Working Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Are you becoming aware of the interruptions in your life? How was your prayer life this week? (See “Prayer Interruptions“)

What about interruptions at work? Oh, many of us can identify with that, can’t we? Whether we have or had a paying job or we look at our work at home, nothing is more frustrating than to be interrupted when you have your mind set on a task.

Jesus experienced a dramatic interruption like that. You remember the time when he was in a home in Capernaum doing his main work—preaching and teaching? A crowd had gathered inside and outside the home listening to his every word.

Some concerned friends tried their best to bring their paralytic friend to Jesus, but they couldn’t work their way in with the man on his pallet. Many homes had stairs going up the side of the house to the roof where they might go to get cooler in the evenings. One creative friend said, “Let’s take him up the steps and let him down through the roof.

. . . they made an opening and, after digging through it in the roof above Jesus, they lowered the mat with the paralyzed man lying on it. Mark 2;4

(I envision bits of straw and dirt floating down with the pallet.) Rather than seeing this as an interruption to his preaching, Jesus saw the faith of these friends.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Notice that Jesus didn’t acknowledge any faith on the part of the crippled man. Evidently the man had not been a believer in Christ. Jesus took the opportunity of this interruption to teach two things. First, that he can forgive sin. 

The second lesson—sprinkled in the crowd were some teachers of the law. Jesus knew what they were thinking. Forgiving sin is only something God can do. Who does he think he is that he can forgive sin? Blasphemy! Jesus also knew that to call himself the “Son of Man” means one who is entrusted by God with authority and sovereign power. So Jesus said,

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” Mark 2:8-9 

Jesus turns then to the paralytic and says, “I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home.” Mark 2:11

Jesus used this interruption to teach, to heal, and to convey his divinity, both to the amazed crowd and the befuddled teachers of the law.

Can we find growth in those times of interruption?

One day our education minister shared an experience. She said, “I’m a list maker. I came home from church and with frustration told my husband that I did not get one thing done on my list today. He wisely responded, ‘So, you were interrupted with people and did ministry instead?'” Hmm.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Prayer Interruptions

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Do you find that sometimes your prayer time is interrupted? You determine that you’re going to read your devotional material and then spend time in prayer. But your phone rings or you see the light flicker on your cell phone and you glance at the message and before you know it you’re also checking emails or texts. You wasted away the time you had set aside.

Jesus had a prayer interruption, but it wasn’t his negligence that caused it. It was his own disciples!

You remember last week, (“Ministry Interruptions“) we saw Jesus teaching in the synagogue on Sabbath morning. The people welcomed his amazing teaching and were overwhelmed when they witnessed the healing of a demon-possessed man right in their midst.

He ended up healing people who were brought to him all evening. While Jesus was God, God’s son, he was also human. The strain of one healing would take a lot out of him, but to do continual healings would leave him exhausted.

Jesus often pulled away from people to be renewed by his Heavenly Father. In order to have time alone in prayer, he felt he must rise early the next morning to do that very thing.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

Did you catch that? A solitary place. He could have prayed silently in his bed, and may have done that from time to time, but he felt the need to go off by himself where he could pray out loud in solitude to the Father.

Let’s pause here to talk about prayer habits. My self-determined time to pray is in the morning after my Bible reading/devotional book. I’m  afraid sometimes that prayer time is short. I think of my list of things to be done for the day.

I use a neck stretching thing called a “neck hammock.” It takes fifteen minutes, so I decided to pray during that time.

I also designate driving to an appointment or an activity as another time to pray. I find some of my best times is when I pray out loud. It helps me stay focused. Another time I use is during the ten-minute workout on the recumbent bike at the “Y”. 

While these are okay, the most effective prayer time I have is when I’m not doing double duty with something else. I think that’s where Jesus was that early morning. Though he was tired, he knew where his great strength could be found. I always ponder the fact that, if Jesus needed that time, I certainly do too.

Oh, but here come his well-meaning disciples. They’re looking all over for him, not realizing their interruption of course.

Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Luke 1:36-37

That’s why he went early! 

Let’s focus on our prayer time this week. I’d love to hear your experiences.

~ Joyce ~

 

Tempting Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

You have an assigned task to perform. Maybe it came from the committee you’re on. Maybe it’s a family task you promised to accomplished. Maybe it’s a self-appointed task you doled out.

You’re thinking, “Why did I ever agree to this? I have a million other things to do. I know I’m the one who should so it, but it’s so hard to stick with it.”

Who knows what Jesus was thinking that day as he walked into the desert. He had been on an elevated plane just yesterday—his baptism and the voice of God assuring him that he was the Son of God. All those years of his mother’s miraculous stories were coming to fruition.

He may have thought, “Why, then, has the Spirit led me into this desert?” 

I wonder, what did he do there for forty days and forty nights? Pray, recite Scripture? Meditate, trying to hear a word or a thought from God? Search out places to lay his head at night? Try to find a source of water?

Did God speak to him audibly? Did the Spirit move in his mind and soul to remind him of Godly attitudes? Did he realize this was going to be a fast to prepare him for things that lay ahead? 

