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 ~ 

JOY – the Shepherds

    Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Shepherds? Dirty smelly shepherds? What are they doing in this story of the birth of the Son of God? After all, they’re not even fit to testify in a court of law.

Of course, Temple leaders were glad to purchase their sheep for Temple sacrifices—and earn money in the process when they sold the sheep.

Yet, these keepers of the flocks are the very ones to whom the angel appeared to bear the news of the Savior.

Imagine the shock of those shepherds when they were aroused by the brilliant light of the angel on that dark, sleepy night. Like other angelic visitations, the shepherds were startled.

“Do not be frightened,” the angel said. “I bring you good news of great JOY. Today in the town of David [Bethlehem] a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

“Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah.” This is big stuff, my friends. The shepherds may not have been learned men of the ancient texts, but they did know what this meant.

Now just to make a more human connection for them, they were given a sign to help them see for themselves. (Note—it was not the star. That was given to the Magi.)

“You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

As if they weren’t totally awed by this angel, a heavenly host of angels appeared, filling the skies with more brilliance, declaring their praise to God and peace to those who believe.

We don’t know if the angels suddenly disappeared or flew away a few at a time. But when they were all gone and it was a dark night again, I wonder if the shepherds sat stunned for a few moments wondering if they really saw what they thought they saw. 

A light bulb may have flipped on in one of their minds as if suddenly remembering the sign. “Let’s go down to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” Imagine their hearts pumping as they took off in a run.

Where would they go? I’d say manger to manger, looking for a baby. No one else would put a newborn in a feeding trough. So, if they found a baby in one of these stables, that would definitely be the one.

When they tip-toed quietly into the stable, they told their story. This wasn’t the dazzling JOY they had experienced on the hillside. No, this was heartfelt, fall-to-your-knees kind of JOY that brings tears to your eyes.

They left the stable and spread the word of all the things they had seen and heard.

. . . and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:18

God sent the news of His sacrificial lamb to the shepherds of lambs. Years later, Jesus declared himself the good shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

The shepherd to lead you, the sacrificial lamb to save you. Blessed be his holy name. Merry Christmas.

~ Joyce ~

1 – We’re Going Where?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let’s visit just one more unnamed woman in the Bible. Her location will probably spark your memory of her and her story.

Jesus and the disciples had been to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were heading back to Galilee, but the disciples noticed that Jesus wasn’t veering the right direction. 

I love the way comedian, Grady Nutt, once told this story. He said, “They were walking along trying to steer Jesus to the east toward the Jordan River, but Jesus, wiping the smile off his face, said, ‘No, we’re going through Samaria,’ ‘We’re going where?’ they protested. And Jesus kept heading due north.”

They may not have said it, but I’m sure the disciples were thinking, “We never go through Samaria!” Judean and Galilean Jews always went around Samaria, never through. For one thing it was always cooler down by the banks of the river and not as rough and rocky, but truth be known, they detested the Samaritans and the feeling was mutual. Regardless, off they went and by noon, they were hot and hungry.

So they came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. [noon]

         

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.) John 4:5-8

Oh my, there are all kinds of faux pas to this scene. Samaritan versus Galilean, a man talking to a woman in public, and asking for a drink from the jar which she will touch! Besides that, she’s out here alone, not with the other women. Sounds suspicious. 

She doesn’t back down and asks why a Jewish man would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jesus answers,

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

She tries to have one up on him as her pride takes over. She declares her Hebrew roots to be greater than his.

“Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” John 4:11-12

Ah, but one can’t rely on Jewish heritage.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Eternal life. Now the subject is getting heavier. How will this “woman at the well” react? Next week, we’ll give her a name.

~ Joyce ~

Candy Cane Reminders

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As you read this, my grandchildren will be gone, the sheets and towels in the washer, and decorations packed away along with the memories of Christmas 2018. 

