Jesus Interrupts

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Now, for one last interruption.

One day, Jesus took the disciples for a boat ride. They all settled in and Jesus even fell asleep. The wind began picking up speed as the waves splashed against the boat. The men struggled with the wind and the waves as long as they could then shouted for Jesus to help them. The Son of God stood, rebuked the elements, and commanded them to “Be still!” 

Can you imagine their relief? But then, Jesus rebuked them. He said,

“Why are you so afraid ? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:40-41

Bad as the storm was, they were overwhelmed by Jesus’ power.

By this point they have heard lots of teaching and parables from their master; they have even seen miracles of healing. But this touched them personally, their own bodies, and they lived the miracle themselves.

He would bring radical changes in their thinking. Man-made rules on the outside is different from a nurturing spirit within. They must learn to be humble not proud. They must become servants, not expect to be served. Jesus will not only be a servant, but he will suffer, be tortured and crucified.

If they think controlling the wind and waves is powerful, they will discover that rising from the dead will come later. Jesus will not be a political king, he will be their redeemer.

This motley troupe of working Galileans will have their lives interrupted, their minds overwhelmed, and their paths directed far from home. They will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and will carry the message to many lands. Most will be martyred.

This may not be God’s plan nor expectation for us, but He does have ways of interrupting our lives as well. Interruptions are not necessarily bad as we have seen in these lessons. Often our life interruptions bring positive results, maybe growing, painful happenings, but potentially steps forward.

I pray I will remember my words when the storms come and interrupt by pleasant boat ride. I pray I will not hear him say, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Even as I write this, I think of my moaning and groaning over the dread of the big bad word—marketing.

He gave me the vision for these three books I’ve written and he has seen me through so many steps, so many times of doubting. Surely I can trust him to sustain me through this part again. Can you tell? I’m preaching to myself. Oh dear, the tears are coming.

May we all see his interruptions as opportunities.

Blessings,

~ Joyce ~ 

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 ~ 

 

 

 

It’s Here!!

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m “interrupting” my lessons on interruptions to announce my BIG NEWS. “Eyes to See”, the story of Matthew the tax collector, is finally in print!

Here’s the full back cover synopsis:

How could a tax collector become a disciple of Jesus?

No doubt Matthew endured a great struggle before Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

In first century Galilee, tax collectors faced the wrath of their fellow Jews. After all, these despised men had sold their souls to the Romans, not to mention becoming filthy rich. How could a good Jewish boy fall into such a trap?

Follow the author’s possible story that leads Matthew from one pitfall to another until he eventually becomes a tax collector along the trade route through Capernaum.

See how the location of his tax booth gives him opportunity to hear Jesus’ teachings and causes him to face his sinful condition, ready to repent and follow the Master.

Sit in on the dinner Matthew plans for his friends where he hopes they, too, will come to believe. Watch the Pharisees spoil it all by questioning why Jesus “eats with sinners.” Will Matthew have to overcome the tag “tax collector” even with his fellow disciples?

Follow Matthew as he matures with new eyes to see and meets the challenge of Jesus to “go into all the world.”

Click the link below and hopefully that will take you to the right Amazon page. Click on the picture and have a look. 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Eyes+to+See+by+Joyce+Cordell&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_nass

Blessings,

~ Joyce ~

Ministry Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

It’s Monday. I need to call a member in our Bible Study class to get an update on her recent problems. Today is my monthly appointment with the chiropractor and then off to the “Y” for water aerobics. Gotta keep that arthritis in check. 

My publisher wants a list of the corrections so I need to finish reading the manuscript and make my list. Then there’s the weekly blog to finish and this is my week to teach the Bible lesson at church, not to mention that company is coming and I have to clean the house. 

Do you ever have weeks like that when it seems like one thing interrupts another? Even ministry opportunities are interrupted?

We are in Capernaum this week with Jesus. He is ready to start his ministry and he begins inviting some fishermen to join him.

