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 When it becomes tiresome or out of date, one can take it down, put it in a memory box, give it away, or throw it away.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

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 ~

 

 

Male/Female Parables

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

In a day when men so dominated, Jesus spoke to them but also acknowledged the needs and thoughts of women. Let’s consider some of his parables.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were picking at Jesus with many complaints. 

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2

This was a left-over complaint from the time Jesus had eaten at Matthew’s house with Matthew’s “sinner” friends. The idea of witnessing to the lost did not seem to be a concern for these law-abiding, self-satisfied leaders.

Jesus told them a parable.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? . . . he says, ‘rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep’. . . in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons. Luke 15:3-7

Immediately after that illustration, Jesus taught with another parable. This time he addressed the women in the crowd. Imagine how their ears must have perked up.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and looses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully for it? When she finds it, she says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is rejoicing of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10

On another occasion, some were complaining that while John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples often fasted and prayed, Jesus’ disciples did not fast. Jesus said,

“Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them; in those days, they will fast.” Luke 5:34-35

In other words, no need to put the old ways on the new thing that God is doing through his Son. Think of it this way,

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins.” Luke 5:37-39

The men were aware that new wine must ferment which makes the skins expand. If you put new wine in old skins that have already expanded, the wine will burst open the old skins. New wine, new skins, new ways.

And for the women in the crowd, Jesus gave another parable.

“No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one.” Luke 5:36

The women knew that the old cloth would easily rip away and certainly wouldn’t match! No, Jesus had come to bring new thoughts, new ways of looking at things, deeper concepts, loving hearts, and they were not to be cluttered with old dictatorial thinking. 

Once again, he spoke to all, acknowledging even the thoughts and concerns of women—elevating them from a place of shame to a place of honor.

And he continues to reach out to us all, male or female, rich or poor, timid or social, plain or beautiful. He brings honor to our servant hearts.

~ Joyce ~

Interruptions

Perhaps you’ve read the humorous tales of the housewife who sits down to write a few bills when the phone rings. She goes to another room to look up an address for the caller. On her way back, she remembers that she forgot to take her medicine that morning. She goes to the kitchen, takes the medicine, and sees the breakfast dishes in the sink.

“Might as well put these in the dish washer while I’m here,” she says to herself, but the dryer buzzer goes off. “Oh, I need to get the clothes out before they wrinkle.” Off to the laundry room. And so it goes. The bills don’t get paid and the dishes are still in the sink, etc. etc.

Ever have days like that? Well, Jesus did too, except he got everything accomplished in spite of the interruptions. Think back on the events we have covered. He teaches in the synagogue amazing the people with his teaching. A man with unclean spirits interrupts the service and Jesus heals the man.

Jesus goes to Simon and Andrew’s house to eat lunch, but they are interrupted when they find Simon’s mother-in-law ill. Jesus heals her. News spreads about the morning healing and at sundown, Jesus rest is interrupted by a constant stream of people at the door to be healed.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, 33 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. – Mark 1:32-33

Notice that they brought all the sick. Capernaum would not be as large as Jerusalem or as small as Nazareth. It had a synagogue and was on a trade route so it would be of moderate size. We don’t know how many “all” is, but likely it took him well into the night to finish this extensive healing ministry.

While he was drained physically, he was also drained spiritually. The next morning, very early, he felt the need of a private time of prayer.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

I am always amazed by the fact that, though he was divine, Jesus was also human and had the need to pray, to draw strength from the Father, to seek direction, and to clarify the calling. I am convicted that, if he needed these times of solitude, then certainly I need them as well to overcome the distractions and interruptions in my life. I, too, need to draw strength, to seek direction, and clarify my calling.

Well, here comes the next interruption––even his prayer time is interrupted! Simon and the crew can’t believe he isn’t right there and available the next morning.

36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed; “Everyone is looking for you!” – Mark 1:36-37

Undaunted, patient as can be, Jesus has had enough prayer time to be re-energized and ready to move on with his calling.

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else––to the nearby villages––so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. – Mark 1:38-39

Even in the midst of his interruptions, the calling was clear––stay the course. Preach! Our callings may take a different form, but we can take lessons from our Master. Overcome interruptions, stay the course, and pray for clarity and stick-to-it-tive-ism.

~ Joyce ~

The Word Was Out

The word was out for sure. After Jesus amazed the Capernaum worshippers in the synagogue with His amazing teaching and the healing of the man with evil spirits, the word spread like wildfire.

28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. – Mark 1:28

Not to be abrupt, but it was lunch time; time for the Sabbath meal. Since Simon and Andrew lived in Capernaum, Jesus and the disciples went to Simon’s house. But there was a problem.

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the house of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. – Mark 1:29-31

Hmm. Far be it from me to make light of the fact that they couldn’t wait on themselves. To their credit, we will assume that their care of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was greater than their empty stomachs. Once Jesus healed her, she went immediately to her duties.

