Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advice on Advice

Look around and it doesn't take long to see shattered lives, questions and burdens. I think its human nature to jump in and want to fix things, truly a compassionate side. However, could we be setting ourselves up in the place of God out of good intentions?

When someone shares a burden with me, I have to say I can quickly offer sympathy or jump to advice giving and find myself carrying the burden that isn't mine to carry and weighed down. So much human wisdom and understanding is passed around the church today--this can really be living life apart from the Holy Spirit. Fellowship is essential but only when it enhances walking with God and doesn't replace it. Advice giving can make others dependent on the advice giver and creates a good name for that person among peers, but is not pointing them to the Great I Am. Jesus said the government (burdens) rests on His shoulders, not mine! He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! (Is. 9:6)

A place to start when tempted to jump in with advice is to ask, "What is God telling you about this?" or simply, "Let's pray!" than to ramble with advice or scripture. No human will ever see the WHOLE picture as well as God. By inviting others to seek Him when they may be looking to you for advice, can free you from burdens while actively "doing something" about them at the same time. It honors God to seek Him and solicit His counsel for someone else especially when they have asked for it, knowing they are seeking Him as well and wanting confirmation, or humbly realize their emotions are so involved that they simply cannot "see" clearly--this is a humble posture on both sides, both the "counselor" and the "counselee" coming to God first...this is different than simply giving advice as shown by the humble dependence on God. May I get out of the way so the Prince of Peace may come into the situation--He is MORE than able!

There is nothing more beneficial than asking God and reminding others to do so--we are so quick to run to who we can see, instead of the infinite One who is with us but not seen. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to faith. As long as people insist on living apart from God, even surrounding themselves with spiritual input that is not prompted by the Spirit, there will be confusion, burdens, etc. These may be part of the fall or may be part of God's plan--either way, they can be used to woo people to deeper dependence on God instead of running to human comfort which can be living by sight.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trust in you...Lord they came to you in their distress." Isaiah 26:3, 16

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mary and Martha, a lesson in distractions

Most of us have heard about Mary and Martha--elevating Mary and shaming ourselves because we usually connect more with Martha, the one Jesus rebuked. However, in reading all the accounts of these two close friends of Jesus, I think there are lessons to learn from both.

Luke 10:38-41 is the famous passage about Martha being all busy and Mary adoringly sitting at Jesus' feet. First I want to point out that Martha is a go getter, she is the one who scripture says opened her home to Jesus and his disciples in their time of need--this shows a generous heart. She did miss the point of opening a home--fellowship and focused on preparations only. This is lesson number one from these two ladies...relationships come before duty. Don't let your "to do" list rule your life and cause you to miss your savior and other important relationships. This is especially timely as Christmas draws near! Life comes from time with Jesus, not crossing off your list!

The second story of these ladies is in their time of need...Lazarus' death (John 11). Mary and Martha are in their home with many friends who have come to comfort them. Jesus is making his way to them. Martha hears of this and goes out to meet him and we are told that Mary stays home. Martha spends some time with Jesus outside of the city and makes an amazing declaration of faith in the midst of her great loss. She then goes back and gets Mary. We are not told why Mary stayed home, but I wonder if its because she was too overcome with her own emotions. This is the second lesson...emotions are not to rule our life either. Martha chose to go to Jesus with her emotions and didn't wait until she "had it all together" before she sought Him. Both women when they see Jesus are very real with Him...they both are disappointed, having sent word of Lazarus' sickness that Jesus didn't come sooner to heal him. Of course we know His timing WAS perfect and meant for even greater good and glory. In fact by Lazarus dying and friends coming to comfort the sisters, MANY witnessed his coming back to life and we are told, many put their faith in Jesus that day.

There is a third account in John 12. Its very similar to when we first meet Mary and Martha...a dinner. I think this is a wonderful picture of them being who they were created to be in perfect balance. They are hosting a dinner in Jesus' honor. It says Martha served, Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus and Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. Each adoring Jesus with what they do best...an overflow of their heart. Martha is not rebuked for too much fretting...she must have learned from the first dinner! She pours out her heart with her hospitality skills. Mary pours out her emotion in a very tangible way.

Each of us has gifts and natural bents, may we pour them out in adoration for Jesus, but let them not rule us!