God at Work

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

I had planned to move on with David, but God has done so many things in this past couple of weeks, I feel I must share His amazing movements in our lives.

About a month ago, the only remaining activity I could do with my mother was to push her in her wheelchair out in the garden area. We looked at the trees, the fountain, the flowers, and occasional birds that would flit by. About half way around I would stop, sit down and talk a bit or sing a hymn or two.

         

One day, when she hardly said more than two words, I sang “In the Garden.” When I started into the chorus, she mouthed the words, “walks with me, talks with me.” How precious to me. It was one of the hymns she had been playing in May on the piano. Thank you, Lord.

Each week she grew less responsive. A week ago Monday, I could hardly get her awake in her wheelchair. Her head just hung down. We walked in the garden and she gave only minimum response. The workers noticed her energy was diminishing.

On Tuesday, we learned of the death of my husband’s oldest brother and made hasty plans to travel to Atlanta. 

 Our son and daughter were able to go as well. It had been a long time since we were back to just the four of us. We were able to begin planning Mother’s memorial service if she should pass soon. God’s perfect timing.

Do you see how He was providing and weaving His way among us? On the way back home, the nurse called to report Mother couldn’t sit up.

You know about our last moments from last week’s blog. I truly believe she was waiting for me. Within fifteen minutes of being with her, she passed. Thank you, Lord for intervening and giving me those last moments to wipe one tear from her eye.

As we made plans for the funeral, everything fell into place. When I looked through her Bible to find favorite Scripture verses, I discovered a note from a former class member who talked about how helpful her teaching had been.

Remembering all the fruitful, happy years of her life helped diminish the months of fretting, the weeks of heartbreak. Thank you, Lord. 

The day of the funeral, the minister mentioned that he would use a few verses at the burial site. I hadn’t specified but was thinking about Psalm 23 since I had been blogging verse by verse several weeks ago and had read some of those to Mother. But I hated to say it at the last minute to upset what he had prepared. Wouldn’t you know? He read the 23rd Psalm!

All the way to the end, I saw the hand of God moving and ministering to us.

Though I’m prone to being emotional, I actually did pretty good through all of this. Then this morning (Sunday) in our church service, the pianist and flute player played the most beautiful arrangement of “In the Garden.” Can you believe they chose this old hymn on this particular day? But, as I listened to the beautiful music, the Lord gave me one last remembrance of our time in the garden and a reminder of how “He walks with me and He talks with me” weaving His spirit through my life.

May you watch for Him at work in your life as well.

~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 ~

 

Nehemiah – Planning and Action

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

God has given Nehemiah a concern for his Jerusalem homeland. He feels called to do something about the crumbling wall around the city.

During four months of prayer, God led him to make plans. Last week (Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity), we saw that King Artaxerxes dropped opportunity right in his lap. 

Since Nehemiah has been cooking up his plans, he’s ready.

“If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so they will provide me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah?”

Nehemiah thinks logically of what’s needed to get him safely there.

And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?

In his mind, he’s already there, thinking through what he will need. Planners do that! Nehemiah sees that God’s gracious hand was upon him because the king grants his requests.

Praying, planning, and then the action. Off he goes, beyond the Euphrates River, across the desert, to the land of Judah accompanied by the king’s cavalry, no less. 

After this grueling four-month journey, he rests for three days and makes plans to evaluate the crumbling wall. He purposely didn’t enter with a bang or even tell anybody why he was there. He plans to quietly assess the damage at night, by himself.

This is not a one-man job, so it is time to gather the troops. Here’s what we have recorded of his motivational speech to the priest, nobles, officials, and people:

“You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and it’s gates have been burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

He also gave them his personal testimony of how God’s hand was upon him with the king. The result?

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. Nehemiah 2:7-18

What a great formula for us when God lays a task upon our hearts—pray, plan, wait patiently for opportunity, move into action, rest, evaluate, share our own testimony of God’s hand at work, and inspire others to join in the task.