Was he coming to realize his fulfillment in the Scriptures? Did God gradually prepare him for the cross? Was he sweating because of the desert heat or because of what he saw on the horizon?

 Jesus would be physically weak without food by now, his energy level at a low ebb. At just such a time, the tempter came to “interrupt” his time with God.

Scripture says the tempter came to him and said,

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to be made bread.” Matthew 4:3 

Jesus would not dilute this time with God even if his desire for food was at a peak. Just as the Israelites depended on God for the manna, Jesus would depend on God, not on his own supernatural power for his needs. Jesus said,

“It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:2

Then the devil took Jesus to a high point at the Temple with a 100-foot drop. “Jump off,” Satan said and then, he quoted Scripture—

“He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands . . .” Matthew 4:6

A dramatic fall and being caught in mid-air would certainly attract attention with the many gathered around the Temple. But that wasn’t Jesus’ mission.

“It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Matthew 4:7

Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and declared, “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus had had enough.

“Away from me Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Matthew 4:10

May we remember Jesus’ example when we are tempted to take short cuts.

~ Joyce ~

Divine Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Think of some interruptions in your life. You’re about to sit down with a refreshing iced tea in hand and a child calls from outside, “Mommy, sissy got caught in the dog’s leash and I can’t get her out!” You sigh, set your drink down, and walk out to take care of the catastrophe.

You’re writing your final notes to finish a Bible study lesson and the timer goes off on the oven. Phooey!

You’re about to take a walk in the sunshine. You’ve been looking forward to this all day. Then, you suddenly remember you have a dental appointment.

You’re busy at work, trying to finish a report that is due in the next hour, but your co-workers keep a steady flow of very audible conversations that distract you.

Interruptions! Life is full of them.

Sometimes, they are happy interruptions—a call from a long-time friend, an award you weren’t expecting, a kiss on the back of your neck, a helpful hand with a laborious task. But most of the time we think of interruptions in negative terms. 

And then there are those interruptions that teach us a new thing.

We will follow the book of Mark this month and look at the results of interesting interruptions.

John the Baptist tromped out of the desert claiming to be the forerunner of the promised Messiah. He certainly interrupted the people’s mundane lives.

John  came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Mark 1:4

This was new and strange, but insightful and needed, productive as well.

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. Mark 1:5

We see the results of this interruption caused the people to face their sin and confess it. The key point is that an interruption in our lives may turn us in a new direction.

At one point, Jesus came to John asking to be baptized. John protested because he knew the Promised One stood before him. Who was he to baptize the Messiah? 

God himself interrupts the scene. When Jesus comes up out of the water,

. . . he saw heaven torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11

How this must have warmed the heart of Jesus. He, the Son, felt the presence of the Spirit, and heard the voice of God himself. It was as though God marked His stamp of approval on Jesus. What a powerful affirmation—a glorious interruption .

Perhaps a new way of thinking can turn us in right directions like those who listened to John’s message. Or maybe we will experience affirmation from God in needed areas of our lives. Be ready. Be pliable. Listen with a trusting heart.

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

Eastertide – The Men

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

In this Eastertide, we thought  last week about the women, but what of the men?

We know John was at the cross because Jesus spoke directly to him, asking John to care for his mother. We know that Peter made it to the courtyard of Caiaphas after the arrest but sadly denied knowing him three times before the cock crew. Otherwise, the men all seemed to scatter from the Garden of Gethsemane after the arrest of Jesus.

As far as we can tell. the disciples retreated, dare we even say, fled back to the upper room. Wouldn’t we like to know what they said, what they did the rest of that Friday? Perhaps John came back to give a report and collapsed himself after that strenuous day with no sleep the night before.

Then there was Saturday. Silence. What did they talk about? The master they followed for some three years had experienced a devastating death. What were they to do now? Did even one of them remember what Jesus had told them, that he must suffer, die, and would be raised again? It is mentioned at least three times in Matthew.

The last time Jesus told them this was when they were making their final trek to Jerusalem. He said,

” . . . the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day, he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:18-19

Can it be any more clear than that?

Evidently the women had heard this before as well. For when the angel spoke to them at the tomb, he reminded them,

“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’Then they remembered his words. Matthew 24:6-8

Before we shake our heads and look down on these men and women, perhaps we need to think about words we have been told through Scripture.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray . . .  then I will hear from heaven . . . and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31

Trust in the Lord. Lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Do not worry about your life. Matthew 6:25

Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. Matthew 6:1

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father. Matthew 6:6

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:7

Words of our heavenly Father and his Son are important to remember.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing and Being Known

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I have a friend who was healed from cancer two years ago. She recently had cancer again—inoperable cancer. She has opted to receive no treatment. While making funeral plans, she decided to create a small booklet of devotions from a few of her journal entries. I asked for her permission to use one of these in my blog today.

Yada’ – A Devotional About Knowing and Being Known                                                                                                                                                                                                   “O Lord, thou has searched me, and known me.” Psalm 139:1

When I was a young person, I had a situation in which I prayed to God earnestly and fervently for what seemed forever. One day as I was again praying, I dropped my head in total exhaustion from my repeated pleas to God and his seeming indifference to my plight.

