Frank Viola Author Answers Questions

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Frank’s ministry is called The Deeper Journey

Discovering that the Christian life really is more than you thought.

His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive.

Frank Viola author is a prolific writer, creating dozens of books, blogs, articles, podcast episodes, and interviews. Viola’s ministry concentrates on several areas: The deeper Christian life, Jesus studies, and radical church reform.

His earlier work focuses on radical ecclesiology, his recent work focuses on Jesus and the deeper life.

From Viola’s LinkedIn page,

***PUBLISHED BOOKS***

Viola, Frank and Mary DeMuth (2015). The Day I Met Jesus. Baker Books.

Viola, Frank (2014). Jesus Now. David C. Cook.

Viola, Frank (2013). God’s Favorite Place on Earth. David C. Cook.

Viola, Frank and Leonard Sweet (2012). Jesus: A Theography. Thomas Nelson.

Viola, Frank (2011). Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script. David C. Cook.

Viola, Frank and Leonard Sweet (2010). Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Thomas Nelson.

Viola, Frank (2009). Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting & Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities. David C. Cook.

Viola, Frank (2009). From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God. David C. Cook.

Viola, Frank (2008). Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. David C. Cook.

Viola, Frank and George Barna (2008). Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Tyndale.

Viola, Frank (2005). The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament. Destiny Image.

View details at frankviola.org/books

***PUBLISHED ARTICLES AND/OR INTERVIEWS***

TIME Magazine, Christianity Today, Relevant, Charisma, Ministry Today, Prism, Good News, CBN, Neue, Out of Ur, The Christian Post, Revive, ReThink, The Ooze, Next-Wave, ForMinistry, InSpirit, New Reformation, New Wineskins,The Pneuma Review, etc.

Specialties:

* Conference / Seminar Speaking

* Audio Interviews.

* Print Interviews & Published Articles: Examples of past interview and/or article publications – TIME, Christianity Today, Charisma, Ministry Today, Relevant, Out of Ur, Life Today, The Christian Post, Prism, Good News, CBN.com, etc.

3 Reasons Why Christians Take Offense at Jesus – Part III

(3) He doesn’t show up on time.

The story of Lazarus teaches us this in spades. The Lord works too slowly. He reacts too late. His deliverance takes too long. His clock seems defective.

We can text or email our prayer to God, and He doesn’t text or email back when we expect. In fact, sometimes we never hear back from Him at all. The screen is blank.

Sometimes we’ll pray for an important matter in our own lives … or we’ll pray for someone else … for years. And the dial doesn’t move.

Waiting on the Lord can become exhausting. And it can lead to offense. But God always keeps perfect time.

To sum up, here’s how not to be offended by the Lord:

Remember that He demands everything, and He has promised suffering and tribulation along with blessing and eternal life. So don’t sell out for a cheap, easy gospel. Such is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. He told us what we were getting into and exhorted us to count the cost ahead of time.

Remember that His ways are higher than ours, and He doesn’t always show us what He’s doing or why. We may not always understand what He does or allows, but He can still be trusted. This is the nature of walking by faith rather than by sight. Even when His grace is not sufficient, when we look back, we realize that it was always sufficient.

Remember that God is always on time, but His clock ticks differently from ours. He’s a Lord who sometimes shows up long after the hour of healing has passed and we have been dead four days. Just ask Lazarus.

Being offended by God is a choice. You can choose to take offense at the Lord and stumble over that which you don’t understand. Or you can “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding.”

Basing your faith on God’s performance—what you think He should do according to what you’ve been taught about His promises—is a profound mistake. Countless Christians have fallen away from the Lord when He didn’t appear to fulfill His promises. Thus the only solid basis for an unwavering faith and an unshakable devotion is to believe that God is … and that He does “all things well,” no matter what takes place.

A. W. Tozer was correct when he wrote, “The worth of any journey can always be measured by the difficulties encountered along the way.”

Jesus Christ is full of surprises. So much so that if Jesus isn’t surprising you, then you’ve probably stopped growing in Him.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

3 Reasons Why Christians Take Offense at Jesus – Part II

(2) He doesn’t meet our expectations.

