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 ~

Biblical Men/Biblical Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we look through the Scriptures, we see that it was definitely a man’s world. We will see in the next few blogs how Jesus raised women out of their lowly estate to give them value. Coupled with that, we will see how the Mid-Eastern mind works compared to our Western mind.

You will be amazed at how Luke couples a man’s experience and a woman’s experience in many of his accounts. You will likely know these stories, but like me, you may not have seen them as two in one.

It starts even at Jesus’ birth. You may remember in my recent Christmas blogs how the angel Gabriel came to both Zechariah and to Mary.

Gabriel is named only in the Old Testament book of Daniel and here in Luke. To Zechariah he says,

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, . . . Luke 1:19

Then to Mary.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married . . . Luke 1:26-27

God sent his great warrior angel to an old faithful priest, but also to a young simple maiden. Both had a major role to play in God becoming man. One would sire the forerunner and the other would bear the Savior.

Move forward forty days after Jesus birth. Mary must go to the Temple to offer sacrifice for her purification. Being poor, her offering would be two pigeons or two doves.

Mary must also present her baby to the Lord, as it is written in the Law—

“Every first born male is to be consecrated to the Lord.” Luke 2:23

Now we meet our next pair, Simeon a priest and Anna a prophetess. Both are older; both have longed to see the Messiah.

It had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. On the day Mary and Joseph came to the Temple, Simeon felt compelled to go to the Temple courts. As he lifted up 40-day old Jesus, the Spirit of God fell upon him and he declared,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke 2:29-30

84 year-old Anna had a seven-year marriage until her husband died. She spent the rest of her years at the Temple worshiping night and day, fasting and praying. She stepped into this scene precisely when Simeon made his declaration.

. . . she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

No doubt this gave Mary much more to ponder in those early days.

So from the beginning, we see men and women playing important roles in the life of Jesus.

Male or female, what is God’s role for you this week? It will not likely be as dramatic as these, but He has plans for all of us. Don’t miss your opportunity! 

~ Joyce ~

 

 

1 – We’re Going Where?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let’s visit just one more unnamed woman in the Bible. Her location will probably spark your memory of her and her story.

Jesus and the disciples had been to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were heading back to Galilee, but the disciples noticed that Jesus wasn’t veering the right direction. 

I love the way comedian, Grady Nutt, once told this story. He said, “They were walking along trying to steer Jesus to the east toward the Jordan River, but Jesus, wiping the smile off his face, said, ‘No, we’re going through Samaria,’ ‘We’re going where?’ they protested. And Jesus kept heading due north.”

They may not have said it, but I’m sure the disciples were thinking, “We never go through Samaria!” Judean and Galilean Jews always went around Samaria, never through. For one thing it was always cooler down by the banks of the river and not as rough and rocky, but truth be known, they detested the Samaritans and the feeling was mutual. Regardless, off they went and by noon, they were hot and hungry.

So they came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. [noon]

         

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.) John 4:5-8

Oh my, there are all kinds of faux pas to this scene. Samaritan versus Galilean, a man talking to a woman in public, and asking for a drink from the jar which she will touch! Besides that, she’s out here alone, not with the other women. Sounds suspicious. 

She doesn’t back down and asks why a Jewish man would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jesus answers,

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

She tries to have one up on him as her pride takes over. She declares her Hebrew roots to be greater than his.

“Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” John 4:11-12

Ah, but one can’t rely on Jewish heritage.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

Eternal life. Now the subject is getting heavier. How will this “woman at the well” react? Next week, we’ll give her a name.

~ Joyce ~

Noah’s Ark – Part 4

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

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12. DON’T MISS THE BOAT. 

Of course, this was one of the most important pieces of advice to heed about Noah’s ark. It was a matter of life or death. We can see the parallel with salvation today. People can make fun of Christians, berate them, or deny their need for the Lord, but it doesn’t change the reality of the need for such a decision. 

How heart breaking it must have been for Noah to hear the taunts of the people outside the ark and then hear their cries for help as they realized they were about to drown.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Romans 3:23   

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13. REMEMBER THAT THE WOODPECKERS INSIDE ARE OFTEN A BIGGER THREAT THAN THE STORM OUTSIDE.

Just picture a woodpecker on the ark, doing what woodpeckers do. “What’s that noise?” Noah might call out. Everyone scatters, searching out the sound. “It’s a woodpecker!” one son shouts. “Well, get him a piece of wood.” Noah says.

Or maybe one of the wives showed herself to be most contrary, always yapping and complaining about something—woodpecker-like.

Well, we do have those people in our lives, don’t we? Jesus warned us that if we only love those who love us, what good is it? Even pagans do that. Instead,

“In everything you do, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12  

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14.  IF YOU HAVE TO START OVER, HAVE A FRIEND BY YOUR SIDE.

