Prayer Interruptions

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Do you find that sometimes your prayer time is interrupted? You determine that you’re going to read your devotional material and then spend time in prayer. But your phone rings or you see the light flicker on your cell phone and you glance at the message and before you know it you’re also checking emails or texts. You wasted away the time you had set aside.

Jesus had a prayer interruption, but it wasn’t his negligence that caused it. It was his own disciples!

You remember last week, (“Ministry Interruptions“) we saw Jesus teaching in the synagogue on Sabbath morning. The people welcomed his amazing teaching and were overwhelmed when they witnessed the healing of a demon-possessed man right in their midst.

He ended up healing people who were brought to him all evening. While Jesus was God, God’s son, he was also human. The strain of one healing would take a lot out of him, but to do continual healings would leave him exhausted.

Jesus often pulled away from people to be renewed by his Heavenly Father. In order to have time alone in prayer, he felt he must rise early the next morning to do that very thing.

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

Did you catch that? A solitary place. He could have prayed silently in his bed, and may have done that from time to time, but he felt the need to go off by himself where he could pray out loud in solitude to the Father.

Let’s pause here to talk about prayer habits. My self-determined time to pray is in the morning after my Bible reading/devotional book. I’m  afraid sometimes that prayer time is short. I think of my list of things to be done for the day.

I use a neck stretching thing called a “neck hammock.” It takes fifteen minutes, so I decided to pray during that time.

I also designate driving to an appointment or an activity as another time to pray. I find some of my best times is when I pray out loud. It helps me stay focused. Another time I use is during the ten-minute workout on the recumbent bike at the “Y”. 

While these are okay, the most effective prayer time I have is when I’m not doing double duty with something else. I think that’s where Jesus was that early morning. Though he was tired, he knew where his great strength could be found. I always ponder the fact that, if Jesus needed that time, I certainly do too.

Oh, but here come his well-meaning disciples. They’re looking all over for him, not realizing their interruption of course.

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

That’s why he went early! 

Let’s focus on our prayer time this week. I’d love to hear your experiences.

~ Joyce ~

 

Ministry Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

It’s Monday. I need to call a member in our Bible Study class to get an update on her recent problems. Today is my monthly appointment with the chiropractor and then off to the “Y” for water aerobics. Gotta keep that arthritis in check. 

My publisher wants a list of the corrections so I need to finish reading the manuscript and make my list. Then there’s the weekly blog to finish and this is my week to teach the Bible lesson at church, not to mention that company is coming and I have to clean the house. 

Do you ever have weeks like that when it seems like one thing interrupts another? Even ministry opportunities are interrupted?

We are in Capernaum this week with Jesus. He is ready to start his ministry and he begins inviting some fishermen to join him.

Jesus interrupts Simon Peter and Andrew when they shove back to shore after a no-show fish night. He tells them to throw their nets back out. Amazingly, they catch a boat load of fish. Simon is humbled and falls at Jesus’ feet in submission. Later, James and John give up their fishing as well to become fishers of men.

Jesus’ ministry has begun. One Sabbath day, Jesus goes to the synagogue and interrupts the humdrum, church-going people’s lives with “amazing” teaching, but then, Jesus is interrupted when a demon-possessed man suddenly cries out,

“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 1:24

Jesus gives an immediate stern response to this interruption.

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

The people are not only amazed with his teaching, but also his authority. The ministry opportunities don’t end there. Jesus goes with James, John, and Andrew to Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. (If you watch this scene on “The Chosen,” it is a stirring and slightly humorous scene, given the mother-in-law’s temperament.)

This has already been a busy day for Jesus, but it doesn’t end there. Word spreads fast throughout the town.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon possessed. Mark 1:12

Into the night Jesus heals.

And my friends, God’s Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives and in our hearts and minds as well, to transform us, to heal our brokenness, and to give us strength for the next ministry task. Most importantly, he gives us joy in doing it! Especially when we minister with hope.

