Sunday – January 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:49-59 “The Consequences of Christ’s Coming”

Sunday – January 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 6, 2019

Luke 12:49-51
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.

The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs, it would probably produce a great commotion. One the other hand, on a cold winter night, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. And who can forget singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time? Now, that give us a warm, sentimental feeling. But when Jesus said/says that He had come to “kindle a fire,” He was/is saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel. That certainly is neither warm nor sentimental!

There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is between the “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division are the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the/each disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.

But how can Jesus be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.

The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom is not just painful to sinful men, it is exceedingly painful to God. Not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He casts fire on the earth, He had a baptism with which to be baptized. This baptism is the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will conclude in the pouring out of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.

Sunday – December 23, 2018 Christmas 2018 – Acts 20:33-38 “The Blessing of Giving”

Sunday – December 23, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 23, 2018

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

As Christians we should be able to think of numerous texts which encourage or even command us to give. Likewise, the Scriptures give us directives as to how much we should give (generously), how we should give (cheerfully), and to whom we should give (e.g. those who proclaim God’s Word, and those in need).

There are no commands for God to give, only instances in which He does freely give, and give generously. So, what is it that prompts God to be a giver? Giving is God’s nature; it is God’s predisposition. He delights in giving freely, and He savors the opportunity to do so. Christmas is the season we celebrate the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind – the free gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is amazing to ponder the truth that our Lord left the splendor of heaven to come and dwell on earth, to live among sinners like us. But what is even more amazing is that the incarnation qualified our Lord to die as an innocent sacrifice in order to bear our sins on the cross of Calvary.

Many efforts to convince Christians to give come from the exhortation or instructions found in God’s Word. But the ultimate basis for becoming a giver is because God is a giver, by nature, and when we come to faith in Christ we become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We should not be surprised, then, when the first thing we read about the new believers in Jesus in the Book of Acts is that they gave, and gave generously (Acts 2, 4, and 11). And saints like those in Macedonia gave gladly and enthusiastically, even with their limited means (2 Corinthians 8-9).

We may think that our giving nature is adequately expressed by giving gifts to friends and family at Christmas time, but we should give this matter more thought. The magi did not come with gifts for Mary and Joseph, but rather with gifts for the Lord Jesus. To what use were these gifts put? We are not told, but one plausible option is that these gifts were the resources which sustained Jesus and His parents in the years they spent in Egypt. The gifts supported the person and work of the Savior. I want us to consider the privilege that is ours to be a generous giver, because we share the nature of a generous, giving God. Give, not just because you are instructed by the Scriptures to do so, but because it is your nature and predisposition to do so, as it is with our Great Giving God.

Sunday – December 16, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:22-34 “Perspective on Possessions”

Sunday – December 16, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 16, 2018

Luke 12:29-32
Do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.  For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, “Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy—and with death as his greatest source of anxiety”. Most of us are prone to worry about money. If we don’t have enough, we worry about how to get it; if we have plenty, we worry about whether we really have enough and about how to hang on to what we have. Worry has been described as “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained”.

Worry, Jesus reminds us, simply doesn’t satisfy. Worry does not make one more comfortable, nor does it extend one’s life. And if worry will not do such a little thing, why should we think it would do any greater thing? Worry never produced a single meal. Worry has not produced a stitch of clothing. A little thought would even lead you to conclude that worry has probably hindered in these matters. Worry is really fear, and its ultimate cause is a lack of faith in God, in His goodness, in His power, and in His promises to provide for all our needs, beginning with the most important- LIFE.