The Lord often works in ways that we don’t understand. I’ve heard some Christians say, “My life would have been much better today if I didn’t follow Jesus in my youth. Look where it’s gotten me.”

In my book Finding Organic Church, I wrote about the Catch-30 crisis. There comes a point in all our lives where we reassess the major commitments we’ve made in early adulthood. And we either dig in deeper or we detrain.

Isaiah says that God’s ways are higher than ours. The Lord works on levels that we cannot fathom. But He works all things for our good.

“Why hasn’t God answered this prayer? Why didn’t He fulfill this promise? Why did He let this happen to me? Why did He let this happen to him or her? Why is God silent when I need to hear Him most?”

These are the questions that plague the mind of the serious believer.

If you’ve not yet met the God who refuses to meet all your expectations, you will. And how you react in that day will reveal whether you are worshipping Jesus Christ or Santa Claus. It will show whether or not you love God more than His promises (or your interpretation of those promises).

Job said, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

Would you still serve the Lord if it sent you to hell?

Recall the three Hebrew children. They lived lives loyal to their God. And the pagan king gave them an ultimatum: “Worship the golden image or else you’re going to die in my fiery furnace.”

Their answer is telling: “We’re not going to serve your gods or worship the image. The Lord is able to deliver us from your furnace and He will deliver us. But even if He doesn’t, we still will not bow the knee to your gods.”

What attitude. What posture. What faith. “God will deliver us. But even if He doesn’t, we will still follow Him.”

Those words contain thunder and lightning for every child of God.

If I can use an illustration, we mortals are living on pages 300 to 400 of a 2,000-page book. Only God can see the whole book—the entire story. And He has given us the ability to see only pages 300 to 400.

We have no capacity to understand what’s on pages 1 to 299 or pages 401 to 2,000. We can only speculate and assume what’s in them. Hence we create all sorts of intricate theological systems to explain mysteries we don’t understand.

The Lord doesn’t show us all His plot twists. So life comes down to trusting in the Lord rather than trying to figure out His ways through our finite, limited understanding.

Yet with one another, we can better discover and understand what’s in pages 300 to 400 and thereby learn to live more effectively within them.

Mary of Bethany didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t come to heal Lazarus. But she trusted Him nonetheless. Let us learn how to trust a God we don’t fully understand.

The Skinny on Frank Viola Author

frank viola author

Frank Viola author has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church.

Frank Viola has authored and co-authored a series of books on these themes, including the new bestseller God’s Favorite Place on Earth, Revise Us Again, From Eternity to Here, Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, Jesus Manifesto, Jesus: A Theography, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, and Finding Organic Church. Frank blogs regularly at frankviola.org, which is rated in the top 10 of all Christian blogs on the Web today.

Ministry Focus

Viola’s ministry is focused on two key themes: (1) The deeper Christian life (a term coined by Andrew Murray). (2) Radical church reform. Frank also has a great burden for the poor, and much of his time is focused on helping the poor and standing with the oppresed. He has written on this in a number of blogs posts: 4 Ways in Which I Help the Poor Blessed Are the Undesirable Following Your Spiritual Instincts Regarding the Poor Interview with N.T. Wright Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, ranked at #13 on Amazon.com out of all books. According to Viola, this book is his “life’s work.” Here is an excerpt taken from the book landing page.

