An invitation for every woman who feels she isn't godly enough... isn't loving enough... isn't doing enough. The life of a woman today isn't really all that different from that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Like Mary, you long to sit at the Lord's feet... but the daily demands of a busy world just won't leave you alone. Like Martha, you love Jesus and really want to serve him... yet you struggle with weariness, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy.
Then comes Jesus, right into the midst of your busy Mary/Martha life-and he extends the same invitation he issued long ago to the two sisters of Bethany. Tenderly he invites you to choose "the better part"-a joyful life of "living-room" intimacy with him that flows naturally into "kitchen service" for him.
How can you make that choice? With her fresh approach to the familiar Bible story and its creative, practical strategies, Joanna shows how all of us -Marys and Marthas alike- can draw closer to our Lord, deepening our devotion, strengthening our service, and doing both with less stress and greater joy.
This book includes a twelve-week Bible study.
Also look for the ten-week DVD study pack companion product to this book, which includes three DVDs and a separate, revised and expanded study guide.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Joanna Weaver is the best-selling author of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, Lazarus Awakening, and the award-winning gift book With This Ring. Her articles have appeared in such publications as Focus on the Family, Guideposts, and HomeLife. Joanna and her pastor-husband, John, have three children and live in Montana. Visit her website at www.JoannaWeaverBooks.com.
Read an Excerpt
A Tale of Two Sisters
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way,
he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
She had a sister called Mary,
who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.
Have you ever tried to do it all?
I have, I do, and I probably always will. It's not only in my nature; it's also in my job descriptionand yours, too. Being a woman requires more stamina, more creativity, and more wisdom than I ever dreamed as a young girl. And that's not just true for today's busy women. It has always been the case.
In 1814, Martha Forman was married to a wealthy Maryland plantation owner. You might expect she spent her days sipping tea, being fitted for lovely gowns, and giving orders to her servants as she chatted with important guests. Instead, Martha worked right beside her servants from four in the morning to eleven o'clock at night. Among her daily activities were the following:
Making thirty to thirty-four pounds of old tallow into candles; cutting out fourteen shirts, jackets or trousers for the slaves (whom she always called "the people" or "our family"); knitting stockings; washing; dyeing and spinning wool; baking mince pies and potato puddings; sowing wheat or reaping it; killing farm animals and salting the meat; planting or picking fruits and vegetables; making jams, jellies, and preserves with her fruit; helping whitewash or paint walls; ironing;preparing for large parties; caring for sick family and slaves.
So, what did you do today? You may not have slaughtered a hog or harvested wheat, but I know you were busy. Whether you were out selling real estate or at home kissing boo-boos (or both), your day passed just as quickly. And your mind and body are probably as tired as poor Martha Forman's as you steal a few moments to spend with this book.
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. The thought intrigues you. Deep inside of you there is a hunger, a calling, to know and love God. To truly know Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit. You're not after more head knowledgeit's heart-to-heart intimacy you long for.
Yet a part of you hangs back. Exhausted, you wonder how to find the strength or time. Nurturing your spiritual life seems like one more dutyone more thing to add to a life that is spilling over with responsibilities.
It's almost as if you're standing on the bottom rung of a ladder that stretches up to heaven. Eager but daunted, you name the rungs with spiritual things you know you should do: study the Bible, pray, fellowship ...
"He's up there somewhere," you say, swaying slightly as you peer upward, uncertain how to begin or if you even want to attempt the long, dizzy climb. But to do nothing means you will miss what your heart already knows: There is more to this Christian walk than you've experienced. And you're just hungry enoughjust desperate enoughto want it all.
A Tale of Two Sisters
Perhaps no passage of Scripture better describes the conflict we feel as women than the one we find in the gospel of Luke. Just mention the names Mary and Martha around a group of Christian women and you'll get knowing looks and nervous giggles. We've all felt the struggle. We want to worship like Mary, but the Martha inside keeps bossing us around.
Here's a refresher course in case you've forgotten the story. It's found in Luke. It's the tale of two sisters. It's the tale of you and me.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (10:38-42)
A Martha World
When I read the first part of Mary and Martha's story, I must admit I find myself cheering for Martha. I know we tend to sing Mary's praises in Bible studies. But Martha, to be honest, appeals more to my perfectionist tendencies.
What a woman! She opens her home to a band of thirteen hungry men, possibly more. What a hostess! She doesn't whip up an impromptu casserole of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Ballpark franks as I've been known to do on occasion. Not her! She is the original Martha Stewart, the New Testament's Proverbs 31 woman, and Israel's answer to Betty Crocker. Or at least that's the way I imagine her. She's the Queen of the Kitchenand the rest of the house as well.