Ultimately, worry disregards God’s care of His creation and disbelieves His love and care. The problem with material things is just that, they are material. They can be seen. Faith is not rooted in what is seen, but in what is not seen. When we seek after material things, like food and clothing, we seek after that which we can see, and so we live according to sight, rather than faith. As Paul reminds us “… we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Faith is rooted in the Word of God, which is both certain and eternal, not in those things which we see, which are soon to pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not His word. The Word of God is the basis, both for faith and for life.  The antidote to fear is faith. The fuel of faith is that which is not material, but is eternal, the Word of God. His “flock” does not need to fear about food and clothing, or anything else, for His kingdom is assured. And not only is it certain that His “flock” will be given the kingdom, God has purposed to gladly give it. We can be assured that God will do that which gives Him pleasure, and giving us His kingdom will be pleasurable to Him, and so it is sure for us.

Sunday – December 9, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:12-23 “Affliction of the Affluent”

Sunday – December 9, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 9, 2018

Luke 12:15
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

When I read the parable of the rich fool, I cannot help but think of Howard Hughes. From some of the reports at the time of his death, he had accumulated a great deal of wealth but did not enjoy any of it in his last years. In this sense, Howard Hughes is a present-day example of what Jesus is giving us warning. The danger of thinking of a man like Howard Hughes implies that the text applies primarily to the rich and enables us not to think of ourselves as a “rich fool.”

We may come to this parable with a sense of smug security. Perhaps Jesus will be speaking to us when he gets to the next section, where Jesus is addressing His disciples. But here, Jesus is telling a parable about a very wealthy, unlike ourselves. Jesus can hardly be addressing us. I’m not so sure about that. I think that most of us would be hard pressed not to admit that we are, as individuals, financially comfortable. Our nation is, in comparison with most others, exceedingly blessed.

The world says our life consists of things, but God says life consists of being rightly related to Him and to others. The world would view this rich man as a success. He would be held up as a model to follow. He had not gained his wealth by dishonest or corrupt means. He had worked for it, poured his money back into the business, and had done well. He was financially secure. He could now enjoy the good life: good food, fine wine, servants, and whatever pleasures money could afford. Isn’t that what we all aim for in life? Isn’t that why we go to college, so that we can get a good career, make plenty of money, provide the finer things in life for our children, and retire some day with plenty in our investments? What’s wrong with that?

This man’s whole attitude was the very reverse of Christianity. Instead of denying himself he aggressively affirmed himself; instead of finding his happiness in giving he tried to conserve it by keeping. His goal was to enjoy life, but in seeking his life, he lost it. What was wrong was the man’s focus. He had the world’s perspective, not God’s perspective. God’s perspective is not that riches are inherently wrong. Money can be a great good if used with a perspective of the life to come. There are several wealthy men in the Bible, such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph who enjoyed God’s blessing and were godly men. But, to a man, they were generous men who lived in light of eternity. As Paul tells Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). If we want to be rich toward God, we need to be careful to distinguish between the world’s perspective and God’s perspective. God’s perspective always takes into account the life to come.

Sunday – December 2, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:1-12 “Hazards of Hypocrisy”

Sunday – December 2, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 2, 2018

Luke 12:8-9
And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”

The Greek word for hypocrisy refers to a mask worn in acting. The hypocrite’s emphasis is on how others see him, not on how God sees him, so his focus is on the outward person, not on the heart. Jesus calls it leaven or yeast because it is subtle, just as a small pinch of yeast will spread until it puffs up a large lump of dough. In Galatians 2:13, Paul charged Peter and Barnabas with hypocrisy because they openly ate with Gentile believers, but when the Judaizers came to town, they suddenly withdrew out of fear of what the Judaizers would think. If such godly, strong leaders as Peter and Barnabas were susceptible to hypocrisy, then it is a sin that we all need to be on guard against!

Hypocrisy in the lives of the disciple can have a devastating impact on the gospel we proclaim. This is why Paul reacted so strongly to the hypocrisy of Peter in dissociating from the Gentiles and eating with the Jews alone in Galatians 2. Why make such a big issue of such a little blunder? Because it was a denial of the gospel. The gospel declares all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, to be lost in their sins, with nothing to commend them before God. The gospel offers salvation to all men, Jew or Gentile, on the same basis: faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of men on the cross of Calvary. To give preferential treatment to the Jews and to avoid the Gentiles was to imply that the Jews were on a higher spiritual plane than Gentiles, a denial of the gospel which makes all believers equal (equally lost, equally saved). Paul rooted out this little bit of leaven, knowing where it could go.