Using story, biblical narrative, and practical teaching, God’s Favorite Place on Earth will equip you to:

  • Gain God’s peace and presence in the midst of your worst storm.
  • Grow to the place where you are beyond being offended.
  • Truly forgive and release those who have rejected you.
  • Learn how to live life without fear of anything.
  • Trust God when He doesn’t meet your expectations or doesn’t appear to fulfill His promises.
  • Increase your faith and overcome doubt.
  • Defeat discouragement with a new perspective on Jesus.
  • Find out what Jesus means and doesn’t mean by the command, “Follow Me.”
  • Be set free from a guilty conscience and delivered from spiritual burn-out.
  • Learn how we’ve been misinformed about Mary and Martha and why this is important for your own walk with God.
  • Handle rejection, misunderstanding, and unjust criticism, especially from fellow Christians.
  • Be set free from bitterness.
  • Discover what God is looking for beyond everything else, solidifying the vision for the Christian life into “one thing.”
  • Identify what touches the heart of Jesus the most. (It may surprise you.)
  • Be inspired to serve the Lord with renewed vigor and zeal.
  • Have your heart awakened with newfound love for Jesus by seeing Him afresh.
  • Find deliverance from materialism (consumerism) and discover the meaning of “wasting yourself” on Jesus.
  • Respond wisely to well-meaning friends when they give you poor advice during your suffering.

Frank Viola publishes a discipleship course each year

God’s Eternal Purpose by Frank Viola

Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul spills a great deal of ink trying to unveil the eternal purpose of God to the Christians in Asia Minor. The entire letter is a breathtaking unfolding of the divine purpose. In it, Paul puts the most sublime truths into human words. In Ephesians, the ultimate purpose and passion that God has had in His heart from ages past is richly set forth.

Ephesians teaches us that the purpose of God stands far outside the reaches of redemption. In eternity past, God the Father has been after a bride and a body for His Son and a house and a family for Himself. These four images—the bride, the body, the house, and the family—comprise the grand narrative of the entire Bible. And they lie at the center of God’s beating heart. They are His ultimate passion, His eternal purpose, and His governing intention. To put it another way, God’s eternal purpose is intimately wrapped up with the church.

The Mission of God

As I write this book, there’s a great deal of talk about the Missio Dei (God’s Mission or “Sending”) in Christian circles. I think this can be a healthy emphasis. But exactly what is God’s mission? I suggest that it’s nothing other than God’s eternal purpose.

As long as I’ve been a Christian, I have made this simple observation: Our modern gospel is entirely centered on human needs. The plotline of that gospel is one of a benevolent God whose main purpose is blessing and healing a fallen world. Thus our gospel is centered on saving man’s spirit/soul (evangelism) and/or saving his body (healing the sick, delivering the captives, helping the poor, standing with the oppressed, caring for the earth, etc.). In short, the gospel that’s commonly preached today is “human centered.” It’s focused on the needs of humanity, be they spiritual or physical.

But there is a purpose in God that is for God. That purpose was formed in Christ before the fall ever occurred. The meeting of human needs is a by-product, a spontaneous outflow, of that purpose. It’s not the prime product.

Tellingly, God didn’t create humans in need of salvation. Go back to the creation project in Genesis 1 and 2, and you will discover that God’s purpose preceded the fall. That should lead us to ask a very incisive question: What was God going to do with human beings if they had never fallen?

Throughout my years as a Christian, I’ve been involved in movements that majored in evangelism, others that majored in social activism, and others that majored in spiritual gifts. All of these things were made “ends in themselves.” None of them were integrated into God’s ultimate purpose. In fact, “the eternal purpose” was never mentioned. The result was that those activities, though good and noble, failed to satisfy the beating heart of God.

Let me explain the last paragraph by giving an illustration. Imagine that a general contractor purchases twenty acres of land by which to build a housing complex. After the houses are built, he wishes to have a landscape garden at the entrance of the complex. This is his goal. So he hires someone to plant beautiful trees. He hires another to lay large rocks. He hires another to plant beautiful flowers. And he hires another to plant shrubs and bushes.

The person who plants the trees plants them randomly throughout the complex. The person who lays the rocks does the same. So does the person who plants the flowers. The person who plants the shrubs and bushes does the same.

When the contractor observes what they have all done, he’s very disappointed.

His goal was a landscape garden. Instead, he sees that the flowers, rocks, trees, shrubs, and bushes are all disconnected and scattered about the complex haphazardly.

Is it good to plant trees? Yes. Is the planting of flowers a positive thing? Certainly. But these things “in themselves” were not the contractor’s goal.  