And Luke's story starts with Martha in her glory. After all, this is Jesus. She scraps her ordinary everyday menu of soup and bread and pulls out all her cookbooks. This, she decides, will be a banquet fit for a messiah. For the Messiah. Martha sends one servant to the field to slaughter a lamb, another to the market to pick up a few of those luscious pomegranates she saw yesterday. Like a military general, she barks commands to her kitchen staff. Soak the lentils! Pound the grain! Knead the dough!
So many things to do and so little time. She must make sure the centerpiece and the napkins match, that the servant pours the wine from the right and not the left. Martha's mind is as busy as a room filled with kindergartners. What would be just right for dessert? A little goat cheese with a tray of fresh fruit? Will Jesus and his followers stay overnight? Someone must change the sheets and fold some towels.
"Where's Mary? Has anyone seen Mary?" she asks a servant scurrying by. If Mary changed the sheets, Martha might have time to fashion an ark from the cheese and carve the fruit into little animals marching two by two. Productions of this magnitude require the skill of a master planner. And Martha's an administrator extraordinairea whirling dervish of efficiency, with a touch of Tasmanian she-devil thrown in to motivate the servants.
I happen to be the oldest in my family. Perhaps that's why I understand how frustrated Martha must have felt when she finally found Mary. The entire household is in an uproar, busy making ready to entertain the most famous teacher of their day, the man most likely to become the next king of Israel. I can relate to the anger that boils up inside of Martha at the sight of her lazy sibling sitting at the Master's feet in the living room.
It's simply too much. With everything still left to do, there sits little Mary, being quite contrary, crashing a party meant only for men. But worse, she seems oblivious to all of Martha's gesturing from the hall.
Martha tries clearing her throat. She even resorts to her most effective tool: the "evil eye," famous for stopping grown men in their tracks. But nothing she does has any effect on her baby sister. Mary only has eyes for Jesus.
Pushed to the limit, Martha does something unprecedented. She interrupts the boys' cub, certain that Jesus will take her side. After all, a woman's place is in the kitchen. Her sister, Mary, should be helping prepare the meal.
Martha realizes there is a cutting edge to her voice, but Jesus will understand. He, of all people, knows what it's like to carry the weight of the world.
Now of course, you won't find all that in the Bible. Luke tends to downplay the whole story, dedicating only four verses to an event that was destined to change Martha's life forever. And mine as well. And yours, if you will let the simple truth of this passage soak deep into your heart.
Instead of applauding Martha, Jesus gently rebukes her, telling her Mary has chosen "what is better." Or, as another translation puts it, "Mary has chosen the better part" (NRSV).
"The better part?" Martha must have echoed incredulously.
"The better part!" I say to God in the midst of my own whirl of activity. "You mean there's more? I have to do more?"
No, no, comes the answer to my tired heart. Jesus' words in Luke 10 are incredibly freeing to those of us on the performance treadmill of life.
It isn't "more" he requires of us.
In fact, it may be less.
A Mary Heart
The Bible doesn't tell us a lot about Mary and Martha. They are mentioned by name only three times in Scripture: Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-44, and John 12:1-11. But from these brief accounts, a fascinating picture develops of what life must have been like at the house in Bethanyand what life is often like for us.
They say variety is the spice of life. Perhaps that's why God so often puts people of such different personalities in the same family. (Either that, or he's trying to prepare us for marriage!) Mary was the sunlight to Martha's thunder. She was the caboose to Martha's locomotive. Mary's bent was to meander through life, pausing to smell the roses. Martha was more likely to pick the roses, quickly cut the stems at an angle, and arrange them in a vase with baby's breath and ferns.
That is not to say one is right and one is wrong. We are all different, and that is just as God made us to be. Each gifting and personality has its own strengths and weaknesses, its glories and temptations.
I find it interesting that when Jesus corrected Martha, he didn't say, "Why can't you be more like your sister, Mary?" He knew Martha would never be Mary, and Mary would never be Martha. But when the two were faced with the same choice---to work or to worshipJesus said, "Mary has chosen the better part."
To me, this implies the Better Part was available to both Mary and Martha. And it's available to each one of us, regardless of our gifting or personality. It's a choice we each can make.
It is true that, personality-wise, the choice may have come easier to Mary than it did to Martha. Mary does seem more mellow by nature, more prone to walk in the dew of the morning than to get caught up in the "dos" of the day.
I'm sure when Jesus dropped by unexpectedly that afternoon, Mary probably began the visit by serving, just as she had many times before. I can see her taking walking staffs and sleeping rolls as the disciples spill into her sister's well-ordered home. Buried beneath cloaks and backpacks, she watches the man who has taken the heart of Israel captive by his words. There is such joy and winsomeness about him, she can't help but be drawn to this man.
Could Jesus be the Messiah the people say he is? Mary wonders. She knows he's a great teacher, but could this actually be the Son of God admiring the tapestry she wove, drawing her out of her shyness and into the circle of his closest friends?