To confess Christ means to proclaim to others the fact that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord and that our salvation is all from Him and not at all from us. We do this initially through baptism, where we publicly confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord. Then, through both our lives and our words, we openly acknowledge that we are followers of Jesus Christ and that He has saved us by His grace, apart from anything we have done. If Jesus Christ has truly saved you, then you will be a different person. You will be growing in righteousness, love, and truth. You will judge and confess your sins. When opportunities come up to tell others of the great love and mercy of the Savior, you will do it because of your gratitude to Him for saving you.

Jesus promises that if we confess Him on earth, He will confess us in heaven (12:8). Every Christian should live every day in light of someday standing before the One who gave His life for us. Our great hope should be that we will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Then any suffering or rejection we have experienced will be worth it all!

Sunday – November 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 11:37-56 “Fundamentalist Flaws”

Sunday – November 25, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 25, 2018

Luke 11:45-46
One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

When you study the life of Christ, it is noteworthy how He deliberately did things to provoke the legalists. He could have healed people on any other day of the week, but He often did it on the Sabbath. He could have been more discreet in violating the Pharisees’ rules, but He did it openly. When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, He could have gone along with their elaborate hand-washing custom, but He deliberately ignored it. When they questioned Him about it, He could have been polite, but He blasted them for their hypocrisy. When a lawyer pointed out that Jesus had offended them as well, He didn’t say, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you good folks.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well!” Jesus confronted legalism as sin.

There is probably no sin more tolerated or more widespread in the Christian world than legalism. It may surprise you to hear it labeled as sin. Legalists are thought to be a bit overzealous or “uptight,” but they aren’t usually thought of as sinning in the same sense as adulterers, thieves, liars, and the like. To the contrary, legalists seem to be concerned about holiness. Yet the Lord Jesus had more conflicts with the legalists of His day than any other group. It wasn’t the adulterers, the robbers and that sort, who put Jesus on the cross. It was the legalists.

What is legalism? Some erroneously confuse it with an emphasis on obedience. I have been accused of being legalistic because I preach that we must obey God’s Word. But every book of the Bible teaches that we must obey God. Being under grace does not mean that we are free to disobey God. Others say that legalism is when we set up any manmade rules. But there are many areas not specifically addressed in the Bible where we need some rules in order to function as a family or church. Parents are not being legalistic when they set a curfew for their kids. Churches are not being legalistic when they follow certain procedures or practices.

In most instances, legalism grows from a well-meaning intention to live in a way they perceive is good in the eyes of God.  In Christian homes, parents mistakenly think the way to keep their teenagers in line is to lay down and enforce a lot of rules. In Christian churches, leaders place expectations on attendance, giving and appropriate dress. But the life that is pleasing to God is the individual who knows and responds from a personal knowledge of the Holy One. He’s with them when you are not there. If they truly know Him and know the great love of Christ who gave Himself for their sins, they will want to please Him, beginning on the heart level. Our goal at Sunrise is to equip each individual to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ, in a growing personal relationship with Him. Legalism takes an external approach; biblical Christianity focuses on the heart relationship.

Sunday – November 18, 2018 Thankdgiving 2018 Psalm 136

Sunday – November 18, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 18, 2018

Psalm 136:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Psalm 136 is a unique psalm because the same refrain is repeated 26 times. The only thing close is when Psalm 118:1-4 repeats, “His lovingkindness is everlasting” four times. Psalm 136 was designed for public worship. The Jews called it the Great Hallel (= Praise), and it was especially sung at the Passover. Perhaps the worship leader would recite the first line of each verse, followed by the congregation repeating together the response, “for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” John Calvin’s commentary on Psalm says that the repeated refrain teaches us that to praise the Lord properly, we must acknowledge that everything we receive from Him is bestowed by His grace.

