There’s This “One Thing”

Jesus told the rich young ruler, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

Jesus said to Martha, “Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).

For the young ruler, the one thing was what he would gain by losing his possessions. For Martha, her sister had found the one thing and she was left holding the oven mitt.

But I think, at the root, these two very different people lacked the same one thing. Continue reading

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On the Way to the Cross: Collection

Jesus had this uncanny ability to be distracted without losing focus. Remember Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:40-56)? Jesus stopped to heal the unclean woman–giving her seemingly undivided attention, yet He never forgot or ignored Jairus and his daughter.

Someone said we should look at distractions as opportunities. Must have been before the days of smartphones. When I’m distracted by social media, that’s simply an “opportunity” to waste time. Throughout His public ministry, Jesus turned distractions and digressions into opportunities…opportunities for teaching, blessing, or healing, and sometimes for all three. Continue reading

He Will Be Called: Prince of Peace

Five days until Christmas (as I write this), and the to-do list is getting longer rather than shorter. This happens every year. I have grand schemes of all the things I’ll bake, all the gifts I’ll make by hand, and the traditions on which we’ll follow-through. And every year, I do less than the year before. “Lacking” had become the theme of my Christmas. With my sense of lacking comes discontent: all the thoughts of how I should be better, how we should be doing more God-ish stuff and less simply surviving, how I should be making better memories for my children than rushing to finish the laundry so we can pack for trips to the grandparents. There’s little we can call “peaceful” in these days. (Although a teenager who likes to wrap presents does help.)

When the people of Judah lost their king to the Babylonian conquerors, they also lost their queen, along with all the princes and princesses. There were no literal princes in their courts, and no peace in their hearts. I imagine shalom, that ubiquitous Hebrew word for peace which means far more than “absence of war,” felt foreign to those trudging, defeated masses making their way toward Babylon. Continue reading

Generosity Makes Time

I remember sitting in my tent cabin on the side of a mountain in Yosemite National Park, where I was working for the summer. I was twenty-three years old, and I had just finished college. It was the summer before I got engaged…and the summer my grandmother died. It was the summer I read Mere Christianity. I opened to the inside back cover of my journal, and I wrote, “Rules to Live By.” I already longed for wisdom, and I asked God for it daily. I had been paying attention to what happened—both to me and around me. For those couple of months, I thought back over my life. I tried to see where God was working. I thought about the spiritual relevance of everything.

People are more
important than plans.

By the end of the summer, I had three rules. The first one was this: People are more important than plans. Maybe you’re thinking, “Duh!” But to this Type A, first-born, compulsive list-maker, who would do whatever it took to tick that last task off the day’s to-do list, such a simple sentence both convicted and challenged me. In not-so-many words, God told me to prioritize the people in my life over the plans/tasks/lists/projects/obligations.

I haven’t always heeded my own rules, including this one. Continue reading

The Largess of a Not-Large Man

It was a little more than a week before Passover. Jesus was headed toward Jerusalem for the last time. He knew he was going to die, and He very bluntly told the disciples about it (Luke 18:31-34). His route took him through Jericho, on the edge of Jordan’s floodplain, before climbing a treacherous eighteen miles into the hill country and the city of Jerusalem.

The route was intentional. He had a few things to do along the way. He gave sight to a blind beggar outside Jericho (Luke 18:35-43, Mark 10:46-52) and, to the dismay of everyone around him, he enjoyed the hospitality of one short, criminally-wealthy tax collector. Continue reading

Generosity Opens the Door Wide

  • Jesus told Zacchaeus to climb down from the tree because they were going to Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus “welcomed him gladly” (Luke 19:5-6).
  • Martha “opened her home” to Jesus when we walked into Bethany (Luke 10:38).
  • Levi, a former tax collector, “held a great banquet for Jesus at his house” (Luke 5:29).
  • A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to have dinner with him in his home, and Jesus accepted his invitation despite knowing the critical nature of the man’s heart (Luke 7:36).
  • A former leper named Simon threw a dinner party in Jesus’ honor just days before His arrest and crucifixion (Mark 14:3, John 12:1-2).

Some of Jesus’ best, most
intimate teaching took place
over a meal in someone’s home.

Some of Jesus’ best, most intimate teaching took place over a meal in someone’s home. Women and men, Pharisees and tax collectors—all sorts of people—invited Jesus into their homes. Okay, sometimes He invited Himself. Still, in every recorded instance, He said “yes.” What if, here in the 21st century, ours was the home? What if Jesus used us to reach someone over a meal in our home? Continue reading

Sorry Jesus, Your Deity Slipped My Mind

“Didn’t we just do this the other day?” Most years, Christmas decorations show up in the stores, and I can’t believe it’s already that time again. Or my first-born starts talking about her birthday, and I’m like, “Wait, didn’t you just have a birthday?”

I can imagine Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt the same way about Passover. After she and Joseph returned to Nazareth from Egypt, they went to Jerusalem for the festival every year. It was a three-day walk each way, but they did it, as did almost everyone in Nazareth. Continue reading