Waiting on the Lord

Searching His Word
 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

Searching His Word
 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

Searching His Word
  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 ~

Sowing Seeds

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’ve had sowing seeds on my mind since the blog two week’s ago when Jesus talked of sowing and reaping. (4 – A Teachable Moment.)

I ran into an old friend at a funeral home the other day. He asked me about my writing and my books which then prompted him to tell me about a writers’ group he had started. He wondered if I could speak to his group sometime.

He shared something of the nature of the group and their goals. I told him I’d be glad to speak to the group.

He said one reason for starting this group was to find people who would have a common interest and enjoy being together. But the underlying goal was to develop enough trust in the members that he could begin sharing his faith. I thought, “Wow!”

Then he said he had another group of men who like to fish and he had formed a fishing group of sorts—with the same goal in mind—to sow seeds and reap believers. Double Wow!

Then this week, we were at a 50th wedding celebration and sat with a bubbly woman we knew and her quiet husband. She mentioned, in passing, that he had had two heart attacks. When she had to leave for a phone call, I tried to engage this quiet man in conversation.

I asked how his health was now and he said he was back to playing senior men’s baseball since his surgery five years ago.

That opened up a flow of stories from this quiet retired preacher. He’s in two or three leagues that play several times a week. Many don’t know the Lord. He feels like this is his new ministry in retirement. He plays with them, gets to know them, and they trust him. This leads the way for witnessing opportunities and several have come to the Lord through this man’s care.

These are unique ways of engaging people in things they love and sharing the love of God with them. It occurred to me that, while starting these marvelous ministry groups is wonderful, some people can’t add one more thing to their plate. But wouldn’t it be great to have that same ministry outlook with the groups of people in which we’re already engaged?

As Jesus told the disciples in our thoughts about sowing and reaping…

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

As we have just celebrated Easter, what pleasing goals these would be to the Christ of the cross who paid it all for us.

~ Joyce ~

Moses’ Mother

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we discovered that Moses’ mother was Jochebed. (See “Who Was Jochebed?”)

We found her to be quite the innovator by hiding baby Moses from the hand of Pharaoh’s soldiers for three months, then devising a little basket boat in which to hide him in the Nile.

We last found the boat under the watchful of of his sister, Miriam. Perhaps Miriam played along the bank, gathering reeds to make a bracelet or hair band. She kept moving farther and farther away from their house, but still the basket floated among the reeds safely.

To her surprise she heard voices by the bank’s edge. Who were they? Would they see the basket? She looked up and realized she was near the Pharoah’s palace. Imagine her shock to spy the princess!

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Yikes! What should Miriam do now? And how did the princess know it was a Hebrew baby? Ah, yes, remember the Hebrew blanket inside the basket?

Miriam was as imaginative as her mother. She made her appearance and said,

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7

“Yes, go,” the princess told her. Of course Miriam went to get her own mother. Imagine Jochebed’s thoughts as she raced to the bathing area. What will she do with my baby? What will she do with me? God give me guidance. To her surprise, the princess said,

“Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” Exodus 2:9

Can you believe that? Not only would her baby be protected, but she would get paid for it!

No doubt Jochebed cared for this special child with dedication. Perhaps she made sure Hebrew songs were implanted in his head along with prayers to their Holy God.

Evidently the agreement included returning the baby after he had been weaned. 

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10 (“Moses” sounds like the Hebrew word for “draw out.”)

It isn’t until Exodus 6:20 that we learn Jochebed’s name and her husband, Amram in the listing of family names, but these few verses in Exodus 2 say much about her creativity and her dedication to her child along with the sacrifice she made.

Oh, that we might be creative and take advantage of the time we’re given with our children and grandchildren, our church children and other young lives we touch.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ 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 ~