My oldest sister, Martha, scurried around the house, her lips pursed together in concentration. She and Mary spent the entire afternoon in the courtyard, preparing a meal for Jesus and His twelve followers.
When Martha was in prep mode, we all walked on pins and needles. She was known to push us out the door if we got in her way.
Martha demanded that the preparations be the best. Especially given the unique honor of hosting the Teacher (as we affectionately called Him). As always, Mary quietly followed her directions.
When she was alive, Martha was the most practical woman I knew. Unable to sit still, she was always busy, alert to detail, a perfectionist at heart. She was a doer, an implementer. She was gutsy, freely speaking whatever was on her mind. Yet few people had a more generous heart.
When my mother died and our father was stricken with leprosy, Martha—the senior member of the family—stepped into the role of caretaker. Because I was only five years old when my mother passed away, I regarded Martha as a mother. She was seven years older than me.
With such responsibility on her shoulders, Martha felt constant pressure. But never once did I see her shrink from her tireless service and trying sacrifice. Many nights her shoulders sagged from the day’s work, but she still managed to tell me a story before bed.
Martha’s hospitality garnered adoration from the people of Bethany. She would often prepare meals for our neighbors and friends when they were ill.
What I remember most about her were her hands. Calloused and coarsened from years of hard work, they were the hands that fed and comforted me throughout my childhood.
I would often stare at her hands.
Mary was cut from a different mold. She was born two years before me. She was a reflective soul, tender and given to times of solitude. If you walked into a room full of people, you would be hard-pressed to notice her.
None of us ever married. We devoted our lives to helping our father after our mother died. I followed in the footsteps of my father (before he fell sick), plying my trade as a silversmith, melting and twisting metal into useful pieces. And God blessed my work.
From God’s Favorite Place on Earth by Frank Viola, author
Many people claim that the Bible itself condemns suicide, but not all Christian denominations believe that to be true. The United Methodist Church is one example of a sect that refuses to condemn those who commit suicide, and as their social principles states, “Christian perspective on suicide begins with an affirmation of faith that nothing, including suicide, separates us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, we deplore the condemnation of people who complete suicide, and we consider unjust the stigma that so often falls on surviving family and friends.”
So why is it that many Christians are so quick to condemn those who commit suicide to hell?
“The Bible doesn’t make that statement,” says Viola. “Putting aside the nature of hell (Christians disagree on its exact nature), what brings God’s judgment is not any particular sin. What brings God’s judgment is the deliberate rejection of the salvation and forgiveness of sins that God has offered through trusting in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our sins.”
Still, some well-known Christians are adding fuel to the fire by criticizing Williams for the choice to end his life.
“Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength,” Viola says. “And the second greatest commandment is to love others as we love ourselves. That means benefiting them at the expense of ourselves. Jesus is the human face of God and to know God and love with His love is to be fully human.”
Read more about Frank Viola author’s view on suicide and mental illness as well as follow him on Twitter.
Read the full article in “Opposing Views” here.
by Frank Viola author
When the Christmas story is told, we hear mostly about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Throughout church history, Mary has been venerated, as she should be. Joseph, her husband, however, has often been relegated to little more than a footnote to the story.
But Joseph was one of the most righteous men who ever lived. Now when most modern Christians think of a “righteous man,” they think of things like being a good husband, a patient father, a trusted and successful employee who lives a good clean life (doesn’t “smoke, drink, chew or run with those who do,” as the old saying goes), and so on.
I have no doubts that Joseph was upright in the area of personal piety. But the Bible gives us a much deeper peek at what a righteous person is and how he or she reacts to certain situations. Consider Matthew 1:19-20: “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to put her away quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew says that because Joseph was a righteous man, he chose not to publicly disgrace and shame Mary, even though (according to his knowledge at the time) she deserved it.
Read the rest of the article at http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Articles/A-Forgotten-Christmas-Lesson.aspx#wvTLU6RycCkX8L3g.99
In January 2008, Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola Author and George Barna rocked the Christian world. Yet it was only the first half of the argument. It was never meant to be a stand-alone book. In August 2008, Reimagining Church by Frank Viola was released. It’s the second half of the argument. Both books can be likened unto a puzzle.
Pagan Christianity demonstrates that the picture on the box has been wrong, and that’s why the pieces haven’t been fitting together. Reimagining Church presents a fresh vision of the picture on the box that’s rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Pagan Christianity is the deconstructive side of the argument; Reimagining Church is the constructive side. Both books go together, forming a compelling and insightful vision of the church after God’s own heart.
Pagan Christianity leads readers on a fascinating tour through church history, revealing this startling and unsettling truth: Many cherished church traditions embraced today originated not out of the New Testament, but out of pagan (Greco-Roman) practices. This fact removes these cherished practices from the sacred and untouchable. But more than that, the book demonstrates that many of these cherished church traditions violate the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.
Read the rest at Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, author, and George Barna