As a side note, I find it interesting that this happened frequently after Jesus healed someone. He would tell them to do something, usually something that they were accustomed to doing, something rather ordinary. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. But I digress…

The rest of the afternoon would have been set aside for rest. Remember, it was the Sabbath.

Meanwhile, those who were at synagogue that morning were walking (as far as one was allowed to walk on Sabbath) to spread the word of what happened that morning. Many began making plans on how they would get their sick loved ones to Jesus as soon as Sabbath was officially over at sundown.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. – Mark 1:32-34

No more rest for Jesus. He patiently cared for each one who came. And again he drove out demons, but note that He “would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Perhaps Jesus wanted to show the people by word and deed the kind of Messiah he was because they had a distorted view of what the Messiah would be. He was not ready yet to totally reveal himself.

We have no idea how many people came to Simon Peter’s door that evening to be healed. Possibly this went on into the late night.

I can only imagine that after all the spiritual energy needed for continual healing, Jesus earthly body was most likely spent. He closed his eyes after an exhausting day.

We’ve had those days––doing good things all day but completely spent by day’s end. How wonderful to lay your body down and welcome sweet rest.

Next week, we’ll think about “interruptions.”

~ Joyce ~

What About Demons?

Last week Jesus was amazing the worshippers with his teaching when a man with evil spirits interrupted the service. Before we leave that dramatic scene in Mark 1:23-27, let’s explore this rather curious subject of demons or evil spirits or unclean spirits.

When I was a child, I had a child-mind picture of this passage and other passages about demon possession. I could see the victim writhing on the ground and when Jesus gave the word, little red creatures with pointed ears and long tails would come running out of the man’s mouth.

I have come to realize that though they are invisible and do not take on earthly form, demons or evil spirits have great strength to bring a man down and inhabit him, to bind him with physical defects, insanity, and self-destruction. Demons have knowledge and speak through the voice of the one they inhabit.

Scripture is replete with examples of evil spirits just as we have examples of God’s Holy Spirit overcoming evil. If we are to believe that God has a host of heavenly angels to bring protection and messages of hope, we must also realize that Satan has his host of fallen angels to perpetuate evil.

This plays out today when a husband beats or abuses his wife out of fits of anger or a teenager succumbs to the habit of drugs in a desperate effort to numb the pain of depression. Or we see it when Satan persuades men that they are following the commands of their “god” to do away with all infidels. Thus we witness mass slayings, beheadings and the like.

Paul reminds us to;

10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark word and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:10-12

Paul goes on to urge us to “put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand.” The armor includes truth not lies, righteousness not evil, the gospel of peace not hatred, salvation not destruction, and the word of God not the word of the world.

In the midst of the armor parts is one more – “the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

Faith. Our faith comes out of our belief in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. One time Jesus was asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” No doubt the people thought he would say something like, “Do good deeds, be nice to people, pay your bills, etc.” but;

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this; to believe in the one he has sent.” – John 6:29

It doesn’t start with doing, but believing. Jesus told Nicodemus;

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

We are not to just know about him, as the evil spirits did, but believe in Him, trust Him with our hearts, our minds, and our will. Heavy stuff today, but good stuff, everlasting stuff.

Well, those synagogue-goers had quite a lot to digest that Sabbath morning–– great teaching and a living example of God’s power through his Son.

Next week we will see that Jesus’ day was far from over. He was just beginning.

~ Joyce ~

Where Did That Come From?

Last week, we left Jesus in the synagogue amazing the crowd with his teaching. Right in the middle of this wonderful teaching session, we hear a loud outburst. Every eye darts to the intruder, the one who has interrupted their amazing worship. “Oh, it’s that man, the one who is so evil. What’s he doing in here?” one says to his neighbor.

23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “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.” – Mark 1:23-24

A collective gasp fills the room. Mothers clutch their young children in an effort to protect them from the sense of evil. Men duck their heads to shun the man. Others glare at the intruder with furrowed brows.

Everyone knows about Encoptos (my name for him.) He is drunk most of the time, lying beside the road. Other times he roams through the marketplace, grabbing an apple or a handful of figs, and then running into a clump of trees to hide. Mothers warn their children, “Never go near Encoptos; he is dangerous.”

“Did you hear what he said?” one worshipper whispers to another. “He said, ‘What do you want with us? Have you come to destroy us?’ Are there many evil spirits in him?”

Another says, “How does he know Jesus? Encoptos calls Jesus the Holy One of God. This is all so strange.”

The noise level increases as the people mutter and their whispers become audible. Encoptos moans and wails. What will Jesus do?

