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 When it becomes tiresome or out of date, one can take it down, put it in a memory box, give it away, or throw it away.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 ~

Attitudes -Trusting

    Eyes to See

Multiple aspects are involved in the making of a book: researching, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Right now, I’m hanging in the publishing phase, waiting anxiously to hold that book in my hands. 

Meanwhile, I’m at the dreaded step of marketing. In recent years, I have actually used the word that I usually refrain from using about anything—the word “hate.” I would get in a tizzy every time I thought about marketing. But recently, I have been thinking more about that attitude. Of course, we tend not to like anything that is difficult for us to do.

Instead of fretting and dreading, God has been working on me (again!) to trust him with this. Trusting means no complaining. It means relinquishing your inaptitude, your fear, and your dread into his hands. Jesus reminds me,

“Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” John 14:1

Jesus says, “The issue is not your strength, but mine, which is limitless.” It demands that we seek Him in earnest and determine to follow the steps He brings to mind.

Sarah Young in “Jesus Calling” is my go-to lady for morning devotions. Seems like every other day the devotion centers on trusting. I guess God feels like I am a slow learner.

Sarah says, “Waiting, trusting, and hoping are intricately connected, like golden strands interwoven to form a strong chain.” Trusting is the central strand because it is the response God desires the most.

It reminds me of one of my life verses.

Those who wait (or hope) in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

In the process of waiting and hoping in the Lord, we step back and let Him lead, trusting Him to control things, if you will. As Sarah would say, “Keep your antennae out to pick up even the faintest gimmer of His presence.” The Lord cries out to us,

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Remembering that,  

We walk by faith and not by sight. II Corinthians 5:7

Is something dragging you down? Are you growing to despise it, hate it? Is fixing it beyond you? Are you at the end of your rope with it?

Perhaps you need a new chain to wrap around you, a chain with strands of waiting and hoping and that important center strand of trust.

Breathe in His peace, breathe out your frustration. Place yourself in His hands.

~ Joyce~

Honor vs. Shame – The Woman

      Searching His Word
       Seeking His Heart

We thought about shame and honor last week in the incident with Jairus, the synagogue ruler. Right in the middle of that situation came a woman who had had a bleeding problem.

Jesus is already on his way to the house of Jairus, but the woman follows close behind in the middle of a packed crowd. She is sure that if she can just touch Jesus the healer, maybe she will be healed of this terrible condition that has plagued her all these years.

At last she finds an opening, reaches out, and touches the edge of his robe. Instantly, she feels something stir inside her body, something warm and healing. She feels a surge of energy that she hasn’t felt in years. As she moves back away from the crowd; her spirit soars in gratitude.

Suddenly, Jesus stops and looks around.

“Who touched me?” Luke 8:45

Peter points out that many people are all around him, pressing in to follow him, but Jesus is emphatic.

“Someone has touched me. I know that power has gone out from me.” Luke 8:46

(This is the only time that Jesus makes such a statement recorded in Scripture.)

For twelve years the woman has dealt with this bleeding problem.  She has suffered weakness, separation from her family, and community shame. The law declares that no one is to touch her or anything she has touched. It is as though she’s like a leper.

No doctors have been able to help her, and she is depleted of what little resources she has had.

Her great joy in being healed turns to fear as Jesus questions who touched him. Should she slip away and hide? Should she freeze and wait for him to move on?

She decides that she must confess what she has done and falls trembling at his feet. Her story rolls out as she describes her years of agony, pain, and defeat, but the victory of Jesus’ healing.

Jesus lifts her up and says,

“Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:48

Jesus has brought honor as he acknowledges the faith of this shamed woman, even as he is on his way to help a prestigious man of the community. Jesus lifted her from shame to honor. Wouldn’t we like to know the “rest of her story”?

Have you ever done something you’re ashamed of? Perhaps you were intentionally unkind or made sinful decisions. Or perhaps, like this woman, you endured an incident that was not of your own making. Or perhaps you suffered from a family relationship.

Jesus has the power to forgive, heal, and restore. He wants more than anything to find you reaching out in faith. He will take your hand and lift you from shame to honor. 

