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 ~ 

 

 

 

Life Verses – On Fire

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Most life verses are ones you might write down in the back of your Bible or make into a poster for your wall as a guiding thought. Today I share with you a long experience where two verses were brought to mind by what I experienced, a reflection so to speak of verses I already knew.

The setting is twenty years ago. I had been writing scripts and skits for children’s choir groups and writing Bible study/devotionals for Youth Choir groups. I’d been published in a book of short stories. So I had been writing, but I sensed the Lord urging me to write more, perhaps in a different direction.

I would drive by a book store and see a sign that had something to do with writing or hear someone talking about writing. “I am writing,” I wanted to reason with God.

After a few weeks went by, I was driving down the expressway and glanced at the license plate on the car in front of me. I kid you not, the license plate read, WRITE! I cried out, “Okay, Lord, what is it you want me to write?”

A couple of months later, I attended a conference. One of the break-out sessions related to God’s purposes in our lives. The leader spoke of being in communication with God and seeking His will in all the directions we go. She gave examples of friends who had moved this way or that way in their life paths and then she mentioned someone who was a writer and felt the Lord leading her to write a book.

My heart throbbed. A warm flow started in my feet and legs and worked its way up through my body until I felt like I was on fire. It was as though the Lord had taken a branding iron and seared across my chest the word, “Write!”

My thoughts turned to the words of Cleopas when he and his companion met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus. After Jesus left them, they said,

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

“Is this the way they felt?” I wondered. Again I cried out, “I’ll write, Lord, but what is it you want me to write?”

I discovered that sometimes the Lord takes a long time in bringing us to the fullness of His will. In fact, so long that I can’t complete this one in only a single blog. We’ll need to stay tuned next week for “the rest of the story.”

Thank you to those who have sent in their life verses—Psalm41:3, Jeremiah 30:14, Psalm 103:2, and I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Please keep your life verses coming so that we all might benefit!

 ~ Joyce ~

 

 

Life Verses – Acknowledge Me

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The setting is the late 1970’s. My husband, Jim, had been the Minister of Music at our church for several years, the children were young and all was right with my world. As I mentioned last week, my growing-up family had moved about every two years, so I relished being in this one place for a good while.

Added to that, my parents had decided to move to our city of Somerset, Kentucky. How wonderful that our children would have the joy of seeing their grandparents often.

My world fell apart when Jim said a search committee from another state had called and wanted us to go there to meet with them. We were happy in our present church and had received other calls like this, but Jim reasoned that if we never followed up, we might be missing a new direction God had for us.

Nothing in me wanted to submit to this idea. I struggled for days over this. Then the Lord kept saying in my mind, “Joyce, do you love me?”

Jesus’ conversation with Peter came to mind. Remember, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. After the resurrection, Jesus pulled him aside one day and asked, 

“Simon, do you truly love me more than these?” John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked that question and Peter was to able to affirm his love and acknowledgment of Jesus—three times

Every time I prayed, that question came to my mind, “Joyce, do you love me more than these?” Do you love the stability, the routine, your parents move more than me?

As I walked down our hall at home, I saw anew the plaque we had on the wall. It simply said, “Acknowledge me.” Of course, I thought of the whole verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

God reminded me that He needed to be included in this process. It took a while, but I finally realized I must not lean on my own understanding and my own desires, but acknowledge him.

So, we made arrangements to go and talk to the committee. We were both torn with how to respond. I felt like we were in an empty room with one door opened this way and another door opened that way, not knowing which door to go through. 

A few days later, the committee chairman called and said their pastor had resigned and they would have to put their energies into looking for a new pastor, so they would have to set the music position aside. 

As you can see, God himself closed one of those two doors, and lessons of submission were taught in the process.

This verse is likely a favorite verse for many of you. I would love to hear how it has impacted your life.

~ Joyce ~

 

Life Verses – Fear Not

 

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Fear. Perhaps that is one of the strongest emotions we experience. We might be fearful for our very lives. We could be fearful of a disease or the fear of failing. We might fear non-acceptance. Anything out of our control can bring us fear.

My family moved about every two years when I was growing up. My dad’s work moved us to different cities and states. I eventually realized that I had to dig in and make new friends each time. In one of our houses, I had an upstairs bedroom. As an only child, I was afraid to go up the dark stairs to turn on the lights at night. My dad would say “I’ll hold out my hand.” Amazingly, I found strength in him simply holding out his hand. I would look down from the upper steps and see that he still had his hand out.

Years later, when I prepared to go off to Georgetown College, I felt excited, but felt a bit fearful of the unknown. My dad’s hand would no longer be visible. 

My youth director at church gave me a verse to take along.

For I the Lord Thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, “Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:13 KJV

That’s a nice little verse, I thought. I decided to make a small colorful poster out of it to hang in my dorm room.

It wasn’t long until I began making use of that verse. I was terribly naive. In some relations where I thought I was helping to pull someone up, I began to realize they were pulling me down. “Fear not,  I will help you,” the Lord said.  

The school work load, social activities, and  rehearsals overwhelmed me. Then, as I was preparing to lead the dorm devotion, the words came again—The Lord says, “Fear not, I will help you.”

