Monday, August 17, 2009

Martha vs. Martha (or Ken vs. Ken)

As I've taken some time off this summer, it's given me time to reflect on my routines. And as I've done so, I've thought about the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. It's not the first time I've felt challenged at Jesus' unflinching comparison of Mary's devotion to Martha's distraction. But this time, I noticed the way the story highlights conflict within Martha herself. I mean, sure, Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus puts most of us in a rather bad light. But even aside from Mary, I realized that I can identify way too well with the way Martha seems at odds with herself!

Luke 10:38 describes "a woman named Martha" who "welcomed Jesus into her house." Not a bad thing. Not bad at all. There were others in the Gospels who didn't welcome Jesus anywhere, let alone their house. But then in Luke 10:40, it's said that "Martha was distracted with much serving" -- so much so that she complained to Jesus about Mary not helping.

It's the phrase "much serving" that got my attention. That seems to me to be something commendable in my world. Those willing to sacrificially serve are highly praised -- in the church as well as in society. But in this instance it's labelled as a distraction, and it stands in contrast to Martha's initial welcome. "Martha welcomed Him... Martha was distracted with much serving."

I can't help but see what a mirror this is of my own life. There was a day when I initially welcomed Jesus into my heart and home. I was thrilled He was willing to come in! But as I've sought to live for Him, things I've done for Him have become a distraction from Him. As a pastor, I feel particularly vulnerable to this. Reflecting back on this past year, it feels as though the level to which I've been distracted with "much serving" has sometimes been greater than the level to which I've welcomed Jesus into my heart from day to day. Though it's painful to face up to, it seems like there have been days when I've even forgotten that He's there in my heart, waiting for my fellowship, while I scurry about with "much serving."

As I face the coming season that will follow this summer break, I know that the answer is not to minimize the value of serving. Jesus set an amazing example of serving and challenged His disciples to follow that example (John 13:14-15). But I must be alert to how easily my desire to serve Jesus can conflict with my desire to welcome Him in my heart. And it's important that I remember: It's not what I do for Him that truly matters, but who I am in Him as I enjoy His friendship.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Friday, August 7, 2009

Used books

I can't seem to walk past a used book store without going in. I have to look. I have to check and see. Though I'm sure I already have hundreds of books at home that I've yet to read (I've never counted them), I'm convinced there are more out there I need, and someone is prepared to sell me one for $1.25.

Every time I'm on vacation, this bug hits me hard. On past summer holidays, I've found beautiful first editions of old classics at cut-rate prices, books autographed by famous people and then priced as though nobody noticed, and vintage editions of out-of-print books by the likes of John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon in a give-away box! Those are the kinds of discoveries that keep me in the hunt.

So this year, I took my family on an exciting ferry ride to Victoria, BC. Beautiful city. Full of sights and attractions. World-class museums, a beautiful waterfront walkway, national historic landmarks. So much to see and do. And amidst all that, I made sure we found the time to visit two local bookstores. Not that they minded. My wife now loves such stores too. And all but one in our family bought books. But as we walked toward the second bookstore, the one child who didn't buy any books exclaimed exhaustedly, "Not another bookstore!" That got my attention.

And yet even as I pondered the significance of my daughter's plaintive cry regarding the prospects of another eternal wait as her family disappeared into the catacombs of another used bookstore, I fell prey. I had decided that the day after our day in Victoria would not be a commercial day, but a day out in the parklands of Vancouver Island. So we drove out of the city and surrounded ourselves with natural beauty. There's so much to see and experience on the island: thundering waterfalls and towering forests and gorgeous ocean beaches. And as we were walking together, the sea gulls happily calling us toward a sunny sea shore, the kids eager to find shells before the tide came in, I saw a used book store down the street. And before you could say "Hard cover, first edition", we were all in the store, surrounded by books once again. Sea shore? What's that?

The thing is, I simply don't need more books to read. I'm already reading about a dozen books right now. No, that's not right. It's more like I've got bookmarks in about a dozen books right now, and some of those have remained untouched for a few years. But I can't help it. I'll start a book, and then before I'm done, I get distracted by another book, and then before I'm done, I get distracted... you get the picture. The point is, I have plenty of reading material.

But that's not the point. I don't buy most book to read. I buy them to collect. I want to collect books that reflect my passions and values, whether I find time to read them or not. And I have read many, and eventually hope to read many more, but in the meantime, I keep wanting to find more. And I love it when I find books that package those passions and values in beautiful bindings with attractive covers and with old weathered pages that look as though others have shared those same passions that I have.

Call it Collector's Itch or call me crazy, but I love old, used books, and summer holidays provide me with the time to search them out. And I think I've infected most of my family with the same itch. (And we did make it to the beach, a forest and a waterfall, and to several historic landmarks in and around Victoria!)

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Monday, August 3, 2009

What manner of life am I living?

I came across a phrase today that got me thinking. Philippians 1:27 says, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ". As I read that, I couldn't help but wonder -- what "manner of life" have I been living lately? Has it been worthy of the Gospel of Christ? In fact, how would I even sum up my "manner of life"? Is it comfort-seeking, or recreation-driven, or entertainment-based like the culture around me? Or has it been under momentum, or self-oriented, or people-pleasing in nature?

I certainly want my manner of life to be "worthy of the Gospel of Christ", so it's vital that I regularly examine how I'm living to be sure that it is. The apostle Paul gave me some clues (in the immediate context of Philippians 1:27-28) as to what manner of life he had in mind. He wrote that he hoped to hear that the Philippian believers were...
  • "...standing firm..." -- persevering
  • " one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side..." -- unified with other Christians
  • "...for the faith of the Gospel..." -- of faith and Gospel-oriented
  • "...and not frightened in anything by your opponents" -- courageous
Those are five key components of a "manner of life" that are "worthy of the Gospel of Christ". And because I want my "manner of life" to reflect the character of God rather than the character of the culture in which I live, I want to actively and prayefully pursue such traits. That means regularly reflecting on my lifestyle and living a lifestyle of repentance as I seek to make my manner of life conform to the ways of the Gospel of God's kingdom each and every day.

© 2009 by Ken Peters