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 ~

 

Joshua, the Greatest Preparation

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We caught a glimpse of Joshua last week and actions God used to prepare this young man for greater challenges ahead. (See Joshua – Preparation) Battles in the desert were few, however, the Amalekites came to fight and Joshua was called on to protect his people.

We also learned that Joshua joined eleven other spies to have a peek at the Promised Land to check it out. This trip whet his appetite. Joshua and Caleb were ready to take the land with the assurance of God’s help, but the other ten spies vetoed the idea, so they ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 more years.

During that time, Joshua became Moses’ right hand man. He watched Moses deal with the people, but more than that, he witnessed Moses’ devotion to God.

When other leaders were told they could come to the foot of Mt. Sinai and no farther, Moses told Joshua to come on up the mountain with him.

      

What was that like to be so deeply in the presence of Almighty God? What sounds did he hear? What smells? What sights? What was the feel of the air? How were Joshua’s emotions affected by the deep presence of God? It gives the true meaning to the word “awesome.” (A word we have horribly trivialized.)

What did the people feel, even at a distance,?

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled in fear. Exodus 2018

After Moses came down from the mountain with Joshua, the people said,

“Speak to us yourself, Moses, and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Exodus 20:19

I have felt my spirit warmed enough by His Spirit that I dedicated myself to a task He ask of me. I have sensed God working in circumstances in my life, but Joshua’s experience with Moses and with God gives new meaning to having a “mountain top” experience.

Even in the tent of meeting, God spoke to Moses with Joshua close by. (Exodus 33:11) I believe these moments in God’s presence provided the greatest preparation Joshua could ever have.

And so it is with us. Our experiences may not be as dramatic as Joshua’s, but the Lord can warm our hearts, give divine direction, and fill us with courage beyond ourselves if we will just walk to the mountain and seek His holy presence.

Are you young? Wondering what work path to follow? The right person to marry? God offers guidance.

Are you knee deep in marriage, dealing with your children, juggling it all with work issues? God can help you sort it out.

Have you lost your spouse? Are you losing your youthful health, wondering about next steps? He’s still there to lead you and bring fulfillment.

Come to the mountain. Drink deeply from the rich source of His presence. Cry out to Him; He’s ready to infuse your life.

~ Joyce ~

A Garden of Care

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

‘Tis spring! Actually, with the temperatures this week, one could say we’re about to enter full-blown summer. Perhaps, like me, you’re in the gardening mode. No, we’re not vegetable gardeners—no space, not that much energy—but we do enjoy some flowers and plants.

Just finished planting impatiens. I guess they’re called that because you must not be “impatient” waiting for them to grow. Maybe I’ll have a better picture to show you in a few weeks.

        

I’m thinking of a quote by Anais Nin: “And the day comes when the risk to remain tight in the bud is more painful the the risk it takes to blossom.” 

Which leads me to follow up on last week’s blog. Remember the story of the little boy who wet his pants at school? The little girl “acccidently” spilled a fish bowl of water in his lap to overcome his embarressment because she knew how that felt.

I challenged you to consider how people in your life might need an encouraging word or act of care. In case you wonder if I ever follow up on these challenges, I’ll share my experiences this week. These are not bragging moments; they represent eye-openers the Lord gives when we ask for opportunities.

I wrote a detailed, biblically-laced, grandmotherly note in my grandson’s graduation card. I sent notes in two sympathy cards. Wrote a note to a long ago friend who has had a couple of years of stress with the physical health of her husband and a note to a friend’s daughter who is having challenges.

Obviously, I’m a note writer. That may not be your thing. A call, email, text or a six-foot visit can be effective as well. Since it seems we’re going to be in the masking business for a while, perhaps some of you have been making masks to give people.

One of my husband’s former work friends has been a widower for some time now. He manages with involvement at church, volunteering in the community and fellowship with friends, but this time of being shut in with the pandemic has been very lonely for him.

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25

We decided to have him over for a meal. He came surprisingly bearing a gift for us, this lovely Mandevilla, one of my favorite flowers. We had a delightful evening and hopefully “cheered him up” as the proverb says.

         

I am anxious to know how the Lord brought to mind people in your life who need a garden of care from you. Jesus reminded his disciples,

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

As Mother Theresa said, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”

Go, water your garden, my friends!

~ Joyce ~

Waiting on the Lord

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 Seeking His Heart

When are we in “waiting mode?” Perhaps when we are fearful something bad is about to happen. We’re holding our breath, so to speak. Or we’re waiting in great anticipation for something wonderful to happen: a baby to be born, a house sale, making a big decision, getting past this pandemic!

Whether it’s positive or negative, waiting denotes you’re anticipating something. Waiting can also be translated, hoping.