She drops the disciples' belongings in a corner and hurries to pour wine for the thirsty crew. There is an ease about them, a true camaraderie. The men laugh at each other's jokes as they wash down the dust of the road with the liquid she provides. Then they settle on low couches around the room, and Jesus begins to teach.
He speaks as none she ever heard before. There is a magnetism about his words, as though they contain breath and lifebreath and life Mary hasn't known she needed until this day. She creeps closer and stands in a dark corner listening to Jesus, her arms wrapped around the empty pitcher.
She's aware of movement around her. Several servants busy themselves washing dirty feet, while another sets the table at the other end of the room for the meal to come. Mary knows there is plenty to do. And yet she is unable to moveexcept closer.
It isn't customary for a woman to sit with a group of men, but his words welcome her. Despite her natural reticence, she gradually moves forward until she's kneeling at his feet. His teaching envelops her, revealing truth to her hungry heart.
The Bible isn't clear whether or not this was Jesus' first visit to the home in Bethany. Martha's openness with Christ seems to indicate a prior acquaintance, but whatever the case, this day Mary chose to let someone else do the serving so she could do some listening. It isn't every day God visits your house. So she ignores tradition, she breaks social etiquette, and she presses closer. As close to Jesus as possible.
It doesn't matter that she might be misunderstood. She cares little that the disciples look at her strangely. Somewhere in the distance she hears her name, but it is drowned by the call of her Master. The call to come. The call to listen.
And listen she does.
A Tale of Every Woman
Against this Bethany backdrop of unexpected guests, I see the struggle I face every day when work and worship collide.
Part of me is Mary. I want to worship extravagantly. I want to sit at his feet.
But part of me is Marthaand there's just so much to do!
So many legitimate needs surround me, compelling me to work. I hear God's tender call to come away, and I respond, "Yes, Lord, I will come." But then the phone rings, or I'm reminded of the check I was supposed to deposit-yesterday. Suddenly all of my good intentions about worship disappear, swallowed up by what Charles Hummel calls "the tyranny of the urgent."
"We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important," Hummel writes. "The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant actionendless demands pressure every hour and day."
Does that sound familiar? It does to me. The twenty-four hours allotted to each day rarely stretch far enough to meet all the obligations I face. I have a household to run, a husband to love, children to care for, and a dog to feed. I have church commitments, writing deadlines, lunch engagements to keep. And very little of this is what I would call deadwood. Long ago I tried to cut out what I thought was extraneous. This is my life---and the hours are packed full.
Not long ago, Today's Christian Woman magazine sponsored a survey of more than a thousand Christian women. Over 60 percent indicated they work full time outside the home. Add housework and errands to a forty-hour-a-week career, and you have a recipe for weariness. Women who choose to stay at home find their lives just as full. Chasing toddlers, carpooling to soccer, volunteering at school, baby-sitting the neighbor kidslife seems hectic at every level.
So where do we find the time to follow Mary to the feet of Jesus? Where do we find the energy to serve him?
How do we choose the Better Part and still get done what really has to get done?
Jesus is our supreme example. He was never in a hurry. He knew who he was and where he was going. He wasn't held hostage to the world's demands or even its desperate needs. "I only do what the Father tells me to do," Jesus told his disciples.
Someone has said that Jesus went from place of prayer to place of prayer and did miracles in between. How incredible to be so in tune with God that not one action is wasted, not one word falls to the ground!
That is the intimacy that Jesus invites us to share. He invites us to know him, to see him so clearly that when we look upon him, we see the face of God as well.
Just as he welcomed Mary to sit at his feet in the living room, just as he invited Martha to leave the kitchen for a while and share in the Better Part, Jesus bids us to come.
In obedience to his invitation, we find the key to our longings, the secret to living beyond the daily pressures that would otherwise tear us apart. For as we learn what it means to choose the Better Part of intimacy with Christ, we begin to be changed.
This is no cookie-cutter conversion. This is a Savior who accepts us just the way we areMary or Martha or a combination of bothbut loves us too much to leave us that way. He is the one who can give us a Mary heart in a Martha world.
This transformation is exactly what we see in the continuing stories of Mary and Martha in the Gospels. Martha, as we will discover, doesn't lay aside her personality, give up her hobbies, and burn her cookbooks in order to worship Jesus. She doesn't try to mimic Mary the Little Lamb; she simply obeys. She receives Jesus' rebuke and learns that while there is a time for work, there is also a time for worship. The Martha we see later in the Gospels is no longer frantic and resentful, but full of faith and trust. The kind of faith and trust that come only from spending time at Jesus' feet.
Mary does some changing too. For although her contemplative nature makes her a natural worshiper, it also leaves her vulnerable to despair, as we'll see later in the Gospels. When disaster strikes, Mary's tendency is to be swamped with sorrow and paralyzed with questions. But in the end, when she realizes Jesus' time is short, Mary puts into action what she has learned in worship. She steps forward and seizes the opportunity to serve both beautifully and sacrificially.
