Healing – Men and Women

 Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We continue our search into the way Jesus was fair in his dealings with both men and women—rare indeed in a day when women were basically second class citizens.

Early in his ministry, Jesus began healing people with diseases and maladies of all sorts. One day, as Jesus amazed them with his teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum, a demon-possessed man stood up right in the middle of Jesus’ message. The man cried out at the top of his voice,

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Luke 4:34

Jesus dealt firmly with the situation.

“Be quiet! Come out of him!” Luke 4:35

The evil power of the demon threw the man down and left him. Now the people were amazed, not only with Jesus’ teaching, but also with his power and authority.

In the next verses, Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon Peter’s house. His mother-in-law is suffering with a high fever. They asked Jesus to help her.

So he bent over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. Luke 4:39

Soon, people were lining up to seek healing on into the night. You can bet that included both men and women.

Our second paring comes in chapter seven of Luke. By this time, word of Jesus’ healings had reached many ears, including that of a Roman centurion. The beloved servant of this centurion was sick and about to die, so the centurion sent word to Jesus asking him to heal the man.

When Jesus had walked part way there, the centurion sent a message saying he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his house,

“. . . just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Luke 7:7

. . . Jesus was amazed and said, “I tell you I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Luke 7:9

(Only twice does Scripture record Jesus being “amazed.”) When the men returned to the house they found the servant well.

Immediately after this happening, Luke records that Jesus and his followers went to the town of Nain. They came upon a funeral procession. The young man in the coffin was the only son of  a widowed woman.

When Jesus saw the mother—

. . .  his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Luke 7:14

A wealthy Roman soldier and a poor widowed mother, a demon-possessed man and a feverish mother-in-law, male or female—the thing Jesus saw was their need.

Do you have a need for healing? Physical healing? A spirit that has gone stale? A mind that is confused? A heart that is breaking?

Perhaps like David, you want to pray,

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who knows the way. Psalm 142:3

~ Joyce ~

 

Biblical Men/Biblical Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we look through the Scriptures, we see that it was definitely a man’s world. We will see in the next few blogs how Jesus raised women out of their lowly estate to give them value. Coupled with that, we will see how the Mid-Eastern mind works compared to our Western mind.

You will be amazed at how Luke couples a man’s experience and a woman’s experience in many of his accounts. You will likely know these stories, but like me, you may not have seen them as two in one.

It starts even at Jesus’ birth. You may remember in my recent Christmas blogs how the angel Gabriel came to both Zechariah and to Mary.

Gabriel is named only in the Old Testament book of Daniel and here in Luke. To Zechariah he says,

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, . . . Luke 1:19

Then to Mary.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married . . . Luke 1:26-27

God sent his great warrior angel to an old faithful priest, but also to a young simple maiden. Both had a major role to play in God becoming man. One would sire the forerunner and the other would bear the Savior.

Move forward forty days after Jesus birth. Mary must go to the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification. Being poor, her offering would be two pigeons or two doves.

Mary must also present her baby to the Lord, as it is written in the Law—

“Every first born male is to be consecrated to the Lord.” Luke 2:23

Now we meet our next pair, Simeon a priest and Anna a prophetess. Both are older; both have longed to see the Messiah.

It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. On the day Mary and Joseph came to the Temple, Simeon felt compelled to go to the Temple courts. As he lifted up 40-day old Jesus, the Spirit of God fell upon him and he declared,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke 2:29-30

84 year-old Anna had a seven-year marriage until her husband died. She spent the rest of her years at the Temple worshiping night and day, fasting and praying. She stepped into this scene precisely when Simeon made his declaration.

. . . she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

No doubt this gave Mary much more to ponder in those early days.

So from the beginning, we see men and women playing important roles in the life of Jesus.

Male or female, what is God’s role for you this week? It will not likely be as dramatic as these, but He has plans for all of us. Don’t miss your opportunity! 