Sometimes ministry opportunities come in waves along with other duties. Help us Lord to remember Jesus’ forbearance even with all the interruptions he endured.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:11-12 

~ Joyce ~

Eastertide – Spirits Renewed

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Last week, (“Eastertide – Minds Opened“) we saw how Jesus proved  to the disciples that he had risen by appearing directly to them.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45

Later, the disciples go back to Galilee, but still seem a bit lost as to what they are to do. Fisherman blood runs through Peter’s veins. So he says,

“I’m going out to fish.” [Six others also said,] “We’ll go with you.” John 21:3

(Isn’t that like us? We have mountain top experiences; we have miraculous answers to prayer. The Lord leads us in understanding a new concept. But after a while, we’re back in our same old rut.)

After a night of fishing, but no catching, the men are ready to come in. Just then, they hear someone call from the shore.

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” John 21:5-6

When they throw their nets out again, the net is so full, they can hardly haul them in. The circumstances are all too familiar to a time long ago. John says, “It is the Lord!” Peter looks to the shore, then jumps in the water and swims the hundred yards to the shore where Jesus has a fire going with a few fish, and some bread for them.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” John 21:10

(Isn’t it like him to feed us? Not necessarily with food but with sustenance for our souls. Yet he asks us to contribute as well, to do our part. “Bring some of your fish.“)

After breakfast, Jesus  takes Peter aside and asks him three times, “Do you love me?” Jesus instructs him to feed and take care of his lambs and sheep, those who will be new believers and those who are faithful followers.

This is a call to Peter to be a leader and a witness. It also allows Peter to express his love to Jesus—three times—perhaps to undo his three-time betrayal.

Some time later, the disciples  travel back to Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost. For the last time Jesus appears to the disciples. He tells them to stay in Jerusalem until they have been “clothed with power from on high.”

“. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

That word “power” in the Greek means “dynamite.”

Then, Jesus ascends into heaven before their eyes. 

Next week, we will see the results of that dynamite power!

~ Joyce ~

 

Attitudes -Trusting

    Eyes to See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It reminds me of one of my life verses.

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

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

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

Remembering that,  

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

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

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

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

~ Joyce~

Thanks in ALL Things

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

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

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

For example:

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

As David said,

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

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

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

And yet he says in verse 30, 

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

                                                                                                                                           

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, a Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

Knowing and Being Known

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I have a friend who was healed from cancer two years ago. She recently had cancer again—inoperable cancer. She has opted to receive no treatment. While making funeral plans, she decided to create a small booklet of devotions from a few of her journal entries. I asked for her permission to use one of these in my blog today.

Yada’ – A Devotional About Knowing and Being Known                                                                                                                                                                                                   “O Lord, thou has searched me, and known me.” Psalm 139:1

When I was a young person, I had a situation in which I prayed to God earnestly and fervently for what seemed forever. One day as I was again praying, I dropped my head in total exhaustion from my repeated pleas to God and his seeming indifference to my plight.

But as I hung my head, something miraculous happened. I felt a warm oily substance being poured over my entire body from head to toe. I could feel it oozing over my body and seeping into every pore, and I knew the substance was “knowing.”

At the time, I did not understand this because “knowing” is a verb not a noun—how could it be something poured? However, “knowing” is what I definitely felt had been poured over me.

Since that day, I have come to realize that the dictionary describes “knowing” as having intimate knowledge of something or someone. The Hebrew word for “know” is “yada'” and it can be translated “to know and be known.”

Looking back on that experience, I realize God was telling me I was known to Him. He had heard my prayers. That day years ago, even if I did not understand fully what was happening to me, I found an amazing peace and joy I had never before experienced.

I never had to repeat my prayer again, because I knew God had heard me and I was in His watch care. I no longer had to fret or plead. And in His time and in His inscrutable way, He eventually answered that prayer.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 139. It was recently pointed out to me that the word “know” is repeated six times in that Psalm. Perhaps, without realizing it, that is why it is my favorite Psalm. God still speaks to me through the word “know.” 

By Sandy Berry

Psalm 139 reflects that the Lord knows when I sit and when I rise, perceives my thoughts from afar, and before a word is on my tongue, He knows it completely.

The psalm reminds us that God created my inmost being, and knit me in my mother’s womb.

Then the palmist’s plea; Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. Perhaps you’d like to read the whole psalm.

