Life Verses – On Fire

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Most life verses are ones you might write down in the back of your Bible or make into a poster for your wall as a guiding thought. Today I share with you a long experience where two verses were brought to mind by what I experienced, a reflection so to speak of verses I already knew.

The setting is twenty years ago. I had been writing scripts and skits for children’s choir groups and writing Bible study/devotionals for Youth Choir groups. I’d been published in a book of short stories. So I had been writing, but I sensed the Lord urging me to write more, perhaps in a different direction.

I would drive by a book store and see a sign that had something to do with writing or hear someone talking about writing. “I am writing,” I wanted to reason with God.

After a few weeks went by, I was driving down the expressway and glanced at the license plate on the car in front of me. I kid you not, the license plate read, WRITE! I cried out, “Okay, Lord, what is it you want me to write?”

A couple of months later, I attended a conference. One of the break-out sessions related to God’s purposes in our lives. The leader spoke of being in communication with God and seeking His will in all the directions we go. She gave examples of friends who had moved this way or that way in their life paths and then she mentioned someone who was a writer and felt the Lord leading her to write a book.

My heart throbbed. A warm flow started in my feet and legs and worked its way up through my body until I felt like I was on fire. It was as though the Lord had taken a branding iron and seared across my chest the word, “Write!”

My thoughts turned to the words of Cleopas when he and his companion met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus. After Jesus left them, they said,

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

“Is this the way they felt?” I wondered. Again I cried out, “I’ll write, Lord, but what is it you want me to write?”

I discovered that sometimes the Lord takes a long time in bringing us to the fullness of His will. In fact, so long that I can’t complete this one in only a single blog. We’ll need to stay tuned next week for “the rest of the story.”

Thank you to those who have sent in their life verses—Psalm41:3, Jeremiah 30:14, Psalm 103:2, and I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Please keep your life verses coming so that we all might benefit!

 ~ Joyce ~

 

 

Life Verses – The Spirit Intercedes

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps many of you have gone to the doctor and heard the dreaded C word. If not cancer, maybe another take-your-breath-away word.

We had been watching my husband’s TSA score gradually elevate. Then came the day when the doctor said he had prostate cancer. Jim began searching the treatment options—so many directions, each with their sets of pros and cons. At last, he decided to have it surgically removed.

In my stunned state, I recalled sitting in a Bible class as a young bride long ago, when the teacher asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Immediately, I thought of the devastation I would feel to lose my husband. Those thoughts came again when I faced this possibility.

Obviously, one prays for healing, for the Lord’s will to be done, for strength to go through this valley which ever way it goes, but at some point I just didn’t know what else to pray. It is at that point that I turned to Romans.

. . . if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we need to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:25-26

Jesus spoke often of the Holy Spirit. The disciples had the advantage of being with Jesus, God in the flesh, but after his resurrection, he told them,

“. . . Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5

That same Holy Spirit is at work in today’s believers, ever guiding, ever judging, ever strengthening.

In other times in my life, I have asked or offered directions in which the Lord might lead and finally realized I have no more words. In those times, I must plead for the Spirit to intercede with holy groanings for me.

In my husband’s case, the surgery was successful and there was no spread of the cancer. The cancer was small, but testing showed that it had been a fast growing kind. Thankfully, the Lord led us to take care of it in a timely manner.

We “leaned not on our own understanding, but acknowledged Him.” These verses come around again and again. That’s why I call them “life verses.”

No doubt many of you have experienced a frightening diagnosis and could share verses that have sustained you. Please do that in the comments section so others might benefit.

~ Joyce ~

 

Life Verses – Renewed Strength

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’m thinking today of a time when I felt thrown into the lion’s den like Daniel or into the pit like Joseph.

Our son was in his middle school years when it began—negligence, mild rebellion, teen stuff. In high school, things escalated. Where did we go wrong? We had a loving, caring, Christian  home. How could this be happening?