…those who wait upon the Lord [or hope in the Lord] will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31a

That is one of my life verses. It was a powerful verse when we went through a challenging time with our son, and a verse I have returned to over and over in my life.

When we are just waiting, it can drain us dry. But when we wait on the Lord, he will renew our strength, so that we can walk and run, even soar!

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40;31b

We can wait in dread or wait in hope, but I would point out that, at times, we may not be waiting (or anticipating) at all—just floating along with the tide of life.

    

I confess that I have found myself in that spot of late. It came to me when I was reading a book by Lois Henderson called “Miriam” (as in Moses and Aaron’s sister.) Miriam became restless with wandering in the wilderness. In spite of all the miraculous actions that had taken place, she became frustrated that even Moses didn’t know what was coming next.

“He has to wait on the Lord to speak,” Miriam said. Somehow that thought struck me as though it were something new.

I have my morning prayer and dig into editing my book, but I confess again that I have just felt neutral, floating along. The first half of my book went well—exciting and moving along smoothly—but once Matthew followed Jesus, it got bogged down. That should be the best part.

This week, I met with a good friend who had read the manuscript and offered lots of good suggestions. She loved the first part, then tried to tactfully tell me that the second part seemed to lack something. We discussed several ideas and then she concluded by saying, “I think you need something to come into your own experience to help you get in touch with what is happening for Matthew so that he sees more of the love of Jesus.”

She was right on target. I have not been “waiting on the Lord,” just muddling along on my own.

How gracious he will be when you cry out for help.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:19, 21

Are you waiting and anticipating or just muddling along?

~ 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 ~

 

 

Slaying Our Giants

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 Seeking His Heart

At last we see that…

David  triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. I Samuel 17:50

We’re kind of okay with that, knowing the constant threat on the people of Israel, but it’s the next verse that we might find disturbing.

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. I Samuel 17:51

Now what do we do with that? This has always been a bit troubling to me. I found a new book by Louie Giglio to be helpful. In “Goliath Must Fall,” Giglio relates a story from his youth when he helped with a Christian camp in the summers. A constant problem plagued the camp leaders—poisonous snakes.

       

Every afternoon, several of the helpers went searching for the snakes. They used baseball bats to beat them to death! But that wasn’t the end of the job because, though the snake was dead, its head still had the poisonous venom in it. If people accidentally stepped on the head, they could still be affected by the venom.

How did they protect the campers from stepping on the heads? They had to bury them.

Giglio likens this to David’s dilemma. It wasn’t enough to kill the giant with the sling. At that great distance, the Philistine army might think their hero had just been wounded and come storming to take over David and the Israelite army. When the shepherd boy pulled out the sword, slashed it down on Goliath’s neck, and pulled up the head, he demonstrated dramatically that this giant was indeed dead.

Giglio suggests that we all have giants that plague us. It may not be a trash-talking foe. It may not be the temptation to get drunk or experiment with drugs or have an affair. Oh no, Satan can be far more cunning and deceptive than that. We may wrestle with the “lesser” giants; slight gossiping, demanding to have our way about things or always giving in, arrogance or feeling inadequate.

Satan delights with infiltrating our hearts and messing with our minds. He delights when we spend hours on our cell phones but have no time for prayer and devotions. He smiles when we’re so busy with life that we haven’t thought about witnessing to anyone in months or years. He triumphs when jealousy or bitterness leads to anger and anger leads to rage.

What is the giant in your life? Are you willing to face it? What will it take to bring it down? What will it take to completely overcome? 

I think of one of my life verses—

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

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Preparation Put to Use

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  Seeking His Heart

Among the preparations we thought about last week in David’s life, one was his ability with the harp. (See David’s Preparations)

Even though David was anointed to be the next king, Saul still sat on the throne. However, things weren’t going well for King Saul. The Spirit of the Lord may have come upon David in power, but

…the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. I Samuel 16:14

Whoa… wait a minute! How can there be an evil spirit from the Lord?

God doesn’t emit evil, but evil spirits are subject to God’s control and operate only within divinely determined boundaries. Saul had been disobedient and was suffering the consequences of his actions.

Saul’s attendants notice how upset and despondent he had been, so one servant made a suggestion.

“Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit comes upon you and you will feel better.” I Samuel 16:16

Saul agrees.

“Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” I Samuel 16:17

Great idea! Now who is a good harp player? In God’s wondrous providence, one of the servants knows of David. Don’t miss these little coincidences that often come in Scripture. (Or “God incidences” as I like to call them.) The servant says,

“I have seen a son of Jesse who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. [Maybe he’s heard the lion story.] He speaks well and is a fine looking man. And the Lord is with him.” I Samuel 16:18

 Saul agrees to the plan, sends for David, and is pleased with him.

