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THE DISTRACTED LIFE
WORRIED AND TROUBLED BY MANY THINGS
By Al Diestelkamp
one occasion when Jesus was the guest of honor in her home, Martha was
doing what most godly women would do. She was serving. Her sister,
Mary, was not helping her, but instead was sitting at the feet of
Jesus, listening to Him teach. Finally, Martha had enough and appealed
to Jesus to intervene: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left
me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Lk. 10:40).
don’t know about you, but on the surface that sounds like a reasonable
request. Martha was being hospitable while her sister was lounging on
the floor. So we may be somewhat surprised at Jesus’ defense of Mary
and His mild rebuke directed at Martha.
Once we get over our
surprise, we note that the text reveals, “Martha was distracted with
much serving.” So Jesus lovingly says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried
and troubled about many things” (Lk. 10:41). He goes on to say that
Mary made a better choice. We are not informed as to just how
Martha reacted, or whether this caused her to take her apron off and
join her sister at Jesus’ feet.
What is significant to me was
the statement about Martha being “distracted.” The KJV uses the word
“cumbered,” which is defined as “being over-occupied about a thing” (Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words,
p.261). Clearly, in this situation she was not distracted by evil. She
was being distracted (over-occupied) with something that was good.
Being over-occupied with something that is good can cause one to neglect something that is better.
One of the problems of many of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus
dealt with was that they were over-occupied with Sabbath-keeping. I
think we can safely say that Jesus kept the Sabbath perfectly, but not
to the satisfaction of some. On one occasion Jesus answered the
Pharisees who had accused His disciples of doing that “what is not
lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:2) by reminding them that under
unusual circumstances David and those with him entered the house of God
and ate the showbread which under normal circumstances was only to be
eaten by priests (vv.3-4).
Later, these detractors asked Jesus,
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matt. 12:10), and Jesus
answered by asking who among them would not help a sheep that had
fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, and then declared “it is lawful to do
good on the Sabbath” (v.12). These Pharisees were so over-occupied with
Sabbath-keeping that they didn’t realize that “the Sabbath was made for
man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:28).
confrontation with some scribes and Pharisees who were so over-occupied
with paying tithes—even to the point of tithing their mint, anise and
cummin—that they neglected weightier matters such as justice, mercy and
faith, Jesus declares “These you ought to have done, without leaving
the others undone” (Matt. 23:23). Tithing the contents of their spice
cabinets was good, but not to the extent that it would distract them from attending to weightier things.
We have to be careful lest we become so over-occupied with good things that we neglect the better things.
face it! In addition to all the evil that begs for our attention, there
is an ever-increasing number of causes and activities which also
compete for our active participation. The result is that many of us
have cluttered our lives with so many “good” activities and interests
that we don’t have time for the weightier matters that will help us not
only in this life, but all the way into eternity.
It is good to
work in order to provide financially for our own (see 1 Tim. 5:8), but
it is not good to become so over-occupied with working that we become
work-aholics and neglect the weightier matters, such as spending time
and providing spiritual leadership for our families. Speaking of
spending time together as a family, this too can become a distraction
from what is even more important. For instance, it’s good to be able to
plan family activities and go on vacations, but we cannot allow
ourselves to be so over-occupied with travel and fun that we neglect
the more important spiritual responsibilities, including worshiping
with other Christians. If this happens we are not only hurting
ourselves, but are neglecting our responsibilities toward our brethren.
is good to make sure our children get a good education so that they can
succeed in life, but we must not be distracted by much education to the
point where we, like Martha, are “worried and troubled about many
things.” Even if a child, were to get the very best secular education,
if he is distracted from his spiritual training he will likely be a
failure in what is most important.
It’s also good if
we’re able to help our children develop culturally, civically or
athletically, but not to the point where it distracts them—or us—from
what is most important. It’s quite interesting to me that a team coach,
or a band director, can insist on participants attending daily practice
sessions or rehearsals for weeks on end, and we consider that
acceptable even when it hinders the more important spiritual
Clearly, we have more than enough trouble avoiding being distracted by sin, let alone by things that are good.