“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:10

Reach out to Him today.

~ Joyce ~

 

Honor vs. Shame – Jairus

     Searching His Word
      Seeking His Heart

In the last three weeks, we have been looking at the way Jesus included women: in His teachings, in His parables, and in His healings. These male/female incidents were brought to my attention in a recent Bible study about “Jesus and Women” by Kristi McClelland.

In our western world, we think right or wrong. We weigh things on the scales of justice, a horizontal outlook, so to speak.

In the eastern world, they have a vertical outlook, shame vs. honor. In that context, Jesus practiced biblical justice which happened when the honorable reached down to the shameful and restored their honor—vertical thinking.

Let’s watch Him do this with both a man and a woman in Luke, chapter 8.

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum, is in distress because his twelve-year-old daughter is deathly ill. Some of Jairus’s friends are not too keen on Jesus and His teachings. Were they among those who peered in on the dinner at the house of the new convert, Matthew? Perhaps one of them had ridiculed Jesus for eating with “sinners.”

Jairus is desperate for his ailing daughter. He has seen and heard about the healings of Jesus, and so this heart-sick father, this important community figure does the unthinkable. He falls at Jesus’ feet, pleading for help. How shameful.

Jesus prepares to go with Jairus when He is interrupted with another emergency (which we will cover next week.)

Just as Jesus is again ready to proceed with His trip to Jairus’s house, someone (maybe one of the disapproving leaders) comes from Jairus’s house to report,

“Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Luke 8:49.

Ouch! How cold and calculating that feels. Sounds like they’re thinking Jairus’s pleading and bowing has put him to shame. Let’s shame him some more.

Jesus gives encouragement to Jairus.

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Luke 8:50

When they arrive at the house, flute players are playing their nasally mournful tunes, neighbors are hovering about, and the hired mourners are wailing in loud shrills. As Jesus and Jairus make their way through the noise and confusion, Jesus commands them,

“Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. Luke 8:52

I find this astounding. These fake mourners go from wailing to laughter and ridicule within a moment.

Jesus proceeds into the house and heals this beloved daughter.

Let’s not miss the fact that while Jairus showed humility and belief, he had been laden with shame from his friends and neighbors. In justice and righteousness, Jesus reached down to lift Jairus from shame to honor. 

Let’s take note that He can do the same for you and me. We can be weeping in our worlds of discontent, anxiety, indecision or whatever brings us to our knees. When we humble ourselves before Him, the Lord can lift us up out of the murky clay and bring us to a place of honor in his sight.

May it be so for you today.

~ Joyce ~

 

Healing – Men and Women

 Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We continue our search into the way Jesus was fair in his dealings with both men and women—rare indeed in a day when women were basically second class citizens.

Early in his ministry, Jesus began healing people with diseases and maladies of all sorts. One day, as Jesus amazed them with his teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum, a demon-possessed man stood up right in the middle of Jesus’ message. The man cried out at the top of his voice,

“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!” Luke 4:34

Jesus dealt firmly with the situation.

“Be quiet! Come out of him!” Luke 4:35

The evil power of the demon threw the man down and left him. Now the people were amazed, not only with Jesus’ teaching, but also with his power and authority.

In the next verses, Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon Peter’s house. His mother-in-law is suffering with a high fever. They asked Jesus to help her.

So he bent over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. Luke 4:39

Soon, people were lining up to seek healing on into the night. You can bet that included both men and women.

Our second paring comes in chapter seven of Luke. By this time, word of Jesus’ healings had reached many ears, including that of a Roman centurion. The beloved servant of this centurion was sick and about to die, so the centurion sent word to Jesus asking him to heal the man.

When Jesus had walked part way there, the centurion sent a message saying he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his house,

“. . . just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Luke 7:7

. . . Jesus was amazed and said, “I tell you I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Luke 7:9

(Only twice does Scripture record Jesus being “amazed.”) When the men returned to the house they found the servant well.

Immediately after this happening, Luke records that Jesus and his followers went to the town of Nain. They came upon a funeral procession. The young man in the coffin was the only son of  a widowed woman.

