Life Verses – Acknowledge Me

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The setting is the late 1970’s. My husband, Jim, had been the Minister of Music at our church for several years, the children were young and all was right with my world. As I mentioned last week, my growing-up family had moved about every two years, so I relished being in this one place for a good while.

Added to that, my parents had decided to move to our city of Somerset, Kentucky. How wonderful that our children would have the joy of seeing their grandparents often.

My world fell apart when Jim said a search committee from another state had called and wanted us to go there to meet with them. We were happy in our present church and had received other calls like this, but Jim reasoned that if we never followed up, we might be missing a new direction God had for us.

Nothing in me wanted to submit to this idea. I struggled for days over this. Then the Lord kept saying in my mind, “Joyce, do you love me?”

Jesus’ conversation with Peter came to mind. Remember, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. After the resurrection, Jesus pulled him aside one day and asked, 

“Simon, do you truly love me more than these?” John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked that question and Peter was to able to affirm his love and acknowledgment of Jesus—three times

Every time I prayed, that question came to my mind, “Joyce, do you love me more than these?” Do you love the stability, the routine, your parents move more than me?

As I walked down our hall at home, I saw anew the plaque we had on the wall. It simply said, “Acknowledge me.” Of course, I thought of the whole verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

God reminded me that He needed to be included in this process. It took a while, but I finally realized I must not lean on my own understanding and my own desires, but acknowledge him.

So, we made arrangements to go and talk to the committee. We were both torn with how to respond. I felt like we were in an empty room with one door opened this way and another door opened that way, not knowing which door to go through. 

A few days later, the committee chairman called and said their pastor had resigned and they would have to put their energies into looking for a new pastor, so they would have to set the music position aside. 

As you can see, God himself closed one of those two doors, and lessons of submission were taught in the process.

This verse is likely a favorite verse for many of you. I would love to hear how it has impacted your life.

~ Joyce ~

 

Life Verses – Fear Not

 

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Fear. Perhaps that is one of the strongest emotions we experience. We might be fearful for our very lives. We could be fearful of a disease or the fear of failing. We might fear non-acceptance. Anything out of our control can bring us fear.

My family moved about every two years when I was growing up. My dad’s work moved us to different cities and states. I eventually realized that I had to dig in and make new friends each time. In one of our houses, I had an upstairs bedroom. As an only child, I was afraid to go up the dark stairs to turn on the lights at night. My dad would say “I’ll hold out my hand.” Amazingly, I found strength in him simply holding out his hand. I would look down from the upper steps and see that he still had his hand out.

Years later, when I prepared to go off to Georgetown College, I felt excited, but felt a bit fearful of the unknown. My dad’s hand would no longer be visible. 

My youth director at church gave me a verse to take along.

For I the Lord Thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, “Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:13 KJV

That’s a nice little verse, I thought. I decided to make a small colorful poster out of it to hang in my dorm room.

It wasn’t long until I began making use of that verse. I was terribly naive. In some relations where I thought I was helping to pull someone up, I began to realize they were pulling me down. “Fear not,  I will help you,” the Lord said.  

The school work load, social activities, and  rehearsals overwhelmed me. Then, as I was preparing to lead the dorm devotion, the words came again—The Lord says, “Fear not, I will help you.”

In my junior year, a frightening experienced happened. I thought of my verse once again. I will hold (KJV) your right hand. The word “hold” caught my attention. Not grab, but hold. I reasoned that I must place my hand in his open, willing hand.  

Earlier in that chapter and in many other verses, we hear of God’s righteous right hand. No offence to you lefties, but we see many attributes to the right hand, the strongest hand (at least for right-handed people.) We eat with that hand, write, point, shake hands, open a bottle, wave, turn pages, and on it goes. It is the stronger hand that he offers us in times of fear.

On through my life, I have often returned to that verse. Thus I claim it as one of my life verses and have passed it on to my college grandkids.

May you find it helpful on your life journey.

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Final Reflections

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Well, faithful readers, I realized that we started this venture into the book of Joshua back in June. If you’ve hung in with me that long, thank you. 

We come now to a very difficult aspect of God’s plan to understand. That little piece of land that we now call Israel, has long been the land God told Abraham he would inherit. The land was promised, thus the Promised Land. 

 

Early on, when Joseph brought the family to Egypt to survive the famine, they stayed over 400 years. God provided the way for them to return. However, in that time, other people groups had come in and inhabited the land, Canaanites, Amorites, and all the other “ites.” These were idol worshipers, not God-fearing people, not one-God believers.

God determined that Joshua be the commander to conquer the land and God would be with them. That sounds noble. Sure enough, God gave the instructions to march around Jericho and with a shout,

… the walls collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

And somehow that sounds  noble, until we consider what happened.

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I picture women running and screaming, children crying, men grabbing their swords, and animals making frantic bleating and roaring sounds, not to mention blood everywhere. It makes “taking the city” not seem quite so noble.

In our post-Jesus world, we find it difficult to understand this kind of a command. No wonder that God urged Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”

There would come a time, centuries later, when they stayed in a disobedient attitude for too long and were exiled from their precious land into Babylonia.

Still, God chose these people, fickle though they were at times, to be the ones to carry His laws and His love to all the world. They must understand God’s power, His omnipotence, His demand to worship no other gods, even as they rested in His provisions for them.

We would do well to grasp more of His Sovereignty ourselves. (Notice the word reign in that word.) Unless we behold and obey Him, we too could fall into self-centered life-styles, shifting attitudes of disobedience, failing to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and failing to love our neighbors as ourselves—the essence of God’s Ten Commandments, which Jesus repeated.

Joshua would end up following God’s command and continued taking over other towns and cities with God’s help until they were finally able to establish twelve areas for the twelve tribes. You will find all of that in the latter chapters of Joshua.

Joshua died at age 110. 

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31

Well done, good and faithful servant.

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Day Seven

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

At last—day seven! The armed men and priests have walked around Jericho for six days. (See “Joshua – Keep Walking“) Now, the day they have been waiting for arrives.

They get up at daybreak to be ready for their longer day, the day of triumph.

Last week, we tried to imagine what might be their thoughts as they marched from day one to day six. This week, let’s ponder what the people of Jericho might have been thinking. 

“What are those people doing, marching around our city? Man the walls. Weapons ready. Protect the city!”

“Is that it? Are they just going to walk and leave?” “Here they come again.” “All they know how to do is walk and blow those noisy horns.”

By day seven, “It’s them again. They’ll just march around and be gone. Go on with your work.”

However, on day seven, they march a second time and a third time. The people of Jericho begin to realize that this is not just “once around and be gone.” They likely are getting more worried with every trip around. “What are they up to?”

             

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! Only Rahab and all in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:16-17

I’ve wondered before whether all the marching of so many feet for hours each day, and the seven-time trip on day seven, would surely shake up the earth around the walls, a unique physical thing the Lord used. No matter how the Lord did it, the people were faithful and gave that final SHOUT!

… the wall collapsed. So every man charged straight in and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

The people had been faithful to follow God’s directions even if it seemed strange and lengthy. Then, on cue, just as he said, they had victory with a SHOUT!

In our day, I think of the office worker who has faithfully behaved in such a way that his fellow worker knows he is a believer. He even mentions a verse now and then that helps his friend along the way or tells of an experience when he felt God’s direction. Then one day (shout), the friend asks a faith question that opens the way for a full witness!

Or here’s the parents who have agonized over the behavior of their teenager. A counselor gives them advice that seems useless, but they try, praying as they go. They don’t see immediate results. It’s like they are walking in the same circles getting nowhere, but they stay the course faithfully, then (shout), the Lord opens a door of great improvement!

Perhaps your challenge is with yourself. Do that thing which he has laid on your heart. As we said last week, keep walking, stay faithful. Your day to shout victory will come!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Joshua – New ways

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The children of Israel have built their stone memorial to remember the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. They have settled in Gilgal, which interestingly enough means “circle of stones.”  (See “Joshua – Remembering“)

In addition to encouraging the Israelites, God had in mind to impact the people of this new land.

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might fear the Lord your God. Joshua 4:24

Do you remember how the news of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea had had a powerful effect on Rahab who helped Joshua’s spies? Now to hear this news so close to home would really have the people of Jericho nervous. Not only them—

Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. Joshua 5:1

The young men in the Hebrew camp needed to understand their heritage and be dedicated to bravely defend their sacred duty as God’s chosen people. Those who had been born in the desert had not been circumcised, the mark of every male who was a son of Abraham. This procedure held them down a few days while they healed. New ways.

The people had not celebrated Passover since they were in the desert, another new thing for the younger ones.

Remember that all through the desert, God had provided manna for them, their only food. 

The day after the Passover, they ate some of the produce of the land; unleavened bread and roasted grain. Joshua 5:11

          

Wouldn’t you love to see they’re faces with the first taste? Wouldn’t you like to hear their comments? Did they love it? How did they feel when they realized that their food would no longer fall from heaven? They would have to seek it out, grow it, and harvest it. More new ways.

We’re facing new ways, aren’t we? We’re learning to take our masks every time we go out. We’re conscious of staying six feet apart, sanitizing, and seeing empty waiting rooms at the doctor’s office. New ways often tax us because we like the familiar. 

Let’s admit it, even before the pandemic, we liked our routines and had a struggle at times adjusting to new patterns or life changes. We might move to a new city or struggle with a teenager. Perhaps we find ourselves in the hospital or lose a spouse. We may not like changes at church or feel frustrated with a job.

New ways require patience and perseverance. Hm, sounds like something from Romans.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 6:3-5 

~ Joyce ~

  

Joshua – Pause and Reflect

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we pause with the children of Israel who have now made it to the Jordan River, (See Joshua – Get Ready! Click on BLOG), let us reflect on the journey that these people have traveled for forty long years.

Can you imagine the excitement they must feel as they consecrate themselves for this momentous occasion?  Remember that after Joshua and the spies of his day returned from their journey, the people were frightened and unwilling to go farther into the Promised Land. God told them

“In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more … except for Caleb and Joshua. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness.” Numbers 14:29-30, 33

I’m thinking only the ones who had been 5 to 20 years-old would even remember leaving Egypt or the crossing of the Red Sea. These young ones would now have reached the age of 45 to 60. That means those who were now under 45 would have only known the desert.

I imagine that on this night, the grandpas and the fathers would have sat the younger ones down at dinner time to recall the past. I envision them talking about the hard life in Egypt as slaves, the plagues, and Moses’ leadership to bring them out of their bondage.

Then with excitement, they might retell the glory of God’s protection with the pillar of fire by night and the and the pillar of cloud by day. Excitement would build as the story-telling grandfather would speak of Pharaoh’s army storming across the desert behind them and the panic the people felt with a rushing sea in front of them–nowhere to go!

The children might be waiting for the climatic part of the story they had heard so many times, how Moses raised the staff and God parted the waters before them. The father might be nodding his head and getting caught up in the old story as well. He might recall, “And we walked across on dry ground while the waters were held back beside us!”

The patriarch of the family might remind the younger ones, “And now, the land just across this river before us is the very land that God promised us years ago, all the way back to our father Abraham.”

I imagine the fathers would have tears in their eyes as they realized that the promise is finally about to be fulfilled right before their eyes. Perhaps, even the children sense the awesome days that are before them.

We wait with them, reflecting on the wondrous way their lives will soon change. What will it be like? Will they have stone houses to live in? Do the younger ones even know about stone houses? What kind of food will they eat? All they have ever known is manna. This area is already so different from the hot desert. They see green palm trees, grass and a river. They feel cooler temperatures.

What more is in store?

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Rahab’s Pact

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Spies have been sent into Jericho to check out the city. (See “Joshua – Spies in the Land“)

The spies have found safe haven with Rahab, a prostitute of all things! She also gives them insight on the view of the Jericho mindset.

“I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Joshua 2:9

Obviously, this is music to the spies’ ears, a valuable piece of news to share with Joshua and the leaders.

Rahab then makes a pact with the spies.

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my family.” Joshua 2:12-13

The two spies agree to protect her and her family.

“Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” Joshua 2:14

They give two conditions on the agreement—she must tie a scarlet cord in her window (to identify her house)and have all her family gathered together in her house when the Israelites enter the land. 

Rahab devises a plan to help the spies return safely. She lets them down with a rope through her window so they won’t have to go through the city gate and advises them to go to the hills so the pursuers will not find them. They should hide there for three days before they attempt to go back to their people.

Then she hangs a scarlet cord in her window in readiness, as they requested.

Joshua gladly welcomes the spies back, hears their story, and gives thanks for their findings.

“The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24

God has opened their eyes and encouraged their hearts for the task ahead.

What task does he have ahead for you?

At our old house, I had a neighbor who became a close friend. I had casual friendship with a couple more. Otherwise, I hardly knew any of my neighbors. If I had met some of them out in public, I wouldn’t even know them!

I determined to get to know the neighbors here in our new neighborhood. As people move into the new houses, we take a plate of home-made cookies. I plan to arrange get-togethers soon. You never  know when you might meet a “Rahab” who is just waiting to know more about God.

What is he calling you to do? 

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Spying Out the Land

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Joshua takes to heart God’s encouraging words. (See “Joshua – Be Strong and Courageous”) 

His first task is to send two spies into Jericho to check things out. (Remember, Joshua himself was a spy years before.) Now this is no easy task. After all, the leaders of Jericho have been made quite aware that thousands of people are camped just across the Jordan River from them.  

Therefore, the first challenge is to even get through the gate of this walled city—unnoticed. Alas, the spies do manage to get in. 

Now very close to the entrance, they find an inn, managed by a woman named Rahab, who quietly takes them in.  She realizes they are Israelites, but doesn’t tell on them. In fact, she protects them and hides them on her roof and covers them with stalks of flax.

      

The king learns of the spies’ presence in Jericho and that they were seen going to Rahab’s, so the king sends soldiers to her house.

“Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” Joshua 2:3

Rahab covers for the spies and sends the messengers on a wild goose chase out of the city.

 What will Rahab do now? Did I mention that Rahab happens to be a prostitute? Does she plan to use her alluring charms on the spies?

Quite the opposite. You see, with her house being located up in the wall, close to the entrance of the city, she hears the talk of those who come and go just below her house. She also hears the talk from those who use her “services.” What did she hear?

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.” Joshua 2:10

Perhaps there are other events that she heard about that aren’t mentioned—enough that she realizes that their one God is far more powerful than the many gods of her people. Rahab says,

“…the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Joshua 2:11b

What are the chances that these two men who know nothing of the city, find their way to a receptive, helpful woman to protect them?

Think also about the fact that she has lived all her life in this pagan city, far removed from the God-fearing Israelites. What are the chances of hearing the stories of these people?

While her people are struck with fear, she wants to protect these men and know more about their God.

We never know when someone is ready to hear a message from the Lord and that He is ready to use us. Perhaps we need to be “spying out the land” as well.

Hmm, let’s ponder this prostitute a bit more next week!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Joshua – Be Strong and Courageous

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Moses died at age 150, but before he died, he climbed Mt. Nebo and God showed him a view of the Promised Land. Obviously, the people wept and mourned the passing of their great leader, but he had left them in good hands.

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses. Deuteronomy 34:9

At this point, the people have made their way around the Dead Sea and are near the shore of the Jordan River across from the city of Jericho. Immediately, the Lord gives instructions.

“Now, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” Joshua 1:2-3

Now this was no easy task. It wasn’t like the land was empty and Joshua and his people could just march in and set up their flag. No, tribes of people had come into this land and lived there during the 400 years that Jacob and his descendants had been in Egypt. These tribes of Canaan had formed their cities and their armies along with their many gods.

Just as Jesus told his disciples, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20) so God tells Joshua,

“I will be with you: I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

Then three times, the Lord gives the command, “Be strong and courageous!”

“… because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6

The land had been promised to Abraham centuries before.

The second “Be strong and courageous” warns Joshua to be careful to obey the law God had given to Moses.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” Joshua 1:8

The very reason the pagan people of this land must go is because they have been worshiping idols and other gods. It must not be so with God’s people.

The third time, God emphasizes again to Joshua—

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God has plans for your life and mine, no matter our age or circumstances. He warns us to study His word, meditate on it, obey it, and remember that He will be with us at all times. Then He says even to us, “Be strong and courageous!”

When we are weak, He is our strength. He will bring a song of joy! I love that reminder on one of my tea cups.

      

Perhaps the battle for control of your mind and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Be strong and courageous!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

A Garden of Care

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

‘Tis spring! Actually, with the temperatures this week, one could say we’re about to enter full-blown summer. Perhaps, like me, you’re in the gardening mode. No, we’re not vegetable gardeners—no space, not that much energy—but we do enjoy some flowers and plants.

Just finished planting impatiens. I guess they’re called that because you must not be “impatient” waiting for them to grow. Maybe I’ll have a better picture to show you in a few weeks.

        

I’m thinking of a quote by Anais Nin: “And the day comes when the risk to remain tight in the bud is more painful the the risk it takes to blossom.” 

Which leads me to follow up on last week’s blog. Remember the story of the little boy who wet his pants at school? The little girl “acccidently” spilled a fish bowl of water in his lap to overcome his embarressment because she knew how that felt.

I challenged you to consider how people in your life might need an encouraging word or act of care. In case you wonder if I ever follow up on these challenges, I’ll share my experiences this week. These are not bragging moments; they represent eye-openers the Lord gives when we ask for opportunities.

I wrote a detailed, biblically-laced, grandmotherly note in my grandson’s graduation card. I sent notes in two sympathy cards. Wrote a note to a long ago friend who has had a couple of years of stress with the physical health of her husband and a note to a friend’s daughter who is having challenges.

Obviously, I’m a note writer. That may not be your thing. A call, email, text or a six-foot visit can be effective as well. Since it seems we’re going to be in the masking business for a while, perhaps some of you have been making masks to give people.

One of my husband’s former work friends has been a widower for some time now. He manages with involvement at church, volunteering in the community and fellowship with friends, but this time of being shut in with the pandemic has been very lonely for him.

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25

We decided to have him over for a meal. He came surprisingly bearing a gift for us, this lovely Mandevilla, one of my favorite flowers. We had a delightful evening and hopefully “cheered him up” as the proverb says.

         

I am anxious to know how the Lord brought to mind people in your life who need a garden of care from you. Jesus reminded his disciples,

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

As Mother Theresa said, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”

Go, water your garden, my friends!

~ Joyce ~