Jesus interrupts Simon Peter and Andrew when they shove back to shore after a no-show fish night. He tells them to throw their nets back out. Amazingly, they catch a boat load of fish. Simon is humbled and falls at Jesus’ feet in submission. Later, James and John give up their fishing as well to become fishers of men.

Jesus’ ministry has begun. One Sabbath day, Jesus goes to the synagogue and interrupts the humdrum, church-going people’s lives with “amazing” teaching, but then, Jesus is interrupted when a demon-possessed man suddenly cries out,

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Mark 1:24

Jesus gives an immediate stern response to this interruption.

“Be quiet! Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. Mark 1:25-26

The people are not only amazed with his teaching, but also his authority. The ministry opportunities don’t end there. Jesus goes with James, John, and Andrew to Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. (If you watch this scene on “The Chosen,” it is a stirring and slightly humorous scene, given the mother-in-law’s temperament.)

This has already been a busy day for Jesus, but it doesn’t end there. Word spreads fast throughout the town.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon possessed. Mark 1:12

Into the night Jesus heals.

And my friends, God’s Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives and in our hearts and minds as well, to transform us, to heal our brokenness, and to give us strength for the next ministry task. Most importantly, he gives us joy in doing it! Especially when we minister with hope.

Sometimes ministry opportunities come in waves along with other duties. Help us Lord to remember Jesus’ forbearance even with all the interruptions he endured.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:11-12 

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Kindness, Gentleness

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Recently, I taught our Sunday Bible study class. We had been studying the Holy Spirit and had a lesson on the fruit that the Spirit desires to produce in us. I realized my fruit branch was lacking in a couple of areas.

Jesus speaks of being connected to the vine. In fact, He spends over half of John 15 with a visual, almost a parable. Picture a thick grape vine with many branches. In his example, he wants us to label the thick vine “Jesus” and one of the branches “me.”

  JESUS

  ME

Jesus said,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

So, I must cling to this main vine (Jesus)—remain in Him, abide, dwell in Him. We know what it is to dwell on a thought. Your mind keeps coming back to that thought over and over. That’s what He wants us to do with Him. Dwell on Him, draw strength from Him, gain wisdom from Him, search for what He desires in us.

There’s a gardener in the parable. We’re to label him “God.”

 God

In your mind, draw a pair of pruning shears in God’s hand.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

With these thoughts in mind, I looked at the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

 I tend to have strong opinions which is fine, but at times, I may express them in a way that negates my good reasoning. I engaged in a discussion with a young family member about tattoos and went on about the disadvantages. It came across with bitterness and heat. I realized that the “gentle” grapes in my cluster were looking pretty drawn up and dry.

Gentleness is not milk toast, “mamby-pamby” behavior. It is strength—but under control, coupled with kindness. So, I wrote a letter to this dear one, giving examples of times when she had painted certain colors or symbols on things but grew tired of them. An emblem may not be as dear to us after ten years. Why not paint it on paper, frame it, hang it on a wall and enjoy seeing it all the time? When it becomes tiresome or out of date, one can take it down, put it in a memory box, give it away, or throw it away. But if it is tattooed on you, it is there forever. 

Well, you get the idea. I apologized for my previous quick words and harsh attitude. Kindness and gentleness goes a long way. It produces plump juicy fruit.

If the Lord has to prune us, it may be time for some self examination.

~ Joyce ~

Matthew – Final Thoughts

    Eyes to See

         Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Matthew finally moved on from tax collector to disciple of Jesus in my new book, Eyes to See.

Mark 2 and Luke 5 both give nearly the same account of the sum total of information we have about Matthew, except they both refer to him as “Levi.” This was perhaps a former name and Matthew became another name. Therefore, in the first part of the book, I refer to him as Levi. In the Gospel of Matthew, however, he is called “Matthew.” So after he does life with Jesus, I refer to him as Matthew.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

This is so cut and dried. There is surely more to the story before this amazing call and response. That’s the story I wanted to tell so that we see the agony of sin in Matthew’s heart and perhaps ways Matthew watched Jesus teach the people by the shore not far from his tax collecting booth. No doubt his heart had been touched by Jesus’ teaching and his miracles. So, when Jesus gave him the invitation, he was ready.