That's what I see in the biblical portraits of the two sisters of Bethany. Two completely different women undergo a transformation right before our eyes: a holy makeover. The bold one becomes meek, the mild one courageous. For it is impossible to be in the presence of Jesus and not be changed.
As you read the following chapters, I pray you will allow the Holy Spirit access to all the hidden corners of your life. Whether you tend to be a bit driven, like Martha, or more contemplative, like Mary, God is calling you to intimacy with him through Jesus Christ.
The choice he offered to these two very different sistersand the transformation they experiencedis exactly what he offers to each of us as well.
First Things First
The Living Room Intimacy Mary enjoyed with Jesus will never come out of the busyness of Martha's Kitchen. Busyness, by itself, breeds distraction. Luke 10:38 shows us a woman with the gift of hospitality. Martha opened her home to Jesus, but that doesn't automatically mean she opened her heart. In her eagerness to serve Jesus, she almost missed the opportunity to know Jesus.
Luke tells us that "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." Key word: had. In Martha's mind, nothing less than the very best would do. She had to go all out for Jesus.
We can get caught in the same performance trap, feeling as though we must prove our love for God by doing great things for him. So we rush past the intimacy of the Living Room to get busy for him in the Kitchenimplementing great ministries and wonderful projects, all in an effort to spread the good news. We do all our works in his name. We call him "Lord, Lord." But in the end, will he know us? Will we know him?
The kingdom of God, you see, is a paradox. While the world applauds achievement, God desires companionship. The world clamors, "Do more! Be all that you can be!" But our Father whispers, "Be still and know that I am God." He isn't looking as much for workers as he is looking for sons and daughtersa people to pour his life into.
Because we are his children, Kitchen Service will be the natural result of Living Room Intimacy with God. Like Jesus, we must be about our Father's business. The closer we draw to the heart of the Father, the more we see his heart for the world. And so we serve, we minister, and we love, knowing that when we do it to "the least of these," we have done it unto Christ.
When we put work before worship, we put the cart before the horse. The cart is important; so is the horse. But the horse must come first, or we end up pulling the cart ourselves. Frustrated and weary, we can nearly break under the pressure of service, for there is always something that needs to be done.
When we first spend time in his presencewhen we take time to hear his voiceGod provides the horsepower we need to pull the heaviest load. He saddles up Grace and invites us to take a ride.
I'll never forget crying in the darkness one night many years ago. My husband was an associate pastor at a large church, and our lives were incredibly busy. Carrying a double portfolio of music and Christian education meant we worked long hours on project after project, and the size of the church meant there were always people in need. I would go to bed at night worried about the people who had slipped through the cracksthe marriages in trouble, the children in crisis. I worried about all the things I didn't accomplish and should have, about all the things I'd accomplished, but not very well.
I remember dinging to my husband that night and sobbing as he tried to comfort me. "What's wrong, honey?" he asked, caressing my hair. But I couldn't explain. I was completely overwhelmed.
The only thing that came out between sobs was a broken plea, "Tell me the good news," I begged him. "I honestly can't remember ... Tell me the good news."
Perhaps you have felt the same way. You've known the Lord your whole life, and yet you haven't found the peace and fulfillment you've always longed for. So you've stepped up the pace, hoping that in offering more service, somehow you will merit more love. You volunteer for everything: you sing in the choir, you teach Sunday school, you host Backyard Bible Club, you visit the nursing home weekly. And yet you find yourself staring into the night and wondering if this is all there is.
Or perhaps you've withdrawn from service. You've gone the route I've described above and, frankly, you've had it. You've stopped volunteering, stopped saying yes. No one calls anymore. No one asks anymore. You're out of the loop and glad for it. And yet the peace and quiet holds no peace and quiet. The stillness hasn't led to the closer walk with God you'd hoped for, just a sense of resentment. Your heart feels leaden and cold. You go to church; you go through the motions of worship, then leave and go home the same. And at night, sometimes you wonder, "What is the good news? Can someone tell me? I can't remember."
The Good News
The good news is woven through the New Testament in a grace-filled strand that shines especially bright in the Gospel stories of Mary and Martha. The message is this: Salvation isn't about what I do; it's about what Jesus did.
The Cross did more than pay for my sins; it set me free from the bondage of the "shoulds" and "if onlys" and "what might have beens." And Jesus' words to Martha are the words he wants to speak to your heart and mine: "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."
The "one thing" is not found in doing more.
It's found by sitting at his feet.
Catch that: Mary sat at his feet. She didn't move a muscle. She listened. She didn't come up with clever responses or a doctrinal thesis. Her gift was availability. (In the end, I believe that was Martha's gift as well.)
The only requirement for a deeper friendship with God is showing up with a heart open and ready to receive. Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).