When Jesus saw the mother—

. . .  his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Luke 7:14

A wealthy Roman soldier and a poor widowed mother, a demon-possessed man and a feverish mother-in-law, male or female—the thing Jesus saw was their need.

Do you have a need for healing? Physical healing? A spirit that has gone stale? A mind that is confused? A heart that is breaking?

Perhaps like David, you want to pray,

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who knows the way. Psalm 142:3

~ Joyce ~

 

Biblical Men/Biblical Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we look through the Scriptures, we see that it was definitely a man’s world. We will see in the next few blogs how Jesus raised women out of their lowly estate to give them value. Coupled with that, we will see how the Mid-Eastern mind works compared to our Western mind.

You will be amazed at how Luke couples a man’s experience and a woman’s experience in many of his accounts. You will likely know these stories, but like me, you may not have seen them as two in one.

It starts even at Jesus’ birth. You may remember in my recent Christmas blogs how the angel Gabriel came to both Zechariah and to Mary.

Gabriel is named only in the Old Testament book of Daniel and here in Luke. To Zechariah he says,

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, . . . Luke 1:19

Then to Mary.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married . . . Luke 1:26-27

God sent his great warrior angel to an old faithful priest, but also to a young simple maiden. Both had a major role to play in God becoming man. One would sire the forerunner and the other would bear the Savior.

Move forward forty days after Jesus birth. Mary must go to the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification. Being poor, her offering would be two pigeons or two doves.

Mary must also present her baby to the Lord, as it is written in the Law—

“Every first born male is to be consecrated to the Lord.” Luke 2:23

Now we meet our next pair, Simeon a priest and Anna a prophetess. Both are older; both have longed to see the Messiah.

It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. On the day Mary and Joseph came to the Temple, Simeon felt compelled to go to the Temple courts. As he lifted up 40-day old Jesus, the Spirit of God fell upon him and he declared,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke 2:29-30

84 year-old Anna had a seven-year marriage until her husband died. She spent the rest of her years at the Temple worshiping night and day, fasting and praying. She stepped into this scene precisely when Simeon made his declaration.

. . . she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

No doubt this gave Mary much more to ponder in those early days.

So from the beginning, we see men and women playing important roles in the life of Jesus.

Male or female, what is God’s role for you this week? It will not likely be as dramatic as these, but He has plans for all of us. Don’t miss your opportunity! 

~ 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 ~ 

JOY – Mary

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Today we will seek to find JOY in Mary’s life. Watch for the emotions she goes through.

Mary has been betrothed to Joseph, but is still living at home with her parents. She is a small town girl from Nazareth. 

For the second time, Gabriel appears. (See Joy – Zechariah and Elizabeth) He says to Mary,

“Greetings, you are highly favored. The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28

As with others who have visitations from angels, Mary is “greatly troubled” by his words. So Gabriel says,

Do not be afraid, Mary, 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. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Luke 1:30-33

Oh, my, that’s a lot to take in. She will have a child and he will be great.  Does she understand the other things from hearing her father talk about the throne of David and the house of Jacob?  Is she thinking prestige? Is she feeling honored?

No. I think we can say she is “confused.” She is still stuck on the first thing Gabriel said. Her question?

“How can this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

The angel explains,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

Does she understand that this is the promised one, the Messiah? Maybe. Maybe not, but it is an answer to her question. (Notice that Gabriel did not reprimand her question as he did with Zechariah. She was not doubting or asking for proof as he did.)

Gabriel goes on to say,

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:36-37

Mary seems “resolved” at this point. She answers,

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

Mary has been fearful, troubled, confused, and resolved. What questions plague her now as she is alone again? How will I tell Mama? Will she believe me? And do I even dare tell Papa? What will Joseph think? Will he disown me? Will I be stoned?

Mary travels all the way to Judea to visit Elizabeth. When she arrives, Elizabeth says,

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is the one who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:42, 44-45

I believe it was then that the Spirit filled Mary with JOY! She burst forth with a song much like Zechariah. Her words are in Luke 1:46-55.