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
Leone is a country located on the west coast of Africa seven degrees
north of the equator and in the same time zone as London (GMT). It is
ten years removed from a decade-long civil war. Estimates vary, but 60
to 75 percent of the population identifies itself as Muslim. It is an
economically-depressed country with an unemployment rate estimated to
be more 50 percent. As a former British colony, English is the official
language of Sierra Leone. While most people there understand varying
degrees of English, Krio (a hybrid of native languages and English) is
more widely understood. In addition, there are the numerous tribal
|Mission to Sierra Leone|
By Andy Diestelkamp
In November I (age 49) accompanied Paul Earnhart
(80), Sid Latham (45), and Josiah Peeler (25) to the interior city of
Bo (city pop. 230,000; district pop. 530,000). We spent three weeks
working with numerous people in a variety of contexts.
course, many people assume that I went to do what is often called
“missionary work.” This terminology has come to mean different things
to different people. In many cases, “missionary work” is connected to
and overseen by a large organization created by and/or supported by a
particular denomination or a number of denominations, independent
churches, and other organizations.
The hierarchal and
bureaucratic structures of such “missionary societies” can be very
complicated and are without any precedent in Scripture. The churches
established by the apostles of Jesus Christ did not create other
organizations to do their work, nor did they send money to support such
organizations. For that matter, churches did not organize themselves
into various denominations. Rather, what is simply exemplified for us
in Scripture are individual churches of saints, overseen by local
elders and served by deacons (Phil. 1:1), supporting the spread of the
gospel (1:5,6; 4:15,16). There is no scriptural reason to complicate
this simple arrangement. Four local churches, independent of any
governing body, determined on their own to share with me in helping me
to go to do this work. Each of them did its own evaluation of me and
the work I was undertaking and supported my efforts. (Several
individuals also helped.)
Doing “missionary work” is not that
unusual. As I made preparations for this trip and people learned that I
was going to Africa, they would tell me that they knew of others who
had traveled abroad as missionaries. Yet, when the details of typical
“missionary work” are revealed, it is primarily characterized by
physical benevolence (medical care, building pro-jects, economic
relief, etc.). Perhaps the name of Christ is associated with many of
these efforts and some efforts are made to share the gospel, but the
focal point and the drawing power of the work is far more physical than
it is spiritual. Before we embrace this “social gospel” evangelism as
being compassionate or effective in bringing about repentance and
salvation, we should compare these methods with what the original
Remember that Jesus’ “great commission” to His
apostles was to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:19).
It was the gospel of Jesus
Christ that was the power of God to save Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:16).
Indeed, even in the face of persecution, it was “the word” that people
went everywhere preaching (Ac. 8:4). The power was not in their
preaching but in the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified that
they preached (1 Cor. 2:1-3).
However, it seems to be popularly
believed that the message of the cross is not powerful unless it is
first accompanied by physical benefits. This is manifestly contrary to
the biblical record. Christianity “turned the world upside down” in the
first century not because it addressed people’s physical needs, but
because it addressed their spiritual ones. Had I waved a $100 bill (or
other material incentives) in poverty-stricken Sierra Leone, it could
have drawn a large crowd. Yet, to attract people with the potential of
physical improvement or prosperity and then teach Christ crucified is a
contradictory message. To appeal to the flesh only to tell people that
they must crucify the flesh is to preach a confusing message.
mission to Sierra Leone was to preach the same gospel message that the
apostles of Jesus Christ preached. In the affluence of our culture, the
message that we must be “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) is largely
rejected even by people who call themselves Christians. In the material
poverty of Sierra Leone, the message of the cross is more readily
received. No wonder Jesus said that it is “hard” for the rich to enter
His kingdom (Lk. 18:24,25). How ironic that in our affluence we attempt
to make the gospel more attractive to the poor by appealing to them
through the flesh with health and wealth, physically attractive
buildings and programs, and—in so doing—actually make it “hard” for
them to be saved. This is neither compassionate nor the gospel of Jesus
During our trip five men were attracted to the
unembellished but powerful message of the cross of Jesus Christ and
were baptized into Him for the remission of their sins. These additions
to the small church established in the Messima section of Bo a year ago
should significantly strengthen the voice of the gospel there.
February, six men (Phil Morgan, Rich Gant, Larry Paden, Gale Towles,
Mike Radcliff, and Ben Hall) will travel to Bo to ground the saints
there and take it to still others. Pray for these men and the saints in
Sierra Leone because, as the economy improves there, interest in the
pure gospel will almost certainly diminish as it has in our own
323 E. Indiana Ave., Pontiac, Illinois 61764
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By Karl Diestelkamp
reads the title of a two-page article in the November, 2011 issue of
AARP Magazine, by Mary A. Fischer. One might assume that this is about
divorce, but that would be so only superficially. It promotes something
much more sinister.