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Life Verses – A Hope and a Future

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Today’s verse can apply to many stages of life. Most think of it when they are leaving high school or college or launching into a new career. However, this verse, taken from Jeremiah, can encourage us at many stages of life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Let’s look at Jeremiah’s context for this verse. This is an old passage, all the way back to 597 B.C. The king of Babylon has swept in to overtake Israel and take captive the choice craftsmen, artisans, and the best of the young people including Daniel and his young friends.

It will be a long captivity in this foreign land. Meanwhile, they are to continue to be faithful to God, to remember their need to pray daily and not worship idols, to be strong in their faith in spite of the fact that they will no longer have their Temple and sacrifices, etc.

With that in mind, let’s look again at this much quoted verse.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

God has many plans to reward the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends as they maintain strong bodies by following their food rules. They are protected from harm whether in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace. They all end up with high places of leadership even in captivity—a hope and a future.

God reminds them that they must continually call upon him in prayer and when they keep this practice, He assures them that,

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

So, when did this become a life verse for me? Interestingly enough, not until I was ready to retire.

I had already retired from teaching and had been working for several years as a music assistant  in a church. My husband talked of retiring so I considered retiring as well. I was suffering physically and finally found out that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I loved the kids I worked with in choir and  my precious seniors in the Senior Adult Choir, so I struggled with the decision.

I knew of this verse, but I was reintroduced to it in my daily Bible reading. I saw it in a church bulletin later. A radio preacher mentioned it. God often works in my life in these ways.

I nervously sat in church that Sunday morning before reading my resignation letter. I couldn’t believe it when Jeremiah 29:11 popped up on the screen as the morning verse. What an assurance that he approved this decision and had further plans for me. A few years later, my first book was published—a hope and a future!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Life Verses – Ears to Hear

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m sorry I left you hanging last week. (See “Life Verses – On Fire“) Like the two on the road to Emmaus, my heart was on fire as the Lord impressed upon me that He wanted me to write. My willing heart had to seek His heart—a long process in bringing me to the fulness of His will.

That year, I was engaged in a Bible study of Matthew with other ladies in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). As I worked through the study, I found myself thinking of the lesser known characters along the way.

I wanted to stop and imagine what might be the rest of their stories. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see them as more than just two-verse people? What were their families like? How did they relate to Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write about one of these and bring them to life?

Every now and then, I noticed that Matthew recorded this phrase from Jesus,

“He who ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

A few chapters later, there it came again.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 and 43

I stopped each time to ponder those words.

Later in our study of Matthew, we came to the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the flurry of activity with the Temple guards, religious leaders, and disciples, Peter spontaneously started swinging his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

I checked the other three gospels and found a few more facts about this man. Jesus healed the man’s ear. The man’s name was Malchus. 

At some point, everything came together for me. Malchus was a lesser known character. He lost his ear, but Jesus gave him back his hearing. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What happened to this servant? Malchus worked for the high priest who was determined to have Jesus crucified? How did that personal touch, that healing, affect Malchus’ decisions?

That, my friends, was how my first book gave birth. I titled it “Ears to Hear.”

It had been a long, slow process that year, but the Lord seared my mind with the idea of looking at lesser known characters in the Bible, then to apply “ears to hear” to the account of Malchus with Jesus in the garden and his miraculous healing.

It  took seven years to get from research to writing, editing, and seeking a publisher to the final finished product. Many times I cried out to the Lord, “Who am I to think I can do such a thing?” Then He would remind me that indeed I couldn’t, but He could—with my cooperation.

Another seven years later, Nicodemus’ story was published in “A Heart for Truth” which was twice as long.

Now, five years later, the story of Matthew is getting close to ready in “Eyes to See.”

I sing from a favorite hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Joshua – Spying Out the Land

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Joshua takes to heart God’s encouraging words. (See “Joshua – Be Strong and Courageous”) 

His first task is to send two spies into Jericho to check things out. (Remember, Joshua himself was a spy years before.) Now this is no easy task. After all, the leaders of Jericho have been made quite aware that thousands of people are camped just across the Jordan River from them.  