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. – Mark 1:25-26

For a moment the worshippers stand speechless, stunned. It was so surreal. They watch breathlessly as Encoptos sits up and gazes at the floor. Gradually he surveys his surroundings as though he is unsure of where he is or what has happened. His eyes search for Jesus.

Jesus reaches out to help the man stand to his feet. Encoptos rises and then bows his forehead to their clutched hands. He raises his eyes to Jesus as gratitude fills his face. Slowly, he walks backward with his eyes fixed on Jesus. As he reaches the door of the synagogue, he turns and walks away.

The people turn to each other in spontaneous whispers.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching––and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:27

And so, Jesus’ ministry has begun.

28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. – Mark 1:28

How do we process this scene? I’d say, much like the people did. How many times do those of us who are believers stand amazed with the deep truths we glean in the Word? Perhaps He has taught you or someone you know, through a challenging life experience. He is still the great teacher. He is still transforming lives as he takes sinful men and brings them out of the torment of the evil one and draws them into the power of His grace. Amen and amen.

~ Joyce ~

He Taught With Authority

Last week, we saw Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. The people came to check out this new teacher and found him to be amazing!

21 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught  them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21

What does it mean that “he taught them as one who had authority, not as one of the teachers of the law?”

When guest teachers came, especially “teachers of the law,” they usually spouted off several rules and emphasized how the people could and should observe and obey them. These rules were not necessarily commandments of God, but man-made additions to the commandments.

Let’s look at this scene through the eyes of one of those in the crowd – a fisherman, for instance. We’ll call him Ezra.

Ezra typically fishes all night in the Sea of Galilee. The next morning, he comes ashore to count the fish and sort them––putting clean fish in one pile and unclean fish in the other pile. He mends his nets and sets them out to dry. After sleeping a good part of the day, he once again goes out to fish that night. Some days he may take his fish down the shore to particular markets. Life is pretty much all-things-fish.

But on Sabbath, even fishermen refrain from their work. On this Sabbath, Ezra makes his way to the synagogue along with others. He lingers toward the back of the synagogue knowing that he and his fishy-smelling cloak are not always welcome.

The Scripture has been read and the local rabbi says the prayers. Now Jesus begins his teaching. The new teacher doesn’t drone on and on like the other rabbis do. Ezra leans in to hear more. This teaching engages his mind. It penetrates his heart. He understands the illustrations about fishing.

Jesus doesn’t quote other rabbis in long drawn out verbiage that puts one to sleep, nor does he impose heavy burdens on his listeners. No, this teaching comes through with clarity and authority as though it is coming from God Himself.

For us, it is akin to those times when the Lord uses a great speaker to draw us in and touch a needy spot in our lives that yearns for clarification or healing. It is like those moments when we have quiet meditative prayer and the Lord brings amazing thoughts or leads us to just the right Scripture for the day.

As for Ezra, he feels a sense of comfort and security in this teaching, an assurance that this teacher knows what he is saying, and a hope that he can be trusted. It makes it worth coming to the synagogue that day.

But wait until next week when we find out what happens next in this highly-charged Sabbath meeting.

~ Joyce ~

Walking Through the Word

Exploring the rest of the story.

Welcome to our walk. In the next months, we will explore what might be the rest of the story for various Bible characters as we “Seek the Word and Search His Heart.”

We won’t drive through or even cycle through; we will walk through the Scriptures pausing to look not just at the main characters, but also the characters with bit parts. We’ll ask questions, like, “What is your back story? What have you suffered? What brought you into this moment?”

We may see ourselves as we shuffle along––see our pride, our impatience, our victories, or our pain. Let’s decide now to see with new eyes, to catch unheard words, to feel the angst or the mounting anticipation of these characters who were real people, not just fictional characters in a fairytale.

We will take a look at many people including Jesus himself. In fact, let’s start with the early ministry of Jesus in Mark 1:21.

21 They [Jesus and his first few disciples] went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. – Mark 1:22

The synagogues in Jesus’ day were used for worship and Torah readings, but mainly for teaching. Synagogue leaders often invited guest teachers to participate in the services. Teaching was Jesus’ specialty. But He was not just your run-of-the-mill teacher.

22 The people were amazed at his teaching. – Mark 1:22

Oh, don’t you wish people would say that about you?  “He’s an amazing preacher.” “She’s an amazing Sunday School teacher.” “What amazing parents. Look how they find teaching opportunities in every day things.”

What captivated the people so? Was it his parables, his stories, his illustrations? Indeed, he often used appropriate illustrations that they would understand––fishing stories by the seashore, shepherd illustrations on the hillside, and farming parables in small towns. Perhaps he used one of these stories in his lesson that day.

As he taught, no doubt He demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit––love, joy, peace, kindness, etc. All these attributes would have been endearing, but why were they amazed at his teaching?

because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:22b

Next week, we’ll explore one who was in the synagogue that day.

~Joyce ~