Whenever the spirit of God would come upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. I Samuel 16:22  

I’m thinking of ways God prepped me. I grew up, an only child. From time to time, I would teach my imaginary friend how to make a bed, set the table, or how to print her alphabet letters. I seemed to have an innate desire to teach. As a teenager, I served as president to our girls’ mission group, leading and organizing.  Years later, I could see how God used my teaching instincts and leadership qualities to teach in public school.

Both of my grandmothers played the piano and one played the accordion and clarinet. My mother and father “dated” by practicing violins together. Dad also sang solos; mother played the piano and later the organ for church. Singing together as a family became a common practice.

Is it any wonder, then, that I became an elementary music teacher?

Do you see how God prepares us for what is ahead? No doubt you’ve seen that in your life as well.

Who would have thought that harp playing would be an entry into the palace for David?

And where will sling shooting preparation take him next?

~ Joyce ~

David, a King?

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Last week, we saw how the people of Israel longed for a king, “like the other nations.” (See Saul the King) Saul was chosen but proved to be disappointing.

The Lord told Samuel the prophet,

“Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” I Samuel 16:1

Samuel meets Jesse (grandson of Boaz and Ruth) along with seven of Jesse’s sons. Of course, Samuel is eyeing these young men as potential candidates for the next king. He particularly notices Eliab, the oldest. Samuel thinks,

“Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” I Samuel 16:6

But the Lord says,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

               

Thoughts of Saul no doubt enter Samuel’s mind. 

Eliab, the oldest son, doesn’t pass the test. (But don’t forget Eliab’s name. We will encounter him again much later.)

Jesse parades son number two, Abinadab in front of Samuel. He shakes his head.

“The Lord has not chosen this one either.” I Samuel 16:8

Samuel checks out son three, Shammah. Then son four, five, six, and seven, but it is still a no go. So Samuel asks if there are other sons.

“There is still the youngest, but he is tending sheep.” I Samuel 16:11

In other words, “Just David.” Samuel says they won’t sit down until he is brought in. Now this is one of those times when, while the story moves right on in the next verse, we have to remember that a good bit of time passes while someone runs out to the field, finds David, and sends him running back a considerable distance.

When David finally arrives, he is described as ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. In Hebrew, this can also mean”goodly” features, that is, quality as well as moral goodness.

Now maybe he was “ruddy” all the time, but he sure would be reddish after that big run! The most important thing about this whole scene is that the Lord speaks to Samuel’s spirit and says,

“Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. I Samuel 16:12-13

What a high point this must have been in David’s life. An indelible memory to call up from time to time.

I think about my own call to profess my faith as an eight-year-old. Or the moment in my bedroom after my freshman year in college when the Lord revealed Himself in a powerful way to me, or the many times He spoke to me in sermons, Scripture, through others, or during prayer. Or the moment that became the summit of God’s call to write.

Ponder some times when you have felt the “power of the Lord.”

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

 

Gentle Communication

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Recently, I sat at a group table among many other table groups. Our goal—to discuss a certain matter and share opinions and ideas.

I had rather strong opinions about the matter and felt that the presentation was directed in an opposing view to mine. I say this to somewhat justify my reactions, but I have to confess that, in retrospect, I did not particular follow the lesson of Proverbs 15:1—

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

It wasn’t so much that I used harsh words. I stated my opinions with what I believed to be the teachings according to Scripture, but I’m not sure how gently it was received by those who disagreed.

It is said that 35% of our communication skills are in the words we say, but 65% in the way we say them. I think I was feeling pushed in a direction I did not want to go. Hurt people will hurt people. That certainly was not my intention, but I wonder in retrospect if it was indeed what I was doing. Paul encourages us to…

Speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15

I think I was speaking out of resentment, not love. I’m generally mild-mannered, but I know I can get pretty tenacious on certain principles at times.

We communicate with so many people in a plethora of situations throughout our week. Sometimes our communications are determined by how we feel physically: tired, sore, aching, rested, or energized.

Communications are also colored by our emotions: happy, at peace, silly, disagreeable, threatened, hurt, or discounted.

Again I turn to Paul’s advice.

Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to every person. Colossians 4:6

Salt seasons. It makes food tastier. It preserves. One can certainly apply that to communication. A little catch phrase I often hear is; be firm, fair, and friendly.

Well, friends, there you have it, my confessions for the day. Perhaps it will help you to consider how you’re communicating this week. Are your answers gentle? Spoken in love? Full of grace and seasoned with tasty, preserving salt? Let’s all work on it!

~ Joyce ~