He wanted a landscape garden.

That describes the kingdom of God today. Many good deeds, but an overwhelming disconnection from God’s ultimate goal—which happens to be from Him, through Him, and to Him (Rom. 11:36; Col. 1:16–18; Eph. 1:5).

Overshooting the Main Point

Why is it that so many of us Christians have shot past the main point? Why have we not seen the greater purpose of God amid all of our books, magazines, Web sites, blogs, CDs, DVDs, conferences, and seminars?

If I knew the answer to that, I would be twofold a Solomon. I’ll make an educated guess, however. I think part of the reason is that evangelical Christians have built their theology mostly on Romans and Galatians. And many nonevangelical Christians have built it on the Gospels (particularly the Synoptics—Matthew, Mark, and Luke). And for both groups, Ephesians and Colossians have been but footnotes.

But what if we began, not with the needs of humans, but with the intent and purpose of God? What if we took as our point of departure, not the earth after the fall, but the eternal activity in God Himself before the constraints of physical time?

In other words, what if we built our theology on Ephesians and Colossians and allowed the other New Testament books to follow suit? Why Ephesians and Colossians? Because Ephesians and Colossians give us the clearest look at Paul’s gospel with which Christ commissioned him. These two letters begin, not with the needs of postfall humans, but with God’s timeless purpose before creation. They also introduce us to Christ in His preincarnate state.

I assert that if we did this, the Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament (let alone the entire Old Testament), would fall into a very different place for us. And the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ and His counterpart, the church, would dominate our understanding of everything spiritual and physical.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Gospels are not the beginning point of the Christian faith. Neither is the Old Testament. Both give us the middle of the story. Ephesians, Colossians, and the gospel of John are the introduction and the opening chapters of that story. Those writings give us a glimpse into Christ before time and what His mission is all about.

His earthly life that’s portrayed in Matthew, Mark, and Luke must be understood against that backdrop.

In this regard, we can liken the gospel that most of us heard to watching Star Wars Episodes IV, V, and VI first (which is the way they came out in the theaters). But for us to really understand what’s going on in that drama, we must begin at the right place with Episodes I, II, and III.

Toward a New Starting Point

Again, human beings didn’t come into this world in need of salvation. Saving souls, feeding the poor, and alleviating the suffering of humanity was not part of God’s first motion in eternity past because the fall had not yet occurred.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not against any of these things. On the contrary, I’m strongly for them. But God has a purpose—an eternal purpose—that humans were to fulfill before sin entered the scene. And He has never let go of it. Everything else is and should be related to it. As DeVern Fromke says,

This which we see in Ephesians is what the Father intended to realize in His Son, and it has never been affected by sin, the fall, or time. It was this purpose which had previously been a mystery, that the Apostle Paul was now unveiling. For the Father from eternity had a wonderful purpose for Himself which of course included man. Redemption is not the end, but only a recovery program. It is but a parenthesis incorporated into the main theme.

Most evangelical Christians begin the Biblical story with Genesis 3 (the fall) and then go on to Romans and Galatians (salvation). The Biblical story, however, begins with Ephesians and Colossians (God’s purpose before time). And it continues on to Genesis 1 and 2  (God’s intention for humankind before the fall) and then the Gospels (in Jesus we see God’s eternal intention). If we learned the story this way, it would change everything.

This article has been excerpted from Chapter 7 of Reimagining Church. The chapter is entitled “Reimagining the Eternal Purpose.”

FRANK VIOLA is the author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life and radical church reformation, including the new release FROM ETERNITY TO HERE (David C. Cook, March 2009) which explores the Eternal Purpose of God (God’s Grand Mission) in great detail.

This highly acclaimed book is endorsed by Ed Stetzer, Greg Boyd, Myles Monroe, James Goll, Alan Hirsch, Shane Claiborne, Leonard Sweet, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Andrew Jones, Dan Francisco, DeVern Fromke, Ralph Neighbour, Mike Morrell, and others, From Eternity to Here is regarded as a masterpiece in narrative theology.