Matthew’s only friends would likely have been other tax collectors and riffraff from the community. Maybe if his friends were to hear Jesus, they might come to believe as well. So Matthew had an idea—invite his friends to dinner and have Jesus there to talk to them.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew 9:10 

Unfortunately, some Pharisees made their way to the house as well and stood outside looking in with their critical remarks to the disciples who were likely not too happy either about this set up.

The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Matthew 9:11

The disciples did not seem to have an answer so Jesus responded to their question.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. But go and learn what this means; ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'” Matthew 9:12-13 

From this point on in my story, I had plenty of action pieces to draw from as Jesus took his disciples on amazing adventures, which included Matthew of course.

Writing conference leaders are always asking authors, “Who is your audience?” I would say, “Those who would like to have a fresh look at Scripture and its meaning and  to see Bible characters come alive so that readers may better identify with them.”

But my great desire is that people who have little to no relationship to God will come to realize that following sinful, self-centered ways drives them from the hope and salvation that can be theirs in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

~ Joyce ~

Matthew – Prophecies

     Eyes to See  

  Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We’re thinking about my third book, “Eyes to See” (now being published.)

We continue looking for clues about Matthew, his life and thoughts—anything that we can find to help us know the make up of this disciple. 

Last week, we observed that the first thing recorded in his Book of Matthew was the lineage of Jesus , obviously important to him.  Luke also included a lineage. From Abraham to David, the names were the same in both records. But from David on down to Jesus, the names differed. Many scholars believe Luke was tracing the lineage of Mary, while Matthew traced to Joseph. Either way, we see that Jesus was the prophesied “Son of David.”

Speaking of prophesies, we will note today that Matthew includes many fulfilled prophecies in his Gospel.

Matthew is the only one who gives us the story about the Magi coming to Jerusalem asking,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

King Herod is rightly puzzled and disturbed by this question. He wonders if this is about the Christ, the Messiah that the people have anticipated for centuries. When he gathers the religious leaders together, he asks where the Christ is to be born.

“In Bethlehem, in Judea,” they replied. Matthew 2:6 [Micah 5:2]

When Jesus begins his ministry in Capernaum of Galilee , Matthew quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that the Christ will go to—

. . . Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:15-16 (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Matthew reports about the many people Jesus healed and how this fulfills prophecy.

He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” Matthew 8:17 [Isaiah 53:4]

After Jesus speaks in parables, Matthew reminds us that this is once again a fulfillment of prophecy.

“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” Matthew 13:35 [Psalm 78:2]

Matthew alone tells of a time when Jesus is using a parable to make a point to the chief priests and elders. After he told the parable,

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.'” Matthew 21:42 [Psalm 118:22,23]

Twelve times Matthew related prophecy that was fulfilled in Jesus. He used some thirty other quotations from the Old Testament to support other points. while the other three gospel writers used very few if any.

My point is that undoubtedly, Matthew had a concentrated background in the Holy Scriptures and was smart enough to relate them to Jesus. He wanted to send the message that indeed Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

So, you may be asking the question I have asked, “Why did this good Jewish boy become a hated tax collector?”

What else can we learn about Matthew? Next week!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Matthew – Boring Lineages

    Eyes to See

   Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Okay, my friends, I’m going to share some behind-the-scenes secrets of “Eyes to See”, soon-to-be published book about Matthew.

I wanted us to see Matthew as the real person he was, to get to know him up close. The problem was, we have very little written in the Scriptures specifically about him, or for that matter, most of the other disciples as well.

I wanted to give background in the first part of the book leading up to the big scene where Jesus approaches Matthew’s tax booth and says,

“Follow me.” Matthew 9:9

Unfortunately for me, we have nothing in Scripture about Matthew’s life before that moment.

But fortunately, in the case of Matthew, we have the Gospel written by him—the Book of Matthew.