We took one step forward and two steps backward—over and over.

I drew on so many verses during those turbulent years, but one verse became a stalwart lifeline for me.

. . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength . . . Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

When you feel so feeble, so lacking in what to do next, so unable to cope, what is the remedy for renewing your strength? The King James Version suggests that we have to wait, wait upon the Lord. Oh, how we hate to wait for anything in our instant society, but our verse reminds us not just to wait, but wait upon the Lord. It is then that our strength is renewed.

The New International Version (NIV) translates,

. . . but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

As you think about it, if we are waiting for something there is an element of anticipation and hope. By the same token, if we are hoping for something we don’t yet have; we have to wait.

For me, there was a sense of peace in thinking that the Lord was with me, he would sustain me and strengthen me but I must wait on Him.

The next promise is, “they will soar on wings as eagles” (NIV)

I did a little study of eagles, particularly noting that eagles roost in very high places. When they are ready to take flight, they wait patiently for an upwind, then they take flight letting the strength of the wind help them glide and soar.

It was becoming obvious to me that before I could soar, I had to do a lot of waiting—years, in fact. As I prayed in that vein, God renewed my strength. Let’s look at a fuller view of the passage.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, young men stumble and fall; BUT those who [wait and] hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar of wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

 We’re not talking about glibly hoping or laying around waiting, but hoping in the Lord. That means much time in prayer, literally crying out to him. In the darkest of times, in the weariest moments, this was a sustaining verse for me. Tears come even now as I write this.

But oh, the miracle God performed in our son’s life, turning him completely around, hungering for the Word. What a joy he continues to be in our lives with his wife and five (yes, five) children!

 ~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Life Verses – Acknowledge Me

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The setting is the late 1970’s. My husband, Jim, had been the Minister of Music at our church for several years, the children were young and all was right with my world. As I mentioned last week, my growing-up family had moved about every two years, so I relished being in this one place for a good while.

Added to that, my parents had decided to move to our city of Somerset, Kentucky. How wonderful that our children would have the joy of seeing their grandparents often.

My world fell apart when Jim said a search committee from another state had called and wanted us to go there to meet with them. We were happy in our present church and had received other calls like this, but Jim reasoned that if we never followed up, we might be missing a new direction God had for us.

Nothing in me wanted to submit to this idea. I struggled for days over this. Then the Lord kept saying in my mind, “Joyce, do you love me?”

Jesus’ conversation with Peter came to mind. Remember, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. After the resurrection, Jesus pulled him aside one day and asked, 

“Simon, do you truly love me more than these?” John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked that question and Peter was to able to affirm his love and acknowledgment of Jesus—three times

Every time I prayed, that question came to my mind, “Joyce, do you love me more than these?” Do you love the stability, the routine, your parents move more than me?

As I walked down our hall at home, I saw anew the plaque we had on the wall. It simply said, “Acknowledge me.” Of course, I thought of the whole verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

God reminded me that He needed to be included in this process. It took a while, but I finally realized I must not lean on my own understanding and my own desires, but acknowledge him.

So, we made arrangements to go and talk to the committee. We were both torn with how to respond. I felt like we were in an empty room with one door opened this way and another door opened that way, not knowing which door to go through. 

A few days later, the committee chairman called and said their pastor had resigned and they would have to put their energies into looking for a new pastor, so they would have to set the music position aside. 

As you can see, God himself closed one of those two doors, and lessons of submission were taught in the process.

This verse is likely a favorite verse for many of you. I would love to hear how it has impacted your life.

~ Joyce ~

 

Life Verses – Fear Not

 

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Fear. Perhaps that is one of the strongest emotions we experience. We might be fearful for our very lives. We could be fearful of a disease or the fear of failing. We might fear non-acceptance. Anything out of our control can bring us fear.

