Eastertide – Dynamite Power!

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

This Sunday is Pentecost, the closing of Eastertide. And what a closing it is!

“Pente” means fifty, thus fifty days after Easter. Originally, it celebrated thanksgiving for the firstfruits of the wheat season. Later, it was associated with remembering the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

But for Christians, it is a remembrance of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Remember last week, we talked about Jesus telling the disciples to wait there in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power (dynamite) from on high.”  

Luke tells us that while they waited, one thing they did was to—

. . . constantly join together in prayer, along with the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:14

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together.

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole place where they were sitting. Acts 2:2

Notice how the senses were involved in this dramatic scene. First they heard the sound of wind. Yes, a mighty wind can produce quite a roar. It filled the whole place. They not only heard it they felt it blowing against their faces, whipping their clothes this way and that. Then they saw something.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Acts 2:3

 Remember how God revealed himself in the desert with the cloud and the fire? Perhaps they even smelled it. 

I find it interesting that they saw the flames as “tongues” of fire. This warmth of the Holy Spirit separated and came to rest on each one, causing their tongues to speak in different languages.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:4

Indeed, dynamite (Greek word for “power”) had come upon them, helping them to speak languages they did not know—even more powerful than Cleopas and his partner felt when “their hearts burned within them.”

Since this was a festival time, practicing Jews had come from many countries. Each disciple had now been equipped to speak in a different language. As they moved among these strangers, the disciples spoke to them in their native tongues. 

Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Acts 2:7-8

Peter stood up that day and addressed the entire crowd, maybe in their common Aramaic language or in Greek. He made such an impact on them that about three thousand were added to their number that day.

What a culmination to the Eastertide season. Dynamite indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Eastertide – Spirits Renewed

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Last week, (“Eastertide – Minds Opened“) we saw how Jesus proved  to the disciples that he had risen by appearing directly to them.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45

Later, the disciples go back to Galilee, but still seem a bit lost as to what they are to do. Fisherman blood runs through Peter’s veins. So he says,

“I’m going out to fish.” [Six others also said,] “We’ll go with you.” John 21:3

(Isn’t that like us? We have mountain top experiences; we have miraculous answers to prayer. The Lord leads us in understanding a new concept. But after a while, we’re back in our same old rut.)

After a night of fishing, but no catching, the men are ready to come in. Just then, they hear someone call from the shore.

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” John 21:5-6

When they throw their nets out again, the net is so full, they can hardly haul them in. The circumstances are all too familiar to a time long ago. John says, “It is the Lord!” Peter looks to the shore, then jumps in the water and swims the hundred yards to the shore where Jesus has a fire going with a few fish, and some bread for them.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” John 21:10

(Isn’t it like him to feed us? Not necessarily with food but with sustenance for our souls. Yet he asks us to contribute as well, to do our part. “Bring some of your fish.“)

After breakfast, Jesus  takes Peter aside and asks him three times, “Do you love me?” Jesus instructs him to feed and take care of his lambs and sheep, those who will be new believers and those who are faithful followers.

This is a call to Peter to be a leader and a witness. It also allows Peter to express his love to Jesus—three times—perhaps to undo his three-time betrayal.

Some time later, the disciples  travel back to Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost. For the last time Jesus appears to the disciples. He tells them to stay in Jerusalem until they have been “clothed with power from on high.”

“. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

That word “power” in the Greek means “dynamite.”

Then, Jesus ascends into heaven before their eyes. 

Next week, we will see the results of that dynamite power!

~ Joyce ~

 

Eastertide – Minds Opened

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Last week, we remembered the great rejoicing that the two from Emmaus felt when they realized they had been with the risen Lord. (“Eastertide – Burning Hearts“) They hastened back to Jerusalem to share the good news with the disciples.

. . . the two told . . .  how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. Luke 24:35-37

The disciples have heard the good news from the women, from Mary Magdalene, from Cleopas and his companion, and now they have seen Jesus himself, but they think he’s a ghost!

Jesus questions why they are troubled and have doubts. He asks for food and eats it so they can see he’s not a ghost, for goodness sake. Then we’re told they feel joy and amazement, but there still seems to be some doubt. 

Truth be told, we can have those moments when something is so wonderful, you still have trouble believing it has come true.

Jesus reminds them that—

“Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44

Hint, hint. In other words, all of the Torah plus the other writings. He reminded them anew,

“The Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” Luke 24:46

Ah yes, that again. Finally, their minds are opened. Not only that—

“. . . repentance and forgiveness of sin will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You will be witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:46-48

Finally, through the Scripture and Jesus’ own words, the path is laid out for them.

