One Thing is Needed

Welcome SGT Family! Here are a few notes that go with the message today! If you would like a pdf click here!

Luke 10:38-42, Personal Translation (pdf of my interlinear translation)

But as they went, He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received Him. Also to her was a sister called Mary, who, while sitting down towards the feet of Jesus, was hearing His word. But Martha was being distracted around much serving; and having stood by, she said, “Lord, is there not a concern to you that my sister leaves me alone without assistance to serve? Therefore speak to her so that she will help me.” But, answering, the Lord said to her, “Martha Martha, you are anxious and disturbed around many things, but one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen for herself the good portion such that will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was distracted.

Περισπαω from περι “Around” and σπαω “to draw [like a sword]. To draw different ways at the same time, hence to distract with cares and responsibilities . . . to be drawn around in mind or to be distracted, preoccupied with cares or business.”

If I am distracted it means that something has come along and caused me not to be attracted to something that otherwise would get or needed my attention. The attraction is interrupted; I was a-ttracted but now I am dis-tracted.

The word “tract” in many English applications means to draw out, capable of being drawn out, etc. so A-ttract is “to pull to” something. To dis-tract is “to pull away” from something. Can you see that in both there is a particular focus point. One moves to the focus point, the other is pulled away from the focus point.

Martha had been “drawn away” by the duties of serving. It was almost like something gripped and her and simply pulled her away. But she didn’t want to go alone. She had determined that what was needed in that moment was for her and her sister to prepare a meal for the guests or to serve them in some way. It was a big enough job that Martha felt like she needed help. Her perspective crashed into Jesus’ when He said, “Martha Martha, you are anxious and disturbed around many things, but one thing is necessary” and that Mary had chosen that part.

  1. Distracted by our priorities

One of the things that Martha had her eyes on was the need to serve those who had come to her house. Now, whether she enjoyed it or not is another question. In this story we see that she feels the job should not be hers alone. It may be that she needed help or it may be that she resented her sister on principle for not helping.

  1. Distracted by a preoccupation of what others are doing, not doing.

In any case, we see the second thing that gets Martha’s attention and that’s a preoccupation with what Mary should be doing.

  1. Does Jesus care?

Maybe it’s not too much to mention that she is also distracted by the fact that Jesus does not seem to care that Mary isn’t helping. She wants Jesus to tell her to leave His side and His words and get in that kitchen and help! [Jesus not only doesn’t seem to care that Mary isn’t helping, He also seems to not care too much whether He gets served. How many times have we occupied ourselves and others with doing things that God never asked us to do?]

What pulls you away from God? What pulls you away from holiness? What pulls you away from your intention to pray and get closer to God?

Mary made a choice. Jesus affirmed her choice.

Only one thing is needed. Isn’t that too simple? How long have you paid lip service to God by saying you trust Him and you want Him first when in reality you are fully occupied with making your own luck?!

My Week

I have struggled for a week or more with distraction. I have been concerned wondering what is wrong. My dreams Friday night were busy; different short scenarios where someone would run and get something that was needed or do something to fix a situation. Saturday morn I woke up with a sense of desperation.

All at once I had a thought. One that I am accustomed to having but couldn’t find in the last week. More than a thought. More like a heart cry: “Lord, I just want you.” Everything broke open and the Lord began to show me that I had been experiencing the kind of distraction I was planning to preach about. But I was given fresh insight that showed me that it is not as simple as just being busy and the solution is not as easy as just stopping the busy-ness. I also realized that it can be painful.

  • It’s about arriving at that place where, like Mary, you are able from your heart to choose the good portion. “Lord, I just want you.” Only one thing is necessary.
  • It’s about understanding that this must be given to you.
  • It’s about being able to recognize distraction.
  • It’s about being honest with yourself about what you really desire most.
  • It’s about choosing not to make excuses for yourself.
  • It’s about coming to terms with the revelation that only one thing is needful. Do you believe this?






Can You Put It Into Words?

Somewhere along the way congregations began worshiping through applause. I don’t mean clapping of hands in the Spirit as a personal expression of praise, victory, etc. I mean, as an audience, expressing appreciation (presumably to God and not the singer, etc.) through corporate applause.

According to Eusebius in his Church History, various pastors wrote an epistle reprimanding the activities and behaviour of Paul of Samosota saying that “he rubukes and insults those who do not applaud, and shake their handkerchiefs as in the theaters.”(Book VII, Chapter XXX, par. 9)

My own sense of the modern origin of this is that it began to arise in the average local Pentecostal church in imitation of what its congregants were seeing on the television when they would watch Jim Bakker and PTL, or Jimmy Swaggart in his big preaching campaigns. I assume that the applause in those settings was a natural byproduct of what a large audience does when it collectively experiences something that it likes, enjoys, or approves of. (For a lengthy treatment of the history of applause go here) All I know is that when I was a child it was not common for congregations to applaud in a way that it is today. 

Here’s why I am bringing this up in the first place. I am in no way saying congregations shouldn’t applaud great points in sermons, etc. But my concern is that applause is a praise and worship shortcut. It relieves me of the need to say anything specific or intentional about the awesomeness of God. This applies to those in The Daily Prayer Project in that one of the comments I am beginning to hear a lot is “What do I say while I am pursuing intimacy with God?”

We have for too long assumed that God only wants us so that He can put us to work. In response to that erroneous idea, we have only pursued intimacy to the level of trying to cultivate obedience. But intimacy with God is not, in its deepest places, about doing something for God but is rather about being with God in the deepest places of our soul.

Let me end this beginning discussion of intimacy by asserting this: There is praise where we say great things about and to God. There is worship where we move beyond praise to surrender. Then there is the pursuit of intimacy. Think on all of this for awhile.


The DPP Family

I’m excited to see several of you post about your prayer times! More will join us as we go along.

A new cycle of The DailyPrayer Project started Sunday and I am very encouraged by the discussion we had yesterday! People who are really serious about prayer and going deeper into the Secret Place. How awesome that the God of the universe waits for us in the Secret Place! I hope you are catching the vision of just how amazing this adventure can be.

If you are reading this but have yet to read the book (Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer, Revised and Expanded), attend a project cycle, go to the Home Page and get started today!


Intimacy First? Yes! Intimacy Only? No way!

So if you have read the book (Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer, Revised and Expanded) or been through the The Daily Prayer Project, you know how strongly I am pushing for the first priority of prayer to be the  pursuit of intimacy with Jesus. Still doin it! But, prayer is dynamic and it’s components operate in a kind of symbiosis with each other. So, while the efficacy of our prayers is directly related to the level of our intimacy with Jesus, powerful intercession and petitions should and will flow out of that intimacy.

Mary and Martha

I was reminded again this week how important intercession can be to intimacy with Jesus. Somehow, as we whole-heartedly and with abandon find ourselves praying for others we find that interwoven in those prayers are opportunities to cry out for Jesus in worship, longing, surrender.

Let’s look at the story of Mary and Martha before we go any further:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 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!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

I have said that if all you do in prayer is pursue intimacy with Jesus then, like Mary, you will have chosen what is better! HOWEVER, I have said that knowing that out of that intimacy will flow intercession sand petitions led by the Holy Spirit and, I believe that then we will witness greater answers to prayer!

So, Yes! Intimacy first. But intimacy only? No.