You may note how similar this psalm is to Psalm 135, and see both psalms cite frequently from other Scriptures, especially Deuteronomy. For example, the title, “the God of gods” and “the Lord of lords” (136:2, 3) comes from Deuteronomy 10:17. The reference to God’s strong hand and outstretched arm (136:12) also comes from Deuteronomy (4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8). It refers to God’s display of His strength. In verse 15, it literally says that God shook off Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea. The same Hebrew verb is used in Exodus 14:27, “then God shook off the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.” Many other expressions in the psalm come directly from other Old Testament Scriptures.

The lesson for us is that it is important for us to know the Scriptures, including the Old Testament, so well that we respond to trials and other situations in our lives with biblical language and thought patterns. The stories in the Old Testament that Psalm 136 alludes to “were written for our instruction,” so that we would not crave evil things as they did, nor be idolaters, nor try the Lord, nor grumble (1 Cor. 10:6-11). If you are not familiar with these events so that they shape your worldview, you will not apply them when you most need to. Rather than thanking the Lord for His everlasting love, you will fall into grumbling with the rest of the world.

So why does the psalmist hammer home 26 times the theme that God’s lovingkindness is everlasting? It’s because the enemy wants us to doubt it, especially when trials hit. This truth was so important that David appointed singers whose job was to repeat at the tabernacle, “give thanks to the Lord, because His lovingkindness is everlasting” (1 Chron. 16:41). Later, when the ark was brought into the newly completed temple, Solomon appointed singers to sing, “He indeed is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chron. 5:13). God’s response was to fill the temple with the cloud of His glory. Still later, Jehoshaphat appointed singers to lead the army into battle singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (2 Chron. 20:21). It was after this that the Lord routed the enemy.

Sunday – November 11, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 11:14-36 “Evidence That Leads to Many Verdicts”

Sunday – November 11, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 11, 2018

Luke 11:34-36
“The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.

I would have to agree with those who say that “you can prove anything you want from the Bible.” This is not to say that the Bible proves all points of view. It is to say that many who view the biblical evidence miss the point. The beauty of this text is it not only shows us how far men can stray from the truth, but it reveals to us why they do so. Here is a text of great importance to all who would seek to know the truth, to come to the verdict which the biblical evidence leads us. Let us listen well to the words of this text, for doing so can keep us from going astray, and it can help us to understand and to help those who have missed the point of God’s Word.

As I look at all the Scriptures it would seem that a man’s ability to understand what God is saying and doing is entirely dependent upon his ability to “see” the truth. Truth is not the problem, but man’s receptivity to the truth is the problem. The Bible is replete with evidence, but the eyes of man are simply not able to see it.

Man’s inability to see is attributed to at least three sources. First, man himself is responsible for his unreceptive heart toward God and toward spiritual truth. That seems to be the thrust of our Lord’s words to the crowd “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Man’s blindness is also attributed to the work of Satan, who blinds men’s minds from the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). But blindness is also a work of judgment on God’s part, for He has blinded the eyes of Israel as a temporary judgment, due to their persistent unbelief (John 12:39-41).

How, then, does one who is blind come from blindness to sight, from darkness to light, from death to life? I believe that the answer to this question is clear in the Bible. Man cannot, in and of himself, heal himself of his blindness, for it is a blindness of heart. Instead, God, through a gracious and miraculous act on His part, opens our eyes to see the truth. I believe that Paul’s physical blindness and the reception of his sight, was symbolic of his spiritual blindness. Once a person has come to faith in Christ, it is the Scriptures which expose the light in our lives, and which reveals our sin. The Scripture “sharpens our focus” as it were. On the one hand we must ask for God to “open our eyes” as we come to the Word, so that we may see in it the things God has for us (Psalm 119:18). On the other hand, the Scriptures serve to open our eyes, to show us life as it is, ourselves as we are, and God as He is (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Sunday – November 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 11:1-13 “Teach Us How to Pray”

