learned to find my rest in Him.
I wonder if you’ve been there too.
It is communion with Christ, listening to His words of truth that transforms you into a Mary.
Both women served as women did in that culture. Women still do today. The difference is found in the heart.
Jesus needed and wanted a different kind of service. He wanted disciples who pursued the One thing.
Jesus is seeking an intimate moment, not an elaborate meal.
Charles Spurgeon says, “Martha was preparing a feast for Jesus, Mary was feasting on His words. Both are good, but only one is indispensable.”
Psalm 27:4 and Philippians 3:7- 8 are wonderful verses to memorize and cling to:
A place of listening
Mary is always seen in Scripture at Jesus’ feet. She is a woman of few words.
She is a listener.
In this Scripture, we see Mary at the feet of Jesus in utter delight, drinking in His words, a disciple of His truth.
A disciple in the day of Jesus was one who did more than just listen to teachers give lectures and take notes. A disciple was like an apprentice, learning a way of life. For Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus in a public room was totally scandalous in that day. It simply wasn’t done by women. But she boldly took on the posture of a disciple.
As always the ministry of Jesus was radical, and that was the case in Bethany. Women were welcomed with the same privileges to be disciples as men, something unheard of.
Imagine the delight of Mary to be honored and welcomed to sit at the feet of the Teacher.
And we have that honor and privilege every day of our lives, yet how often we become so worried and bothered about many things that we miss the opportunity. Don’t miss it! Open the Word of Jesus and let His Words of life speak into the depths of your being!
Charles Spurgeon writes, “Every time we open our Bible, we sit at Jesus’s feet. All of Scripture bears witness about him (John 5:39). God’s Word is the good portion that we can hide in our hearts, never to be taken away.”
The psalmist says, “The Lord is my chosen portion” and, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” ( Psalm 16:5, 11). This is what Mary knew.“
Jesus wanted to pour out His heart on those who would listen and Mary was willing.
In the weeks ahead as we look at other “Bethany” Scriptures you will see that Mary’s choice to listen had a powerful effect on her life, the disciples and Jesus!
A place of transformation
Bethany is a place where our temperaments and motives are exposed and transformation is possible. We see that especially in the character of Martha. She is outspoken with a gift and heart to serve. She was probably a first born, and definitely a take charge kind of woman!
In our first encounter with Martha she is worried and troubled about many things and Jesus gently leads her to choose the better. He doesn’t scold her for serving. He simply redirects her to consider her priorities. In the weeks ahead we will see how this transformation continues in the life of Martha.
As we close our devotional on the Women of Bethany today, I encourage you to make it personal for your own life. Consider the following questions.
1. Which of the faith lessons or spiritual characteristics of Bethany and the women who lived in that small village have the most application for your life today? (love, welcome, feasting, service, listening, or transformation)
2. What are the distractions or worries in your life that keep you from sitting at the feet of Jesus?
3. Do you relate most to Mary or Martha? What changes do you need to make in your life to choose the “One thing” that Jesus says is the better portion for your life?
Gracious Father, forgive us when we are often so distracted by our preparations that we miss the privilege of lingering in Your presence. Forgive us for the times when we are so diligent
in our service that we neglect our devotion.
Thank you that you desire to make your heart and home with us. Thank you for the beautiful stories in Scripture that teach us how to live. Father, thank you for your love for Bethany and the family that lived there.
Thank you for the lessons we have learned from your heart of love for them.
Draw us out of the kitchen Lord and bid us to come and sit at your feet.
By your grace, help us to always choose the better portion, the “One thing’ that you desire
so that we may we enjoy the feast of your presence and find our rest in You.
In the powerful name of Jesus,
Please join us in two weeks for Part 2 of the Women of Bethany Series. This is our way of giving you the opportunity to journey with us in our Feast for Your Soul Bible Study. You can receive them directly in your inbox and we never share your email address. See instructions in purple below.
In this New Year let's celebrate Jesus as the Feast! When we choose to rest in Him and seek His truth and presence in our lives we will discover that He will nourish and strengthen us for all our days.
Seeking the One Thing,
When we presented this drama at our "Feast Study" we sang the beautiful song Captivate Us by Watermark.
The lyrics and beautiful melody capture the heart of this Scripture. Below is the youtube link if you would like to listen.
I have also created a Feast for Your Soul Playlist on Spotify if you are interested in other songs of worship that will encourage you in the themes we are studying in our "Feast" series.
Simply go to marykathryndrake on Spotify and follow Feast for Your Soul Study to enjoy several hours of beautiful vocal and instrumental songs of worship. It's free.
Resources: Sermons and writings by Charles Spurgeon, Ann Graham Lotz, Frank Viola, Ken Gire, Images Pinterest
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