Jesus invites us to come and rest, to spend time with him in this incredible Living Room Intimacy. Intimacy that allows us to be honest in our complaints, bold in our approach, and lavish in our love. Intimacy that allows us to hear our Father's voice and discern our Father's will. Intimacy that so fills us with his love and his nature that it spills out to our dry, thirsty world in Kitchen Service.
In the Living Room. That's where it all begins. Down at his feet.
Reading Group Guide
Nothing has transformed my life like the study of God’s Word. Something powerful happens when we go beyond other people’s opinions and revelations and discover for ourselves what God has to say. I designed this twelveweek
Bible study to help you do just that.
I recommend using a translation of the Bible that you enjoy and understand,
as well as a notebook and a pen to record your answers. Before each lesson, ask the Holy Spirit to increase your understanding as you examine
God’s Word and then help you apply the truths you discover.
Each lesson starts with questions for individual reflection or group discussion,
then moves into a study of scriptural principles. At the end of the lesson,
you’ll have an opportunity to write about what spoke most to you in that chapter. The stories, quotes, and sidebars within the chapters may provide further opportunities for discussion or reflection.
My prayer is that each of you will begin to experience the blessing God promises to those who look “intently into the perfect law that gives freedom…
not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it” (James 1:25). There is a holy makeover waiting for each one of us. It is found in God’s presence and within the pages of his Word. Dig in, ladies! You’ll be glad you did.
1. CHAPTER ONE: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
What preconceived ideas did you have about Mary and Martha before reading this book? Which woman do you relate to most—
Mary or Martha? Explain your answer.
2. One woman told me, “My life is like a blender—and it’s stuck on frappé!” What inanimate object best describes how your life currently feels?
3. Going Deeper
Read Luke 10:38-42. List at least two things you learn about Martha in this passage and at least two things you learn about Mary. How would you sum up Martha in one word? How would you sum up
4. A woman told me, “I guess I’m just a Martha and that I’ll always be a Martha.” Is it possible for our basic character to change, or are we destined to live our lives stuck in a predetermined nature? Explain your answer.
5. What does the Bible say in the following verses about our potential for change?
Ezekiel 36:26-27 ______________________________________
2 Corinthians 5:17 _____________________________________
Philippians 1:6 ________________________________________
6. Have you seen God’s work of transformation in your own life or someone else’s? How did you know it was a “holy makeover” and not just a temporary “facelift”?
7. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Circle key words and meditate on these verses—really think about what Jesus is saying. Then memorize this passage phrase by phrase. Write it on an index card, and refer to it frequently, repeating it until it becomes a part of you.
8. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
9. CHAPTER TWO: “ LORD, DON’ T YOU CARE? ”
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
The story of Mary and Martha stirs up memories of sibling rivalry for many of us. What battles with your siblings do you remember the most? What did you do to get your parents to notice you?
10. Read Luke 10:38-42. Have you ever asked Martha’s question, “Lord,
don’t you care?” What was the situation? How did God answer your question?
11. Going Deeper
All of us have felt alone—even great heroes of the faith felt this way.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-18. How did the “Deadly Ds” of distraction, discouragement,
and doubt attack Elijah after the great victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18? I’ve completed the first one as an example:
DISTRACTION: Jezebel’s anger made him run for his life.
12. In this passage how did God minister to Elijah in the midst of his discouragement?
How has God ministered to you when you felt alone and were hurting?
13. In Mark 4:35-41 the disciples echoed Martha’s question: “Don’t you care?” What does this portion of Scripture teach us about the difficult times in our lives? (Consider Isaiah 43:1-2.)
14. Read Psalm 103. List at least five of the many ways God shows his love for us. (If you are struggling to know the Father’s love,
consider memorizing this chapter so you won’t forget “all his benefits.”)
15. Write Jesus a letter beginning with “Lord, I know you love me because…,” and list the ways he has shown his great love for you.
16. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
17. CHAPTER THREE: THE DI AGNOSIS
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Martha wanted Jesus to tell Mary to help out in the kitchen, but instead of giving her what she wanted, Dr. Jesus made a diagnosis:
“Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things.” If you had been Martha, how would Jesus’ words have made you feel?
18. According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, over half of us are chronic worriers.
Which of the ten signs of a big worrier on page 33 do you struggle with? How do worry and anxiety spill over into your daily life and affect your behavior? your physical health?
19. Going Deeper
Fear not only affects us physically but spiritually. Read Luke 8:14. List three things that may choke the Word of God out of our lives. Which one do you struggle with most, and how does it choke you spiritually?
20. Look at the “Concern and Worry” diagram on page 38, and read the quote from Gary E. Gilley. What concerns are you currently facing?