Sunday – November 4, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 4, 2018

Luke 11:9-10
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

All of us who are Christians have struggled with the problem of unanswered prayer. In fact, that problem can discourage us so much that we start thinking, “What’s the use?” and we even quit praying. We hear stories of how God answered prayer for others, but for us it just doesn’t seem to work. Sometimes we may try again, but we’re like boys who ring the doorbell and run away. We don’t stick around long enough to find out if God is home and if He is going to open the door and answer our request.

The strong emphasis in this whole section is on receiving answers to our prayers. The friend at midnight did not go away empty-handed. He got the bread that he came for. The application emphasizes that one who keeps asking, seeking, and knocking will receive what he is after. The story of the father and his son makes the same point: the boy will get what he asks from his father. The final application drives it home again with force: How much more will the heavenly Father respond favorably to those who ask Him? Our Lord wants us to come to the Father and keep on coming until He gives us what we need to see His kingdom come.

If we do not pray daily to God as our Father for these needs, or if we pray only for some of them, it may be because God is not a Father to us, but our foe. Only the one who knows God as their Father can pray to Him as their heavenly Father and do so expecting Him to hear and to answer with good gifts. Some things the true disciple is instructed to pray to come to pass would be viewed as distasteful, even dreaded by a non-Christian. What unbeliever would pray for the coming of the Lord’s kingdom, knowing that it would not only spell the end of their sinful lives, but also their damnation? Who would pray for forgiveness of sins, if they denied that they were sinners?

If you lack the confidence to come to Him as your Father, then God has a way for you to become His child. That way is through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He has come to the earth and has died in your place. God’s anger toward your sin has already fallen on Him. All that you must do is to receive God’s gift of forgiveness and of eternal life through His Son, and through His death on the cross of Calvary. Come to the Father as your Father, now.

Sunday –October 28, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 10:38-42 “Working Like the Devil Serving the Lord”

Sunday – October 28, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 28, 2018

Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

In their book, First Things First, Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill ask this penetrating question: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?” They repeat the question with regard to your professional or work life and then ask, “If you know these things would make such a significant difference, why are you not doing them now?” They go on to discuss how we often wrongly let the urgent take priority over that which is truly important.

That is the main message of this little story that gives us a glimpse into an incident in the life of Jesus and two sisters who hosted Him for dinner. Luke seems to put it here both to contrast it with the preceding incident where a lawyer challenged Jesus by putting a test question to Him. In the first story, the lawyer cites the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, but the emphasis, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, is on love for our neighbor. In this story, we see an example of what it means to love God, as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. If we only had the story of the Good Samaritan, we might allow service for God to take precedence over devotion to God.

Mary had chosen that which was “better” and “necessary” (v. 42); Martha was frazzled and frustrated by a whole host of things. What was that “better” thing, that which was “necessary,” that which Mary had chosen, and Martha had not? I think that the “better thing” was abiding in Christ, drawing strength and instruction from Him. It was being taught at the feet of the Master. Martha was preoccupied with ministering to Jesus; Mary with the ministry of Jesus. In the final analysis, He is not dependent upon our ministry to Him, but our life in Him is totally dependent upon His ministry to us. In seeking to serve Jesus, Martha was hindering the sustenance of Jesus in her life, and she even demanded that it be kept from her sister as well.

There is no better place to be, no place we are more welcome to be, than at the feet of our Lord. When we fall at His feet, we acknowledge His majesty, power, and goodness, and our need. When we fall at His feet, we rightly reflect the response of the creature to the Creator. No sinner in the New Testament ever hesitated to come to Jesus’ feet. The self-righteous would not be caught dead there, because of their pride and arrogance, but the sinner found the feet of Jesus a place of welcome. You are always welcome at His feet.