So, I searched his writing to see if I could understand more of the man. He began his gospel with a typical Jewish tradition by giving the lineage of Jesus. Lineage was important to the Jews. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we read of this one who was the son of that one who was the son of the next one. etc. If you saw “Schindler’s List” with Liam Neeson, you may remember how they were careful to keep names of their fellow Jews. 

Matthew’s lineage begins with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, then down fourteen generations to David. (Remember how Jesus was often called the son of David?) From David to the exile is a another fourteen generations. After the exile, yet another fourteen generations to—

. . . Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:16

Matthew wants to be sure we know that Jesus is the son of David, as prophesied, and is born with a legal Jewish father, even though Joseph is not the birth father.

All these numbers! And in very strict form. Hmm, fourteens are double sevens, the complete or perfect number. Numbers seemed to be important to Matthew.

I know all those “begats” we used to read in the King James version seemed endless. But if you were a student of the Law, these things were important.

Exactly! That’s why I believe Matthew had much study, perhaps in a yeshiva, a school for boys and young men. He seemed Jewish through and through.

In keeping with our previous study of Jesus where he incorporated women into his teachings, parables, and healings, Matthew seems to have captured this concept of including women even in the lineage. Only Matthew records: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and of course Mary. Some of these women were even outside the Jewish camp. Matthew, like his master, Jesus, lifted up these women from a place of shame or lowliness to a place of honor.

What else can we discover about Matthew in his writings? Tune in next week.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Tandem Bike Story

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As we pedal into the new year, I thought this story I resurrected from my files would be a perfect beginning. Enjoy!

The Tandem Bike Story (Author Unknown)

  At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited Heaven or Hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it, but didn’t really know him.

  But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike; and I  noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.

  I don’t know just when it was He suggested we change places,  but life has not been the same since I took the back seat to Jesus, my Lord. Christ makes life exciting. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

  But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, through rocky places, and at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!”

  I was worried and anxious so I asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

  He took me to people with gifts that I needed,  gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

  I did not trust Him, at first, with control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly through scary passages.

  I’m learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places; and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful companion, Christ. And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says . . . “Pedal!”

Hmm, there’s that matter of trust. It seems that the Lord has had to bring that topic around to me yet again this year. How many times must I relearn? So I turn once again to one of my favorite life verses—

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Let’s go on a bike ride!

~ Joyce ~ 

The Pandemic

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

So many have had their say on our current dilemma. I’ll chime in from my little corner of the world.

It seems surreal in a way how within just four weeks so much has changed and changed rapidly. I will say that I have enjoyed the slower pace of life: get up later, stay up longer, no appointments, no running here and there, opportunity to call friends, take walks, contribute to food drives, get projects done, time to read books, and time to edit my own book.

At the same time, my heart goes out to those who have lost their incomes, those who struggle to put food on the table, families who were dysfunctional, now having to cope with each other, frustrated mothers, closed-in children, and on it goes.

My mind has gone to the plagues that God placed on Egypt, when he was preparing the way for the children of Israel to be free. It always brings the question—does God bring bad things on us or does he merely allow them? Does he want to bring death and suffering even to believers who have succumbed to this virus? I don’t think so. 

This virus reminds me of the way of Satan. Silently, stealthily, it moves among us in silence, randomly attacking whomever it pleases, passing it invisibly from one to another. But God can use this condition in remarkable ways.

With these thoughts in mind, I came across a quote by former LSU coach, Dale Brown.  Perhaps you have seen it.

“In a few short months, just like the plagues of Egypt, he has taken away everything we worship. God said, you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down the civic centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down the theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market.”

I might add, you want to worship your school friends, dance lessons, sports practice, play practice, ball games, and all busy activities, I will shut down the schools. You want to worship or substitute the church buildings, programs, and activities for your faith, I will shut down the churches. Have we left even our faith to the busyness of the world? 

Dale Brown concluded his thoughts with,

“Maybe we don’t need a vaccine. Maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of this world and have a personal revival on the only thing in the world that really matters. And that is to please God.”

         

Jesus said it another way,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” That’s a lot of alls. Also, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

Oh, that we could say with David,

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

~ Joyce ~