The rain finally stopped, but more waiting, feeding, and tending followed before the thump of the ark marked the landing on Mt. Ararat. More months before Noah sent the raven , then the dove to find a branch. More waiting for the earth to dry and finally those wonderful words. God called, “Come out of the ark!” 

Can you imagine the feel of the steady earth beneath your feet, the smell of clean fresh air, and the wide open spaces with the vast sky above. Brother slapping brother in jubilant laughter. “We did it! God has protected us and brought us through.”

How precious for us when we have gone through a long dark time to have a friend nearby, encouraging us, then rejoicing with us on the other side.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother [or sister] is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

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15. NO MATTER HOW BLEAK IT LOOKS, THERE’S ALWAYS A RAINBOW ON THE OTHER SIDE!

“… And surely I am with you to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

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Thank you, Lord for the happy times, the times of peace and contentment. And thank you, Lord, for the turbulent times, for it is there that we still find you, teaching us new lessons, speeding up our growth, reminding us that, even in the midst of turmoil, you are there. Thank you that you walk with us through it all, drawing us ever near to you through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

~ Joyce ~

Salvation 4 – What Is MY Part?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In the past three weeks, we have asked Who Is Worthy? We discussed The Wages of Sin and The Price He Paid.

Our drawings led us to visualize our separation from God with two mountains and a valley of sin that separates us.

We talked about the price Jesus paid on the cross and how that created a bridge, a way between us and God.

The last verse you underlined was Romans 5:8. Turn to that verse, go to the bottom to the page, and write Romans 10:9. You know the routine now—underline it and put a star by it.

Why the star, you ask? If you’re like me, you may have other verses underlined on these pages. The star just helps to stay on track.

While the bridge idea is effective, you can see that “me” is still on one mountain and “God” on the other. Nothing happens until “me” gets on the bridge. The person must make the decision to trust that bridge, to believe in Christ so fully that he or she will take the first step.

Many people believe about Jesus. Yes, he was a good man, maybe even a prophet of some sort, a person in history. Hitler was a person in history too, but we don’t believe in him, only about him. Instead, as Christians, we proclaim—

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10;9

Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. He didn’t stay on the cross. He didn’t stay in the tomb. God raised Him from the dead. Jesus had resurrected life. And that is what He has for us when we put our trust, our faith in Him.

It requires that first step!

 

Perhaps your prayer of confession might go something like this:

Lord, I know I can’t stand at heaven’s gates and claim to be worthy. I confess that the sin in my life keeps me from your glorious presence. I ask you to forgive me and to help me trust in you enough to take that first step on the bridge Jesus offered by giving his life for me on the cross. Help me keep my eyes focused on you and not the valley of sin. Thank you for the love you have offered me and the gift of eternal life. Amen.

~ Joyce ~

Salvation 3 -The Price He Paid

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We have underlined Romans 3:23 in our Bibles—all have sinned (Salvation 1 – Who Is Worthy?) and Romans 6:23—earning spiritual death but being offered the gift of spiritual life (Salvation 2 – Wages of Sin).

Now we turn to Romans 6:23, go down to the bottom of your page and write Romans 5:8. When you turn to Romans 5:8, underline the verse and put a star by it.

 Would you die for someone? Do you love anyone that much? Maybe your child or spouse? 

Would you dare to die for a good person? They would have to be really, really good, right?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Long ago, God’s chosen people realized that a sacrifice for their sin was needed. His law required them to bring an unblemished lamb to be sacrificed for that sin. God was preparing them for the very best lamb.

Jesus, his son, came into the world to heal and teach what God’s love is like.

But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

At this point, you can draw a cross on the “Me” mountain.

Some think if they are faithful, responsible citizens or if they do enough good deeds, they can merit the blessings of heaven, but as we’ve learned, none of us is worthy. That valley of sin still separates us from God.

Jesus took upon Himself the sin of all the world. When He bore it all for you and me, He became the final sacrificial lamb.

Here’s the best part! Jesus’ sacrifice formed a bridge between you and God.

His sacrifice covers that sin and He provides the only way to God the Father.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Hopefully these drawings and add-ons will help you in explaining the gospel story.

Oh, but each person has a part to play in this salvation experience. Next week—What is my part?

~ Joyce ~

 

Salvation 2 – Wages of Sin

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we began a process of how we might share the gospel with a non-believer. (Salvation 1 – Who Is Worthy?) We established that we all sin and this sinful nature separates us from God. 

You drew a figure something like this—

In your Bible, you underlined Romans 3:23 and put a star beside the verse.

Turn to this passage again, and go to the bottom of of the page and write “Romans 6:23.” When you turn to that verse, underline it and put a star beside it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

We don’t use the word “wages” much anymore, but we understand that it means something like a salary. You do work, you get paid. It is something you earn. We think of it as a good thing.

But we can also “earn” something negative. You commit a crime; you earn punishment. You fail to turn in your homework; you earn a bad grade.