When I put the last candy canes in the box, I couldn’t help thinking about the legend of the candy cane. You haven’t heard it? Or maybe you’ve heard only parts of it? Perhaps you would enjoy this one last reminder of “the reason for the season.”

THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE

A humble candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a special gift for the King of Kings, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.

He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure hard candy to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ,

hard, because the church is built on solid rock,

firm, because God’s promises are a firm foundation.

He formed it in the shape the the letter-J

to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.

When turned upside down, the “J” could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Then, He added three small stripes to represent the scourging Jesus suffered before He went to the cross.

One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood He shed that we might have the promise of eternal life.

It would be a gift of love that would tell His story—

the greatest story ever told!

As we look toward the new year, the old story is never outdated. We must tell it again and again through candy canes, visuals, stories, or whatever creative means we can find.

For the wages of sin is death [spiritual death], but the gift of God is eternal life [spiritual life.] Romans 6:23

Blessings on your New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

Wonderful Counselor

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We think of a counselor as a good thing. Indeed, a competent counselor, especially one with a Christ-filled heart, is a transforming helper.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… a light has dawned. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:2, 6 

But anything of value is often copied by Satan who puts his mark on it. 

I was reminded of this when I looked up “counselor” in Strong’s concordance. It predictably means “to give advice, to council, to purpose, plan, plot, conspire against.” What? Plot? Conspire against? That’s when I realized how Satan can take a good thing and twist it. Counsel positively, counsel negatively.

I have shared with you in recent months the trials I’ve had with my mother’s health and the grueling long days going to the hospital then rehab. My energy was zapped; my emotions on edge, my mind amuck. Then the mild stroke hit.

Since then, I have made medication changes and included a few rest times in my day. But frustrations with mother’s discontent at her new place has continued to plague me. 

I worried, held on to anxiety, woke in the night unable to get back to sleep, still trying to figure how to take control of things. The Lord revealed over and over, “Trust me.” We all know how hard it is to let go of things. Little by little, I have tried to release my clutched hands and take His hand.

“For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

He holds our hand, but we must first place our hand in his outstretched hand. 

Then He is able to be our counselor, revealing things we either didn’t know or have let slip by us. Unlike the deceiver, the plotter, the one who conspires against us, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He also brings a sense of peace into our lives as he holds our hand.

After all, He’s also the Prince of Peace!

May it be so for you in this celebration season.

~ Joyce ~

God With Us

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we looked at the name Bethlehem. (See “House of Bread“) We discovered that “beth” means “house of.”

Today, consider the word Immnauel. We see the two letters at the end, “el” meaning God. Turn it around and we have “God – with us.”

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Let’s look at Mary and Joseph’s story before this great declaration is given. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and reveals; 

“You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

 “How can this be,” she asks. The answer? “By the Holy Spirit.”  

Later, Joseph discovers that she is “with child” and knows he is not the father. Joseph doesn’t buy the story and is ready to divorce her quietly. As he sleeps, an angel appears to him in a dream and assures Joseph that this is all in God’s plan.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, for what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:20-21

I can imagine that once Mary and Joseph are together, they surely share their stories of the two angel visitations. One may say to the other, “I was told to name the child Jesus.” Wide-eyed, the other might say, “I was told the very same thing.” Tears must have come to their eyes with this realization that they have had yet another confirmation of the God’s work in their lives.

We refer to Jesus by many names – Savior, King of Kings, Son of God to name a few. Matthew reminds us of another—Immanuel. Remember the “el” at the end which means God. Look at the verse again.

“…and they [the people] will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

“God with us.” Can anything be better than that? Not God up in heaven. Not God out there somewhere, but God with us.

In Joseph and Mary’s day, the name would be synonymous with Messiah or the Promised One. The promise is quoted in Matthew, but comes straight out of Isaiah. We recognize it as God Himself coming in the earthly form of his Son, Jesus. Think how profound that would be to have God visible, audible, in the flesh. 

