Joshua – Be Strong and Courageous

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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 ~

 

 

The Twelve Disciples

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Perhaps when you were young, you learned the little tune that named the twelve disciples. If not, or if you’ve forgotten it, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a list, pretty much in the same order. 

Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; Simon the zealot and Judas Iscariot. Matthew 10:2-4

By far, the one we hear about most is Simon whom Jesus later names Peter. I’ve already written several blogs about this very dynamic character who tops the list. While he doesn’t always show himself to be the “rock,” he certainly is a work in progress. 

When Jesus walked on the water, Peter said,

“Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28 

Rather adventurous, right?

Then there was the time when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter speaks for the group,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 

Well done, Peter! The very basis of our faith! Or as Jesus said,

“…on this rock I will build my church…” Matthew 16:18 

But then, Jesus began to explain to them that he must suffer many things at the hands of the Jerusalem leaders, be killed, and on the third day be raised again. 

Peter pops back with,

“Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Matthew 16:22

His audacious boldness has gone too far. Jesus smacks back with,

“Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23

       

Six days later, Jesus takes the inner circle of Peter, James and John up the mountain where he is transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appear as well. Not knowing what to say in these truly awe inspiring moments, Peter feels compelled to say something—anything.

“Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4

God Himself intervenes through a cloud of bright light.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him! Matthew 17:5

In a study about gifts, I learned a powerful lesson; when taken to the extreme, our gifts can become a negative. 

We hear the voice of this bold disciple other times as well, but through the questions he asks and the denials he makes, this pebble of a man becomes the rock Jesus destined him to be.

Eventually, Peter is a faithful leader and the preacher who brought thousands to the Lord.

Whether we’re quiet or bold in personality, may we, like Peter, learn and grow through the rough edges of life to be what God has called us to be.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

David, on the Run!

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 Seeking His Heart

When someone throws a spear at you while you’re quietly playing the harp for him, you know it’s time to run. (See, Watch Out, David!)

Saul decides to send men to David’s house to watch and then kill him the next morning. Saul’s daughter, Michal, who is also David’s wife, finds out about the plan. She warns David,

“If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” I Samuel 19:11

Micah lets David down through the window and off he goes to begin a lengthy time of escape.

David runs to Samuel, the prophet, who first anointed him to be the next king, but David is far away from being king. When Saul discovers David’s whereabouts, he sends men to pursue him.

David finds Jonathan, Saul’s son. They have become friends, but Jonathan can’t believe his father would be so cruel as to pursue David. Later, when Saul throws a spear at Jonathan, he realizes his father has gone mad. He continues to pledge friendship to David.

David escapes to a priest at Nod and receives bread and the spear that belonged to Goliath. He flees to Gath, but becomes suspect of the the king there, so off to the cave of Adullam. David’s prayer is found in Psalm 142 where he pleads with God for help.

“I cry to you Lord; you are my refuge.” Psalm 142:5

He is able to gather a motley crew of men around him.

All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader, about four hundred men. I Samuel 22:2

The prophet Gad tells David to go back to Judah, so David flees to the forest of Hereth.

Meanwhile, Saul discovers that David has been to the priest at Nod and sends for the priest. All eighty-five priests come and are chastised for rebelling against Saul. They defend David which sends Saul into a tailspin.  He demands that his men kill all the priests. When they refuse, Saul commands Doeg the Edomite to do the dirty work plus kill the whole town of Nod.

One son of a priest escapes and tells David what has happened. David promises protection. Meanwhile, he discovers that the Philistines are about to overtake the town of Keilah. He inquires of the Lord if he should go into battle for them and receives word to go.

As you can see, David is on the run, but he continues to show signs of leadership. He is resourceful and discerning; he attracts an army of men, continues to defend his people, and seeks God’s strength and purpose in his life.

There’s more running to do, but let’s think about our own running. Maybe not from an enemy, but we often do a lot of running here and there, accomplishing tasks, pleasing people, keeping schedules, tending to messes and on and on.

What lessons can we learn as we go? Lessons of resourcefulness and discernment? Opportunities to seek God’s guidance and further purposes in our lives?

Grow us, Lord—even when we’re on the run.

~ Joyce ~

Sowing Seeds

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I’ve had sowing seeds on my mind since the blog two week’s ago when Jesus talked of sowing and reaping. (4 – A Teachable Moment.)

I ran into an old friend at a funeral home the other day. He asked me about my writing and my books which then prompted him to tell me about a writers’ group he had started. He wondered if I could speak to his group sometime.

He shared something of the nature of the group and their goals. I told him I’d be glad to speak to the group.

He said one reason for starting this group was to find people who would have a common interest and enjoy being together. But the underlying goal was to develop enough trust in the members that he could begin sharing his faith. I thought, “Wow!”

Then he said he had another group of men who like to fish and he had formed a fishing group of sorts—with the same goal in mind—to sow seeds and reap believers. Double Wow!