As we wade through our life emotions, may we come to celebrate the coming of God in human flesh with JOY!

~ Joyce ~

Thanks in ALL Things

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let me share my BIG thanksgiving news. For the past five years, I have researched and written a 90,000-word story about Matthew the tax collector. I’ve edited it about ten times, had a professional edit, and edited it one more time myself. The big news is that it is finally being published! Rejoice, oh my soul. I’m hopeful that I will hold that book in my hands by March.

So what else draws me to give thanks? I’ve mentioned before the daily Thanks Notebook that I started a couple of years ago after I read Ann Voscamp’s book, “1,000 Gifts.” Each day, I record something for which I am thankful.

For example:

Thoughts God gives, air conditioning, opportunities to encourage, my daily devotional book-“Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, God’s continual call to trust, sunny days, the positive attitude of a dying friend.

As David said,

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

Yes, of course, that’s what we do at Thanksgiving, sing our praise to God for our blessings. But wait. Listen to some of the phrases that precedes David’s joyful praise in Psalm 69.

Verse 1 – Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. Verse 3 – I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. Verse 7 – I endure scorn for your sake . . . Verse 18 – Come near me and rescue me from my foes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

And yet he says in verse 30, 

      I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                           

It is important and proper that we give our praise at this Thanksgiving time and ponder all the wonderful things He has done for us. In addition, think of how He has lifted you through in spite of some hard times this year.

We’ve endured a challenging time in this year of Covid. Perhaps you or a loved one contracted the virus. Maybe you’ve ended up with round-the clock-children and have had to help with their schooling. You may have had to work from home or worse yet, totally lost your job. You missed getting with friends, going to church, and for a while couldn’t even get your haircut.

As for me, in this time I was able to read several books, as well as get my own book finished. I loved putting in flowers and waving to new neighborhood friends as I took daily walks. We were able to give food to some in need. Can you give thanks in spite of set backs? Did God help you in dire times to survive?

We are to give thanks in ALL things. I’d love to hear how God helped you turn lemons into lemonade this year.

Meanwhile, a Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

Thankful for Family

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Probably one of the first things we think of at Thanksgiving is to give thanks for our families. Usually, I purposely try to lead people to go beyond family, health, our homes, our church, friends, and all the usual–to move to deeper forms of thanksgiving.

But today, I am thinking of family. In a day when families are being bombarded with divorce, out-of-control teenagers, death of older members, suicidal deaths, abortions, conflict, loneliness, not to mention feelings of isolation because of too much media (computers, iPhones, and the like) or the feeling of too much family in this Covid year, it is possible many are not too thankful for family.

I hope that is not so for you. If you have survived these dilemmas, or have dodged them, then you have much for which to be thankful.

My husband and I are blest to have had parents who went past the 50-year mark in their marriages, giving us a goal for our 50-year mark (and now beyond.) We hope that this in turn has set the pattern for our son and daughter in their marriages. All of us have our challenges as in any relationship, but how valuable it is to have healthy legacies to pass on.

Now I look at our seven grandchildren in this era of family turmoil. As I give thanks for each one, I also pray for God’s protection and guidance as they make their daily choices and form patterns of faith. Their ages are 13, 14, 17, 18, 19 and the two girls are 20. What critical years.

Here they are after my mother’s graveside service. Sorry it’s not a good closeup because they’re all so cute! (Said like a grandmother.)

This year we are beginning a new tradition. We commit to pray every day for the grandchild who is having a birthday in that month. We ask them to tell us three things they would like for us to pray about in their lives. We have done this with five of the seven so far and have two to go. It has been a delight to do this, really focusing in on one of them at a time for a whole month. 

We will likely give their parents a turn as well. We hope this opens the door for them all to mention any prayer concerns throughout the year.

So at this Thanksgiving time, I am truly grateful for this wonderful family God has given me. We’ve had our share of struggles, but God has seen us through and taught us many lessons in the process.

May you find things about your family that bring you to thanksgiving this year.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30:12

~ Joyce ~