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 ~

 

Tempting Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

You have an assigned task to perform. Maybe it came from the committee you’re on. Maybe it’s a family task you promised to accomplished. Maybe it’s a self-appointed task you doled out.

You’re thinking, “Why did I ever agree to this? I have a million other things to do. I know I’m the one who should so it, but it’s so hard to stick with it.”

Who knows what Jesus was thinking that day as he walked into the desert. He had been on an elevated plane just yesterday—his baptism and the voice of God assuring him that he was the Son of God. All those years of his mother’s miraculous stories were coming to fruition.

He may have thought, “Why, then, has the Spirit led me into this desert?” 

I wonder, what did he do there for forty days and forty nights? Pray, recite Scripture? Meditate, trying to hear a word or a thought from God? Search out places to lay his head at night? Try to find a source of water?

Did God speak to him audibly? Did the Spirit move in his mind and soul to remind him of Godly attitudes? Did he realize this was going to be a fast to prepare him for things that lay ahead? 

Was he coming to realize his fulfillment in the Scriptures? Did God gradually prepare him for the cross? Was he sweating because of the desert heat or because of what he saw on the horizon?

 Jesus would be physically weak without food by now, his energy level at a low ebb. At just such a time, the tempter came to “interrupt” his time with God.

Scripture says the tempter came to him and said,

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to be made bread.” Matthew 4:3 

Jesus would not dilute this time with God even if his desire for food was at a peak. Just as the Israelites depended on God for the manna, Jesus would depend on God, not on his own supernatural power for his needs. Jesus said,

“It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:2

Then the devil took Jesus to a high point at the Temple with a 100-foot drop. “Jump off,” Satan said and then, he quoted Scripture—

“He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands . . .” Matthew 4:6

A dramatic fall and being caught in mid-air would certainly attract attention with the many gathered around the Temple. But that wasn’t Jesus’ mission.

“It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Matthew 4:7

Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and declared, “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus had had enough.

“Away from me Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Matthew 4:10

May we remember Jesus’ example when we are tempted to take short cuts.

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Praise

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We think of negative attitudes and positive attitudes. We understand the attitude of bitterness or envy, the attitude of kindness or encouragement. But praise? Is that an attitude?

I believe it certainly is, particularly when we feel praise and speak our praise to God. It’s an attitude that pleases God and resonates a one-of-a-kind joy with in us as well.

I was preparing to teach this past week on that glorious day when King David completed the plans for building the first Temple. David stood before the crowd of leaders, his son by his side. He spoke words of encouragement and direction to Solomon and handed over the plans. 

He said to his son,

“Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, [Heart and mind—that means serve with all that is within you.] for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. [Yikes, even the motive in the heart!] If you seek him, he will be found by you.” I Chron. 28:9

Israel had accumulated much gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and valuable stones during David’s reign. David declared he would provide from his great store houses of resources for the new Temple. Not only that, he declared he would give tons (literally) of gold and silver from his personal treasures.

“Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?” I Chron. 29:5 

The leaders, commanders, and officials were so inspired that they also promised huge amounts too—willingly. David was so overwhelmed with joy that he burst forth with praise and thanksgiving to God, much like the many psalms he had written through the years.

Then David told the leaders to praise God as well. They lifted up their voices with enthusiasm and by the end, they fell down on their knees and finally lay prostrate, flat out, face down.

You may have experienced such demonstrative praise at a time in your past or at least felt emotionally moved. But what about your regular old Tuesdays or Wednesdays or the string of monotonous days we have had for a year? Has your enthusiasm for praise waned to point zero?

I challenge you to find a moment this week when you can be totally alone. Talk out loud to the Lord. Praise Him for His wonderful creation, the heavens, the stars and planets beyond our knowing, the sun to warm us, the beautiful blooming trees, the Forsythia spreading their yellow arms out to welcoming in the spring. Sing your favorite hymn or praise song. Sing it loud! Pour forth all the thanksgiving you can muster.

Fall to your knees, thank Him for the price He paid for you on Calvary, the pain and agony of taking on your sin. Then praise God for raising His Son from the dead, reminding us that we too will overcome the grave to join Him in paradise. Amen and amen. The Lord is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Thankful for Family

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Probably one of the first things we think of at Thanksgiving is to give thanks for our families. Usually, I purposely try to lead people to go beyond family, health, our homes, our church, friends, and all the usual–to move to deeper forms of thanksgiving.