In this case, the Bible tells us that what you earn from sin is death. Eventually, we’re all going to die physically, but the death in this verse refers to spiritual death, a hefty penalty, because it is an eternal death.

Oh, but there is good news! God has a gift for us. A gift is something you have not earned. It is given out of love. The gift comes through Jesus Christ who wants to be Lord of our lives. The gift is not eternal death, but eternal life.

Under your “two-mountain” drawing, you might want to draw a $10 bill with the word “death” above it and a gift box with “life” above it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So what did Jesus do to give this gift?

Next week—The Price He paid.

 ~ Joyce ~

 

  

Salvation 1 – Who Is Worthy?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

For the next four weeks, we will consider the path to salvation.

Is it hard for you to share that message with people? Do you feel bum-fumbled with what to say? Perhaps these thoughts will give you a concrete plan. You’ll need your Bible, paper, and a pen.

Let’s envision two mountains. Draw two on your paper something like this picture.

Write the word “Me” on top of the short mountain and “God” on top of the tall one.

Inside of all of us is a need for God, a vacuum only He can fill. But how do we get to God? We can’t jump to the other mountain; it’s too far. We can’t climb up the mountain; it’s too steep. Besides there’s a great valley in between.

This valley is filled with mire and muck and we can’t get through it. It contains pride, hatred, selfishness, lying, adultery, murder, cheating, gossip, and a whole slew of other unrighteous acts. Actually, it’s anything that separates us from God. Label it “Valley of Sin.”   

 

We certainly can’t claim righteousness or know the glory of God with all this mess. No matter who we are, we’re not worthy to enter God’s Holy presence. Find Romans 3:23. Underline the verse and put a star by it in your Bible.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

All means Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, your pastor, Billy Graham, Miley Cyrus (or some celebrity your friend would know), you and me—all have sinned. We may not have committed murder, but we have likely been self-centered or prideful and certainly not holy.

We all fall short of entering the glorious presence of our holy God.

Still, we cannot know eternal peace without Him. No matter if we have the notoriety of Bill Gates, the prestige of Abe, the honor of Mr. Graham, the lavish clothes and houses of Miley, or the comforts of our own routines and friends, nothing can totally satisfy the deep longings of our hearts like the one who created us.

Read the verse again. None of us is worthy. 

Then what are we to do? Stay tuned next week for part two.

~ Joyce ~   

God So Loved

Today we conclude Nicodemus’ night time discussion with Jesus. Jesus has been discussing the Spirit and now he turns to the subject of belief, namely belief in Jesus as, not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God. Jesus refers to an Old Testament event where the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and were bitten by poisonous snakes. To save the people’s lives, Moses lifted up a bronze serpent. If they looked at the serpent they lived. Jesus uses this as an illustration of how he will be lifted up (on a cross) not just for life here, but also for eternal life through him.

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  15 that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.    John 3:14-15

Nicodemus probably doesn’t equate the idea of being “lifted up” with crucifixion at this point, but Jesus goes on to say one of the most memorable verses in the Bible. Connect verse 15 to verse 16 and you will understand the word, “For”.

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.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.   John 3:16-17

My pastor summarizes that powerful verse like this, “God loved. God gave. If we believe, we receive.” It is a picture of God’s mercy to us—we who are undeserving. By contrast, the next verse demonstrates God’s justice.

18 Whoever belives in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.   John 3:18

It is not complicated. Believe, receive eternal life. Don’t believe, receive condemnation (eternal death.) Nicodemus must still have a blank look or a frown on his face because Jesus once again illustrates with one of his favorites—light and darkness. Why does a child go off in the darkness to do his bad deeds? Because he doesn’t want anyone to see what he’s doing, of course. Jesus compares himself to the light and evil to the dark.

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.   John 3:19-20

Jesus is the essence of light—truth, God’s righteousness, wholeness, deep abiding joy. If we follow that light and walk in that light, our good deeds will not be of ourselves. Instead, it will be His light shining through us. It is as if Jesus is telling Nicodemus, “You have come to seek the truth about me. Trust me, Nicodemus. Believe in me, Nicodemus.”

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:21

This is a key, culminating, convicting thought for Nicodemus. Much of what he does is driven by the desire to be seen upright in the eyes of men. It is a defect that Jesus often criticized in the Pharisees. Jesus knows that Nicodemus needs a change inside of him. Only the Spirit can make that change, but Jesus must also see that Nicodemus desires to know the truth. Look how many times he mentions it.

3 In reply Jesus declared, I tell you the truth…

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth… “

11 “I tell you the truth… “

21 “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…”

Jesus must have seen a man who was struggling deep in his soul and a man who wanted to know the truth. Thus the title of my book—A Heart for Truth. At this point, we have no indication that Nicodemus has made any commitment yet, but his mind has been stretched. Jesus has planted seeds of truth in his heart. Next week, we move to another incident with Nicodemus.

Joyce