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First things first

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Text: New American Standard Bible

Luke 10:38 through Luke 10:42 (NASB) 38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”


      We have become preooccuppied with the little things, and have lost our grip on the important things.

In his book Stress Fractures, Charles Swindoll writes:

   I vividly remember some time back being caught in the undertow of too many commitments in too few days. It wasn't long before I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day. Before long, things around our home started reflecting the pattern of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.

   I distinctly recall after supper one evening the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me about something important that had happened to her at school that day. She hurriedly began, "Daddy-I-wanna-tell-you-somethin'-and-I'll-tell-you-really-fast."

   Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, "Honey, you can tell me ... and you don't have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly."

   I'll never forget her answer: "Then listen slowly."

I.                   Seek First a Worship of the Word Whatever the Work

A.    We must listen to the Word

***Listening is much more than hearing. I often heard my Mother, but I did not listen to her. A writer in the magazine, Today's Christian Woman wrote, "   One day my three-year-old granddaughter, Beverly, was playing with her toys. Her mother, who was folding laundry across the room, noticed Beverly's shirt was dirty and needed to be changed. After calling two times with no response, her mother gave her the full three-name call: "Beverly Elizabeth Provost, did you hear me?" Beverly answered, "Yes, Mama. My ears did, but my legs didn't.""

   -- Marguerite Provost, Georgia.  Today's Christian Woman, "Small Talk."

***   In Listenning, there is an element of involvement that goes beyond  just hearing. A person wrote into Christian Reader Magazine and said "One morning during our adult Sunday school class, our pastor picked up the podium and walked back and forth with it. When someone asked, "What are you doing?" he replied, "Well, sometimes you just need to take a stand." It was a great beginning for a lesson on the importance of strong convictions."

B.     We must learn the Word

***   Not all of us are good learners, but one thing is necessarry in learning, and that is to adopt an attitude of humility. It is said here that Mary sat at Jesus' feet. That is an attitude of humility that all student's in her time took when addressed by their teacher as they were discipled by him. Mary was humble enough to learn from another.  John Bunyan once said that "He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide."

***   ... read the Bible as though it were something entirely unfamiliar, as though it had not been set before you ready-made. ... Face the book with a new attitude as something new. ... Let whatever may happen occur between yourself and it. You do not know which of its sayings and images will overwhelm and mold you. ... But hold yourself open. Do not believe anything a priori; do not disbelieve anything a priori. Read aloud the words written in the book in front of you; hear the word you utter and let it reach you.

   -- Martin Buber, twentieth-century theologian, in a 1926 lecture, quoted in The Five Books of Moses. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 9.

***   The famous Preacher, George Whitfield once said that "God has condescended to become an author, and yet people will not read his writings. There are very few that ever gave this Book of God, the grand charter of salvation, one fair reading through."

C.    We must love the Word

***   Eudora Welty was quoted as saying "I'm grateful ... that from my mother's example, I found the base for worship--that I found a love of sitting and reading the Bible for myself and looking up things in it.  How many of us, the South's writers-to-be of my generation, were blessed in one way or another, if not blessed alike, in not having gone deprived of the King James Version of the Bible.  Its cadence entered into our ears and our memories for good.  The evidence, or the ghost of it, lingers in all our books.  "In the beginning was the Word.""

II.                Seek First an Attitude of Adoration Above Activity

A.    Focus on the Who, not what

***   We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.

   -- A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 5.

***Jesus want's us to focus on Him, and not the work we do for him. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there will I be also.  The idea of name in the New Testament period encompassed the character of the person. There are often more than two or threee that gather together in churches, but they do not gather in His Name.  They are not concerned so much with Him as a person in their midst, as they are with their agenda, and then they look around one day and ask "where did Jesus go?"

***   In his book Good Morning Merry Sunshine, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene chronicles his infant daughter's first year of life. When little Amanda began crawling, he records: "This is something I'm having trouble getting used to. I will be in bed reading a book or watching TV. And I will look down at the foot of the bed and there will be Amanda's head staring back at me.

   "Apparently I've become one of the objects that fascinate her. ... It's so strange. After months of having to go to her, now she is choosing to come to me. I don't know quite how to react. All I can figure is that she likes the idea of coming in and looking at me. She doesn't expect anything in return. I'll return her gaze and in a few minutes she'll decide she wants to be back in the living room and off she'll crawl again." The simple pleasure of looking at the one you love--what Bob and his daughter enjoyed--is what we enjoy each time we worship God and bask in his presence.

B.     Fueled by Endearment, not endurance

*** Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God; it whets our appetite.

   -- Eugene H. Peterson.  Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.