A beautifully crafted saga of God’s greatest passion. The sweeping story of God’s eternal purpose and grand mission that is centered in Christ. A groundbreaking work in biblical narrative and missional ideology.

Pagan Christianity – Reviewed

“Have you ever wondered why we Christians do what we do for church every Sunday morning?” This inquiry is the lead sentence on the back cover of Pagan Christianity? (Tyndale House) by Frank Viola and George Barna. Viola and Barna write in a style typical of iconoclasts, prophets, and reformers. They speak with a prophetic urgency rooted in the Bible and church history. The book is strongly footnoted and every assertion they make, even the shocking ones, are documented. For this reason, many scholars have endorsed the book.

Viola and Barna cover the following: the order of worship, preachers and preaching, church buildings, dressing up for services and the order of New Testament epistles. The title Pagan Christianity? reflects their thesis that many Protestant traditions and practices came from Greco-Roman culture. Or “pagan” culture. This is hard to refute. Over time into the modern practice of “churchianity” departed from New Testament patterns.

The promotional blurb makes the claim: “This book is reserved for those who are ready to embark on an eye-opening venture that challenges every aspect of their church experience as well as offering a better alternative.” Out with the old, in with the new. A New Testament concept. Frank Viola plants organic missional churches, speaks at conferences, and authors books on Christ and His church. George Barna is a famous researcher and pollster. On one of the opening pages they say that they “left the religious system.” One of his arguments against preaching is “it suffocates mutual ministry.”

The book has been unfairly attacked and misrepresented. So much so that a spoof video was created and Viola and Barna have created a special page to answer their critics. The authors prove their point by documenting every claim they makes. There are abundant footnotes to demonstrated this. There is also a strong blend of Scripture citations and expounding of passages, which the sequels Reimagining Church and From Eternity to Here do even more.

Like most reformers, Viola and Barna manage to express some valid issues that need attention. They well state the clergy-laity distinction. They are clear about the disastrous domination of clergymen, the official function of “pastors” who enforce denominational creed and tradition, and they even speak with validity against the Charismatic movement and its’ impact in modern worship “styles.” There certainly is veneration of religious architecture that can cripple us both spiritually and financially. In their firestorm against traditions, they are particularly solid against the public sermon. And they draw a sharp and biblical distinction between preaching/teaching and sermonizing (Acts, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus).

Their opposition to the sermon is a function of their firmly held mutual ministry, organic church model. They argue that the sermon is a “one-way affair,” that “produces passivity,” “lames the church from functioning,” “suffocates mutual ministry” and “smothers open participation.” Their arguments here are compelling. Again, they draw a distinction between giving messages (which is a temporary thing) and sermonizing the same people every week forever. Peter preached a message on the Day of Pentecost, not a “sermon.” They are straight in their critique of the “excessive and pathological dependence on the clergy.” And they talk about clergy salaries as not being biblical.

Frank Viola and George Barna have written a book. That’s hardly a clergy salary … which is being paid to serve a group of people. To compare the two is ludicrous and nonsense. Viola deals with this in his FAQ page – frankviola.org/faq. Comparing high school teachers with pastors is another fools errand. Some have tried to do this and failed as it misses their point by a big distance. The ekklesia of God cannot be compared to the military, General Motors, or a public school.   This book is thoroughly scriptural and rooted strongly in history. We may want to close our eyes and plead “It can’t be.” But that’s not intellectually honest. Open the Bible. Read what it says, and let God direct your steps (Ps. 37:23; 119:133).

3 Reasons Why Christians Take Offense at Jesus – Part I

(1) He demands too much.

In John 16:1, Jesus told His disciples that He was sharing “all these things” so they wouldn’t be offended by Him. Some of those “things” were stern warnings that they would be hated by the world and persecuted.

The Lord made clear that following Him wouldn’t lead to a bed of roses. Suffering and loss are involved. He promised thorns.

Unfortunately, some people today present a gospel that leaves the hard parts out. The result: Christians get offended when they realize what they’ve gotten into.