My family moved about every two years when I was growing up. My dad’s work moved us to different cities and states. I eventually realized that I had to dig in and make new friends each time. In one of our houses, I had an upstairs bedroom. As an only child, I was afraid to go up the dark stairs to turn on the lights at night. My dad would say “I’ll hold out my hand.” Amazingly, I found strength in him simply holding out his hand. I would look down from the upper steps and see that he still had his hand out.

Years later, when I prepared to go off to Georgetown College, I felt excited, but felt a bit fearful of the unknown. My dad’s hand would no longer be visible. 

My youth director at church gave me a verse to take along.

For I the Lord Thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, “Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:13 KJV

That’s a nice little verse, I thought. I decided to make a small colorful poster out of it to hang in my dorm room.

It wasn’t long until I began making use of that verse. I was terribly naive. In some relations where I thought I was helping to pull someone up, I began to realize they were pulling me down. “Fear not,  I will help you,” the Lord said.  

The school work load, social activities, and  rehearsals overwhelmed me. Then, as I was preparing to lead the dorm devotion, the words came again—The Lord says, “Fear not, I will help you.”

In my junior year, a frightening experienced happened. I thought of my verse once again. I will hold (KJV) your right hand. The word “hold” caught my attention. Not grab, but hold. I reasoned that I must place my hand in his open, willing hand.  

Earlier in that chapter and in many other verses, we hear of God’s righteous right hand. No offence to you lefties, but we see many attributes to the right hand, the strongest hand (at least for right-handed people.) We eat with that hand, write, point, shake hands, open a bottle, wave, turn pages, and on it goes. It is the stronger hand that he offers us in times of fear.

On through my life, I have often returned to that verse. Thus I claim it as one of my life verses and have passed it on to my college grandkids.

May you find it helpful on your life journey.

~ Joyce ~

Life Verses – John 3:16

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We’re moving from Joshua to new territory. In the next few blogs, I plan to share what I call “life verses.” That is, verses that have played a  particular role in my life experiences.

I begin with John 3:16. Probably no other verse is more widely known than this one. We don’t even have to mention the first few words to recognize the verse. If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you likely know the verse strictly by its reference—John 3:16.

We’ve seen it on billboards, even across Tim Teebow’s forehead. It’s the gospel message all in one verse. It tells what God has done for us and what he expects of us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

At least, that’s how many of us learned it many years ago.

Do you know the circumstances of the context of this verse? Do you know that these are Jesus’ words? Do you know to whom he was talking when he said this? Do you know what the “for” is for at the beginning of the verse? Well, let’s break it down.

The setting is a nighttime discussion with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. (Warning! Sales pitch coming!) For more information on Nicodemus, order A Heart for Truth by Joyce Cordell. (smiley face)

                 

At this point, Nicodemus is not a believer, but a seeker. Jesus teaches him about being born again, not physically, but spiritually, in the inner man.

Jesus mentions an Old Testament incident to Nicodemus where Moses had lifted up a rod with a snake carved on the end. The people were being bitten by snakes, but if they looked up at the rod they would be healed. Jesus went on to say,

 

“…so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on the cross] that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. [ThusFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:14-16 NIV

One of my pastors gave a meaningful, easy-to-remember  description of this verse. First, we see two things about God. God loved us, his creation, and God gave us his Son. Then, two things about ourselves. If we believe in that Son, we will have eternal life.

To put it simply—God loved, God gave. If we believe, we receive.

For my life application: I was eight years old when I believed  that Jesus died for me. It was an innocent, childlike faith, but sincere. I was not a bold-faced, long-time sinner, but I knew that I wanted to be guided by God. It was a beginning. As I have aged and experienced earthly life with him, it makes me look forward to forever life with him.

Do you have a story to go with John 3:16? 

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Final Reflections

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Well, faithful readers, I realized that we started this venture into the book of Joshua back in June. If you’ve hung in with me that long, thank you. 

We come now to a very difficult aspect of God’s plan to understand. That little piece of land that we now call Israel, has long been the land God told Abraham he would inherit. The land was promised, thus the Promised Land. 