Therefore, the first challenge is to even get through the gate of this walled city—unnoticed. Alas, the spies do manage to get in. 

Now very close to the entrance, they find an inn, managed by a woman named Rahab, who quietly takes them in.  She realizes they are Israelites, but doesn’t tell on them. In fact, she protects them and hides them on her roof and covers them with stalks of flax.

      

The king learns of the spies’ presence in Jericho and that they were seen going to Rahab’s, so the king sends soldiers to her house.

“Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” Joshua 2:3

Rahab covers for the spies and sends the messengers on a wild goose chase out of the city.

 What will Rahab do now? Did I mention that Rahab happens to be a prostitute? Does she plan to use her alluring charms on the spies?

Quite the opposite. You see, with her house being located up in the wall, close to the entrance of the city, she hears the talk of those who come and go just below her house. She also hears the talk from those who use her “services.” What did she hear?

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.” Joshua 2:10

Perhaps there are other events that she heard about that aren’t mentioned—enough that she realizes that their one God is far more powerful than the many gods of her people. Rahab says,

“…the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Joshua 2:11b

What are the chances that these two men who know nothing of the city, find their way to a receptive, helpful woman to protect them?

Think also about the fact that she has lived all her life in this pagan city, far removed from the God-fearing Israelites. What are the chances of hearing the stories of these people?

While her people are struck with fear, she wants to protect these men and know more about their God.

We never know when someone is ready to hear a message from the Lord and that He is ready to use us. Perhaps we need to be “spying out the land” as well.

Hmm, let’s ponder this prostitute a bit more next week!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Joshua – Preparation

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Recently, I wrote a note to my graduating grandson. I was inspired to encourage him to study the book of Joshua with God’s words as a his motto:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I figured I, too, should familiarize myself with Joshua’s story once again. Who knows, this blog just might be the beginning of a study help for him, so I’ll practice on you. These brave words can apply to our lives as well—be strong!

Joshua’s story actually begins before the book of Joshua. He was a young man during the time when the Red Sea parted, possibly in his twenties. I picture him as being well built, showing signs of leadership, and ready to move forward with aggressive skills. (I’m thinking of my grandson.)

             

We are reminded in Numbers 13:8, that Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent into the land that God had promised Abraham. The spies found the land lush with vegetation, but dominated by large people who made them to feel like grasshoppers in comparison. In other words, they were afraid.

Caleb and Joshua disagreed with the other spies. Caleb and Joshua declared,

“If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord and do not be afraid of the people… the Lord is with us.” Numbers 14:8-9

Unfortunately, it was a 10 to 2 vote. Caleb and Joshua lost. The results? 40 more years, wandering in this desert. Moses told the people that all those above twenty years old would eventually die during those years, but Caleb and Joshua would live. (Numbers 14:26-33)

That gave Joshua plenty of time to prepare for future leadership.

The next time we read of Joshua, the Amalekites were storming toward the Hebrew camp. Moses told Joshua,

“Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” Exodus 17:9

During the battle, Moses held up his staff and as long as the staff was held high, the men were winning the battle, but when his arms grew weary, they began to lose. Aaron and Hur had to help Moses by holding up his arms and eventually, they won the battle. Quite a victory for the people and for Joshua!

Whether we are 18 or 52, we will encounter battles in our lives. To be successful, we too, must lift up our hands to God. When we take our eyes off of Him, we begin to falter. We see only the difficulties ahead. We focus on defeat. We think, “There’s no way I can do this” and we begin to lose the battle. Life lesson? Be strong, but keep your eyes on His power, not your own.

~ Joyce ~

The Unknowns

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

My husband, Jim, and I had an active life being in the spotlight as soloists and church leaders. but when Jim moved to a denominational position, we also moved to a new church. I remember attending that first Sunday and thinking, we’re just one of the people. Nobody knows us. We were used to being known. I  felt like just another person in the pew.

Have you ever felt like that? Just a plain ole person? An unknown?