The lead question reads: “Is infidelity
justified if your spouse has dementia?” How do you suppose any
faithful Christian would answer that question?
introduces us to Herb, 83, whose wife, Ruth, 73, has advanced
Alzheimer’s disease, leaving their New York apartment to spend the
afternoon with his “girlfriend.” Herb says, of his wife, “She can’t hug
or even kiss me anymore,” and, “I longed for that closeness with a
woman.” The article should have been titled, “It’s All About Herb!”
admitting that some caregivers who “crave intimacy” view extra-marital
affairs as “a serious moral violation,” the AARP article clearly
defends those affairs. Fischer writes, “...a new focus on the
emotional needs of caregivers has prompted some psychologists, social
workers, and even religious leaders to redefine adultery.”
Jewish “rabbi” is quoted as saying, “We’re confronted with the
challenge of having our religion adapt to these new realities.” A
“licensed social worker,” Cynthia Epstein says, “As long as you provide
dignified care and honor your spouse, you need not feel guilty.” So
much for, “…to love, to honor,
to have and to hold…until death do us part.” Those who try to change
the definitions of adultery and marriage change the gospel of Christ
and are “accursed” (Gal. 1:8,9).
Arthur Caplan, director of the
center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania, said, “I don’t think
it is abandonment or disloyalty to form a new relationship once your
spouse declines to the point where they cannot possibly interact, or
respond…you are entitled to seek companionship.” Entitled “ethics,” indeed! This “ethical infidelity” cannot logically be limited to old
people. What about the Herbs of the world whose spouses are in comas,
or are paralyzed from an accident, or have had strokes and are unable
to “meet their needs?”
Situation ethics lead to no real ethics at all. While our heart
goes out to those challenged caregivers, God’s ethical standard says,
“Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled:
for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). No exceptions!
to Herb. He said, “I’m still a normal male who has needs, and this new
relationship has been wonderful.” In fact, the article reveals it is so
“wonderful” that “Herb sees a
therapist weekly and often discusses his guilt over his affair.” If
Herb can have one “girlfriend,” why not have several. Then his
wonderful relationships could overwhelmingly “meet his needs,”
resulting in boundless joy, in his guilt. Beware of self-serving Herb
and his defenders. “But evil men and imposters shall wax worse and
worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).
for the Herbs of the world? Will they be willing to participate in the
humane euthanasia of the cognitively impaired, helpless stroke victims,
and the physically deformed who are “taking up space and using up
valuable assets” in care facilities and limiting the personal desires
of their spouses and families?
Perhaps they could all gather
in a large plaza somewhere and stand in ranks, shoulder to shoulder
with the millions who support and practice the killing of the unborn,
and raise their arms and in unison shout, “Heil Hitler!”
people do not turn to AARP or any man for our standard of behavior. The
apostle John wrote, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world
lieth in the evil one.” Our task is to be different and to make a
difference. “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work,
for his good pleasure…that you may become blameless and harmless,
children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse
generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:13-15).
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Pure and Undefiled Religion?
By Steve Fontenot
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Some “children’s homes” have no “orphans” in the sense of “deprived of one’s parents” (Walter Bauer’s A Greek Lexicon of the N.T.).
Some years ago I planned a trip to the Tipton’s Children’s Home in
Oklahoma at Christmas time, but did not go, for I was told all the
children were gone home for Christmas! These homes sometimes serve as a
means to escape personal responsibility to train and provide for
children. This is “pure and undefiled religion”?
abandoned to institutionalized care are deprived of the love,
attention, and care that can only be had in the family as God ordained
it. As good as the house-parents may be, there is no substitute equal
to God’s plan. The personal bond, devotion, and training God intended
in the family relationship simply cannot be realized in institutional
care, regardless of how good the intents of the founders, contributors,
and workers may be. There is no escape from or substitute for the
personal responsibility of parents. This is what must be taught to
God’s people. Lack of that natural love (“unloving,” Rom. 1:31, astorgos, “a, negative, and storg, love of kindred, especially of parents for children and children for parents” W. E. Vine’s Expository Dict. of N.T. Words)
that ought to exist between parents and children is still sin. When
children’s homes are used as an escape from this personal
responsibility, is this “pure and undefiled religion”?
interested in cancer research may pool their resources in the Cancer
Society to provide for cancer research and relief for cancer victims.