21. What do the following passages tell us to do with our worries and concerns, and what will be the result?
Proverbs 3:5-6 COMMAND: _____________________
Philippians 4:6-7 COMMAND: _____________________
22. a. Rewrite Matthew 6:25-30 as if God were speaking directly to you and your current situation.
Therefore, I tell you, ______________, do not worry about…
b. Read Matthew 6:31-34. Respond to this passage in a prayer to the
Lord, I don’t want to worry as the world does. Help me to…
23. According to 1 John 4:16-18, how can we respond to God’s love, and what will happen to fear when we do?
24. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
25. CHAPTER FOUR: THE CURE
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Read the wagon and the rocks story on pages 48-51. Take a look in your wagon. Which rocks has God asked you to carry? Which rocks have you unwisely and sometimes unconsciously volunteered to carry for someone else?
26. Do you ever feel the driven, perfectionistic, spiritual Martha Stewart coming out in you? What does she look like at home? What does she look like at church?
27. Going Deeper
What do you think Jesus meant in Luke 10:38-42 when he told
Martha that only one thing was needed?
28. a. Turn a few pages, to Luke 18:18-25, to another exchange Jesus had. What qualification did the rich young ruler give for entering the kingdom of God?
b. What was the one thing Jesus said he lacked?
c. Why do you think Christ focused on his wealth?
d. Why may the one thing God asks us to do be different from what he requires of someone else? (Consider 1 Corinthians 13:3 and
29. Perhaps like the rich young ruler you find yourself trying to perform for God, carrying more rocks in hopes of earning God’s love and favor. What do the following verses say about works-based Christianity?
Galatians 3:3 _________________________________________
Titus 3:5 _____________________________________________
30. What did Paul say in Philippians 3:13-14 was his “one thing”? Why was forgetting what was behind him so important for Paul? (Consider
Acts 26:9-15.) What things in your past hold you back from experiencing all God has for you? Take a moment to ask the Lord to help you let go of anything that holds you back.
31. Using the guidelines on page 55, sit down this week and begin
“dumping rocks.” But before you start, ask the Lord for wisdom
(James 1:5). He loves to give it, and he wants to set us free!
32. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
33. CHAPTER F I V E : LIVING ROOM INTIMACY
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Someone has said that each of us is created “with a God-shaped hole”
and that we will never be truly satisfied until we fill that space with him. Unfortunately many of us, as Teri described on page 69, fill up on spiritual Snicker Bars. What do you turn to instead of God when you’re feeling empty?
34. I’ve written that intimacy with God comes through Prayer + the
Word + Time. Which of these three disciplines is most difficult for you? Which comes easiest?
35. We all face barriers to intimacy with God. Put a check by the one or two you struggle with most, then look up the verses next to that barrier.
Circle the verse that is most meaningful to you.
____ Unworthiness (Isaiah 41:9-10; Ephesians 2:13-14)
____ Busyness (Psalm 90:12; Isaiah 40:29-31)
____ Guilt / Shame (Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9)
____ Pride (Psalm 10:4; James 4:6-7)
____ Depression (Psalm 42:11; John 14:1)
____ Trials / Hard- (Hebrews 13:6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
36. Meditate on the verse you circled, then personalize it in the form of a prayer to God. Here is an example based on 1 John 1:9.
God, thank you for the forgiveness that comes when I admit my sin rather than deny it. I’m so glad I don’t have to clean up my act before I come to you. All I have to do is come. You promise to do the cleaning.
37. I’ve written that before we become Christians, Satan tells us we don’t need a Savior. After we become Christians, he tells us we don’t deserve a Savior. How have these lies affected your walk with God?
38. God longs to have fellowship with us. Read the following verses, and describe the metaphor Scripture uses to describe the intimate relationship we can have with God.
John 15:5 ___________________________________________
Romans 8:15-16 ______________________________________
2 Corinthians 11:2 ____________________________________
39. Read the excerpt from “My Heart Christ’s Home” (pages 72-73).
How does it make you feel to think that Jesus longs to have time alone with you—to be at home in you? How could this realization turn your devotional life from a duty to a delight?
40. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
41. CHAPTER S I X : K I TCHEN SERVICE
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Dwight L. Moody said, “Of one hundred men, one will read the
Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian.”1 Who was the first
Christian in your life to live in such a way that you could clearly see
Christ? How did this person affect your life?
42. Read the story of the little boy and the evangelist on page 97. How would you like Jesus to “stick out all over” your life—that is, what attitudes and characteristics of the Savior would you like God to develop in your life?
43. Going Deeper
Read John 13:1-17. Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet was a totally unexpected example of what true Christian love should look like.
According to page 82, why was it so shocking?
44. J. Oswald Sanders said, “It is noteworthy that only once did Jesus say that he was leaving his disciples an example, and that was when he washed their feet.”2 In what unexpected ways could we wash the feet of those around us?
