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 ~

“The Chosen”

      Eyes to See

 Perhaps you have heard of “The Chosen,” a popular video production. The first eight episodes have been out for awhile, with more to come. They portray the life of Christ, often from the view of his chosen disciples.

Jesus is depicted as winsome and sincere as he teaches, heals and performs amazing miracles in their midst. 

I highly recommend this series to you. It is very biblically based and is careful with the fictional parts. After the scenes with Nicodemus, I said, “That was really well done.” Of course, I have a special affinity for Nicodemus after writing my second book about him. (A Heart for Truth) 

Another episode is entirely about Jesus with a few children. All we have in Scripture about children is admonishing us to bring them up in the faith and Jesus’ words to “bring the little children to me.” This episode imagines how Jesus would react with only a group of children. It is quite delightful.

As John said,

Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

We may envision the disciples in different ways. I always pictured Peter as tall, big, and burly. “The Chosen” Peter is short and thin and a bit high strung. It is obvious that, even though he is portrayed as slowly emerging as leader, he has a way to go in understanding what this is all about. We read about Peter’s impetuous behavior in Scripture, so this portrayal makes sense.

The Matthew character is another story. Matthew does not match my imagined personality. “The Chosen” Matthew has Aspergers, a form of autism. He is very intelligent, lacking in social norms, and has slight nervous  movements with his head and hands. But then, Scripture gives us very little of the disciples’ personalities, so we may visualize them in different ways.

Two types of tax collectors were found in that day, the collector for the people of the city, as in the movie, or a collector on the trade route for traveling caravans. Several sources seemed to feel that Matthew was a trade route collector, so I followed that portrayal. 

Interestingly enough, we both portray Matthew as butting heads with his father. In my book, I begin with him as a child. In the movie, he is already becoming a disciple. I’m anxious to see how he will fare in the second season coming soon. I foresee that it will be a while before the other disciples accept him, just as I imagined in my story.

The producers offer the first eight episodes free at www.thechosen.com. It is free, because thousands of people (including my husband and me) have contributed money or bought the DVD or other products in order to get the story into as many homes as possible. I believe this is going to be an amazing tool for leading people into the Kingdom, just as I pray my book will be. 

Have any of you seen it?

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 – Other Clues

    Eyes to See

   Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

As I continued looking for other clues into the life of Matthew for my, third book, Eyes to See, I looked in his gospel for passages that were unique to him.

In many of our Bibles, you see more than one heading in the chapters that describes what follows. In my Bible, other references are also given if that passage is found in one of the other gospels. If none are given, the information is found only in that gospel.

For instance, in Matthew, chapters 5 – 7, eleven sections were written only by Matthew. He consolidated several teachings of Jesus into these three chapters in what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount.

In chapter 13, he grouped six parables together. Three are only found in Matthew. In other places, he listed healings in a group. Matthew seemed to be organized, perhaps a list maker. That would fit well with a tax collector who kept tract of numbers.

I see Matthew as a detailed person, attentive to people, perhaps good with selling, a numbers man. So I developed Matthew’s bent toward these things as a child and a young man. Of course we always find an antagonist in a story and logically Matthew had one that effected his turn toward becoming a tax collector.

However, tax collecting would have been the last thing on Matthew’s list of ambitions. Tax collectors worked for the Roman government, and anyone who gave themselves to the brutal, domineering Romans would be despised by his fellow Jews. They were seen as traitors.

When Matthew repented and followed Jesus, leaving his tax collecting behind, the bitter stigma of being a tax man may have lingered in the minds of his fellow disciples. Perhaps Jesus’ reminder to “judge not, lest you be judged” would fit the disciples as well.

Ah, but I can’t give you all the story, can I? You will have to get the book!

One other clue, unique to Matthew, is found in Matthew 27:62-66 where the religious leaders went to Pilate.

“Sir, while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure. Otherwise, his disciples may steal the body and claim he has been raised from the dead. Matthew 27:63-64

Along with that clue (again unique to Matthew’s Gospel) the guards later found the tomb empty. The soldiers were afraid the centurion would have their heads, so they reported this to the religious leaders who made a clandestine arrangement with the soldiers and gave them money, assuring them that they would be protected if they would tell this story:

“You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.'” Matthew 28:13

How was Matthew privy to this information? Perhaps he had had a friendship with a Roman soldier during his tax days. You can bet that will be in the story, too!