In my junior year, a frightening experienced happened. I thought of my verse once again. I will hold (KJV) your right hand. The word “hold” caught my attention. Not grab, but hold. I reasoned that I must place my hand in his open, willing hand.  

Earlier in that chapter and in many other verses, we hear of God’s righteous right hand. No offence to you lefties, but we see many attributes to the right hand, the strongest hand (at least for right-handed people.) We eat with that hand, write, point, shake hands, open a bottle, wave, turn pages, and on it goes. It is the stronger hand that he offers us in times of fear.

On through my life, I have often returned to that verse. Thus I claim it as one of my life verses and have passed it on to my college grandkids.

May you find it helpful on your life journey.

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Final Reflections

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Well, faithful readers, I realized that we started this venture into the book of Joshua back in June. If you’ve hung in with me that long, thank you. 

We come now to a very difficult aspect of God’s plan to understand. That little piece of land that we now call Israel, has long been the land God told Abraham he would inherit. The land was promised, thus the Promised Land. 

 

Early on, when Joseph brought the family to Egypt to survive the famine, they stayed over 400 years. God provided the way for them to return. However, in that time, other people groups had come in and inhabited the land, Canaanites, Amorites, and all the other “ites.” These were idol worshipers, not God-fearing people, not one-God believers.

God determined that Joshua be the commander to conquer the land and God would be with them. That sounds noble. Sure enough, God gave the instructions to march around Jericho and with a shout,

… the walls collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

And somehow that sounds  noble, until we consider what happened.

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I picture women running and screaming, children crying, men grabbing their swords, and animals making frantic bleating and roaring sounds, not to mention blood everywhere. It makes “taking the city” not seem quite so noble.

In our post-Jesus world, we find it difficult to understand this kind of a command. No wonder that God urged Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”

There would come a time, centuries later, when they stayed in a disobedient attitude for too long and were exiled from their precious land into Babylonia.

Still, God chose these people, fickle though they were at times, to be the ones to carry His laws and His love to all the world. They must understand God’s power, His omnipotence, His demand to worship no other gods, even as they rested in His provisions for them.

We would do well to grasp more of His Sovereignty ourselves. (Notice the word reign in that word.) Unless we behold and obey Him, we too could fall into self-centered life-styles, shifting attitudes of disobedience, failing to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and failing to love our neighbors as ourselves—the essence of God’s Ten Commandments, which Jesus repeated.

Joshua would end up following God’s command and continued taking over other towns and cities with God’s help until they were finally able to establish twelve areas for the twelve tribes. You will find all of that in the latter chapters of Joshua.

Joshua died at age 110. 

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31

Well done, good and faithful servant.

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Keep Walking

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Joshua has explained at least day one to the people. (See “Joshua – The Plan“) So they are ready to walk all the way around the walled city of Jericho.

Over the centuries, more then one city was built and rebuilt in that area. The tell or hill that is there now is about 400 yards by 200 yards. That could make their walk somewhere around twelve football fields.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark, while the trumpets kept sounding. Joshua 6:12-13

 Perhaps this visual will help.

ARMED GUARD

REAR GUARD

Quite a processional. When they left Egypt years ago, they had 600,000 men. Of course most died in the desert, but over 40 years many were born and many boys grew up. We are likely talking about several hundreds of thousands of men. By the time the last few made it around, it may have taken a good chunk of that first day. 

Joshua had commanded the people,

“Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout.” Joshua 6:10

With that huge crowd, no doubt there were a few whispers. Wouldn’t you love to hear the comments as the women and children sat nearby watching? 

“Mama, what if they throw rocks at our men over that big wall?” “Don’t worry, sweetheart, God will protect them.”

Or what might the soldiers be saying?

“What kind of battle plan is this anyway?” “We must trust Joshua. God speaks to him just as he did to Moses.”

“I wish we were farther back in line. The constant sound of those ram’s horns are driving me crazy.” “I think it’s to intimidate the people of Jericho.”

For most, though, it was likely an exciting adventure, new and fresh. On the second day, they knew what to expect and perhaps felt more comfortable with the procedure. The third day they had it down pat. The fourth day—”We’re doing this again?”

The fifth day—”How many days are we doing this?” “Once around the city for six days.”

The sixth day—”Finally. Let’s be done with it.”

Have you ever felt like that? You work at a task faithfully, get into the grove of it, perfect it, and then begin to tire of it. What if it’s something God has led you to do? Can you keep the momentum going? Are you fighting what has now become a battle of fatigue?

ARE YOU SO BUSY THAT YOU ONLY GET A GLIMPSE OF GOD INSTEAD OF GAZING AT GOD?

It may be that you need some deep prayer time, purposeful quiet time, renewal time with God. His power is close at hand, ready for you so you can keep walking.

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – The Plan

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Now we begin probably your favorite part of Joshua’s calling—conquering the walls of Jericho.

Joshua had begun to scout out the nearest Canaanite stronghold—Jericho. As he goes, he is confronted by a man with a drawn sword. He realizes this is a messenger from God.