Getting back to our study of the disciples, we come to three more who are hardly known. Maybe you don’t even know their names.

Let’s give them due honor beginning with James, son of Alphaeus. Now, I want very much to claim him as Matthew’s brother since they are both sons of Alphaeus, But alas, the scholars have no proof of that it’s the same Alphaeus.

James is also referred to as James the less. How would you like to be known as “the lesser?” Perhaps he was small of stature or was younger than James, son of Zebedee. His mother Mary (and another son) is listed among the women who helped Jesus and were there at the cross.

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome. Mark 15:40 

There is some evidence that James took the gospel to Syria and Persia where he was martyred.

Simon the zealot is the next of these three. He likely had to endure his tag for a while like Matthew the tax collector. These two tags were at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. The zealots were all about undoing anything Roman. What a testimony that these two could overcome their former lives and become brothers in Christ.

Several sources say that Simon took the gospel north to the British Isles. Like the others, he was killed for preaching the gospel.

Finally, we have Judas son of James, also known as Thaddaeus (meaning breast child or heart child.) Perhaps he was tender-hearted. We do have one comment recorded of this Judas. Jesus is in the upper room having his last words to his disciples. Jesus says some things they can’t quite understand until after the crucifixion and resurrection.

“He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

Then Judas (not Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:21-22

Jesus assures Judas that whoever loves him and obeys his teachings will be loved by Jesus and the Father.

Though little known, though few comments if any are recorded, all of these followers of Jesus, from Peter to Judas son of James, experienced his love and grew in their understanding which prepared them to go into all the world to minister even unto death for their Savior. 

Each disciple contributed much, but the gospel writers made it clear that the most important words and actions must center on Christ alone.

~ Joyce ~

 

Thomas, the Questioner

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I know, I know, we often say “doubting Thomas” because Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the disciples just after Jesus was resurrected. Though the eleven witnesses reported all that they experienced, Thomas would not believe.

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my fingers into his side, I will not believe it.” John 20:25

A week later, Jesus appeared again. This time, Thomas was with them. They all needed God’s peace, but especially Thomas. Through locked doors, Jesus came among them a second time.

“Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27

Seeing Jesus’ face and hearing Jesus’ voice was all Thomas needed. Scripture doesn’t say, but I believe Thomas fell to his knees before his master when he said,

“My Lord and my God!” John 20:28

Jesus has a word for us in 2020.

[Thomas,]Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

Whether we have personal struggles or joint struggles like this coronavirus, Jesus says, “Peace be with you” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

We can find a previous time when Thomas questioned. Jesus drew the disciples together for a few final precious hours of last teaching—things like humility as he washed their feet and the challenge to love one another, a prime way to show that they were his disciples. He let them know one would betray him and specifically tells Peter that he will deny him. 

Then we hear those encouraging words from Jesus that we can once again apply to our day.

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

The antidote for a troubled heart? Trust.

Jesus tells them that he is going to prepare a place for them (heaven) and that they know the way (belief). It is here that Thomas has another recorded question.

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:5-6

Without Thomas’ question, we may have never had that powerful verse in Scripture. Questions can show doubt, but they can also bring understanding. Thank you for asking, Thomas. This answer has been quoted many times through out the centuries.

Stepping back a bit further, we find Jesus heading toward Bethany for what will be the raising of Lazarus. It will mean going closer to Jerusalem, dangerous territory for Jesus with the hostile Temple leaders only a breath away. Although Thomas may be somewhat pessimistic, he makes the very bold statement,

“Let us also go that we may die with him.” John 11:16

It is believed that Thomas was eventually martyred with a spear in India.  

~ Joyce ~

 

Nathaniel, a True Israelite

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

We are still near the Jordan River where John the Baptist has been baptizing and calling listeners to repentance. 

When Andrew and John (Peter’s brother)  see the Baptist nod toward Jesus and declare him to be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, Andrew and John follow Jesus.

We learned last week that Jesus finds Philip and he, too, becomes a follower. Philip in turn finds his friend, Nathaniel.