That’s how it was for me that year that I participated in a study of the book of Matthew. I kept meditating on Jesus’ words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear. He who has eyes to see, let him see.”

As I continued the study, I became aware of lesser-known characters along the way, wondering what might be the rest of their stories. I began to entertain the idea of writing such a story.

Then, at the arrest of Jesus, I felt drawn to the character Malchus, servant of the high priest. Peter had sliced off his ear there in the garden. Jesus bent down and healed his ear. What was the rest of Malchus’ story? How did that healing affect him? He who has ears to hear, let him hear. I finally found the “what” I had been looking for. (Last week’s blog)

It took a few years, but I finally did my small part in fulfilling a plan to “preach repentance and forgiveness in his name.”

What part, small or dramatic, does he have for you?

~ Joyce ~

 

Eastertide – Burning Hearts

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I think one of the most stirring stories of the resurrection was the incident with Cleopas and his friend. They bore the burden of seeing Jesus whipped and hanging on that cruel cross. Then came the long day of mourning on the Sabbath.

The following day, they heard the news from the women who had been to the tomb and their claim that two angels said Jesus was alive. But they, like the other men had trouble believing. It was just too much to take in.

 As they walked home to Emmaus, a stranger stopped them and asked what they were talking about. They blurted out their story of sadness and confusion. One statement they made resonated with the stranger.

“. . . we had hoped that he [Jesus] was going to redeem Israel.” Luke 24:21

The stranger was disturbed by this talk and reminded them of all that the prophets had spoken.

“Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:26-27

What a sermon that must have been!

When they went inside to eat, the stranger began to break bread and give thanks. They’re eyes were opened and they realized he was Jesus. Then he disappeared from their sight.

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

That, my friends, is the very Scripture I thought of when the Lord called me to write.

I had been writing a few Bible studies, scripts, and skits, yet I kept having this nagging feeling that He wanted me to write more, but what? I heard sermons, read articles, or saw visuals that kept saying something about writing, but write what? One day as I drove on the expressway, I followed a car whose license plate said (I kid you not), “WRITE.”

Two months later, I sat in a small group session at a conference where the leader talked about the ways people move to another level with their ministries. She gave several life examples and then she shared about a friend who was a writer and told how the Lord called her to write a book. The more she talked the more convicted I felt. 

A fiery warmth began in my head, entered my chest, and flowed on through my body. It was as though the Lord took a branding iron and seared the word “Write” across my heart. I so identified with those two on the road to Emmaus. “Were our hearts not burning within us?”

Over several months, the Lord gave tiny steps in revealing the “what.”

Is there a word in Scripture that He wants to burn into your heart or a task He’s calling you to do? Open your mind and heart.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Eastertide – The Men

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

In this Eastertide, we thought  last week about the women, but what of the men?

We know John was at the cross because Jesus spoke directly to him, asking John to care for his mother. We know that Peter made it to the courtyard of Caiaphas after the arrest but sadly denied knowing him three times before the cock crew. Otherwise, the men all seemed to scatter from the Garden of Gethsemane after the arrest of Jesus.

As far as we can tell. the disciples retreated, dare we even say, fled back to the upper room. Wouldn’t we like to know what they said, what they did the rest of that Friday? Perhaps John came back to give a report and collapsed himself after that strenuous day with no sleep the night before.

Then there was Saturday. Silence. What did they talk about? The master they followed for some three years had experienced a devastating death. What were they to do now? Did even one of them remember what Jesus had told them, that he must suffer, die, and would be raised again? It is mentioned at least three times in Matthew.

The last time Jesus told them this was when they were making their final trek to Jerusalem. He said,

” . . . the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day, he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:18-19

Can it be any more clear than that?

Evidently the women had heard this before as well. For when the angel spoke to them at the tomb, he reminded them,

“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’Then they remembered his words. Matthew 24:6-8

Before we shake our heads and look down on these men and women, perhaps we need to think about words we have been told through Scripture.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray . . .  then I will hear from heaven . . . and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31

Trust in the Lord. Lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Do not worry about your life. Matthew 6:25

Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. Matthew 6:1

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father. Matthew 6:6

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:7

Words of our heavenly Father and his Son are important to remember.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastertide – The Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Eastertide is a new term for me. It applies to the forty days between Easter and Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. So let’s spend time reflecting on those days after the crucifixion.

We talked a few months ago about the way Jesus elevated the position of women from shame to honor. We see God doing that very thing again in the days after the resurrection—the women played a vital roll.

When Jesus breathed his last, the centurion . . .

. . . praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” Luke 23:47

Many of the men “beat their breasts” in a sign of anguish.