Joshua fell down and asked,

“What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Joshua 5:14b-15

          

Where have we heard that before? As close as Joshua was to Moses, I think we can imagine Moses telling  his story to Joshua of the time when the Lord spoke through the burning bush. Moses had the Pharaoh to deal with, Joshua has a city!

He has already surveyed this tightly walled city—thick walls that is. The Israelites have no heavy equipment to forge their way in. So here’s the plan:

The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” Joshua 6:2

Great!

“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the ark. Joshua 6:3-4a

Say what?

“On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” Joshua 6:4b-5

 You’ve got to be kidding!

Well, this may not be what Joshua said or even thought about these instructions, but in later verses, he seems to give instructions only one day at a time. I suppose Joshua thinks that’s all they can manage.

Sometimes the Lord gives us instructions that are challenging. I have fretted over the editing of my manuscript. Do I have it professionally edited?. What about publishing? And then there’s the marketing. God said, “Trust me. Think, ‘What is the next thing that needs to be done?’ Take that one step as I lead you.” Two weeks later, I received a free four-session video set called “Getting Unstuck!” from a publisher. 

A friend has cancer. She went through treatments before and did well, but his time she has opted not to have treatments. She’s making her funeral arrangements. “This feels weird,” she says, but she’s found some surprising joys and peace in this process.

My daughter woke up in the middle of the night thinking of a friend from childhood who is a missionary in Turkey. The Holy Spirit gave her a strong conviction that she should send an email of encouragement. Though not knowing anything specific, she obediently obeyed. The friend sobbed saying it was very timely.

Sometimes God gives us unusual commands. His plans are always best, even if they sometimes feel weird. Are you listening? Are you seeking?

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Joshua – Get Ready!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

When the spies returned from Jericho, they shared their good news with Joshua. (See Joshua – Rahab’s Pact) They summed it up by saying,

“The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24

Three days earlier, Joshua, who heeded God’s encouragement to be strong and courageous, had given orders to his officers.

“Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’ “ Joshua 1:11 

The spies had been gone those three days and arrived back to the camp just in time to give their good news and get ready to travel with the camp. God’s timing is always perfect. His finger points us in the right direction when our eyes are watching and our hearts are ready.

So this huge group of people have packed up their things once again, ready to move forward.

When they move to their new location, they camp again fairly close to the Jordan River. The plan is to wait three more days.

Now the officers go through the camp giving another order.

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out and follow it. Then you will know which way to go since you have never been this way before. Joshua 3:3-4a

Why the ark of the covenant? While God is not confined to a box, this “box” had special meaning to the people. It contained the ten commandments, Moses’ rod, and a sample of the manna which represented God’s commands, His protection, and His provision. More than that, it represented the presence of God to these people. 

So, in essence, following the ark of the covenant was like following God. Just to maintain respect and awe for their divine God, they were told to keep a respectable distance from it, about a thousand yards. Imagine ten football fields!

To prepare for this special moment, Joshua tells the people,

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

“Consecrate” usually meant bathing themselves and preparing themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually for something special. Think of a graduation or a wedding. You take a bath, prepare your garments, think through what is about to take place.

Think of moving forward for something special in your life—a renewed relationship with your spouse, a new job, a new ministry, a witnessing opportunity, even a burial for a loved one. You prepare yourself or consecrate yourself.

For me, right now, it is preparing for the publishing of my book. I edit and ask others to look at it.  I watch videos of teachers giving advice on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, praying God will give me the next step.

What amazing thing is he ready to do in your life?

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Rahab’s Pact

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Spies have been sent into Jericho to check out the city. (See “Joshua – Spies in the Land“)

The spies have found safe haven with Rahab, a prostitute of all things! She also gives them insight on the view of the Jericho mindset.

“I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Joshua 2:9

Obviously, this is music to the spies’ ears, a valuable piece of news to share with Joshua and the leaders.

Rahab then makes a pact with the spies.

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my family.” Joshua 2:12-13

The two spies agree to protect her and her family.

“Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” Joshua 2:14

They give two conditions on the agreement—she must tie a scarlet cord in her window (to identify her house)and have all her family gathered together in her house when the Israelites enter the land. 

Rahab devises a plan to help the spies return safely. She lets them down with a rope through her window so they won’t have to go through the city gate and advises them to go to the hills so the pursuers will not find them. They should hide there for three days before they attempt to go back to their people.

Then she hangs a scarlet cord in her window in readiness, as they requested.

Joshua gladly welcomes the spies back, hears their story, and gives thanks for their findings.

“The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24

God has opened their eyes and encouraged their hearts for the task ahead.

What task does he have ahead for you?

At our old house, I had a neighbor who became a close friend. I had casual friendship with a couple more. Otherwise, I hardly knew any of my neighbors. If I had met some of them out in public, I wouldn’t even know them!

I determined to get to know the neighbors here in our new neighborhood. As people move into the new houses, we take a plate of home-made cookies. I plan to arrange get-togethers soon. You never  know when you might meet a “Rahab” who is just waiting to know more about God.

What is he calling you to do? 

~ Joyce ~