But Jesus lets us know up front what following Him entails. Even in His own day, some of His followers stopped walking with Him because they considered the cost too high.

Awakened in Bethany

Time crept by. There was still no sign of Jesus. I had fallen ill. The eastern fever raged through me, roasting my body from the inside out.

It had been two weeks since the onset of the disease. And my condition worsened by the day.

When I could no longer walk, my sisters sent word to Jesus through a messenger. They knew the Teacher was staying on the east side of the Jordan River in the region of Perea, and they sent the following word to Him:

“Teacher, the one whom You love is seriously ill.”

That same evening my fever worsened. My limbs refused to obey my feeble commands. I could scarcely sit up. The bed became a prison for my failing body.

My sisters were overwhelmed with the bitter prospect that I would not recover. Martha complained, “If the Teacher were here, Lazarus would be healed.”

I heard Mary mutter, “Jesus has to come.”

My father continued to encourage me. Jesus had healed him; surely He would heal me also.

Adapted from Frank Viola author’s book God’s Favorite Place on Earth.

Shattering a False Dichotomy

Beginning from the mid-third century onward, Christian writers have used Martha and Mary as models for the two main personalities in the church: the busy activists (the Marthas) and the quiet reflectives (the Marys).

As an observer of the passing parade, I don’t believe this caricature fits the biblical story. While I think it might describe Martha fairly well, it misses the mark when it comes to Mary.

Let me explain.

There is no question that Martha saw her service to Jesus as an act of love and worship. The fact that Jesus never belittled her service toward Him confirms this.

However, some Martha-types have a way of reducing a relationship with God to feverish activity. Such people obsess over how many lost people you’ve shared Christ with, what you’re doing to help the poor and oppressed, how involved you are in social justice and making the world a better place. In their minds, all of these things are the badges of being a “good Christian.”

But to my everlasting astonishment, most of the Marys I’ve met in my life used to be Marthas. They just burned out or bailed out.

Let’s talk about those who burned out. These former Marthas didn’t know how to say no when asked to participate in various church programs, activities, and ministries. They were constantly busy, serving every spare moment they had. In their eyes, serving at the church or staying busy with ministry activities was the equivalent of loving God.

Guilt, condemnation, religious duty, and obligation subtly motivated and governed their activities. They were trying to win brownie points with a God who stopped keeping score two thousand years ago.

There came a point, however, when the weight of Christian service simply crushed them. And burnout ensued.

Some Marthas went beyond burnout and bailed out. They felt they had served God with all they had. But when they observed others who were blessed by God, yet who weren’t as “faithful,” they grew bitter and abandoned the Lord.

“I’m doing all this for You, yet You’re blessing them instead,” was their bitter cry.

Some of these people later repented and returned to the Lord, acknowledging that their service to God was more about them instead of Him.

In both cases, these Marthas realized that they had confused service with a relationship with Jesus. They made the profound yet painful discovery that they had been serving the idol of “service” rather than God Himself.

They also discovered that the source of their service—the strength they relied upon to serve God—was not the life of Christ. The source was their own natural strength and energy.

What is more, they realized that their very identities and security were wrapped up in their service. That’s why they craved attention for their work. It’s also why they became a critic and a judge of the service (or non-service) of others.

The result: after slaving as Marthas for many years, they became Marys. That is, they learned to rest in Christ, hear His voice, and draw on His energy for ministry.

Again, Mary was not someone who lacked in service. Jesus had no word of rebuke or complaint for her. And as we’ve already seen, Mary helped Martha before Jesus moved into teaching mode.

The antidote, therefore, is not for Marys to move closer to being Marthas (to serve more). Nor is it for Marthas to move closer to being Marys (to worship more). This isn’t a question of balance. It’s a question of priority, orientation, and source.

All service must flow from communion with the Lord if it is to have lasting value. All service must find its source in the life of Christ so it won’t lead to burnout or bail-out.

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.22

All service must flow out of a razor-sharp desire to please God rather than a desire to get noticed by others. If it does not, it will lead to either complaint or criticism.

