Make Scripture Real

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Years ago, when the Lord called me to write, I was engaged in a group Bible study of the gospel of Matthew. As I read each lesson, I found myself lingering over each character that came along, wondering what the rest of their story might be.

Sometimes a whole incident was told in two verses. I wanted to say, “Whoa, who is this leper? What did he do for a living?  What was the initial separation like for he and his wife and children knowing that they could never see each other or touch each other again?

Then Jesus healed him! Jesus even touched this unclean leper. Amazing. Oh the gratitude he must have felt. Did his family know about Jesus? Were they cautious, even afraid to accept him back in the household?

I found myself asking questions and thinking about the characters Jesus met all along the way. I wanted readers of Scripture to wonder as well. For I found that asking questions leads you to seek answers.

We might not always get it exactly right, but as we dig into other similar passages or Bible notes, these characters can come to mean more to us. They become the real people they were.

Let’s take John the Baptist for instance. Matthew tells us,

John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Don’t jump over the phrase that tells of his two-part message—the call for repentance and the message that heaven is near. In other words, the Savior is coming.

This is he who was spoken of  through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.’ “ Matthew 3:1-2

So, John knows the ancient writings of the prophets all the way back to Isaiah and he equates the “voice” as himself  and the “Lord” as the Messiah, the coming-soon Messiah.

      

We read a little farther and discover that John wears camel-hair clothing with a leather belt and eats locusts and wild honey—a desert man for sure. That gives us a glimpse of the ruggedness of this man.

People went to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and from the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. Matthew 3:5-6

Clearly he was effective, in spite of his desert-man ways. Again, a two-part result—confession of sin and the commitment of baptism. Thus, he was known as John the Baptizer or John the Baptist.

In the first chapter of Luke, we find out about his miracle-boy birth. 

My point is, we must read slowly, think through the pieces we are given, and look for other references that will give greater insight.

Then wonder…

What took place when he was out there in the desert during his preparation years? How did the Spirit reveal so much to him? Was it similar to Jesus desert experience? What do we learn when we’re in  those wandering “desert” times? Hmm.

~ Joyce ~

 

David Honors a Second Time

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Do you remember how David waved a piece of Saul’s robe in the air showing how close he had come without killing Saul? Saul became milk toast. 

That didn’t stop him from continue pursuing David. David found out about it and decided to try again.

This time, David and a friend went sneaking into Saul’s camp by night, 

and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. I Samuel 26:7

David’s friend offered to plunge the spear into Saul, but David would have none of it. He talked, as before, of not laying a hand on God’s anointed one. Instead, he ordered his friend to bring Saul’s spear and his water jug.

The next morning, David called out to Saul’s guard, Abner, and chastised him.

“… you and your men deserve to die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head? I Samuel 26:16

Saul recognized David’s voice and called in a voice dripping with sugar,

“Is that your voice David my son?” I Samuel 26:17

David questioned Saul again as to why he is pursuing him when he has done nothing to deserve this treatment. Saul promised not to do it again, but David didn’t buy it.

As I Samuel closes, Saul is in a fierce battle with the Philistines. They have killed his sons and are about to capture Saul as well. He commands his armor bearer to take his sword and kill him rather than be done in by the enemy. The armor bearer refuses, so Saul takes his own life.

We can choose many ways to find application to our lives from these tragic events. Let’s focus on our callings from God.

It was very clear and memorable to David that the Lord had anointed him to be the next king. He knew that anointing had come to Saul as well. Even though Saul did not carry it out well, the anointing was to be honored in David’s mind.

How has the Lord anointed you? Likely you are not called to be a king or queen or even a president or ambassador, but God does place callings on all our lives and expects obedience.

I felt strongly His call to write 20 years ago. It has taken me a long time to get books to the printing stage. Others seem so adept at marketing and spitting out books every year.

At times, I feel so inadequate. Weeks go by or, in this year, months go by and I don’t get anything written on the next book.  Then, I come back to the call, even the anointing I felt. Like David, I must honor that calling.

What is your calling? Something you have sensed that He has called you to do. May we honor that calling in this new year.

~ Joyce ~

Time for Resolutions

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

It’s a new year. Time for resolutions! Let me share a simple, practical resolution I have made.

Last month, I reached the final stages of packing for the big move to our new house. I pulled out two wire-type racks like the ones in an oven, but these were smaller. I had them standing up, leaning against some paper bags in the cabinet. 

Now these wire shelves were a constant aggravation, frequently falling over. When I pulled them out to pack them, my daughter asked, “What are they for?”

