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 – 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 – 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 ~ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 ~

 

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 ~

 

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Disciples

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Perhaps when you were young, you learned the little tune that named the twelve disciples. If not, or if you’ve forgotten it, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a list, pretty much in the same order. 

Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; Simon the zealot and Judas Iscariot. Matthew 10:2-4

By far, the one we hear about most is Simon whom Jesus later names Peter. I’ve already written several blogs about this very dynamic character who tops the list. While he doesn’t always show himself to be the “rock,” he certainly is a work in progress. 

When Jesus walked on the water, Peter said,

“Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28 

Rather adventurous, right?

Then there was the time when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter speaks for the group,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 

Well done, Peter! The very basis of our faith! Or as Jesus said,

“…on this rock I will build my church…” Matthew 16:18 

But then, Jesus began to explain to them that he must suffer many things at the hands of the Jerusalem leaders, be killed, and on the third day be raised again. 

Peter pops back with,

“Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Matthew 16:22

His audacious boldness has gone too far. Jesus smacks back with,

“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

       

Six days later, Jesus takes the inner circle of Peter, James and John up the mountain where he is transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appear as well. Not knowing what to say in these truly awe inspiring moments, Peter feels compelled to say something—anything.

“Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4

God Himself intervenes through a cloud of bright light.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him! Matthew 17:5

In a study about gifts, I learned a powerful lesson; when taken to the extreme, our gifts can become a negative. 

We hear the voice of this bold disciple other times as well, but through the questions he asks and the denials he makes, this pebble of a man becomes the rock Jesus destined him to be.

Eventually, Peter is a faithful leader and the preacher who brought thousands to the Lord.

Whether we’re quiet or bold in personality, may we, like Peter, learn and grow through the rough edges of life to be what God has called us to be.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Walking by Faith

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We left the disciples listening to Jesus as he told them to Go Out Two by Two with a Hefty Task

Wouldn’t you  love to follow along with one of these pairs to see how they fared in this challenging venture? They carried virtually nothing with them, walking only by faith.

I’m at this point in the manuscript for my third book, this one about the disciple, Matthew. I’m creating possible scenarios of what Matthew and Thomas may have encountered in their time out as missionaries.

As they enter the first town, they face the first challenge—”Find a worthy person with whom you can stay.” One sign of a good Jew would be one who welcomes strangers.

Once they settle in for the night, they likely begin wondering what the next day will bring. Will they find people receptive to their message? What will they say when they preach and teach? Perhaps they will remember what Jesus said to them,

…do not worry what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19-20

I can’t say this always happens, but there are times when I’m preparing to speak to a group and realize the weight of doing so. I plead for God to give the words as I prepare. It is wonderful then, when I sense the Spirit moving in me, giving words I hadn’t even planned and receptive faces I hadn’t anticipated.

Imagine Matthew’s thrill when facing the first group of people and telling them the things that Jesus had taught, perhaps even in the way he taught. Did he make up his own parables to get across a point? Maybe something he saw nearby, or on the hillside, or a tool in someone’s hand. Was he amazed at how the words seemed to flow out of his mouth just as Jesus promised?

I try to envision what it was like at his first healing. How humbling to be the instrument through which the Holy Spirit worked. Oh the thrill of feeling God’s healing power surging through him to the wounded body or soul of another person.

While Matthew and Thomas found worthy persons who would take them in, Jesus warned that they would also encounter antagonistic situations where they had to shake the dust off their feet as they left town. The visual sign or custom for this was to take off their sandals and clap them together signifying that the dust (or the relationship) has been dusted away. 

No, they could not have imagined all that would happen to them in this mission effort. We, too, are sent out day by day to share our faith with our attitudes, our comments, and our hearts. We never know what our influence might mean in the timing of another person’s life.  

As Paul said,

We walk by faith not by sight. I Corinthians 5:7

~ Joyce ~

 

Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we saw that Jesus had mixed emotions. He was burdened with the news of John the Baptist’s death. At the same time, he rejoiced with the disciples who had returned from their successful ministry trips in Feeding the 5000 – Before the Feast.

Now they landed on shore and found a huge crowd ready to greet them. Jesus set his mixed emotions aside and had compassion for the people. As had been his pattern, He began healing the sick one by one.

I think about the temptation Jesus had in the wilderness. Remember when Satan wanted him to jump off the high pinnacle of the Temple and let the angels catch him? What a spectacular idea that was. It would dramatically show the people his great power.

But that was not the kind of Savior God had in mind. Instead, Jesus was to work in among the people, healing one by one, ministering to individuals, teaching small groups at a time. It’s unlikely that a crowd of 5000 could all hear him at once, no matter how strong a voice He had nor how much of an amphitheater the terrain provided. 

Eventually, the people would receive physical food, but first, He wanted to feed them the food of His words.

After a long day of healing and teaching, some of the disciples grew concerned about the people because they hadn’t eaten all day and they were in a rather remote place. They suggested that he—

“Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” Matthew 14:15-16

John says that Jesus turned to Philip and asked,

“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” John 6:5-7

About that time, Andrew spoke up.

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:8-9

At least Andrew looked around for a solution, but he, too, was doubtful.

Isn’t that like us? Full of questions and doubts. We get so one-sided about what can or cannot be done in a certain situation. We don’t think outside the box. What are other possibilities? Are we going to limit God? Could He possibly have a miracle in the making for us? 

Next week, we’ll watch Jesus organize and go into action.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Feeding the 5,000 – Before the Feast

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve looked at “points of view” coming from the four gospel writers on several happenings in the life of Jesus. When we looked at the feeding of the 5,000, you may remember I said I might want to revisit that exciting day in more detail. That will be our focus for the next few weeks.

What was happening before the great feast? I think it’s always important to get the setting, set the stage so to speak.

At some point in the time line, Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s terrible death. Recall the story. Herod caved when his wife, Herodias, (through her daughter) asked that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a platter .

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. Matthew 14:13

What do you do when you have received tragic news? You may want to have the love and support of close friends or family, but, at some point, you may just want to be alone to collect your thoughts and deal with your emotions in private.

My hunch is that Jesus wanted to be alone with God and gather the inner strength he needed from his heavenly Father. Very possibly, Jesus thought about how he, too, would one day come under the cruelty of those in high places.

Think of those times in your life when the weight of tragedy or trying experiences brought you to a low ebb. Perhaps frustrations with a job or the cruelty of unkind words struck the very core of your spirit. Somehow, with God’s help, you managed to continue to function. It is in this kind of human condition, we find Jesus.

Later, when He looks up toward the shore, He sees his disciples who have returned from their ministry tour of the villages of Galilee where he said:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

He shares in their excitement, glad to see their happy and hear their stories, then he tells them,

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Luke 6:31

After more sharing, He looks at the shore where the crowds are gathering to meet him. I envision him sighing greatly and whispering, “Give me strength, Father.” Then we see his heart.

…as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Luke 9:11

Jesus moved forward in the strength God gave him—an important lesson for us. For you see, that same power is available to us as we push out alone in out boats to receive healing and inner strength from our Lord. May it be so for us all this week.

~ 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 ~