But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:49

They lingered to see what would happen next. It would have taken some time for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pilate to ask for the body, but the women were still there, waiting. Then,

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Luke 23:35

Why? So they would know where to come to prepare the body with spices and perfumes. Since the Sabbath was about to begin that Friday evening, they wouldn’t be able to do their work until Sunday morning.

Who were these women? They were those who had followed Jesus from time to time to help in the ministry, perhaps by caring for the people or preparing food for Jesus and his twelve disciples as well as other followers. Several women helped, but three were specifically named in Matthew and Mark. Perhaps these three served as  leaders.

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Matthew 27:56

Mark calls the second Mary, the mother of James the younger or as “The Chosen” puts it, James the short one. (big James and little James) The third woman is likely Salome, the mother of (big) James and John.  

Once Sabbath was over and true to their duty, the women went to the tomb early Sunday morning with their spices. It dawned on them that they would have trouble rolling that huge stone away from the tomb. To their amazement, they found the stone already rolled away, then they saw an angel with stunning white clothes. Luke tells us that the women “bowed down with their faces to the ground.” As with any angel appearance in the Bible, the first thing the angel must say is, “Do not be afraid—

“. . . for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead.'” Matthew 28:5-7

May that message continue to resonate with us long after our Easter celebrations. He is risen. He is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Kindness, Gentleness

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Recently, I taught our Sunday Bible study class. We had been studying the Holy Spirit and had a lesson on the fruit that the Spirit desires to produce in us. I realized my fruit branch was lacking in a couple of areas.

Jesus speaks of being connected to the vine. In fact, He spends over half of John 15 with a visual, almost a parable. Picture a thick grape vine with many branches. In his example, he wants us to label the thick vine “Jesus” and one of the branches “me.”

  JESUS

  ME

Jesus said,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

So, I must cling to this main vine (Jesus)—remain in Him, abide, dwell in Him. We know what it is to dwell on a thought. Your mind keeps coming back to that thought over and over. That’s what He wants us to do with Him. Dwell on Him, draw strength from Him, gain wisdom from Him, search for what He desires in us.

There’s a gardener in the parable. We’re to label him “God.”

 God

In your mind, draw a pair of pruning shears in God’s hand.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

With these thoughts in mind, I looked at the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

 I tend to have strong opinions which is fine, but at times, I may express them in a way that negates my good reasoning. I engaged in a discussion with a young family member about tattoos and went on about the disadvantages. It came across with bitterness and heat. I realized that the “gentle” grapes in my cluster were looking pretty drawn up and dry.

Gentleness is not milk toast, “mamby-pamby” behavior. It is strength—but under control, coupled with kindness. So, I wrote a letter to this dear one, giving examples of times when she had painted certain colors or symbols on things but grew tired of them. An emblem may not be as dear to us after ten years. Why not paint it on paper, frame it, hang it on a wall and enjoy seeing it all the time? When it becomes tiresome or out of date, one can take it down, put it in a memory box, give it away, or throw it away. But if it is tattooed on you, it is there forever. 

Well, you get the idea. I apologized for my previous quick words and harsh attitude. Kindness and gentleness goes a long way. It produces plump juicy fruit.

If the Lord has to prune us, it may be time for some self examination.

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Praise

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We think of negative attitudes and positive attitudes. We understand the attitude of bitterness or envy, the attitude of kindness or encouragement. But praise? Is that an attitude?

I believe it certainly is, particularly when we feel praise and speak our praise to God. It’s an attitude that pleases God and resonates a one-of-a-kind joy with in us as well.

I was preparing to teach this past week on that glorious day when King David completed the plans for building the first Temple. David stood before the crowd of leaders, his son by his side. He spoke words of encouragement and direction to Solomon and handed over the plans. 

He said to his son,

“Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, [Heart and mind—that means serve with all that is within you.] for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. [Yikes, even the motive in the heart!] If you seek him, he will be found by you.” I Chron. 28:9

Israel had accumulated much gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and valuable stones during David’s reign. David declared he would provide from his great store houses of resources for the new Temple. Not only that, he declared he would give tons (literally) of gold and silver from his personal treasures.

“Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?” I Chron. 29:5 

The leaders, commanders, and officials were so inspired that they also promised huge amounts too—willingly. David was so overwhelmed with joy that he burst forth with praise and thanksgiving to God, much like the many psalms he had written through the years.

Then David told the leaders to praise God as well. They lifted up their voices with enthusiasm and by the end, they fell down on their knees and finally lay prostrate, flat out, face down.

You may have experienced such demonstrative praise at a time in your past or at least felt emotionally moved. But what about your regular old Tuesdays or Wednesdays or the string of monotonous days we have had for a year? Has your enthusiasm for praise waned to point zero?