But today, I am thinking of family. In a day when families are being bombarded with divorce, out-of-control teenagers, death of older members, suicidal deaths, abortions, conflict, loneliness, not to mention feelings of isolation because of too much media (computers, iPhones, and the like) or the feeling of too much family in this Covid year, it is possible many are not too thankful for family.

I hope that is not so for you. If you have survived these dilemmas, or have dodged them, then you have much for which to be thankful.

My husband and I are blest to have had parents who went past the 50-year mark in their marriages, giving us a goal for our 50-year mark (and now beyond.) We hope that this in turn has set the pattern for our son and daughter in their marriages. All of us have our challenges as in any relationship, but how valuable it is to have healthy legacies to pass on.

Now I look at our seven grandchildren in this era of family turmoil. As I give thanks for each one, I also pray for God’s protection and guidance as they make their daily choices and form patterns of faith. Their ages are 13, 14, 17, 18, 19 and the two girls are 20. What critical years.

Here they are after my mother’s graveside service. Sorry it’s not a good closeup because they’re all so cute! (Said like a grandmother.)

This year we are beginning a new tradition. We commit to pray every day for the grandchild who is having a birthday in that month. We ask them to tell us three things they would like for us to pray about in their lives. We have done this with five of the seven so far and have two to go. It has been a delight to do this, really focusing in on one of them at a time for a whole month. 

We will likely give their parents a turn as well. We hope this opens the door for them all to mention any prayer concerns throughout the year.

So at this Thanksgiving time, I am truly grateful for this wonderful family God has given me. We’ve had our share of struggles, but God has seen us through and taught us many lessons in the process.

May you find things about your family that bring you to thanksgiving this year.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30:12

~ 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 – The Spirit Intercedes

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps many of you have gone to the doctor and heard the dreaded C word. If not cancer, maybe another take-your-breath-away word.

We had been watching my husband’s TSA score gradually elevate. Then came the day when the doctor said he had prostate cancer. Jim began searching the treatment options—so many directions, each with their sets of pros and cons. At last, he decided to have it surgically removed.

In my stunned state, I recalled sitting in a Bible class as a young bride long ago, when the teacher asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Immediately, I thought of the devastation I would feel to lose my husband. Those thoughts came again when I faced this possibility.

Obviously, one prays for healing, for the Lord’s will to be done, for strength to go through this valley which ever way it goes, but at some point I just didn’t know what else to pray. It is at that point that I turned to Romans.

. . . if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we need to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:25-26

Jesus spoke often of the Holy Spirit. The disciples had the advantage of being with Jesus, God in the flesh, but after his resurrection, he told them,

“. . . Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5

That same Holy Spirit is at work in today’s believers, ever guiding, ever judging, ever strengthening.

In other times in my life, I have asked or offered directions in which the Lord might lead and finally realized I have no more words. In those times, I must plead for the Spirit to intercede with holy groanings for me.

In my husband’s case, the surgery was successful and there was no spread of the cancer. The cancer was small, but testing showed that it had been a fast growing kind. Thankfully, the Lord led us to take care of it in a timely manner.

We “leaned not on our own understanding, but acknowledged Him.” These verses come around again and again. That’s why I call them “life verses.”

No doubt many of you have experienced a frightening diagnosis and could share verses that have sustained you. Please do that in the comments section so others might benefit.

~ Joyce ~

 

How Majestic Is Your Name

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

During our Sunday morning service, we had three separate prayer thought reminders on the screen followed by a quiet times of prayer. One thought was something like, “While you pray, praise God for who He is, not just for what he has done.”

Hmm, that takes extra thought. It is so easy to fall into thanking Him for a number of things He has done, both in our personal lives and in the world, but just praising Him for who He is requires more. Adoration, we call it. It might start like this—”I love you Lord. I praise you for being…”

I couldn’t help but think once again about David, the shepherd boy of the 23rd Psalm. I imagined him sitting on the  hillside in the evening, the sheep in the fold, the night sky beckoning him to think about the creator of the starry array. He likely said,

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Psalm 8:1 

Majestic. That was the word that came to my mind during our worship service as I began my prayer of adoration.

David goes on to consider how small he is compared to the heavens above him.

When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him. Psalm 8:3-4

 

How insignificant we can feel when we take in a starry night in a wide open location. Or a great wild field. 