Nathaniel’s name means “God has given.” Truly, God had given Nathaniel a desire to study the Holy Scriptures including the prophesies  that pertain to the Promised One. We first see Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree. It was very common to get away from the stifle of small houses and sit under the broad, cooling branches of a fig tree.

        

Philip finds his friend sitting under the tree and excitedly tells Nathaniel,

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45

Nathaniel is from Cana and evidently there is a bit of a rivalry between Cana and Nazareth. Nathaniel’s first recorded words are,

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” John 1;46

This is a bit humorous in that both towns are very small and rather insignificant. At least Nazareth was at a cross road along trade routes, and Cana is off by itself, but you know how rivalry can be.

Philip doesn’t argue with him; he merely says,

“Come and see.” John 1:46

Reluctantly, Nathaniel gets up and follows Philip. When Jesus sees Nathaniel approaching, he says of him,

“Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” John 1:47

Though prejudiced, Jesus knew Nathaniel’s heart. He wasn’t tainted by hypocrisy. His heart was circumcised; he knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah and looked toward that hope.

“How do you know me?” Nathaniel asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathaniel answered, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:48-51

This reminds us of Jacob’s dream with angels ascending and descending on a ladder, but in Jesus’ comment, he is the ladder.

It is interesting that three days later, Jesus goes to Cana where he performs his first miracle. No doubt Nathaniel stands nearby witnessing this confirmation of following Christ. How like our Lord to give affirmation when we step out in faith.

In all the groupings of disciples, Nathaniel is listed as Bartholomew (son of Tolmai or Bar Tolmai).

Various reports have Nathaniel ministering in Turkey and/or Persia and India, and particularly in Armenia where he was likely martyred.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Andrew, a Quiet Witness

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Now, as promised, we explore other disciples. What do we know about Andrew? Very little. Let’s start with what we do know.

He’s often referred to as Peter’s brother. Isn’t that the way it is when you have one aggressive brother? The other tends to stand in the shadows. That doesn’t mean that quiet ones are any less important.

Andrew was, after all, one of the first disciples to follow John the Baptist. He sought after truth and found it in John’s message of repentance and belief.

But John the Baptist made it clear that,

“… after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.” Matthew 3:11

Being a disciple of John, Andrew possibly witnessed the baptism of Jesus and heard the voice of God declaring,

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

The next day, when Jesus passed by, John the Baptist said,

“Look, the Lamb of God.” Matthew 1:36

Andrew and John (the disciple) followed Jesus and spent time from the tenth hour (4:00 PM) on into the evening.  When they returned to Capernaum,

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon [later named Peter] and tell him, “We have found the Messiah, (that is, the Christ).” Matthew 1:41

That’s the first quote we get from Andrew. The first witness. The first missionary!

One day, after a miraculous boat-load catch of fish, Peter was so overwhelmed that he fell at Jesus’ knees and said,

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Then, Jesus said to Simon, “From now on you will catch men.” Matthew 5:8,10

Later on, when Jesus returned to Capernaum, he saw Andrew and Simon by the sea, casting their nets.

“Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

The only other time the words of Andrew were recorded was at the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus and the disciples discussed how to feed this huge group. Andrew went into action behind the scenes. Apparently, he had been asking around to see if anyone had food. Instead of talking about it, he had quietly been working in the background.

         

Andrew spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:9

At least he brought the boy to Jesus. And look what Jesus did with that little lunch!

Another time some Greeks asked Philip if they could see Jesus. Philip first consulted with Andrew and together they led them to Jesus.

Do you see the common thread. Andrew worked at bringing people to Jesus—first his brother, then the boy with his lunch, and later he brought the Greeks to Jesus.

Andrew is known as the patron saint of Russia and Scotland.

A Roman governor had him crucified near Athens because Andrew had led the governor’s wife to the Lord and she refused to recant. Even on his cross, he continued to exhort passersby to turn to Christ for salvation. What a legacy!

Quiet witnesses matter.

~ Joyce ~