Working Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Are you becoming aware of the interruptions in your life? How was your prayer life this week? (See “Prayer Interruptions“)

What about interruptions at work? Oh, many of us can identify with that, can’t we? Whether we have or had a paying job or we look at our work at home, nothing is more frustrating than to be interrupted when you have your mind set on a task.

Jesus experienced a dramatic interruption like that. You remember the time when he was in a home in Capernaum doing his main work—preaching and teaching? A crowd had gathered inside and outside the home listening to his every word.

Some concerned friends tried their best to bring their paralytic friend to Jesus, but they couldn’t work their way in with the man on his pallet. Many homes had stairs going up the side of the house to the roof where they might go to get cooler in the evenings. One creative friend said, “Let’s take him up the steps and let him down through the roof.

. . . they made an opening and, after digging through it in the roof above Jesus, they lowered the mat with the paralyzed man lying on it. Mark 2;4

(I envision bits of straw and dirt floating down with the pallet.) Rather than seeing this as an interruption to his preaching, Jesus saw the faith of these friends.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Notice that Jesus didn’t acknowledge any faith on the part of the crippled man. Evidently the man had not been a believer in Christ. Jesus took the opportunity of this interruption to teach two things. First, that he can forgive sin. 

The second lesson—sprinkled in the crowd were some teachers of the law. Jesus knew what they were thinking. Forgiving sin is only something God can do. Who does he think he is that he can forgive sin? Blasphemy! Jesus also knew that to call himself the “Son of Man” means one who is entrusted by God with authority and sovereign power. So Jesus said,

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” Mark 2:8-9 

Jesus turns then to the paralytic and says, “I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home.” Mark 2:11

Jesus used this interruption to teach, to heal, and to convey his divinity, both to the amazed crowd and the befuddled teachers of the law.

Can we find growth in those times of interruption?

One day our education minister shared an experience. She said, “I’m a list maker. I came home from church and with frustration told my husband that I did not get one thing done on my list today. He wisely responded, ‘So, you were interrupted with people and did ministry instead?'” Hmm.

~ 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 ~ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing and Being Known

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I have a friend who was healed from cancer two years ago. She recently had cancer again—inoperable cancer. She has opted to receive no treatment. While making funeral plans, she decided to create a small booklet of devotions from a few of her journal entries. I asked for her permission to use one of these in my blog today.

Yada’ – A Devotional About Knowing and Being Known                                                                                                                                                                                                   “O Lord, thou has searched me, and known me.” Psalm 139:1

When I was a young person, I had a situation in which I prayed to God earnestly and fervently for what seemed forever. One day as I was again praying, I dropped my head in total exhaustion from my repeated pleas to God and his seeming indifference to my plight.

But as I hung my head, something miraculous happened. I felt a warm oily substance being poured over my entire body from head to toe. I could feel it oozing over my body and seeping into every pore, and I knew the substance was “knowing.”

At the time, I did not understand this because “knowing” is a verb not a noun—how could it be something poured? However, “knowing” is what I definitely felt had been poured over me.

Since that day, I have come to realize that the dictionary describes “knowing” as having intimate knowledge of something or someone. The Hebrew word for “know” is “yada'” and it can be translated “to know and be known.”

Looking back on that experience, I realize God was telling me I was known to Him. He had heard my prayers. That day years ago, even if I did not understand fully what was happening to me, I found an amazing peace and joy I had never before experienced.

I never had to repeat my prayer again, because I knew God had heard me and I was in His watch care. I no longer had to fret or plead. And in His time and in His inscrutable way, He eventually answered that prayer.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 139. It was recently pointed out to me that the word “know” is repeated six times in that Psalm. Perhaps, without realizing it, that is why it is my favorite Psalm. God still speaks to me through the word “know.” 

By Sandy Berry

Psalm 139 reflects that the Lord knows when I sit and when I rise, perceives my thoughts from afar, and before a word is on my tongue, He knows it completely.

The psalm reminds us that God created my inmost being, and knit me in my mother’s womb.