I challenge you to find a moment this week when you can be totally alone. Talk out loud to the Lord. Praise Him for His wonderful creation, the heavens, the stars and planets beyond our knowing, the sun to warm us, the beautiful blooming trees, the Forsythia spreading their yellow arms out to welcoming in the spring. Sing your favorite hymn or praise song. Sing it loud! Pour forth all the thanksgiving you can muster.

Fall to your knees, thank Him for the price He paid for you on Calvary, the pain and agony of taking on your sin. Then praise God for raising His Son from the dead, reminding us that we too will overcome the grave to join Him in paradise. Amen and amen. The Lord is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes -Trusting

    Eyes to See

Multiple aspects are involved in the making of a book: researching, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Right now, I’m hanging in the publishing phase, waiting anxiously to hold that book in my hands. 

Meanwhile, I’m at the dreaded step of marketing. In recent years, I have actually used the word that I usually refrain from using about anything—the word “hate.” I would get in a tizzy every time I thought about marketing. But recently, I have been thinking more about that attitude. Of course, we tend not to like anything that is difficult for us to do.

Instead of fretting and dreading, God has been working on me (again!) to trust him with this. Trusting means no complaining. It means relinquishing your inaptitude, your fear, and your dread into his hands. Jesus reminds me,

“Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” John 14:1

Jesus says, “The issue is not your strength, but mine, which is limitless.” It demands that we seek Him in earnest and determine to follow the steps He brings to mind.

Sarah Young in “Jesus Calling” is my go-to lady for morning devotions. Seems like every other day the devotion centers on trusting. I guess God feels like I am a slow learner.

Sarah says, “Waiting, trusting, and hoping are intricately connected, like golden strands interwoven to form a strong chain.” Trusting is the central strand because it is the response God desires the most.

It reminds me of one of my life verses.

Those who wait (or hope) in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

In the process of waiting and hoping in the Lord, we step back and let Him lead, trusting Him to control things, if you will. As Sarah would say, “Keep your antennae out to pick up even the faintest gimmer of His presence.” The Lord cries out to us,

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Remembering that,  

We walk by faith and not by sight. II Corinthians 5:7

Is something dragging you down? Are you growing to despise it, hate it? Is fixing it beyond you? Are you at the end of your rope with it?

Perhaps you need a new chain to wrap around you, a chain with strands of waiting and hoping and that important center strand of trust.

Breathe in His peace, breathe out your frustration. Place yourself in His hands.

~ Joyce~

“The Chosen”

      Eyes to See

 Perhaps you have heard of “The Chosen,” a popular video production. The first eight episodes have been out for awhile, with more to come. They portray the life of Christ, often from the view of his chosen disciples.

Jesus is depicted as winsome and sincere as he teaches, heals and performs amazing miracles in their midst. 

I highly recommend this series to you. It is very biblically based and is careful with the fictional parts. After the scenes with Nicodemus, I said, “That was really well done.” Of course, I have a special affinity for Nicodemus after writing my second book about him. (A Heart for Truth) 

Another episode is entirely about Jesus with a few children. All we have in Scripture about children is admonishing us to bring them up in the faith and Jesus’ words to “bring the little children to me.” This episode imagines how Jesus would react with only a group of children. It is quite delightful.

As John said,

Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

We may envision the disciples in different ways. I always pictured Peter as tall, big, and burly. “The Chosen” Peter is short and thin and a bit high strung. It is obvious that, even though he is portrayed as slowly emerging as leader, he has a way to go in understanding what this is all about. We read about Peter’s impetuous behavior in Scripture, so this portrayal makes sense.

The Matthew character is another story. Matthew does not match my imagined personality. “The Chosen” Matthew has Aspergers, a form of autism. He is very intelligent, lacking in social norms, and has slight nervous  movements with his head and hands. But then, Scripture gives us very little of the disciples’ personalities, so we may visualize them in different ways.

Two types of tax collectors were found in that day, the collector for the people of the city, as in the movie, or a collector on the trade route for traveling caravans. Several sources seemed to feel that Matthew was a trade route collector, so I followed that portrayal. 

Interestingly enough, we both portray Matthew as butting heads with his father. In my book, I begin with him as a child. In the movie, he is already becoming a disciple. I’m anxious to see how he will fare in the second season coming soon. I foresee that it will be a while before the other disciples accept him, just as I imagined in my story.

The producers offer the first eight episodes free at www.thechosen.com. It is free, because thousands of people (including my husband and me) have contributed money or bought the DVD or other products in order to get the story into as many homes as possible. I believe this is going to be an amazing tool for leading people into the Kingdom, just as I pray my book will be. 

Have any of you seen it?

Joyce