45. Place one (or more) of the following letters beside each verse that follows.
In this passage Jesus ministered (a) as he went on his way; (b) as he went out of his way; (c) in all kinds of ways.
______ Mark 1:29-34
______ Mark 6:30-34
______ Mark 7:31-35
46. How could you practically administer Christ’s love in each of these ways? I’ve completed the first one as an example.
As I go on my way: I thank the school crossing guard for keeping my kids safe.
As I go out of my way: __________________________________
In all kinds of ways: ___________________________________
47. Read Acts 3:1-10. What can we learn from this passage about how to actively show God’s love to those around us?
48. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
49. CHAPTER SEVEN: THE BETTER PART
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Read the “hoopy birthday” story on pages 99–100. Name the Hula-
Hoop responsibilities you have in your life. Which one is the most difficult to keep in motion?
50. Consider Wilbur Rees’s thought-provoking words:
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the
Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God,
In all honesty, how much of God do you want? What keeps you from wanting more?
51. Going Deeper
We live with so much less than God intended us to have. Ask God to illuminate your understanding as you read Paul’s prayer for believers in Ephesians 3:16-19. Then list three truths from this passage you’d like God to make real in your life.
52. How does Matthew 6:33 relate to Stephen Covey’s “First Things
First” principle (page 103)—that is, putting in the big rocks first?
Give an example of a time you found this principle true in your life.
53. Read on pages 107-108 about Sidlow Baxter’s personal struggle to develop a devotional time. How important is our will in this process of seeking God? How important are our emotions?
54. Explain how the following Bible characters chose to put God first despite overwhelming emotions or circumstances.
David (2 Samuel 12:13-23) _____________________________
Daniel (Daniel 6:3-10) _________________________________
Jesus (Matthew 26:36-39) _______________________________
55. Use the “Journal the Journey” outline in Appendix D and the instructions on page 114 to meditate on and write about one of the following passages.
Psalm 139 Romans 8 Ephesians 4
Isaiah 55 1 Corinthians 13 James 1
56. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
57. CHAPTER EIGHT: LESSONS FROM LAZARUS
What is your favorite kind of story and why?
Romance Mystery Biography
Adventure Sci-Fi Fantasy
58. Which of the following lessons from Lazarus have you found most true in your life? Explain the circumstances involved and what you learned.
• God’s will does not always proceed in a straight line.
• God’s love sometimes tarries for our good and his glory.
• God’s ways are not our ways, but his character is still dependable.
• God’s plan is released when we believe and obey.
• The “end” is never the end; it is only the beginning.
59. Going Deeper
Read John 11:1-6. Circle key words, and think about this family’s situation and Jesus’ response. When you face difficulties, which of these verses might comfort you most and why?
60. Because time and space confine us, we can’t always see what is really happening. What do the following verses say about this in-between time in which we find ourselves?
John 16:33 ___________________________________________
Hebrews 11:13-16 _____________________________________
James 1:2-4 __________________________________________
61. Martha Tennison says, “We only trust people we know. If you’re struggling to trust God, it may be because you don’t really know
God.”4We come to know God better through his Word. What do the following verses reveal about our heavenly Father?
Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is ___________________________.”
Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is ___________________________.”
Psalm 100:5 “The Lord is ___________________________.”
Psalm 145:8 “The Lord is ___________________________.”
62. Look up the word trust in a concordance. Find two phrases that speak to you, and write out the corresponding verses.
63. Laura Barker Snow writes about the difficult times we all face and how we need to view such times through the sovereignty and goodness of God, to live as if God is saying:
My child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory any storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have to tread. It is short, only five words, but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head.… This thing is from ME.5
How would your life be different if you could receive these words as truth and not only truth but as evidence of God’s love in your life?
64. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
65. CHAPTER NINE: MARTHA’ S TEACHABLE HEART
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Which of the following best describes the kind of student you were in school?
Intellectual Absent-Though-Present Teacher’s Pet
Procrastinator Party Animal High Achiever
What did you like most about school? What did you like least? How have you carried these likes and dislikes into adulthood?
66. Think of someone you consider teachable. What character qualities make you view him or her that way?
67. Going Deeper
Fill out the “Are You Teachable?” questionnaire on page 139. What did you discover about yourself?
68. We have to accept the diagnosis if we’re ever going to experience the cure.
I believe Martha did just that. Read Luke 10:38-42. Now read John
11:17-28. What differences do you see in Martha in these two stories?
69. Read Hebrews 12:5-11, and then list four reasons why God disciplines us and four results of that discipline.
70. The Bible is filled with if-then propositions. If we will…, then God will… What do the following verses promise us if we obey? I’ve filled out the first verse for you.
Joshua 1:8 If… I meditate on God’s Word and do it,
then… I will be prosperous and successful.