We don’t have Jesus audible or visual in the flesh today, but the Holy Spirit ministers to us in similar ways. Look for Him. Listen for Him as you move toward the remembrance of His coming into our world to save us.

~ Joyce ~

Feeding the 5,000 – Before the Feast

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve looked at “points of view” coming from the four gospel writers on several happenings in the life of Jesus. When we looked at the feeding of the 5,000, you may remember I said I might want to revisit that exciting day in more detail. That will be our focus for the next few weeks.

What was happening before the great feast? I think it’s always important to get the setting, set the stage so to speak.

At some point in the time line, Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s terrible death. Recall the story. Herod caved when his wife, Herodias, (through her daughter) asked that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a platter .

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. Matthew 14:13

What do you do when you have received tragic news? You may want to have the love and support of close friends or family, but, at some point, you may just want to be alone to collect your thoughts and deal with your emotions in private.

My hunch is that Jesus wanted to be alone with God and gather the inner strength he needed from his heavenly Father. Very possibly, Jesus thought about how he, too, would one day come under the cruelty of those in high places.

Think of those times in your life when the weight of tragedy or trying experiences brought you to a low ebb. Perhaps frustrations with a job or the cruelty of unkind words struck the very core of your spirit. Somehow, with God’s help, you managed to continue to function. It is in this kind of human condition, we find Jesus.

Later, when He looks up toward the shore, He sees his disciples who have returned from their ministry tour of the villages of Galilee where he said:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

He shares in their excitement, glad to see their happy and hear their stories, then he tells them,

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Luke 6:31

After more sharing, He looks at the shore where the crowds are gathering to meet him. I envision him sighing greatly and whispering, “Give me strength, Father.” Then we see his heart.

…as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Luke 9:11

Jesus moved forward in the strength God gave him—an important lesson for us. For you see, that same power is available to us as we push out alone in out boats to receive healing and inner strength from our Lord. May it be so for us all this week.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Point of View – Ear Cut Off

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps you remember the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had taken the disciples with him at a late hour to pray and to prepare for what He knew would be his most difficult task yet, his crucifixion.

He asks his followers to pray and watch and takes Peter, James, and John further into the garden. Then, He goes even further for his own private time.

Eventually, the temple guards, along with the religious leaders, and the high priest’s servants come with their clubs and swords to arrest Jesus.

Matthew would have been there but farther back from Jesus. He reports it this way:

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Matthew 26:50-51

Mark basically reports the same information as Matthew.

Dr. Luke, however, has an interest in what happened to this servant’s ear. As he investigates the details, he discovers two new things.

…one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51

So, we learn from Luke that it is the right ear (whatever that matters) and, more importantly, that Jesus heals the man. Even in the midst of the turmoil and danger, Jesus cares for this enemy who has been injured.

And now, we go to John’s description.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) John 18:10

Ah, two more pieces of the puzzle. Peter was the one swinging the sword and Malchus was the name of the poor recipient of the sword. Thank you, John, for once again giving us names.

John was closer in proximity to Jesus, thus observing Peter and Malchus. In addition, it seems that John had a relationship to Caiaphas, the high priest, and others in the court.

Simon Peter and another disciple [John] were following Jesus. Because this disciple [John] was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus to the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside the door. [John] came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. John 18:15-16

Apparently, John knew Malchus and also one of Malchus’ relatives. John mentions this relative as one of Peter’s accusers in the courtyard scene. (John 18:26)

Once again, we see different points of view. Matthew and Mark mention the incident in passing. Luke investigates his interest as a doctor. But John has personal information. Our views are valued more when we personally know those involved and have done reliable investigation. Something good to remember as we give our points of view.

~ Joyce ~  

Points of View – Healing the Paralytic

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A family attends a wedding. The teenage daughter sees a fairy tale wedding with a handsome groom and beautiful bride in a Cinderella gown. The middle school brother eyes the snacks and cake. The mother notices all the special touches and the well organized work in putting it all together.