 

Early on, when Joseph brought the family to Egypt to survive the famine, they stayed over 400 years. God provided the way for them to return. However, in that time, other people groups had come in and inhabited the land, Canaanites, Amorites, and all the other “ites.” These were idol worshipers, not God-fearing people, not one-God believers.

God determined that Joshua be the commander to conquer the land and God would be with them. That sounds noble. Sure enough, God gave the instructions to march around Jericho and with a shout,

… the walls collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

And somehow that sounds  noble, until we consider what happened.

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I picture women running and screaming, children crying, men grabbing their swords, and animals making frantic bleating and roaring sounds, not to mention blood everywhere. It makes “taking the city” not seem quite so noble.

In our post-Jesus world, we find it difficult to understand this kind of a command. No wonder that God urged Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”

There would come a time, centuries later, when they stayed in a disobedient attitude for too long and were exiled from their precious land into Babylonia.

Still, God chose these people, fickle though they were at times, to be the ones to carry His laws and His love to all the world. They must understand God’s power, His omnipotence, His demand to worship no other gods, even as they rested in His provisions for them.

We would do well to grasp more of His Sovereignty ourselves. (Notice the word reign in that word.) Unless we behold and obey Him, we too could fall into self-centered life-styles, shifting attitudes of disobedience, failing to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and failing to love our neighbors as ourselves—the essence of God’s Ten Commandments, which Jesus repeated.

Joshua would end up following God’s command and continued taking over other towns and cities with God’s help until they were finally able to establish twelve areas for the twelve tribes. You will find all of that in the latter chapters of Joshua.

Joshua died at age 110. 

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31

Well done, good and faithful servant.

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Day Seven

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

At last—day seven! The armed men and priests have walked around Jericho for six days. (See “Joshua – Keep Walking“) Now, the day they have been waiting for arrives.

They get up at daybreak to be ready for their longer day, the day of triumph.

Last week, we tried to imagine what might be their thoughts as they marched from day one to day six. This week, let’s ponder what the people of Jericho might have been thinking. 

“What are those people doing, marching around our city? Man the walls. Weapons ready. Protect the city!”

“Is that it? Are they just going to walk and leave?” “Here they come again.” “All they know how to do is walk and blow those noisy horns.”

By day seven, “It’s them again. They’ll just march around and be gone. Go on with your work.”

However, on day seven, they march a second time and a third time. The people of Jericho begin to realize that this is not just “once around and be gone.” They likely are getting more worried with every trip around. “What are they up to?”

             

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! Only Rahab and all in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:16-17

I’ve wondered before whether all the marching of so many feet for hours each day, and the seven-time trip on day seven, would surely shake up the earth around the walls, a unique physical thing the Lord used. No matter how the Lord did it, the people were faithful and gave that final SHOUT!

… the wall collapsed. So every man charged straight in and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

The people had been faithful to follow God’s directions even if it seemed strange and lengthy. Then, on cue, just as he said, they had victory with a SHOUT!

In our day, I think of the office worker who has faithfully behaved in such a way that his fellow worker knows he is a believer. He even mentions a verse now and then that helps his friend along the way or tells of an experience when he felt God’s direction. Then one day (shout), the friend asks a faith question that opens the way for a full witness!

Or here’s the parents who have agonized over the behavior of their teenager. A counselor gives them advice that seems useless, but they try, praying as they go. They don’t see immediate results. It’s like they are walking in the same circles getting nowhere, but they stay the course faithfully, then (shout), the Lord opens a door of great improvement!

Perhaps your challenge is with yourself. Do that thing which he has laid on your heart. As we said last week, keep walking, stay faithful. Your day to shout victory will come!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Joshua – Keep Walking

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Joshua has explained at least day one to the people. (See “Joshua – The Plan“) So they are ready to walk all the way around the walled city of Jericho.