Then this week, we were at a 50th wedding celebration and sat with a bubbly woman we knew and her quiet husband. She mentioned, in passing, that he had had two heart attacks. When she had to leave for a phone call, I tried to engage this quiet man in conversation.

I asked how his health was now and he said he was back to playing senior men’s baseball since his surgery five years ago.

That opened up a flow of stories from this quiet retired preacher. He’s in two or three leagues that play several times a week. Many don’t know the Lord. He feels like this is his new ministry in retirement. He plays with them, gets to know them, and they trust him. This leads the way for witnessing opportunities and several have come to the Lord through this man’s care.

These are unique ways of engaging people in things they love and sharing the love of God with them. It occurred to me that, while starting these marvelous ministry groups is wonderful, some people can’t add one more thing to their plate. But wouldn’t it be great to have that same ministry outlook with the groups of people in which we’re already engaged?

As Jesus told the disciples in our thoughts about sowing and reaping…

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

As we have just celebrated Easter, what pleasing goals these would be to the Christ of the cross who paid it all for us.

~ Joyce ~

Worn-Out Lady

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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 ~

Points of View – Healing the Paralytic

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A family attends a wedding. The teenage daughter sees a fairy tale wedding with a handsome groom and beautiful bride in a Cinderella gown. The middle school brother eyes the snacks and cake. The mother notices all the special touches and the well organized work in putting it all together.

The dad wonders, “How much did all this cost?”

We all have our points of view about things—this includes the synoptic Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

For instance, let’s look at the healing of the paralytic man. The man can’t walk, so four friends carry him to Jesus for healing. The problem is they can’t get in the crowded house where Jesus is teaching. The friends are so determined that they carry his pallet up the side steps to the roof and let him down through the roof right to Jesus. 

Jesus notices the faith of the friends to go to all this trouble and says,

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Listen to the thoughts of the teachers of the law as they watch this startling scene unfold.

“Why does he [Jesus] talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 5:7

Knowing these thoughts, Jesus says, 

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘You sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that  you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” Mark 2:8-12

When the paralytic does exactly that, the crowd is totally amazed, and we hear no further comment from the teachers of the law. 

Now here’s the point of view from each of the writers: Mark is from Galilee where this event takes place. Flat roofs are made with mats of branches spread across wood crossbeams. On top of the mats is a thick layer of clay packed down with a stone roller. Hence,

…they made an opening above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat… Mark 2:4 

Luke, on the other hand, is from Greek territory and is primarily writing to Gentiles. Their roofs are generally made of tiles. In order to make sense to his readers, Luke describes the scene this way;

…they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd… Luke 5:19

As for Matthew, the lowering of the mat from the roof was not of particular interest to him. He is more concerned with the other parts of the story, so he doesn’t even mention the roof!

This is one of many incidents where it is helpful for us to read each account because we might learn fresh perspectives from each one. I will relate a few more in coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.

~ Joyce ~

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

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  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

 

  

Spartan Race

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

My crazy kids (son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons) entered the Spartan Race at Fort Knox last weekend. This kind of race, held in several locations across the country and in other countries, is more than a running race; it involves a number of obstacles.

True enough, the one who gets to the best time is the winner, but it is more a test of endurance and strength. Just to make it to the end is a massive achievement. Thus, those who manage to cross the fire at the end receive a heavy medal piece to hang around their necks.

Historically speaking, the Spartans were an elite group of Greek fighting soldiers from Sparta who were renown for their prowess and ability to fight off large numbers of enemies – the real “he-men” of old.

The obstacles along the way in this race might include climbing a wire-type wall, scooting up a heavy rope and back down, swinging on movable monkey bars of sorts, carrying a heavy ball a distance (30 pounds for women, 50 pounds for men), or crawling under a barbed-wire fence. Well, you get the idea. I’m already worn out just thinking about it!

Combine this with the fact that the temperature last Friday was nearing 97 degrees with a heat index well over 100. Can you say perseverance? It reminds me of the words of the writer of Hebrews;

… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Of course you are beginning to see the comparisons to our own lives. Sometimes we feel like we’re in a race of endurance.

A young mother feels overloaded keeping her household duties going with her children, meals, school preparations, while working at a demanding job. A husband has a demeaning boss who expects the impossible and then he goes home to rebellious teenagers. A wife spends hours taking her husband back and forth for medical treatments, wondering all the while how much longer he will have to live. A daughter deals with the endless tasks of dealing with an aging parent. Parents are at their wits end with what to do about their drug-addicted son.

If you can’t complete an obstacle in the Spartan Race, you have to do 30 “Burpees” (a series of arms up, squat, push feet back, do a push-up, squat, stand.) 

Periods of our lives may feel like this at times. Obstacles beyond what we can bear followed by something equally challenging.