John 8:31-32 If… _________________________________
James 1:25 If… _________________________________
71. God is willing to forgive and change us—even at our very worst.
Consider the prayer David prayed in Psalm 51:10-12 after his murderous,
adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Rewrite this cry for transformation in your own words. Then read it aloud to the Lord.
72. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
73. Describe a time you expressed love and concern for others and were misunderstood. How did it make you feel? Did you pull back or press in closer?
74. Consider the differences between Mary’s and Judas’s love for Christ:
• had a heart of gratitude • had a heart of greed
• came with abandon • came with an agenda
• heard what Jesus said • heard but did not and responded understand
• held nothing back • gave nothing up
Which aspect of Mary’s love comes easiest to you? Which aspect is the most difficult for you?
75. Going Deeper
Read John 12:1-11. What was Judas’s response to Mary’s extravagant love? What did John say was the motivation behind his response?
76. Read Matthew 16:21-23. What was Peter’s response to Jesus’ explanation that he must die? What did Jesus say was the motivation behind his response?
77. Read another account of Mary’s anointing Jesus in Mark 14:6-9.
Finish the following four statements Jesus made about her extravagant love.
“She has done a ___________________________ thing to me.”
“She did what she ___________________________________.”
“She poured perfume…to prepare for my _________________.”
“Wherever the gospel is preached…what she has ________ will also be told.”
Meditate on one of these statements. Ask the Lord to show you practical ways you could love him more beautifully and sacrificially.
78. Matthew and Mark both place Judas’s dark change of heart as happening immediately after Mary’s extravagant act of love. According to the following verses, why are greed and the love of money so dangerous?
Matthew 6:24 _________________________________________
1 Timothy 6:9-10 ______________________________________
James 4:1-4 ___________________________________________
79. Mary loved extravagantly because she had experienced firsthand the extravagant love of God. Read 1 John 3:1 and Romans 8:31-39.
Write a love letter back to God, expressing your gratitude for his lavish love and extravagant grace.
80. What spoke most to you in this chapter?
81. CHAPTER ELEVEN: BALANCING WORK
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
What does your teetertotter look like when it comes to balancing work and worship? Draw a line to show which way it tends to tilt
(if it does).
82. Read the “Listening to Your Soul” checklist on pages 182-183.
According to the checklist, do you need to spend more time in the
Living Room or the Kitchen? What are some practical ways you could lean into your weak side to bring balance to your Christian life?
83. Going Deeper
On one side of the teetertotter we find the importance of loving people. Read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
Describe how the Samaritan fulfilled the following statements:
He took NOTICE ______________________________________
He took ACTION ______________________________________
He took RESPONSIBILITY________________________________
Which of these three qualities comes easiest to you? Which is the hardest for you?
84. On the other side of Mary and Martha’s story we find Christ’s teaching on prayer. What does Luke 11:1-13 show about our part in prayer and God’s promised response?
OUR PART GOD’S RESPONSE
85. According to the following verses, why is it dangerous to spend all our time on one end of the teetertotter?
Matthew 7:21-23 _____________________________________
James 2:14-17 _______________________________________
1 John 3:16-18 _______________________________________
86. We all need time to let our souls catch up. From Isaiah 58:13-14, list three ways we can “keep the Sabbath” and also three blessings we will receive from honoring the “Lord’s holy day.”
87. According to the following verses, what blessings do we receive from hospitality?
Isaiah 58:6-8 ________________________________________
Matthew 25:34-36 ____________________________________
Hebrews 13:2 ________________________________________
88. What spoke most to you from this chapter?
89. CHAPTER TWELVE: HAVING A MARY HEART
Have you ever heard a great Christian testimony and wished you could have the faith of that person or live as he or she has lived?
What was the process that gave them the product?
90. When you face difficulties in life, which approach do you usually take? Explain.
The All-Star Wrestling Approach: “God! I’m doing this for you—
howsaboutta little help here?”
The Job Approach: “Where are you—and why don’t you care?”
The Jonah Approach: “Forget Nineveh—I’m headed for the
91. Going Deeper
Read John 12:1-3. Knowing what you now know about these sisters, what two things could you surmise about Martha and about Mary from this passage? How would you sum up Martha in one word? How would you sum up Mary? How does this differ from the way you described them in the study for chapter 1
92. Read the following verses. Describe the process God uses and the purpose he intends.
Deuteronomy 8:2 PROCESS ________________________
Romans 8:28-29 PROCESS ________________________
2 Corinthians 4:17 PROCESS ________________________
93. How do we partner in this process, according to Philippians 2:12-13?
94. Read Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 10:35-36, then look up the following words in the dictionary, and write their definitions.
Which of these words mean the most to you right now and why?
95. Read Philippians 3:12-14. Circle key words, and then rewrite this passage in your own words. Read it aloud as a prayer, a declaration of faith, and/or a personal mission statement. Ask God to keep it ever before you as you run the race for the prize.
96. What spoke most to you from this chapter?