For the first time, I stopped to consider what they were used for. Too little for the oven. No, not for the grill set. I hadn’t used them for the twelve years we had lived in this house. Why had I put them in such a usable location? And what in the world were they for?

It finally dawned on me that they were for our old microwave, but we never opted to use them. Further more, we had to purchase a new microwave three years ago and it wasn’t built to use the racks. Why, oh why did I fight with these racks all these years?

I promptly took them to the recycle place. They would not mess with me for one more day!

Well, this got me to thinking. What else sub-consciously brings me aggravation for no good reason?

After we moved, I became aware that the Kroger bag I was using in a new bathroom waste can kept sliding down in the can farther and pulling away from the sides. I tossed things in and they slipped between the bag and the can. “Okay,” I said to myself, “I’m not going to keep being bothered by this little bag. I found a pack of larger liners and, voila! No frustration!

So, you see, I’m on a mission to become aware of things, even little things, that bring aggravation or frustration and promptly fix the problem instead of letting it fester.

Perhaps we need to watch for this in more weighty issues as well. We can easily become anxious about an incident or relationship. Instead of dealing with it head on, we can allow it to build and smolder for lengthy periods of time.

It’s good to heed Paul’s words to the Philippians.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7

Anyway, I share my simple, but practical resolution. Perhaps you’ll discover something you need to work on to bring about a better year for you.

We’ll get back to David next week and see how he’s making it in the run from King Saul. (Talk about frustration!)

Meanwhile—

Happy New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

The Angels’ Song for 2020

 

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Before we put away the decorations and “de-ornament” the tree, let’s take a last look at a carol that we don’t sing as often—”It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. 

My first thought was, What came at midnight? I discovered that it was the song. What song? The angel’s song, of course. Now we don’t know that Jesus’ birth was at midnight, but it was at night.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

The carol pictures these angels coming close to the earth from their heavenly reign to sing this song, accompanied by their harps. Small harps were quite common for accompanying the psalms. Remember, David was a harp player!

We read in Revelation about John’s vision of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders falling down before the Lamb (Jesus).

Each one had a harp…. Revelation 5:8

             

It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.

“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men from heavens all gracious King!” The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

Of all the music in the world, I can’t imagine that any other would be more glorious than this very one with all the heavenly host of angels joining in. Their exact text was….

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

          

The song is two-fold—our praise to God and His peace to us. What a song to carry with us!

In another verse, the author, Edmund H. Sears, wrote of the crushing loads, toil, and pain we bear in this life. Each of us have experienced our unique share of loads this year, but the carol compels us to look for the the ways the Lord has lifted us and carried us during the hard times and to remember the peace, the rest that He brought us in spite of those difficult times.

Look at your year. Think of the angels’ song.

O ye beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow;

Look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing; oh rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.  

As we look toward a new year, let us carry the two-fold angels’ song with us—our praise to God, His peace to us; to us on whom His favor rests. Not to everyone, only those who call upon Him and believe in Him.

Inhale His peace, exhale anxiety. Inhale His peace, exhale worry. Inhale His peace, exhale confusion. Inhale His peace, exhale ______ . You fill in the blank. Stopping to literally do this exercise about four times brings amazing calm and causes our focus to be on Him, not self.

Carry the angels’ song with you all year. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’

Blessings to you as you move into 2020.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

 

Prince of Peace

          

     Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We found last week that Matthew gives the lineage of Jesus from Abraham to the father of Joseph, “the husband of Mary.” (See Son of David

This week, we look at the lineage by Luke, given in reverse order, and all the way back to Adam. Likely Luke, a Gentile, would find identity in that Adam is the father of us all. But there is a discrepancy in this list. David back to Abraham, is the same in both accounts, but from Jesus to David, nothing is the same.

So what do we do with that? Luke states that Jesus was…

…the son, so it was thought, of Joseph. Luke 3:23

Many scholars believe that Luke gave the lineage from Mary’s side. It still goes back to David but through David’s son, Nathan, rather than Solomon. Either way, Jesus was the Son of David as was prophesied in the Old Testament.

In addition, he was born in the town of David—Bethlehem. It is interesting to think that those hills around Bethlehem, where David watched his sheep and spent time praying, were the very same hills where future shepherds would see an angel with the brilliant glory of the Lord shining around them. Remember, the angel said,

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths [swaddled up tight] and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

Could it be any more thrilling to these lowly shepherds?

Oh, but there’s more! Suddenly the angel is joined by a whole host of heavenly angels. Imagine a sky full. That, my friends, is the great welcoming of the Savior. How glorious! They joyfully sing their text together.