Some final thoughts next week.

~ 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 ~

 

 

Life Verses – Ears to Hear

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m sorry I left you hanging last week. (See “Life Verses – On Fire“) Like the two on the road to Emmaus, my heart was on fire as the Lord impressed upon me that He wanted me to write. My willing heart had to seek His heart—a long process in bringing me to the fulness of His will.

That year, I was engaged in a Bible study of Matthew with other ladies in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). As I worked through the study, I found myself thinking of the lesser known characters along the way.

I wanted to stop and imagine what might be the rest of their stories. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see them as more than just two-verse people? What were their families like? How did they relate to Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write about one of these and bring them to life?

Every now and then, I noticed that Matthew recorded this phrase from Jesus,

“He who ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

A few chapters later, there it came again.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 and 43

I stopped each time to ponder those words.

Later in our study of Matthew, we came to the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the flurry of activity with the Temple guards, religious leaders, and disciples, Peter spontaneously started swinging his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

I checked the other three gospels and found a few more facts about this man. Jesus healed the man’s ear. The man’s name was Malchus. 

At some point, everything came together for me. Malchus was a lesser known character. He lost his ear, but Jesus gave him back his hearing. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What happened to this servant? Malchus worked for the high priest who was determined to have Jesus crucified? How did that personal touch, that healing, affect Malchus’ decisions?

That, my friends, was how my first book gave birth. I titled it “Ears to Hear.”

It had been a long, slow process that year, but the Lord seared my mind with the idea of looking at lesser known characters in the Bible, then to apply “ears to hear” to the account of Malchus with Jesus in the garden and his miraculous healing.

It  took seven years to get from research to writing, editing, and seeking a publisher to the final finished product. Many times I cried out to the Lord, “Who am I to think I can do such a thing?” Then He would remind me that indeed I couldn’t, but He could—with my cooperation.

Another seven years later, Nicodemus’ story was published in “A Heart for Truth” which was twice as long.

Now, five years later, the story of Matthew is getting close to ready in “Eyes to See.”

I sing from a favorite hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Matthew, the Tax Collector

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

On to Matthew. I’ve spent the last four years studying the Gospel that bears his name. I’m glad to announce that I have finally finished my first draft of his story—around 92,000 words! Now to the tedious task of editing.

I’ve tried to devise a possible scenario as to why this good Jewish boy, who knew the ancient Scriptures well, would become a tax collector, knowing full well that he would be despised and rejected by his fellow Jews. The scenario also had to include his sins and his “sinner” companions.

Yet, when Jesus approached Matthew at his tax collecting booth, he simply said,

“Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

          

Undoubtedly, Matthew previously had opportunities to hear Jesus teach by the sea shore or hear people talking about his miracles. Some kind of experiences had to lead up to the moment when Jesus said, “Follow me,” and Matthew was ready to leave his old life and follow Jesus.

We read no direct words from Matthew, but we do have the brief story in Matthew 9:9-13 when Matthew had a dinner at his house with Jesus as the guest of honor.

What guests did Matthew invite? Why the only friends he had, other tax collectors and “sinners” like himself. He wanted to tell his friends just as the other disciples had done when they first came to Jesus.

I’m reminded of my son’s story in his late teens. He had an amazing turn-around. One of the first things he did was to go to a party where his “friends” were. Like Matthew, his friends were like he had been, not tax collectors, but definitely “sinners.”

My heart sank. But, when he came home, he excitedly told me about getting one of his friends over in a corner and sharing with him the transformation in his life. Instead of “partying,” he was witnessing!

One telling statement in Matthew’s dinner account was this;

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does you teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners?'” Matthew 9:11

Unfortunately, none of the disciples spoke up for Matthew. They must have thought the same thing as the Pharisees. Jesus had to speak for them. That led me to think that Matthew  had to overcome his past, not only with the Pharisees and the people, but likely with his fellow disciples as well.

Jesus came to the rescue yo respond to the Pharisees.

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

Taking lambs to the altar was mostly what these stringent teachers of the law knew. Sacrifice. Mercy? Not so much so.

Though we don’t hear Matthew’s spoken words in the Scripture, we have his written words where he tells the life of Christ in the book of Matthew.