***   I believe that if we are to be and to do for others what God means us to be and to do, we must not let Adoration and Worship slip into second place, "For it is the central service asked by God of human souls; and its neglect is responsible for much lack of spiritual depth and power."

   Perhaps we may find here the reason why we so often run dry. We do not give time enough to what makes for depth, and so we are shallow; a wind, quite a little wind, can ruffle our surface; a little hot sun, and all the moisture in us evaporates. It should not be so.

   -- Amy Carmichael in Edges of His Ways.  Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no.

C.    Fed from the heart, not the hand

***   The Desert Fathers (a protest movement against worldliness in the early church) spoke of busyness as "moral laziness." Busy-ness can also be an addictive drug, which is why its victims are increasingly referred to as "workaholics." Busyness acts to repress our inner fears and personal anxieties, as we scramble to achieve an enviable image to display to others. We become "outward" people, obsessed with how we appear, rather than "inward" people, reflecting on the meaning of our lives.

-- James Houston in The Transforming Power of Prayer. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 5.

III.             Seek First the Issues of Importance Instead of the Incidental

A.    The incidental distracts us

***  Knowing God is not a big item in the preparation of a lot of preachers over America today because, just between you and me, pulpit committees are not asking, "Does this prospective pastor know God?" They are asking, "Can he raise the budget?"

   -- Vance Havner, from The Vance Havner Quote Book/On This Rock I Stand. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 16.

***  In biblical days prophets were astir while the world was asleep; today the world is astir while church and synagogue are busy with trivialities.

-- Abraham Joshua Heschel, theologian, poet, mystic, social reformer, author, in The Insecurity of Freedom. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 9.

B.     The important focuses us

***   If you attempt to talk with a dying man about sports or business, he is no longer interested. He now sees other things as more important. People who are dying recognize what we often forget, that we are standing on the brink of another world.

   -- William Law in Christian Perfection  (a contemporary paraphrase by Marvin D. Hinten).  Christianity Today, Vol. 39,  no. 7.

***  Rather than let the world interrupt our time in prayer, how about interrupting the world with prayer?

   -- Paul Williams in a sermon (July 20, 1997). Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 10.


C.    The needful sustains us

***   One day I was trying to feed my 2-month-old daughter, Crystal. She cried loudly and frantically, pausing just to breathe. If she would only be still, I thought, then I could feed her. Looking down at her in my arms, I wondered how often I cry out to God, hungry for spiritual food--but am too frantic to allow Him to satisfy my needs.

   -- Julie Collins, North Platte, NE.  Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."

***  Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God; it whets our appetite.

   -- Eugene H. Peterson.  Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.


When I was in seminary, a pastor from a Christian Reformed church in Chicago came to the campus. One evening he told us the story of a couple in his church, a mother and her son. The father had died when the boy was young. The mother and son had a very unique relationship. This was back before television, and folks would spend evenings listening to the radio or reading to one another. They both enjoyed listening to good music. Theirs was a special relationship.

   In his early twenties, he met a young woman at the church, fell in love with her, and they decided to be married. Back then, during World War II, housing in our large cities was very difficult to get. The mother, knowing they wanted to be married, said, "We have a two-story house. I can make an apartment for myself in the second story. You and your bride can live in the first story. The only thing I ask is that we get a chance to spend some time together because I'm going to miss the reading and the music."

   Her son said, "Mother, you can be sure of that. It's too important to me."

   The couple married. For a while, life continued with the son stopping by a couple of times a week to spend some time. He was busy, and eventually days and actually weeks went by with only a call from downstairs or a brief glimpse. The relationship was not what it had been.

   On the mother's birthday, the young man bought his mother a lovely dress, brought it to her, and said, "Happy birthday, Mother."

   She opened the package and looked at the dress."Oh, Son, thank you. I appreciate so much what you've done."

   He said, "Mother, you don't like it."

   She said, "Oh, yes, I do. It's my color. Thank you."

   He said, "Mother, I have the sales slip. They tell me I can take it back."

   She said, "No, it is a lovely dress."

   He said, "Mother, you don't fool me. We've been together too long. What's wrong?"

   The woman turned and opened her closet. She said, "Son, I have enough dresses there to last me for the rest of my life. I guess all I want to say is that I don't want your dress. I want you."

   Out of this quaint story of long ago, I hear God saying that to me. With all of our busyness, we better simplify our lives because, ultimately, God doesn't want your life as much as he wants you.

   -- Haddon Robinson, "Don't Just Do Something, Sit There," Preaching Today, Tape No. 138.

See: Ecc 2:26; Mt 13:22; Lk 10:40.

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