Over the centuries, more then one city was built and rebuilt in that area. The tell or hill that is there now is about 400 yards by 200 yards. That could make their walk somewhere around twelve football fields.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark, while the trumpets kept sounding. Joshua 6:12-13

 Perhaps this visual will help.

ARMED GUARD

REAR GUARD

Quite a processional. When they left Egypt years ago, they had 600,000 men. Of course most died in the desert, but over 40 years many were born and many boys grew up. We are likely talking about several hundreds of thousands of men. By the time the last few made it around, it may have taken a good chunk of that first day. 

Joshua had commanded the people,

“Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout.” Joshua 6:10

With that huge crowd, no doubt there were a few whispers. Wouldn’t you love to hear the comments as the women and children sat nearby watching? 

“Mama, what if they throw rocks at our men over that big wall?” “Don’t worry, sweetheart, God will protect them.”

Or what might the soldiers be saying?

“What kind of battle plan is this anyway?” “We must trust Joshua. God speaks to him just as he did to Moses.”

“I wish we were farther back in line. The constant sound of those ram’s horns are driving me crazy.” “I think it’s to intimidate the people of Jericho.”

For most, though, it was likely an exciting adventure, new and fresh. On the second day, they knew what to expect and perhaps felt more comfortable with the procedure. The third day they had it down pat. The fourth day—”We’re doing this again?”

The fifth day—”How many days are we doing this?” “Once around the city for six days.”

The sixth day—”Finally. Let’s be done with it.”

Have you ever felt like that? You work at a task faithfully, get into the grove of it, perfect it, and then begin to tire of it. What if it’s something God has led you to do? Can you keep the momentum going? Are you fighting what has now become a battle of fatigue?

ARE YOU SO BUSY THAT YOU ONLY GET A GLIMPSE OF GOD INSTEAD OF GAZING AT GOD?

It may be that you need some deep prayer time, purposeful quiet time, renewal time with God. His power is close at hand, ready for you so you can keep walking.

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – The Plan

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Now we begin probably your favorite part of Joshua’s calling—conquering the walls of Jericho.

Joshua had begun to scout out the nearest Canaanite stronghold—Jericho. As he goes, he is confronted by a man with a drawn sword. He realizes this is a messenger from God.

Joshua fell down and asked,

“What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Joshua 5:14b-15

          

Where have we heard that before? As close as Joshua was to Moses, I think we can imagine Moses telling  his story to Joshua of the time when the Lord spoke through the burning bush. Moses had the Pharaoh to deal with, Joshua has a city!

He has already surveyed this tightly walled city—thick walls that is. The Israelites have no heavy equipment to forge their way in. So here’s the plan:

The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” Joshua 6:2

Great!

“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the ark. Joshua 6:3-4a

Say what?

“On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” Joshua 6:4b-5

 You’ve got to be kidding!

Well, this may not be what Joshua said or even thought about these instructions, but in later verses, he seems to give instructions only one day at a time. I suppose Joshua thinks that’s all they can manage.

Sometimes the Lord gives us instructions that are challenging. I have fretted over the editing of my manuscript. Do I have it professionally edited?. What about publishing? And then there’s the marketing. God said, “Trust me. Think, ‘What is the next thing that needs to be done?’ Take that one step as I lead you.” Two weeks later, I received a free four-session video set called “Getting Unstuck!” from a publisher. 

A friend has cancer. She went through treatments before and did well, but his time she has opted not to have treatments. She’s making her funeral arrangements. “This feels weird,” she says, but she’s found some surprising joys and peace in this process.

My daughter woke up in the middle of the night thinking of a friend from childhood who is a missionary in Turkey. The Holy Spirit gave her a strong conviction that she should send an email of encouragement. Though not knowing anything specific, she obediently obeyed. The friend sobbed saying it was very timely.

Sometimes God gives us unusual commands. His plans are always best, even if they sometimes feel weird. Are you listening? Are you seeking?

~ Joyce ~