A reminder: the only way we then know Him and His will, His desires for us is to be still, to seek, to listen. 

~ Joyce ~

Life Verses – Ears to Hear

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m sorry I left you hanging last week. (See “Life Verses – On Fire“) Like the two on the road to Emmaus, my heart was on fire as the Lord impressed upon me that He wanted me to write. My willing heart had to seek His heart—a long process in bringing me to the fulness of His will.

That year, I was engaged in a Bible study of Matthew with other ladies in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). As I worked through the study, I found myself thinking of the lesser known characters along the way.

I wanted to stop and imagine what might be the rest of their stories. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see them as more than just two-verse people? What were their families like? How did they relate to Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write about one of these and bring them to life?

Every now and then, I noticed that Matthew recorded this phrase from Jesus,

“He who ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

A few chapters later, there it came again.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 and 43

I stopped each time to ponder those words.

Later in our study of Matthew, we came to the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the flurry of activity with the Temple guards, religious leaders, and disciples, Peter spontaneously started swinging his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant.

I checked the other three gospels and found a few more facts about this man. Jesus healed the man’s ear. The man’s name was Malchus. 

At some point, everything came together for me. Malchus was a lesser known character. He lost his ear, but Jesus gave him back his hearing. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What happened to this servant? Malchus worked for the high priest who was determined to have Jesus crucified? How did that personal touch, that healing, affect Malchus’ decisions?

That, my friends, was how my first book gave birth. I titled it “Ears to Hear.”

It had been a long, slow process that year, but the Lord seared my mind with the idea of looking at lesser known characters in the Bible, then to apply “ears to hear” to the account of Malchus with Jesus in the garden and his miraculous healing.

It  took seven years to get from research to writing, editing, and seeking a publisher to the final finished product. Many times I cried out to the Lord, “Who am I to think I can do such a thing?” Then He would remind me that indeed I couldn’t, but He could—with my cooperation.

Another seven years later, Nicodemus’ story was published in “A Heart for Truth” which was twice as long.

Now, five years later, the story of Matthew is getting close to ready in “Eyes to See.”

I sing from a favorite hymn, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

 

Life Verses – Renewed Strength

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I’m thinking today of a time when I felt thrown into the lion’s den like Daniel or into the pit like Joseph.

Our son was in his middle school years when it began—negligence, mild rebellion, teen stuff. In high school, things escalated. Where did we go wrong? We had a loving, caring, Christian  home. How could this be happening?

We took one step forward and two steps backward—over and over.

I drew on so many verses during those turbulent years, but one verse became a stalwart lifeline for me.

. . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength . . . Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

When you feel so feeble, so lacking in what to do next, so unable to cope, what is the remedy for renewing your strength? The King James Version suggests that we have to wait, wait upon the Lord. Oh, how we hate to wait for anything in our instant society, but our verse reminds us not just to wait, but wait upon the Lord. It is then that our strength is renewed.

The New International Version (NIV) translates,

. . . but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

As you think about it, if we are waiting for something there is an element of anticipation and hope. By the same token, if we are hoping for something we don’t yet have; we have to wait.

For me, there was a sense of peace in thinking that the Lord was with me, he would sustain me and strengthen me but I must wait on Him.

The next promise is, “they will soar on wings as eagles” (NIV)

I did a little study of eagles, particularly noting that eagles roost in very high places. When they are ready to take flight, they wait patiently for an upwind, then they take flight letting the strength of the wind help them glide and soar.

It was becoming obvious to me that before I could soar, I had to do a lot of waiting—years, in fact. As I prayed in that vein, God renewed my strength. Let’s look at a fuller view of the passage.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, young men stumble and fall; BUT those who [wait and] hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar of wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

 We’re not talking about glibly hoping or laying around waiting, but hoping in the Lord. That means much time in prayer, literally crying out to him. In the darkest of times, in the weariest moments, this was a sustaining verse for me. Tears come even now as I write this.

But oh, the miracle God performed in our son’s life, turning him completely around, hungering for the Word. What a joy he continues to be in our lives with his wife and five (yes, five) children!

 ~ 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 ~