But as I hung my head, something miraculous happened. I felt a warm oily substance being poured over my entire body from head to toe. I could feel it oozing over my body and seeping into every pore, and I knew the substance was “knowing.”

At the time, I did not understand this because “knowing” is a verb not a noun—how could it be something poured? However, “knowing” is what I definitely felt had been poured over me.

Since that day, I have come to realize that the dictionary describes “knowing” as having intimate knowledge of something or someone. The Hebrew word for “know” is “yada'” and it can be translated “to know and be known.”

Looking back on that experience, I realize God was telling me I was known to Him. He had heard my prayers. That day years ago, even if I did not understand fully what was happening to me, I found an amazing peace and joy I had never before experienced.

I never had to repeat my prayer again, because I knew God had heard me and I was in His watch care. I no longer had to fret or plead. And in His time and in His inscrutable way, He eventually answered that prayer.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 139. It was recently pointed out to me that the word “know” is repeated six times in that Psalm. Perhaps, without realizing it, that is why it is my favorite Psalm. God still speaks to me through the word “know.” 

By Sandy Berry

Psalm 139 reflects that the Lord knows when I sit and when I rise, perceives my thoughts from afar, and before a word is on my tongue, He knows it completely.

The psalm reminds us that God created my inmost being, and knit me in my mother’s womb.

Then the palmist’s plea; Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. Perhaps you’d like to read the whole psalm.

A reminder: the only way we then know Him and His will, His desires for us is to be still, to seek, to listen. 

~ 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 – The Spirit Intercedes

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps many of you have gone to the doctor and heard the dreaded C word. If not cancer, maybe another take-your-breath-away word.

We had been watching my husband’s TSA score gradually elevate. Then came the day when the doctor said he had prostate cancer. Jim began searching the treatment options—so many directions, each with their sets of pros and cons. At last, he decided to have it surgically removed.

In my stunned state, I recalled sitting in a Bible class as a young bride long ago, when the teacher asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Immediately, I thought of the devastation I would feel to lose my husband. Those thoughts came again when I faced this possibility.

Obviously, one prays for healing, for the Lord’s will to be done, for strength to go through this valley which ever way it goes, but at some point I just didn’t know what else to pray. It is at that point that I turned to Romans.

. . . if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we need to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:25-26

Jesus spoke often of the Holy Spirit. The disciples had the advantage of being with Jesus, God in the flesh, but after his resurrection, he told them,

“. . . Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5

That same Holy Spirit is at work in today’s believers, ever guiding, ever judging, ever strengthening.

In other times in my life, I have asked or offered directions in which the Lord might lead and finally realized I have no more words. In those times, I must plead for the Spirit to intercede with holy groanings for me.

In my husband’s case, the surgery was successful and there was no spread of the cancer. The cancer was small, but testing showed that it had been a fast growing kind. Thankfully, the Lord led us to take care of it in a timely manner.

We “leaned not on our own understanding, but acknowledged Him.” These verses come around again and again. That’s why I call them “life verses.”

No doubt many of you have experienced a frightening diagnosis and could share verses that have sustained you. Please do that in the comments section so others might benefit.

~ Joyce ~

 

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 ~

 

 

Worn-Out Lady

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you ever feel worn to a frazzle? Coming and going with way too much activity. Or responsibilities reaching mountainous heights?

I think back to when I was younger. I would grab my little girl by the hand and hoist my eighteen-month old on my hip and out the door we’d go to some activity at church.

I taught the youth on Sunday night and directed the children’s choir on Wednesday night, while supporting my Minister of Music husband in a myriad of other activities. Of course, there’s groceries, meals, cleaning, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’re into raising older children, working outside the home, plus community, church and home responsibilities.

Or you may be where I am now—old! Dealing with health issues for myself and for an aging mother and still, after all these years, trying to reduce added activities—all worthy—but asking, Lord, what’s the ones YOU want me to do?

Maybe you’re caring for a loved one and having caregiver fatigue.

This week, our unnamed woman, is probably a young. I’m guessing 24-ish. She’s likely single and definitely suffering from the fatigue of caring for her own physical needs. Her disease causes non-stop bleeding.

One week a month is do-able, but ongoing for years is quite another thing. Even worse is the fact that she would be considered religiously unclean. According to the Mosaic law, others could not lie on a bed where she has been or sit where she sat or touch anything she has touched. She is unclean. Almost like a leper!

She’s spent what money she has on seeing many doctors through the years, but instead of improving, she’s getting worse.

Without a name, we call her “the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Let’s name her Martha. Martha means lady. This woman was more “lady” than she wanted to be.

…[she] had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Mark 5:25

Therefore, no one wanted to be around her. It seems she’s been abandoned by her own family. Perhaps the only reason she can manage to move through this crowd is because they don’t know her.

She’s obviously heard of Jesus and the miraculous way he has healed many people. “Martha” figures…

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:28

Jesus can heal us in many ways. It may not be a bleeding disease, but if we suffer from fatigue of any kind, we can seek our Lord’s healing power. We must pursue Him with diligence as Martha did. Reaching out, seeking His will, touching His presence. May it be so for us all.

Next week—the results.

~ Joyce ~