The dad wonders, “How much did all this cost?”

We all have our points of view about things—this includes the synoptic Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

For instance, let’s look at the healing of the paralytic man. The man can’t walk, so four friends carry him to Jesus for healing. The problem is they can’t get in the crowded house where Jesus is teaching. The friends are so determined that they carry his pallet up the side steps to the roof and let him down through the roof right to Jesus. 

Jesus notices the faith of the friends to go to all this trouble and says,

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Listen to the thoughts of the teachers of the law as they watch this startling scene unfold.

“Why does he [Jesus] talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 5:7

Knowing these thoughts, Jesus says, 

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘You 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…” He said to the paralytic, I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” Mark 2:8-12

When the paralytic does exactly that, the crowd is totally amazed, and we hear no further comment from the teachers of the law. 

Now here’s the point of view from each of the writers: Mark is from Galilee where this event takes place. Flat roofs are made with mats of branches spread across wood crossbeams. On top of the mats is a thick layer of clay packed down with a stone roller. Hence,

…they made an opening above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat… Mark 2:4 

Luke, on the other hand, is from Greek territory and is primarily writing to Gentiles. Their roofs are generally made of tiles. In order to make sense to his readers, Luke describes the scene this way;

…they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd… Luke 5:19

As for Matthew, the lowering of the mat from the roof was not of particular interest to him. He is more concerned with the other parts of the story, so he doesn’t even mention the roof!

This is one of many incidents where it is helpful for us to read each account because we might learn fresh perspectives from each one. I will relate a few more in coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.

~ Joyce ~

 

Writing – Part 3, A Heart for Truth

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

During the writing of “Ears to Hear,” I intertwined the character of Nicodemus into the plot, but I felt like he had his own story which called for a second book.

We have a little more Scripture about Nicodemus, so with those verses in mind, I pushed forward for round two.

A fun spot for me came in the chapter about Nicodemus’ visit with the spoiled boy next door. This boy reappeared throughout the book and into manhood, becoming a secondary antagonist.

In a dramatically draining chapter, Nicodemus’ father died. He loved his father dearly, as I did my own father. I wept right along with Nicodemus. I wrote this into the story as it was important that he learn from his brother how to prepare a body for burial. Later, Nicodemus would assist Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’  body.

All through the writing, I had definite high points in mind, but the details fell in place only a little at a time. The characters developed to a point where I anxiously went to the computer each day wondering what would happen next.   

About half of the story was written before I used the first Scripture where Nicodemus had his famous nighttime discussion with Jesus. I approached that scene with fear and trepidation. I felt like I didn’t dare put extra words in Jesus’ mouth. So the night conversation scene came directly from the Bible with a few gestures and positions added. It was a high and holy moment for me.

All through the Nicodemus story, I felt compelled to show him as the staunch, dictatorial Pharisee he likely was, steeped in the law and its practices, but bound to fulfill the words of Jesus—

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…” Luke 18:14

Astute readers might see early in the story that his condescending attitude toward shepherds would be the very thing I could use to bring on his needed humility. He wanted to have a heart for truth, but it would come in a way he least expected, a pathway that would lead him to the Truth Giver, the Good Shepherd.

The burning desire that God placed in my heart from the beginning of this call to write, was to see, and to help others see, that the characters of Scripture are real; they have great abilities, but they also have challenges as we all do.

God wants to lead us, to show us great treasures for the purpose He has for us, but He demands willing hearts. Oh that our hearts might come to Him, prepared for those treasures.

Writing may or may not be the treasure he has for you. However, if you feel a leaning in that direction, I’d like to make you aware of the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference coming up June 21-23 in Elizabethtown, KY. To find out more, go to www.kychristianwriters.com

Meanwhile, as you’ve gathered from previous blogs, I’m working on book three about Matthew, the tax collector.

~ Joyce ~