However, collective work is no escape from personal responsibility.
Contributing to the Cancer Society would not relieve an individual from
caring for one suffering from cancer, especially if that one was his
child or parent. When 1,000 people contribute $100 (10¢ a person) to a
children’s or widow’s home and consider that the fulfillment of
individual responsibility to care for those in distress, and charge
those who do not do so with not caring about orphans and widows, is
this “pure and undefiled religion”?
Abuses do not, in and of
themselves, make a thing wrong. But, children herded together and
starved for love and attention, house-parents overloaded with the
responsibility of numerous children, all needing individual care, and
some with special physical, mental, or emotional problems, lend to a
situation ripe for immorality, bitterness, despair, anger, and abuse.
If you would like to read one person’s sad experience in a children’s
home and of the abuse suffered there, send me a card at the address
below with your name and address and ask for the tract, Victims of Institutionslism.
There is no charge or obligation. It is a testimony to the failure that
is bred by man’s effort to substitute for God’s plan. What this man
received in institutional care was certainly not “pure and undefiled
18542 Crestline Rd., Humble, Texas 77396
By Robert E. Speer
working with the Thayer Street church in Akron, Ohio I responded to a
call from a man in a local hospital. Upon my arrival the man said, “I
was baptized at Thayer Street Church of Christ in 1928.” He could not
recall the name of a preacher before or after that year, he could not
recall the name of any Christian, and he could not remember when he had
last attended a worship service. Still, he savored an affinity for
Thayer Street—he had seen a “Church of Christ preacher,” and one from
Thayer Street at that. Now he felt at ease, conscience assuaged.
week later I received a call from an elderly woman who proclaimed she
“used to attend Thayer Street.” My wife and I went to see her and
learned four things: (1) she was 97 years of age and her husband was
94; (2) it was the second marriage for both, the first spouse of each
having died; (3) she formerly attended Thayer Street “all the
time”—until she married her Catholic husband, after which she did not
attend at all, “not even once”; (4) She had been married to the second
man for 50 years. When I asked for the reason she had sent for me,
“Why,” she said with rising voice while jabbing the air with a crooked
forefinger for emphasis, “I’m 97 years old, and I want to see who is
going to conduct my funeral!”
In both of these cases the caller
had gained a false sense of security and well being for having been
“baptized” and hav-ing been a once-upon-a-time attendee of “the Church
While living in Wisconsin we heard of a member of
the church who had “just moved” to our city. We called upon her and she
was delighted to discover “some real Church of Christ people.” When we
asked how long she had been in our city we learned that she arrived
eight years (yes years!)
before. Asked why she did not try to find us in all that time she said
she did not wish to offend her unbelieving husband. What of her soul’s
welfare? Well, she was all right, she thought, because every time she
went “down home” she attended “the Church of Christ with Momma.”
are three sad, tragic cases. Could the contempt for and negligence of
the Lord and His people be any worse? Well, actually, it can;
illustration: I’ll use a pseudonym in order to protect the guilty, but
the following actually happened.
A disagreement in an unnamed
congrega-tion turned into a true disturbance among brethren one Sunday
morning. With voices and tempers escalating someone advised that they
all go home, cool down, then come back that evening with a suggested
solution. The advice was reluctantly tak-en. One man, stricken in
conscience, was walking throughout his house, pacing back and forth as
he wondered what could possibly be done to resolve the matter.
Suddenly, wide-eyed and with a broad smile of victory, the man stopped
in his tracks. He turned to his wife and exultantly exclaimed,
“Elviney, didn’t they make me an elder or something down there one
Sadly, the first three cases and at least things
similar to the last one have been multiplied many times over by people
just like them, thinking “down home” membership, past association with
“real Church of Christ people,” or “got baptized” years ago, is
sufficient for security of the soul. It isn’t. The psalmist said that
at the second coming the Lord will give a shout: “Gather My saints
together to Me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice”
(Psa. 50:5). Paul said that “now it is high time to awake out of sleep”
(Rom. 13:11). Amen!
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