When God created the world, He worked for six days and then rested. Adam was created on the sixth day. So God’s seventh day—the Sabbath—was Adam’s first full day.

God works before He rests. Humans, however, rest before they work. This principle undergirds all Christian service. We rest in Christ before we work for Christ. Or in the language of Ephesians, we sit before we stand or walk.23

For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.24

Mary is our example in all of these things. And she has the defense of Jesus to confirm it.

In short, it’s a dangerous thing to be so busy for the Lord that you don’t have time to seek Him and wait on His direction. Acting “religious” is the fallen soul’s way of trying to duplicate the job of the Holy Spirit.

***

There is room for all human temperaments in the body of Christ. The Lord uses the choleric, practical, outspoken, and assertive activists as well as the phlegmatic, calm, contemplative, timid, and docile pacifists.

But while God doesn’t do away with our unique temperaments and personalities, He wishes to adjust them so that they are in line with His character, directed by His will, and energized by His life.

Taken from God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola Author

Mary, Martha, and Jesus

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38–42 NKJV

When Jesus finished His teaching, Martha signaled that the meal was ready. He then did something equally surprising. He asked us to all eat together—women and men—in the public room.

Mary and Martha hesitated. They looked at one another with raised eyebrows. Jesus’ followers weren’t fazed; they had seen Him break customs before. So all of us—Mary and Martha included—ate together.

My sisters had prepared a marvelous meal that day. Platters containing piles of flatbread, fish, goat cheese, olives, eggs, and dried figs, along with pitchers of goat milk, wine, and bowls of lentil stew filled the table.

I will never forget the Teacher’s words to Martha:

“One thing is needful … and I won’t take it away from Mary.”

These words stirred in my mind all evening.

Later that night, I asked Jesus to elaborate on them. And I recall Him saying the following in response:

“Hearing My word is more important than service. Following is more important than working. Martha tended to My physical needs, but Mary tended to that which is most important to Me: being My apprentice.”

“Mary received Me into her heart long before she received Me into Your home,” Jesus continued. “She laid all other things aside and gave heed to My words. And she made this her only task.”

“Martha has the heart of a servant, but all service for Me must flow from communion with Me. Martha absorbed herself with the bread that perishes; Mary was nourishing herself with the bread from heaven, which shall never perish.”

“To obey is better than sacrifice. The primary task of a disciple is to learn of Me. Worry not, Lazarus. Martha will learn this also.”

At that moment, it dawned on me that Jesus wasn’t just a teacher; He was a prophet: one who carried God’s Word.

Martha’s hospitality was important. But it was focused on the temporal. Mary’s hospitality was more important because the greatest way to welcome a prophet is to receive His words. And this was what Mary did.

In the days that followed, we all came to understand that Jesus was much more than a teacher and a prophet. He was the Messiah of God.

The Teacher and His disciples lodged with us that night. He talked with me for hours when the others retired to sleep. I am a reserved, unobtrusive person. I do not say much. But being with the Teacher made me feel at ease. I could ask Him whatever was on my mind without fear.

For reasons that I do not grasp, Jesus took a liking to me. I was honored and amazed at the same time. Never having a brother of my own, He felt close to one.

I would later learn that Jesus was in fact my elder brother … and a friend who sticks closer than any natural sibling. As it says in Proverbs,

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.2

So that is what took place the first time Jesus stepped into our home. There would be many other occasions where we were graced with the calm majesty of His presence and heard the mighty and mysterious words that fell from His lips.

As often as He would climb the dust-paved road from Jericho and depart from the golden gates of the holy city of Jerusalem, He would visit us in Bethany.

In fact, Jesus would never spend a night in the holy city; He would lodge only with us.

Our house was always open to Him and His followers.

He was not just our Teacher, our Lord, and our Savior. He was an intimate and beloved friend—our friend.

It always seemed to delight His heart to gladden our home with His presence.

We were filled with an unutterable love for Him. And we knew that He loved us even more.

This became clear to all of us after I became ill …

From God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola author