David’s Preparation

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

How thrilling for David to be anointed as king by the prophet Samuel. (See David, a King?) But wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall to hear the family discussion about what took place that afternoon with Samuel, especially comments from the seven rejected brothers?

Alas, the next day, back to the regular routine. David goes to the sheep fields as usual. I wonder if scratches his head saying, “Did I just imagine being anointed? And king, of all things?”

But we see no coronation, no crown, no throngs of applauding well-wishers. No, the actual “kinghood” will come later—much later. That’s why I put a question mark after last week’s blog.

While we’re waiting, let’s see what’s going on. These will be days and even years of preparation.

Prep 1 – We’ve already observed some of the songs David has written and the care of his sheep. We discover that he also carries a small harp-like instrument with him. It could have had only five strings strung tight between a Y-shaped branch. Some harps were known to have as many as ten strings.

I can imagine him using his harp many hours to calm the sheep and settle them in for the night. (Much like we use music in our cars and homes.) The harp, no doubt, provides an accompaniment of sorts to his songs.

Prep 2 – We have no milk-toast song writer here, though. David also has the job of fighting off wild dogs or other fierce animals. In fact, we learn later on that indeed, he fights with a lion. The lion attacks one of his sheep. He not only frees the sheep from the lion’s claws, but he grabs the hair of the lion and knocks it out with his rod. Another time, he encounters a bear.

        

Seems to me that he is one brave soul to attempt such things, putting his own life in danger to protect his sheep.

Prep 3 – When the sheep are occupied during a day of grazing, I imagine David getting in a little sling-shot practice. Perhaps he places stones of varying sizes on a big rock and tries to hit them with one shot at different distances. He may use the sling along with his rod and brute force on wild animals, too.

 

Besides harp preparation, fighting fierce animals, and becoming a sling shot expert, another part of David’s preparation is spiritual.

Prep 4 – We’ve already seen spiritual depth developing in the text of his songs. Now, after his anointing by Samuel, we are told that,

…from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. I Samuel 16:13

This will become his greatest source of strength. He will use these preparations and arise to use the gifts God has given him in order to become a mighty force in the life of Israel. 

Next week – David will receive an “invite” to the palace. 

~ Joyce ~

 

Let’s Be Friends

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

A little diversion this week. I’ve been thinking about friendships through the years. My family moved often with my dad’s job, so I had to learn to make new friends in many states. 

Fortunately, I’ve had the joy of long-time friends as well. You know, the kind who you haven’t seen in a while and when you meet again, you pick up right where you left off. Then there are those “go-to” friends when you just need someone to listen and/or give good advice.

A sweet friend refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9b (The Message)

All these thoughts came to me as I read Elizabeth Hoagland’s new book, LET’S BE FRIENDS… What My Sister-Friends Taught Me About Faith, Food, and Fun.

Elizabeth takes us on a girlfriend road trip, making stops at her various groups of friends. Friends from book clubs, Bible studies, friends of her children and their families to walking buddies and shopping friends. She attaches names to these groups—everything from the Ya-Ya’s to The Butter Babes. 

In shaded spaces on the page, we get to hear sage advice and life stories with direct quotes from many of these wonderful friends.

One friend had a “prodigal husband.” She tells how she was guided by this verse until they eventually came to reconciliation. 

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NTL)

Another friend talked about how instead of buying something for birthdays, they would do something, like educational trips, check all the ways they could take public transportation in their city, go to a fancy restaurant, etc.

Yet another liked to have discussion starters when friends gathered. For instance: What do you hope to pass on to the next generation? What is one of your favorite characteristics about God? What has someone said to encourage you lately?

You will find a plethora of fun happenings in this book as well. Elizabeth tells about Nancy, who she calls the Hugging Evangelist. “She is crazy comical. When I see her name flash across my cell phone, I start laughing before I answer. My howling causes her to howl, and we howl for a few minutes before uttering a word.”

One set of her friends celebrates each other’s birthdays. Main rule? You have to bring a funny, insulting card!

Notice the sub-title of the book: What My Sister-Friends Taught Me About Faith, Food, and Fun. You’ve seen the faith and fun, but the bonus is a delightful recipe or two at the end of each chapter.

Liz Curtis Higgs gives the Foreword of the book. Can’t get any better than that friend!

I’m thinking of using Elizabeth’s book, complete with questions and Bible verses at the end of the book, as a neighborhood Bible study of sorts to get to know my neighbors. 

Elizabeth has a blog that highlights a new book each week. Her easy-going style and descriptions keep you up to date on the latest Christian books and make you want to run out and get every book. You can find her at www.elizabethhoagland.com 

Happy reading!

  ~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

David, the Shepherd

   Searching His Word

     Seeking His Heart

As promised, we will explore the 23rd Psalm. It need not be read strictly at funerals, though that is appropriate, it can be a wonderful encouragement at any time. 

Looking back at many of the early psalms, they read like prayers from David to his heavenly Father, prayers of praise.

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

I love you, O Lord. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. Psalm 18:1-2

Prayers of petition.

Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea: listen to my cry. Psalm 17:1

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Psalm 5:1

Do you hear the intimacy, the pathos, the relationship in just these few words? Where did he learn that? I believe it was in those quiet, alone times on the hillside.

Remember, before David slew Goliath, before David was a mighty warrior, before he ran for months in hiding from crazy Saul, and before he came King of Israel, David was a shepherd boy.

He learned the skill of a sharp shooter with his sling; he learned the bravery of facing off with a lion, he learned the wisdom of protecting his flock in the grazing areas. He worked hard caring for his sheep. He knew how totally dependent they were on his leadership and care.

In the afternoon as the sheep rested and at night once he had cared for and secured them in the sheep pen, David could relax in solitude. I believe it was in these precious moments that his mind turned to the Lord. Perhaps he played tunes on his shepherd harp and made up words to sing with the tunes. I believe he talked out loud to the Lord, words that came from the heart.

At some point it hit him, the Lord is my shepherd. He cares for me like I care for my flock.

So, this time, the song wasn’t a prayer to God, it was song about God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want [or in need.] He makes me lie down in green pastures. Psalm 23:1-2

I think that’s why the Lord carried me away to those ancient green pastures last week. (Strength from the Pasture) He wanted me to have a quiet time in the pasture to remember that He is perfectly capable of taking care of all my needs. “Rest in me,” He says. “You don’t have to do it alone.”

Or as David learned to pray, “You are my refuge and strength, O Lord.”

I hope you will have some “pasture time” this week so that He might restore your soul.

~ Joyce ~

Strength from the Pasture

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you have those days when you are bone tired? You feel exhausted. The to-do list just keeps getting longer.

In retrospect, I look back on my life and it seems that’s the way it has been for as long as I can remember. If I can just get through this unit of study, then I can breathe again. If we can just get through the terrible twos… Once this program is over… As soon as this event is past… There always seems to be that “next thing” looming ahead.

(I’ve been in the process of preparing to move my mother to her new memory care home this past Monday. It has been exhausting, physically and emotionally.)

Then there are those ongoing tasks with extras added, and you come home and collapse under the weight of it all. That’s where I was last week. Surely I’m not the only one who goes through these phases.

I sat down in my recliner, pushed back and was too tired even to cry.

I thought about all those powerful words Sarah Young pours over me every morning in her daily devotional book, “Jesus Calling.” I pondered the encouraging words I write to you week by week and think, “Where is your strength, Joyce?”

About that time, the Lord brought to my mind a beautiful pastoral setting. I was on a grassy hill, sitting beside David, looking out at grazing sheep. David reminded me that, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I have no need to be stressed and filled with anxiety. I have no need to want for anything. 

In my imagining, I looked over to see a stream of water running steadily over a rocky ravine, gurgling gently as it flowed. The sheep settled in, one by one, for their afternoon naps, completely given over to the care of their shepherd. David whispered to me, “The Lord is my shepherd.” 

I closed my eyes in my recliner and smiled. Yes, He’s my good shepherd, too.

I guess you know that next week, we’ll have a look at Psalm 23.

Sweet grazing my friends.

~ Joyce ~

A Hefty Task

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we thought about the huge task Jesus gave his disciples to Go out Two by Two. They were to carry the message from Jesus, about Jesus—”The kingdom of heaven is near.”

Jesus empowered them to heal just as he had. They were to take virtually nothing with them. In other words, depend on the Lord to guide.

If we could look into their minds, I wonder what they were thinking. Maybe (selfishly or practically) they wondered, but where do we stay? What do we eat? Perhaps that’s why he said,

Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave… If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. Matthew 10:11, 14

He’s telling them, the Lord will provide. But if there is no receptivity, move on to the next town.

They are warned,

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

This will not be a picnic. It could be dangerous. Evidently they are going to places where the word had not been planted. (It brings to mind trying to preach at liberal college campuses.) Shrewd, but innocent, a hefty task.

Once again, we see how these followers are going to have to learn dependence on the Lord to have wisdom and discernment. It means leaning rather than worrying. It means putting concerns at the feet of the Master instead of trying to bundle them up in your arms dragging them around with that heavy load.

We all have our heavy loads at times. Huffing and puffing under the weight of it. Worrying about it when we go to bed. Thinking about it again when we wake up. Lugging it around through the day.

On a personal note, we have decided to move my 95 year-old mother to different memory facility. I have to confess that I’m still carrying that load of worry. Will she adjust? Will the helpers treat her with love and respect? Did we make the right decision?

I must follow Paul’s advice to—

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is… Romans 12:2

It is a struggle to pray for wisdom and discernment, follow through, then test and approve his will. Hefty tasks indeed.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Go Out Two by Two

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Have you ever thought about how the twelve disciples might have reacted when Jesus said he was sending them out two by two? Evidently Jesus decided the time had come for his men to put into practice what they had learned from him.

They had watched Him heal, teach, preach, and interact with the people. They heard his illustrations (parables) to fit with many situations—sheep examples when shepherds were in the crowd; potter illustrations, rich men/poor men stories, or parables about lost things.

Now Jesus wanted his disciples to put their observations into action. Not only that, He said,

Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew 10:5-6

In other words, start where you are, begin with your own people, the ones you can best understand. In good time, the disciples will be told to go to the ends of the earth, but for now, going to their fellow Jews would be a good starting point.

What’s the message?

               

As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 10:7

The disciples had been with Jesus for sometime now. They realized that being with Him was like being near God’s own heaven because He was the Son of the Father. They must mimic the Son and tell people in the towns about Him.

He empowered them to do things only He had been able to do.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Whoa, that’s a tall order! Up to this time we have no mention of the disciples doing any kind of healing. Not only that…

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no extra bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. Matthew 10:9-10

In other words, “Learn dependence!”

This hits close to home for me. I’m feeling the need to move my mother to a different memory care facility. She’s been very unhappy were she is, but to make a move at 95 is traumatic and takes a lot out of a person with dementia. On the other hand, I want her to be content. Do I move her or not?

I have had to be very diligent in prayer this week, seeking  the Lord’s leadership. To put it bluntly—trusting. Learning yet again to be dependent on Him. I have had to call up one of my life verses.

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

Learning dependence on the Lord became an essential life lesson  for the disciples. We’ll follow them again next week and see how it goes.

~ 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 ~

Worn-Out Lady

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you ever feel worn to a frazzle? Coming and going with way too much activity. Or responsibilities reaching mountainous heights?

I think back to when I was younger. I would grab my little girl by the hand and hoist my eighteen-month old on my hip and out the door we’d go to some activity at church.

I taught the youth on Sunday night and directed the children’s choir on Wednesday night, while supporting my Minister of Music husband in a myriad of other activities. Of course, there’s groceries, meals, cleaning, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’re into raising older children, working outside the home, plus community, church and home responsibilities.

Or you may be where I am now—old! Dealing with health issues for myself and for an aging mother and still, after all these years, trying to reduce added activities—all worthy—but asking, Lord, what’s the ones YOU want me to do?

Maybe you’re caring for a loved one and having caregiver fatigue.

This week, our unnamed woman, is probably a young. I’m guessing 24-ish. She’s likely single and definitely suffering from the fatigue of caring for her own physical needs. Her disease causes non-stop bleeding.

One week a month is do-able, but ongoing for years is quite another thing. Even worse is the fact that she would be considered religiously unclean. According to the Mosaic law, others could not lie on a bed where she has been or sit where she sat or touch anything she has touched. She is unclean. Almost like a leper!

She’s spent what money she has on seeing many doctors through the years, but instead of improving, she’s getting worse.

Without a name, we call her “the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Let’s name her Martha. Martha means lady. This woman was more “lady” than she wanted to be.

…[she] had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Mark 5:25

Therefore, no one wanted to be around her. It seems she’s been abandoned by her own family. Perhaps the only reason she can manage to move through this crowd is because they don’t know her.

She’s obviously heard of Jesus and the miraculous way he has healed many people. “Martha” figures…

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:28

Jesus can heal us in many ways. It may not be a bleeding disease, but if we suffer from fatigue of any kind, we can seek our Lord’s healing power. We must pursue Him with diligence as Martha did. Reaching out, seeking His will, touching His presence. May it be so for us all.

Next week—the results.

~ Joyce ~

Who Was Jochebed?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

This month, let’s explore lessons from lesser-known women in the Bible.

Today’s star lived in the latter years of Egyptian slavery. She and her husband had a son named Aaron. They came from the priestly line of the Levites.

Years before, all was well in the land of Goshen where their people lived. The Hebrews enjoyed the prestige of being a part of the family of Joseph who was second only to the Pharaoh.

Now, over three centuries later, Joseph was long forgotten. The Hebrews were way too prolific at having babies to suit the current Pharaoh, and he feared they would grow too numerous to control. He decreed that all new-born baby boys be thrown into the Nile River.

Enter our star player today…

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. Exodus 2:1-2

That alone puts her at the top of my list of innovative women. Keeping a new-born quiet for three months requires amazing ingenuity!

The thought struck me that she likely had to keep his presence quiet even from the neighbors. After all, if the soldiers came and threw my baby into the Nile, what right does she have to be keep her baby?

Whatever ideas this mother managed to devise,  she was running out of tricks so her last-ditch effort was to make a little boat for him to float in the Nile among the bull rushes where he might be somewhat protected. 

Gleaning from the expert boat maker, Noah, she made her basket. (Side note—Noah’s ark and this basket are the only two times this construction is mentioned in the Bible.)

But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed him in it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Exodus 2:3-4

Every mother can empathize with this mother. How hard it is to let your child go; find his own way, make his mistakes, learn from them. But in this case, just a baby?

What was running through her mind? I’ll put him there in the daytime and bring him in at night. Or, did she know the area where the princess usually bathed? Could she ever have imagined that the princess would find him and claim him for her own? 

Whatever her thoughts, she decided that anything was better than to be drowned in the Nile. Reaching out in faith, she followed the Pharaoh’s decree, but instead of throwing him in, she snuggled him in a Hebrew blanket inside a waterproof basket. 

Next week, we’ll discover what happened to the baby and his ingenious mother named Jochebed. 

~ 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 ~