Tuck Nehemiah’s example away in your mind.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

Writing – Part 2

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Last week in My Testimony About Writing, I shared about God’s call to write. I struggled trying to discern what the Lord wanted me to write. Of course, He rarely works on our time table, so I waited, watched, and listened.

That year, I attended a Bible study about the book of Matthew. I found myself noticing the lesser-known characters, the ones with only one or two verses. Often, their names weren’t even given, but they were important enough to mention. wondered what might be the rest of their stories. What was their background? How did they relate to Jesus? 

As I continued through Matthew, I was struck by the phrase, 

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

Later, when Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed, he said again,

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

I began meditating on that phrase, thinking about it every time it came around. Jesus warned that, because of the people’s unbelief, their hearts had become calloused. The leaders did not put into practice the truths they had studied. 

“Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Matthew 13:15

Jesus described the religious leader’s faith by quoting what Isaiah said.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Matthew 15:8-9

They had ears, but they didn’t hear.

In my pilgrimage of what to write, the Lord had impressed on me the lesser-known characters. He brought my attention to have ears to hear what he has to say. So, when I came to the two-verse story of the servant of the high priest having his ear cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was like, this is it! This is who I am to write about.

I discovered from the other gospel writers that his name was Malchus and that Jesus healed his ear. It wasn’t much to go on, but I researched and wrote, trying to envision what might be the rest of Malchus’ story.

I was still working at the time so all too often the story got pushed to the back burner. Over and over I doubted. Who was I to think I could conquer such a task as writing a book? That’s when I first came across the quote I have on my desk. “The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.”

The Lord provided a wonderful person to help me edit. Eventually, I acquired a publisher, then a capable person to help me make a video, take an author picture, and direct me to claim my website name.

It took seven years, but at last “Ears to Hear” became a reality. 

Next week, I’d like to share one more leg of the journey with you plus a challenge.

~ 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 ~

 

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 ~

Fruit of the Spirit – FAITHFULNESS

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I remember a question that was often asked in a Bible Study in which I participated. The question—”What attribute of God do you see in these verses?” Frequently, my answer was “faithfulness.” 

Just as faithfulness characterizes God, He wants to develop that same character trait in us. The Greek word for faithfulness means steadfastness, trustworthiness, and stable. Those three words translate easily in our minds when we think of the faithfulness of a spouse. We desire a stable, trustworthy relationship.

We may also think  of faithfulness in a friend—steady and true. Likewise, the Spirit provides the fruit of faithfulness to us as believers.

Jesus told a parable to teach the principle of faithfulness. He talked of a man who gave talents of money to his servants. One received five, another two, and the other, one. The first two servants were faithful in using and developing what was given to them, but the third man did not develop his gift. He was not faithful, but fearful and unproductive. To the other two, Jesus said:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21

As we carefully and obediently follow His will in the small things, He can entrust us with expanded responsibilities that lead to even greater fulfillment.

Exciting as that can be, we may find ourselves at times becoming weary in well doing. Paul reminds us:

Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Yet, faithfulness is more than just keeping on keeping on. It is, as with the other fruit of the Spirit, a matter of abiding in the vine, dwelling in Him, drawing strength from Him. 

What does “abiding faithfully” look like in your life? How do you stay fresh for the task week by week? What practical plans do you set in motion that prompt you to be faithful to Him?

You know how I have been talking so much off and on about staying connected to the vine? I looked at the Bible Study lesson I am scheduled to teach this Sunday. Would you believe? It is from John 15—“I am the vine, you are the branches.” I’m sure Jesus smiled at me just as I smiled when I saw the topic.

Finally, be encouraged with a look at John’s vision of Christ in Revelation.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11

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!

Amazing! I finished this blog Wednesday afternoon. When I went to choir tonight, our Minister of Music started the rehearsal by singing “Great is Thy faithfulness.” (smile)

~ Joyce ~