Tandem Bike Story

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As we pedal into the new year, I thought this story I resurrected from my files would be a perfect beginning. Enjoy!

The Tandem Bike Story (Author Unknown)

  At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited Heaven or Hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it, but didn’t really know him.

  But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike; and I  noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.

  I don’t know just when it was He suggested we change places,  but life has not been the same since I took the back seat to Jesus, my Lord. Christ makes life exciting. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

  But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, through rocky places, and at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!”

  I was worried and anxious so I asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

  He took me to people with gifts that I needed,  gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

  I did not trust Him, at first, with control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly through scary passages.

  I’m learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places; and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful companion, Christ. And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says . . . “Pedal!”

Hmm, there’s that matter of trust. It seems that the Lord has had to bring that topic around to me yet again this year. How many times must I relearn? So I turn once again to one of my favorite life verses—

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Let’s go on a bike ride!

~ Joyce ~ 

JOY – Mary

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Today we will seek to find JOY in Mary’s life. Watch for the emotions she goes through.

Mary has been betrothed to Joseph, but is still living at home with her parents. She is a small town girl from Nazareth. 

For the second time, Gabriel appears. (See Joy – Zechariah and Elizabeth) He says to Mary,

“Greetings, you are highly favored. The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28

As with others who have visitations from angels, Mary is “greatly troubled” by his words. So Gabriel says,

Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Luke 1:30-33

Oh, my, that’s a lot to take in. She will have a child and he will be great.  Does she understand the other things from hearing her father talk about the throne of David and the house of Jacob?  Is she thinking prestige? Is she feeling honored?

No. I think we can say she is “confused.” She is still stuck on the first thing Gabriel said. Her question?

“How can this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

The angel explains,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

Does she understand that this is the promised one, the Messiah? Maybe. Maybe not, but it is an answer to her question. (Notice that Gabriel did not reprimand her question as he did with Zechariah. She was not doubting or asking for proof as he did.)

Gabriel goes on to say,

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:36-37

Mary seems “resolved” at this point. She answers,

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

Mary has been fearful, troubled, confused, and resolved. What questions plague her now as she is alone again? How will I tell Mama? Will she believe me? And do I even dare tell Papa? What will Joseph think? Will he disown me? Will I be stoned?

Mary travels all the way to Judea to visit Elizabeth. When she arrives, Elizabeth says,

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is the one who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:42, 44-45

I believe it was then that the Spirit filled Mary with JOY! She burst forth with a song much like Zechariah. Her words are in Luke 1:46-55.

As we wade through our life emotions, may we come to celebrate the coming of God in human flesh with JOY!

~ 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 ~

 

Life Verses – A Hope and a Future

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Today’s verse can apply to many stages of life. Most think of it when they are leaving high school or college or launching into a new career. However, this verse, taken from Jeremiah, can encourage us at many stages of life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Let’s look at Jeremiah’s context for this verse. This is an old passage, all the way back to 597 B.C. The king of Babylon has swept in to overtake Israel and take captive the choice craftsmen, artisans, and the best of the young people including Daniel and his young friends.

It will be a long captivity in this foreign land. Meanwhile, they are to continue to be faithful to God, to remember their need to pray daily and not worship idols, to be strong in their faith in spite of the fact that they will no longer have their Temple and sacrifices, etc.

With that in mind, let’s look again at this much quoted verse.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

God has many plans to reward the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends as they maintain strong bodies by following their food rules. They are protected from harm whether in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace. They all end up with high places of leadership even in captivity—a hope and a future.

God reminds them that they must continually call upon him in prayer and when they keep this practice, He assures them that,

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

So, when did this become a life verse for me? Interestingly enough, not until I was ready to retire.

I had already retired from teaching and had been working for several years as a music assistant  in a church. My husband talked of retiring so I considered retiring as well. I was suffering physically and finally found out that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I loved the kids I worked with in choir and  my precious seniors in the Senior Adult Choir, so I struggled with the decision.

I knew of this verse, but I was reintroduced to it in my daily Bible reading. I saw it in a church bulletin later. A radio preacher mentioned it. God often works in my life in these ways.