Once again the Hebrew writer gives us advice;

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2

When we are overwhelmed with the troubles of life, may we hear Jesus words;

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Did my kids make it over the finish line? Stay tuned next week!

~ Joyce ~

    

50th Wedding Anniversary

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A personal narrative this week. This Saturday will mark fifty years of marriage for my husband and me. I always thought that just happened to old people! But here we are at this special milestone.

They say opposites attract, but that can cause some problems. In our case, we had many similarities—both coming from Christian families, believers ourselves, both music majors, outgoing, organized—perfectly compatible, right? Well, simalarities can cause problems, too.

While Jim worked on his Masters in Church Music at the seminary, I taught music in elementary school. We moved on to serve in music ministry at a church in Somerset, KY where I served as Children’s Choir Coordinator and he as the Minister of Music.

As long as we remained in our own boxes (he with the overall music program and me with children), everything went smoothly, but there were times I had ideas that reached into his domain or he dictated things in my domain. The protection of turf began.

At first we offered subtle suggestions. When one didn’t embrace the suggestion, the other became defensive. As we looked back after a few years, we realized that we were getting in each other’s box. As children came along, the territory lines continued. 

How easy it is to fall into destructive habits; finding faults, being critical, etc.

Every couple has their “thing.” We became aware of our challenge and worked to correct it, hoping to follow Paul’s encouragement.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. I Corinthians 13:4-5

Ouch, that last one gets too close to home. I rather imagine keeping records, whether on paper or in minds, is a sticking point in many marriages.

We tend to number the offensives without putting enough love deposits in each other’s love bank to compensate. I remember the shame I felt when I started to practice holding my tongue in certain settings. After about the fifth time, I realized how critical I had become. Words that hurt or demean were just about to roll out automatically. It does indeed take patience and kindness to retrain ourselves. 

Over the years, we have worked very hard on our marriage, because any relationship requires careful, continual balance. I often write a note on wedding cards encouraging the new couple to give heed to communication and to work toward caring for their spouse’s needs more than their own needs. Finally, I urge them to plan on simply working hard on their marriage.

Paul also declared that;

[Love] always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:7

I used to wonder when we would ever get to that place where I saw older couples who seemed settled and more in love than ever. I believe we’re there.

God has guided us through many challenges. Challenges will still come, but I can say that I love and enjoy Jim Cordell with all my heart and look forward to many more years to call him my husband.

~ Joyce ~

David – Persistence, Patience, Hope

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

 

So what does one do when one is waiting for a replaced knee to heal? Exercise, rest, prop up with ice packs, eat, sleep, pile up ice packs, exercise, take pain pills—did I mention ice packs? Then, of course, spend time in the last thirteen chapters of I Samuel with David on the run from Saul.

Doesn’t everybody do that?

In my ample time for pondering, I’ve wondered if David might have thought about the time when Samuel came to anoint him as the next king of Israel. It was a a quiet little ceremony with family and a few friends. Did it seem like a far away dream to David now?

Here he was—conqueror of the Philistine giant, a leading soldier in Saul’s army, slayer of ten thousands, talented harpist in the kingdom, faithful follower. Why then, why did Saul pursue him? That’s his constant question for Saul.

In last week’s blog, David could certainly have taken Saul’s life, but he didn’t. Another time, David slipped into Saul’s nighttime camp and could have easily killed Saul with the king’s own spear, but once again, David spared Saul’s life. When Saul realized that it was David’s voice he heard across the valley and that David had proof (Saul’s own spear) that he had been within inches of Saul’s head, Saul called out with a sugar-dipped voice,

“Is that your voice, David my son?” I Samuel 26:17, 18

Saul realizes that once again David could have killed him. Somehow David continues to honor the position of the anointed one. David has more honor than the king himself. Saul appears convicted, but David doesn’t buy it. 

David must ask the questions we we all do at times. How did it come to this? What have I done to deserve this? Where are those wonderful dreams of what could be, what should be? Pity-party time.

Yet David perseveres in the midst of it all. He has not forgotten that he is a son of Israel, a child of the one-God. He has gathered together a small band of 600 soldiers, mostly riffraff like himself who have ended up in a runaway status for one reason or another. David manages to find refuge with a Philistine official, persuading the official that he is trustworthy. David and his men are given the land of Ziglag. 

When trouble brews with his own men, he still endures the challenge with patience and verses like these are tucked in the narrative every now and then.

But David found strength in the Lord his God. I Samuel 30:6

David didn’t live to hear Paul speak the following words, but David lived these words.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

I’m learning with David that great victories don’t come quickly. Hope comes in baby steps. I struggle to lift a foot or the leg even an inch in exercises. It seems I get nowhere and one day, I can move two inches. Then after hundreds of attempts that knee pops right up where it should be. Victory in struggle! 

How many times must we learn these lessons? As many times as it takes!

~ Joyce ~