Life Letters



First Things 

Dustin and Brandon,

CS Lewis postulated the law of first and second things.  He explains it like this:

Every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made.

Apparently the world is made that way. If Esau really got the pottage in return for his birthright, then Esau was a lucky exception. You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first. From which it would follow that the question, “What things are first?” is of concern not only to philosophers but everyone.

First things first!  If I do that then I get everything else too; if I don’t then I lose everything.  But Lewis is merely echoing the words of Jesus: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

This concept is illustrated excellently in the story of Mary and Martha. 

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word.   But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me."

But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Haven’t you always felt more sympathy for Martha than Mary?  I have.

My complaint goes like this:

Jesus, aren’t you are being a little unfair.  Poor Martha, she’s doing everything she possibly can.  Look how unselfish she is.  Nobody enjoys setting out knives and forks for the table and everybody enjoys sitting at your feet and listening to You.  So isn’t Mary being selfish and Martha being unselfish?  Furthermore, Mary isnt doing anything and Martha is doing everything and Mary is leaving Martha to do everything.  But instead You say to Martha, “Poor Martha.  You fool!  You think there is more than one thing necessary.  You’re wrong!  Mary’s right.  There is only one thing necessary.  One thing is needful and Mary has found it.” 

 If that is how I feel about it then I have something to learn.

Jesus says in John 17:3 that the ultimate meaning of life is to know God.  He doesn’t say the ultimate meaning of life is to do things for God or even to serve God but to know Him.  A good example of this is marriage since it is the most intimate form of love we know.  If you look at the beginning of marriage, which is falling in love, what do lovers want more than anything else?  Simply the presence of the other, right?    They don’t want the other person to do something for them or even necessarily to say anything, but simply to be there.  Woody Allen said, “90% of life is just showing up!”  If someone you love is dying you often ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”  And it’s a silly question because  you’ve already done it.  The most important thing is just being there, not saying anything or doing anything. 

And that is, of course, the best definition of what prayer is.  An anonymous peasant who, when asked how he prayed, said, “I just look at Him and He looks at me.”  So I don’t need to do anything or even to say anything but to just be with God.  To realize that God is real and God is present and God is looking at me.  If I simply turn toward God and look at Him it is like turning toward the sun; I’m not doing much but it lights up my whole face.

So if I want to accomplish things in my life like Martha then I must spend time hanging out with God.  And actually, while I'm there with Him I need to listen more than I talk.  If I were talking to a little infant I would do most of the talking, if I were talking to an equal I’d do half the talking and if I were talking to the most brilliant man in the world I would do very little of the talking, so if I am talking to God I’d better do almost none of it!  So I must just say, “Speak Lord for you servant hears.”  Or “Be it done to me according to Your word.”  And then what happens?

 There was a woman that said that once and what happened was the salvation of the world.  And I don’t think she is an exception.  I think she is a model.  I think we need to be like wombs and Jesus wants to come down into our minds and our lives and our culture.  But he will never rape us, only seduce us but we have to open the womb of our mind to Him. 

 Why is it so hard to spend time just being with God; listening to God?  It is so easy!  And when we do He multiplies our time and we get more done.  We have all tried it both ways and it always works the one way and it never works the other way!  Why do we run around on our own two feet like Martha instead of sitting at His feet like Mary? 

 I can think of two reasons.  One, we are insane!  Two, the devil is terrified of that quiet place and he does everything in his power to keep us from it.  So, don’t listen to him.   Listen to God.  If you do, He will tell you something He didn’t tell you before and lead you in a direction He didn’t lead you before and you will be able to accomplish something that you haven't accomplished before. 

 Martha has always been an example of holy work and Mary of holy contemplation and of course they fit together.  They are sisters.  Jesus is not condemning Martha.  He is just saying, “Poor Martha!  You have put second things first.”  Whenever you put second things first, you not only miss first things but you mess up second things!  If you put first things first, then not only do you get first things but you also get second things.  So if we can do the contemplation of Mary then we can do the work of Martha in the spirit of Mary instead of the spirit of Martha. 

I think I see the wisdom in this.  Do you?


        *Thanks to CS Lewis and Peter Kreeft for helping me understand these things.*


Life and Death

Dear Dustin and Brandon,

Yesterday I listened to a program on Oregon Public Broadcast where a man was telling of his intense struggle with lust when he was young; how he was raised in a church that taught him all the rules of God about sex, you know, about fornication and adultery and impure thoughts and actions. 

In the end, he couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t keep from looking lustfully at girls; he couldn’t keep away from Playboy magazines.  He said it just wasn’t normal and that, in making such a big deal out of it, he just turned his sexuality into an obsession.

And you know what the crazy thing is?  I agree with him.  It IS impossible to do.  

But God doesn’t ask us to do the impossible alone.  He has promised to do it for us.  The answer is not in focusing on the problem and trying harder to “be good”.  That will only produce an unhealthy obsession with evil.  The answer is focusing on Him in a moment by moment, dynamic relationship; spending special time each day with Him and then taking Him with us through our days.  

We are not robots and He doesn’t force us to do this so the only way we can be successful in our struggle with our dark side is to choose to do it.   Ellen White says, "The youth cannot make life a success unless they center their affections upon God."  4T 623  "Prayer is heaven's ordained means of success in the conflict with sin and the development of Christian character."  AA 564      

Why do you think King David and Isaiah both said “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”Isaiah 12:2-3  Psalms 118:14 

Why do you think?  It is because He really IS our strength and it is He and only He who can give us the power to overcome our dark side.  But how can He if we refuse to take time to be with Him, to develop and cultivate an intimate friendship, to choose to be His companion. He can’t.

So do you really love Jesus?  Do you really want to live a life of integrity and goodness—the life of the knights of old?  Do you really want to overcome your fallen nature?  Then you must take Him seriously.  It won’t happen by accident.  This is no game guys; this is a matter of life and death and we must live our lives with that ever in mind.  


“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between the blessing and the curse. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” Deuteronomy 30:19

So I challenge you to choose life, life both now and for eternity.  Because Jesus said:  “This IS eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  John 17:3

He Himself IS our way to victory over our internal demons.  And only by connecting ourselves with Him can we overcome. 

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13


The Truth and burns within you, like a bed of fiery coals

Contains the power to liberate a thousand weary souls

But if the Truth will EVER set you free depends on you

You want to, now WILL you?


Here's to making an active choice to be His friend,



You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say
I am strong
In the strength of the Lord