Legend has it that he was martyred while ministering in Ethiopia.

~ Joyce ~

Feeding the 5000 – Let’s Get Organized

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Okay, now we have something to work with to feed 5000+ people—five barley loaves of bread and two fish. (See Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat) Not a lot to go on, but then it wouldn’t be a miracle if the food was already plentiful, now would it?

Being an organized person, I love the next scene in this power-packed day. Jesus saw the need for getting things organized and he asked the disciples to help Him. We have hind sight. We know what’s going to take place, but they didn’t.

Jesus gives two instructions. Pretty simple.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:15

Sit on the grass (the” grassy slopes” John says)—in groups of 50. Easy breezy, you say? But look at the crowd! We discover they are 5000 strong.

I’m going to give you a little sneak preview of how I plan to construct this scene in my next book about Matthew.

Peter stood straight up, hands on hips. “He wants us to do what?”

Matthew turned to Peter, “He wants the people to sit in groups of 50 or so.”

Gesturing to the crowd of thousands, Peter complains, “You mean we have to count off to 50 that many times?” 

“Peter, can you usually get about ten men in a boat?”

“A big boat.”

“Just think five boatloads in each group.”

“Oh, I see.” So Peter shouts over to some of the other fishermen disciples and repeats the plan.

Matthew smiles and quickly sums up a group of ten men. “The master wants you to sit on the grass,” he tells them. As they sit, he motions another group of ten to join them. Then another ten, “Will you join this group, please?” And so forth for five tens—fifty!

Then he turns to another group of ten. “Please form a new group by sitting here.” To another ten, “Please join this new group.” And on and on.

Keep in mind that they’re going to need 100 groups of 50. That means each disciple must organize about eight groups of 50. As you can see, it’s a mammoth task, but with each disciple helping, it is do-able. It will take time, however. 

No doubt some in the back begin sitting when they see others sit. Then you have the problem of asking some to get up and move to form separate groups. Nothing is easy when you’re dealing with massive groups of people.

I imagine the disciples have been so busy with the “project” that they haven’t considered what’s coming next. They will eventually realize that all this preparation will serve them well. They will be able to move around the people and know who has been served and who hasn’t. Much more orderly! A great lesson for us in the value of planning ahead.

Next week is the big climax. How amazed the disciples and the people will be when Jesus feeds them all with just five loads of bread and two fish.

~ 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 ~

  

Writing – Part 2

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Last week in My Testimony About Writing, I shared about God’s call to write. I struggled trying to discern what the Lord wanted me to write. Of course, He rarely works on our time table, so I waited, watched, and listened.

That year, I attended a Bible study about the book of Matthew. I found myself noticing the lesser-known characters, the ones with only one or two verses. Often, their names weren’t even given, but they were important enough to mention. wondered what might be the rest of their stories. What was their background? How did they relate to Jesus? 

As I continued through Matthew, I was struck by the phrase, 

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

Later, when Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed, he said again,

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9

I began meditating on that phrase, thinking about it every time it came around. Jesus warned that, because of the people’s unbelief, their hearts had become calloused. The leaders did not put into practice the truths they had studied. 

“Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Matthew 13:15

Jesus described the religious leader’s faith by quoting what Isaiah said.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Matthew 15:8-9

They had ears, but they didn’t hear.

In my pilgrimage of what to write, the Lord had impressed on me the lesser-known characters. He brought my attention to have ears to hear what he has to say. So, when I came to the two-verse story of the servant of the high priest having his ear cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was like, this is it! This is who I am to write about.

I discovered from the other gospel writers that his name was Malchus and that Jesus healed his ear. It wasn’t much to go on, but I researched and wrote, trying to envision what might be the rest of Malchus’ story.

I was still working at the time so all too often the story got pushed to the back burner. Over and over I doubted. Who was I to think I could conquer such a task as writing a book? That’s when I first came across the quote I have on my desk. “The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.”

The Lord provided a wonderful person to help me edit. Eventually, I acquired a publisher, then a capable person to help me make a video, take an author picture, and direct me to claim my website name.

It took seven years, but at last “Ears to Hear” became a reality. 

Next week, I’d like to share one more leg of the journey with you plus a challenge.

~ Joyce ~