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Two ideas—praise to God and peace for people, people who have found their way to God.

Fast forward to 2019. We’re still reading these glorious words. We’re still celebrating and rejoicing over His blessed coming. The world jumps on the band wagon with us but tries to dilute its impact with frivolous, mushy, secular influences, yet we cling to the heart of these powerful words.

We must praise God our Father and God His Son with all our hearts for therein we find our peace.

Peace, even with the extras at Christmas. For me personally, that means finding peace in the midst of selling a house, packing up, and moving to our new house. Yes, in the middle of December! With seven grandchildren and their parents coming. You have your set of distractions as well, but may we intentionally make time to be still, hear the angel voices, and give praise for the God-man’s birth.

… he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

~ Joyce ~

Son of David

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Speaking of David… Speaking of the Son ( capital “S”) of David…  and speaking of lineage… let’s veer off a bit and make some connections as we move into these last two Thursdays before Christmas.

Matthew starts his gospel with these words:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Matthew 1:1

The Old Testament is full of prophecy of the coming Son of David.

Matthew writes primarily to the Jews when he relates the Gospel story. Being from the line of David is important and very Jewish. So, he gives the lineage of Jesus first pop out of the bag at the beginning of chapter 1, from Abraham to David to the Babylonian exile, right down to Joseph, who he makes clear is only the “husband of Mary.” The angel reminds Joseph that he is not the father; Mary conceives from the Holy Spirit.

Matthew is the only one to tell us about Joseph’s part in that first Christmas. In Joseph’s dream, the angel tells him,

            

“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 1:20

When Jesus becomes a man, He teaches and heals. People have come to believe that He is the Anointed One, the Messiah. They often use another popular title for Him. The “s” becomes a capital—”Son of David.”

Two blind men called out to him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus said, “Do you believe that I’m able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith it will be done to you,” and their sight was restored. Matthew 9:27-30

Another example, a Canaanite woman comes, begging him to heal her daughter of demon possession.

“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” she said. Matthew 15:21

During Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the people shout,

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 

Even the Pharisees get in on the title.

Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” The son of David,” they replied. Matthew 22:41-42

Jesus can’t see the lower case “s”, but he can hear it in their voices. Ho-hum, son of David, (and with their noses in the air) of the Jewish line of course.

The common people have a greater understanding than these austere teachers of the law.

Jesus confronts the Pharisaic thinking because they see Him only as a son of David and not the promised Messiah, not the Lord, not the Son of God.

Let’s give Him due praise in our preparations and festivities this week as we begin to honor this holy Son of David and His coming into our world.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Honor in the Struggle

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Before Thanksgiving, we saw that David had cut off a piece of Saul’s robe when Saul came into the cave where David and his men were hiding. Saul had come to “relieve” himself. (See God’s Provisions for David)

David’s men are puzzled as to why David didn’t just kill Saul while he had the opportunity and more puzzled that his reason is because Saul is “the Lord’s anointed.”

David knows the sacredness of being anointed by the Lord. He remembers well when Samuel came to anoint him. Even though Saul is unfairly mistreating him, he still honors the position of the king.

David has an idea.

Saul is still within shouting distance, so David calls out to him and bows down. He says,

“My Lord the king! Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ ” I Samuel 24:9-10

David displays the piece of Saul’s robe in the air so Saul can see how close he was to David and yet David did not kill him. David continues to plead his innocence.

“Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. I Samuel 24:11-12

         

Saul becomes milk toast. He realizes that David has proven to be the better man. While weeping, Saul declares,

“You are more righteous than I. You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly.” I Samuel 24:17

Saul goes so far as to admit—

“I know that you will surely be king and the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”  I Samuel 24:20

Saul acknowledges David’s act of grace. That, my friends, is honor on David’s part. David was yet to become king, but he knew God’s hand in anointing him. He believed he must honor the position even though the king behaved badly.

A hard lesson for David and for us. I remember some of those days when mother’s dementia took hold and she angrily said hurtful things to me. Still, she was my mother and I knew I must honor her, so I continued to visit and talk to her, bring her interesting things to do, and encourage her. “Honor your father and mother.”

Toward the end, I was talking to her about different family members. She could not even call my name, but she touched my hand and said, “But this one is the special one.” Thank you, Lord for that precious tender moment.

Perhaps you have a trying relationship right now. You know that you need to honor that parent, that husband or wife, that child or friend in your life, but you’re so angry at them. Perhaps you need to try a different angle. Wave a cloth of truce. Find a way to honor “in spite of.” May the Lord bless your effort.