Then the palmist’s plea; Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. Perhaps you’d like to read the whole psalm.

A reminder: the only way we then know Him and His will, His desires for us is to be still, to seek, to listen. 

~ 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 ~

Strength from the Pasture

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you have those days when you are bone tired? You feel exhausted. The to-do list just keeps getting longer.

In retrospect, I look back on my life and it seems that’s the way it has been for as long as I can remember. If I can just get through this unit of study, then I can breathe again. If we can just get through the terrible twos… Once this program is over… As soon as this event is past… There always seems to be that “next thing” looming ahead.

(I’ve been in the process of preparing to move my mother to her new memory care home this past Monday. It has been exhausting, physically and emotionally.)

Then there are those ongoing tasks with extras added, and you come home and collapse under the weight of it all. That’s where I was last week. Surely I’m not the only one who goes through these phases.

I sat down in my recliner, pushed back and was too tired even to cry.

I thought about all those powerful words Sarah Young pours over me every morning in her daily devotional book, “Jesus Calling.” I pondered the encouraging words I write to you week by week and think, “Where is your strength, Joyce?”

About that time, the Lord brought to my mind a beautiful pastoral setting. I was on a grassy hill, sitting beside David, looking out at grazing sheep. David reminded me that, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I have no need to be stressed and filled with anxiety. I have no need to want for anything. 

In my imagining, I looked over to see a stream of water running steadily over a rocky ravine, gurgling gently as it flowed. The sheep settled in, one by one, for their afternoon naps, completely given over to the care of their shepherd. David whispered to me, “The Lord is my shepherd.” 

I closed my eyes in my recliner and smiled. Yes, He’s my good shepherd, too.

I guess you know that next week, we’ll have a look at Psalm 23.

Sweet grazing my friends.

~ Joyce ~

Victory in Jesus

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we saw Martha, our lady who suffered fatigue from her years of dealing with a blood disease. (See “Worn-out Lady“)

She has gathered her strength and is determined to touch Jesus’ cloak, convinced that even a touch will heal her.

Unfortunately, the crowd is particularly heavy this day. The synagogue ruler has just come to beg Jesus to go to his daughter who lies dying at his house. As Jesus walks that way, the crowd presses in close to him.

This could be her opportunity to reach in and touch him unnoticed, but does she have the strength to push through? She weaves her small, weak frame in and around the people, struggling to keep up.

At last, she sees an opening and thrusts her hand forward to touch the back of his cloak. She stumbles and almost falls, but someone lifts her up and away. Martha can feel an unfamiliar strength, surge through her body. The fatigue has left her. She feels energy she has not known in twelve years!

Just then, Jesus stops and those around him slow to a pause.

At once, Jesus turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched me?” You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you asked, ‘Who touched me?'” Mark 5:30-31

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Luke 8:46 

As far as I know, this is the only place in Scripture where we read of Jesus saying that power has gone out of him. No doubt, that was often the case when He healed. 

Well now, Martha is in a pickle! She is thrilled with her healing but frightened to have been caught.

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:47-48

Oh, my friends, that’s what He wants to do in times when we feel frazzled and weak, in our times of overworked busyness and fatigue. Go to Him in concentrated prayer, seek His presence, reach out and touch the hem of his garment and then, bask in the renewed spiritual energy that He gives, that you may… Go in peace.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

 

  

Peter – One Step Back

Searching His Word

Seeking His Heart

In last week’s blog Peter rose to the top of the list with his comment. (See “Peter – Time to Shine”) This week we see that he’s felt emboldened to overstep his authority and will end up taking a step back.

Jesus begins a new emphasis in His ministry—preparing the disciples for His coming suffering and death. It isn’t what they want to hear and they have a time dealing with it much less accepting it. They don’t want to travel down this road.

                   

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priest, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed (yes, KILLED) and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

Peter didn’t want anything to upset the glorious earthly plans he had for Jesus. So Peter, the one who made the great declaration of faith earlier, takes it upon himself to pull Jesus aside and rebuke Him. Yes, Peter rebukes Jesus!

“Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus has infinite patience, but Peter has overstepped his boundaries and this defiance must be quenched. Jesus turns to Peter and says,

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23

Then Jesus turns to the other disciples and says those hard words.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

What does this mean for us? We want to be mighty men and women in the kingdom work; we want to be bold like Peter, but like Peter we become weak. We overstep or we take a step backward.

                  

I think about those times when I’m in the sauna after water aerobics at the Y. Sometimes there’s a believer among the group who initiates a comment about the Bible or morality or life in general. Often I join right in or sometimes I feel compelled to say something profound, but by the time I have the boldness to say it, the conversation has turned another way. An opportunity lost.

I want to be a brave warrior for you, Lord, but I am weak. Help me to deny myself, my fears, and inabilities and take up the strength that you modeled for us on the cross and follow you.

~ Joyce ~

 

What Color Is Faith?

 

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Faith. How many sermons, how many lessons or studies have you had on on this subject?

The usual definition of faith is given in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. (KJV)

Or if you prefer:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)

So we could say there is that element of “hope” where faith is concerned, not just wishing but hope that is sure and certain. Now to the question in the title—What color is faith? Let me ask you this—what color do you see here?

Blue of course, but as you see there are different shades of blue—navy, aqua, true blue, sky blue. So it is with shades of faith. Hope is one shade of faith.

When Moses and the children of Israel were in the desert, they had an episode of victory over an enemy. The victory went to their heads and they felt emboldened to complain (as did their forefathers) about the manna, Gods’s very provision for them. Not only that:

…the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Numbers 21:4-5

Direct blaspheme against God could not be tolerated. God chose to send venomous snakes among them. When the snakes bit the people, many died. Finally, they came to Moses and confessed that they had sinned. They said,

“Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” Numbers 21:7

Moses did pray and God asked Moses to do a strange thing.

“Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who has been bitten can look at it and live.” Numbers 21:8

Strange. Making images of people or animals had been strictly forbidden. This required great faith on their part and trust that Moses had this thing right.

Ah, another shade of faith, namely “trust.” Sure enough, if they were bitten, Moses lifted up the bronze snake and if they looked at it, they lived.

Fast forward centuries later to a night when Jesus had a private conversation with Nicodemus, the Pharisee. In the conversation, Jesus said, 

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, [that detestable, deadly snake] so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on that detestable, deadly cross] that everyone who believes  in him [truly looks toward him in faith] may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

Thus the deepest shade of faith—belief. And Jesus offers, not just life from a snake bite, but eternal life. 

So there’s our shades of faith—hope, trust, belief. In keeping with our recent theme of gazing, not just glimpsing at God, I leave you with another quote from Tozer:

“We learn that faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.”

~ Joyce ~

 

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As I write this, my husband and I are having a get-away 50th anniversary celebration in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One feels a certain serenity in these beautiful Smokey Mountains, a sense of the majesty of our great Creator. 

We came here several times through the years and often brought youth groups to conferences. Now here we are—full circle. We tend to reminisce on such occasions. I’ve considered how faithful the Lord has been to us in these years through many productive times and in those difficult life challenges.

Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever will be.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

I came across an article the other day that so fit this topic. It came from the Glendale Star (a newspaper, I presume.) When I picked it back up, I smiled when I saw where it took place. Note the location.

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member.

Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. They would not be able to use the new sanctuary until the church doubled the size of the parking lot.

Unfortunately, the church had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain behind the church.

Undaunted, the pastor announced Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had “mountain-moving faith.” They would hold a prayer service asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the dedication service.

That evening 24 of the 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for three hours.

We’ll open next Sunday as scheduled,” said the pastor. “God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time, too.”

The next morning there was a loud knock on the pastor’s study door. When he opened the door, a rough-looking construction foreman appeared.

“Excuse me, Reverend, I’m from the construction company over in the next county. We’re building a new shopping mall and need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We’ll pay for the dirt and pave the area free of charge, if we can have it right away.

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday. There were far more members with mountain-moving faith on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week.

~ Joyce ~