My mind goes back to vacation trips as a child when we went to visit Grandpa and Grandma on the farm in Missouri each summer. I realize it wasn’t Disneyland, but I loved those trips—shucking the dried corn to feed the chickens, playing with the kittens when they they came out from under the porch, and taking rides on Grandpa’s tractor. Those were real treats for this city girl.

One day, I would go over to the fence and sing to the cows. They stopped and looked at me. I had an audience! So I sang and sang to them and they stared right back. I smiled with delight.

Sometime during the stay I would walk out to the field and just stand and look at the wheat as it blew in the wind like golden waves. Everything felt spacious and earthy. I could sense God’s presence. It was one a few times in my life when I snapped an imaginary camera in my mind to capture and hold on to a particular moment.

Well, look at me. I didn’t even get to verse 4 and I’ve used up all my self-appointed word count. We’ll get back to David’s hillside wondering next week. Just know that he begins and ends this lovely Psalm with…

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:9   

~ Joyce ~

 

Feeding the 5,000 – Before the Feast

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve looked at “points of view” coming from the four gospel writers on several happenings in the life of Jesus. When we looked at the feeding of the 5,000, you may remember I said I might want to revisit that exciting day in more detail. That will be our focus for the next few weeks.

What was happening before the great feast? I think it’s always important to get the setting, set the stage so to speak.

At some point in the time line, Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s terrible death. Recall the story. Herod caved when his wife, Herodias, (through her daughter) asked that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a platter .

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. Matthew 14:13

What do you do when you have received tragic news? You may want to have the love and support of close friends or family, but, at some point, you may just want to be alone to collect your thoughts and deal with your emotions in private.

My hunch is that Jesus wanted to be alone with God and gather the inner strength he needed from his heavenly Father. Very possibly, Jesus thought about how he, too, would one day come under the cruelty of those in high places.

Think of those times in your life when the weight of tragedy or trying experiences brought you to a low ebb. Perhaps frustrations with a job or the cruelty of unkind words struck the very core of your spirit. Somehow, with God’s help, you managed to continue to function. It is in this kind of human condition, we find Jesus.

Later, when He looks up toward the shore, He sees his disciples who have returned from their ministry tour of the villages of Galilee where he said:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

He shares in their excitement, glad to see their happy and hear their stories, then he tells them,

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Luke 6:31

After more sharing, He looks at the shore where the crowds are gathering to meet him. I envision him sighing greatly and whispering, “Give me strength, Father.” Then we see his heart.

…as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Luke 9:11

Jesus moved forward in the strength God gave him—an important lesson for us. For you see, that same power is available to us as we push out alone in out boats to receive healing and inner strength from our Lord. May it be so for us all this week.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  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 ~  

 

 

 

  

Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Last week, we found Nehemiah weeping, mourning and fasting over the devastation of the wall in Jerusalem. Four months later, he continues praying about the matter and senses that God is leading him to do something about the crumbling wall.

There’s a gigantic problem with this calling. Nehemiah is cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, a high and prestigious position. Only the king could grant such a request and the king’s already listened to complainers back in Jerusalem and commanded that all rebuilding stop. Double whammy! 

Nehemiah faithfully performs his duties to the king, perhaps even serves as an adviser in certain situations. He dare not point blank ask the king for permission to leave for an extended time to build a wall that the king himself  has already put to an end.

It’s hard for Nehemiah to be cheerful everyday when his heart is aching. One day as he serves the king, Artaxerxes asks him,

“Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” 

Fear strikes Nehemiah, nevertheless he draws in a deep breath and takes the plunge. 

“May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad when the city where my forefathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 

There, he said it. He holds his breath wondering how the king will respond. What comes next is more than he could have hoped for. The king asks,

“What is it you want?”

Hardly able to believe how this opportunity has been dropped in his lap, he shoots up one of those quick prayers. You know the ones, “Help me, Lord.” His face is flushed, his breath shallow, but he pushes forward.

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city of Judah where my fathers are buried so I can rebuild it.”

“How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” Nehemiah 2:1-6

“Whew!” I wrote in my Bible margin. Have you ever had an opportunity open up suddenly, one you’ve been mulling over for some time? You may have asked, “Is this really happening?”

Keep in mind that Nehemiah has been praying about this for four months. God provided the opportunity and Nehemiah took the plunge!

Oh the things He has for us when we go to Him in earnest prayer.

Can you share one of your aha moments?

~ Joyce ~