I nervously sat in church that Sunday morning before reading my resignation letter. I couldn’t believe it when Jeremiah 29:11 popped up on the screen as the morning verse. What an assurance that he approved this decision and had further plans for me. A few years later, my first book was published—a hope and a future!

~ 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 ~

 

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 ~

 

 

 

Life Verses – Acknowledge Me

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The setting is the late 1970’s. My husband, Jim, had been the Minister of Music at our church for several years, the children were young and all was right with my world. As I mentioned last week, my growing-up family had moved about every two years, so I relished being in this one place for a good while.

Added to that, my parents had decided to move to our city of Somerset, Kentucky. How wonderful that our children would have the joy of seeing their grandparents often.

My world fell apart when Jim said a search committee from another state had called and wanted us to go there to meet with them. We were happy in our present church and had received other calls like this, but Jim reasoned that if we never followed up, we might be missing a new direction God had for us.

Nothing in me wanted to submit to this idea. I struggled for days over this. Then the Lord kept saying in my mind, “Joyce, do you love me?”

Jesus’ conversation with Peter came to mind. Remember, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. After the resurrection, Jesus pulled him aside one day and asked, 

“Simon, do you truly love me more than these?” John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked that question and Peter was to able to affirm his love and acknowledgment of Jesus—three times

Every time I prayed, that question came to my mind, “Joyce, do you love me more than these?” Do you love the stability, the routine, your parents move more than me?

As I walked down our hall at home, I saw anew the plaque we had on the wall. It simply said, “Acknowledge me.” Of course, I thought of the whole verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

God reminded me that He needed to be included in this process. It took a while, but I finally realized I must not lean on my own understanding and my own desires, but acknowledge him.

So, we made arrangements to go and talk to the committee. We were both torn with how to respond. I felt like we were in an empty room with one door opened this way and another door opened that way, not knowing which door to go through. 

A few days later, the committee chairman called and said their pastor had resigned and they would have to put their energies into looking for a new pastor, so they would have to set the music position aside. 

As you can see, God himself closed one of those two doors, and lessons of submission were taught in the process.

This verse is likely a favorite verse for many of you. I would love to hear how it has impacted your life.

~ Joyce ~

 

Life Verses – Fear Not

 

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Fear. Perhaps that is one of the strongest emotions we experience. We might be fearful for our very lives. We could be fearful of a disease or the fear of failing. We might fear non-acceptance. Anything out of our control can bring us fear.

My family moved about every two years when I was growing up. My dad’s work moved us to different cities and states. I eventually realized that I had to dig in and make new friends each time. In one of our houses, I had an upstairs bedroom. As an only child, I was afraid to go up the dark stairs to turn on the lights at night. My dad would say “I’ll hold out my hand.” Amazingly, I found strength in him simply holding out his hand. I would look down from the upper steps and see that he still had his hand out.

Years later, when I prepared to go off to Georgetown College, I felt excited, but felt a bit fearful of the unknown. My dad’s hand would no longer be visible. 

My youth director at church gave me a verse to take along.

For I the Lord Thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, “Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:13 KJV

That’s a nice little verse, I thought. I decided to make a small colorful poster out of it to hang in my dorm room.

It wasn’t long until I began making use of that verse. I was terribly naive. In some relations where I thought I was helping to pull someone up, I began to realize they were pulling me down. “Fear not,  I will help you,” the Lord said.  

The school work load, social activities, and  rehearsals overwhelmed me. Then, as I was preparing to lead the dorm devotion, the words came again—The Lord says, “Fear not, I will help you.”

In my junior year, a frightening experienced happened. I thought of my verse once again. I will hold (KJV) your right hand. The word “hold” caught my attention. Not grab, but hold. I reasoned that I must place my hand in his open, willing hand.  

Earlier in that chapter and in many other verses, we hear of God’s righteous right hand. No offence to you lefties, but we see many attributes to the right hand, the strongest hand (at least for right-handed people.) We eat with that hand, write, point, shake hands, open a bottle, wave, turn pages, and on it goes. It is the stronger hand that he offers us in times of fear.

On through my life, I have often returned to that verse. Thus I claim it as one of my life verses and have passed it on to my college grandkids.

May you find it helpful on your life journey.

~ 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 ~