~ Joyce ~

Thanksgiving 2019

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We left David in the lurch last week. We will continue his exciting story next week, but let’s pause for observance of this wonderful day of Thanksgiving.

I’m so grateful that our country, in spite of its woes, does still observe and acknowledge the need for giving thanks. And to whom do we give that thanks? I suppose the secular view is we give thanks to one another, with which we can all agree, but more important is our thanks to God.

The more our minds center on giving thanks, the more our minds center on the gift-giver.

A few years ago, I read a little book by Ann Voskamp called “One Thousand Gifts.” She challenged readers to write each day just one thing for which they were thankful. The idea was to come up with 1000 thank you’s.

        

I bought this cute little book and did well for a few months, but somewhere along the way it was left on the shelf unattended. A year of so later, I picked it back up again and have been faithful with it most days. I’m up to 410 thank you’s.

I keep my book right beside whatever devotional book I’m using at the time. I read a little in the devotional book, then end my time writing a two-to-five-word thank you. It is amazing to me how easy the thank you idea comes each time. You would think you would run out!

        

Sometimes it concerns something that is going on in my life, a lesson I’m learning, a person, an inspiration from my devotional book or Scripture I’ve been studying.

Here’s a few examples of things for which I am thankful:

knees that work without pain, the first snow, my published book, sunshine, a reliable car, my Savior – the true vine, family Thanksgiving meals, text messages from grand-kids, God’s reminders to trust Him, specific talents of my family members, God’s interventions, daffodils in Spring, fun with friends, morning hugs, alone time with God.

Well, you get the idea, just anything the Lord brings to mind. It takes less than 30 seconds but keeps that idea of being thankful front and center.

What a perfect time to begin this little habit.

And a perfect time for me to tell you how thankful I am for you as you read this blog week by week. It helps to keep me on task in writing. May you have a blessed time with your family today or whatever way you celebrate giving thanks.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

~ Joyce ~

Correction!

The other day I got to thinking about David being of the tribe of Benjamin. Jesus was sometimes called the Son of David or the Lion of Judah, in other words from the tribe of Judah. That means David would be of the tribe of Judah as well.

Then I thought of his father Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz. Yep, all of Judah. Then a reader wrote and questioned me about his lineage.

But I was sure I remembered seeing a verse referring to Jesse (David’s father) as of the tribe of Benjamin. But in my search, verses referred to him as a Beth-lemite (living in Bethlehem) but no Benjamite reference.

So, even though my Bible footnotes led me to that verse in Judges about the tribe of Benjamin having experts with the sling, it wasn’t David’s tribe. However, the land of Benjamin and Judah were next to each other and I imagine being good with the sling was a common goal for many.

That said, I stand corrected! David was of the tribe of Judah.

Thanks, Emily for holding me to the fire.

~ Joyce ~

God’s Provisions for David

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

David is still moving from one hiding place to another. (See David, on the Run) Such a task to keep 400 men together, yet hidden.

All the while, both Israelite tribes and non-Israelites wished to gain favor with King Saul and were ready to tell of David’s whereabouts.

At one point, both Saul and David were circling the same mountain in the Desert of Maon.

Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” I Samuel 23:26-27

So Saul stopped his pursuit of David  and went off to to face the Philistines. What an example of God’s provision. Just in time—a monumental distraction!

After the Philistine interruption had passed, Saul heard that David had moved to the desert of En Gedi, so Saul gathered 3ooo chosen men to tract down David. Maybe Saul didn’t know that David only had about 400 men or maybe he did know and was determined to totally wipe him out. 

Along the way, Saul passed several caves. Evidently, he pulled away from his men to do what we all have to do through the day.

            

Saul went in to relieve himself. I Samuel 23:3

(Even kings have to do this.) In God’s divine providence, Saul chose the very cave in which David and his men were hiding. David saw that Saul had entered the cave alone.

David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. I Samuel 24:5

I am astonished that he was able to do this—unheard and unnoticed. Again, the Lord protected him.

When David showed the piece of robe to his men, they couldn’t believe it. They protested, “What? You had him in the palm of your hand and you just cut off a piece of his robe?” They were ready to go after Saul, but David said no.

“Why?” we might ask. When he had this madman right there, he could have put a spear through him and ended the rat race of being chased and constantly running. After all, Saul was bent on killing him. Why wouldn’t David beat him to it?

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed.” I Samuel 24:6

I can just picture the men looking at one another like, “What does he mean? Why did he let him get away!”

What would you have done?

Next week we’ll pull apart the meaning of “the Lord’s anointed” and see what amazing thing David did next.

~ Joyce ~