What Is Man?

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We started Psalm 8 last week, (How Majestic Is your Name), but with my wandering down memory lane, we barely got started. Let’s move forward.

David sat for his quiet time at night on the hillside. His eyes turned toward the spacious night sky. When he considered the majesty of God, he felt like a nobody.

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:4

David wondered why in the great scheme of God’s creation that He would care about a measly young shepherd boy. Still, he did feel that God cared for him. So much so that God put mankind in charge of his creation.

        

You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Psalm 8:6-8

We are told in Genesis that we are created in the image of God. We’re not talking about external image—hair, eyes, or two legs. No, I believe God created us in the image of His nature. It is His nature to create and then care for what He has created. He gave that task to us as well.

David understood that well as a shepherd. He felt honored to be given the task. To participate, as a subordinate in God’s rule, was a gift, not a right.

You have made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:5

How do we think these thoughts through in our day? Most of us do not tend herds, birds or fish. We can do our part in keeping our water ways clean of debris and waste materials. 

But, consider that besides animals, God also created people. He cares for us just as he does the animals, and in His image, He expects us to care for others, too. He desires that we point people to Him. In so doing, others will proclaim along with David…

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

What is man? Or woman? We are creations of God, made in His image and given the shared task of caring for the world and everything in it including the people He puts in our paths. Who will cross your path today? Be ready with a caring heart.

~ 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 ~

 

Walking on Water

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Several months ago, we talked about the feeding of the 5,000. Let’s look at the wild adventure of that evening and on into the night.

The day had been long and exhausting. Jesus taught and healed many. How many? Well, out of 5,000, you can only imagine. Then came the great miracle of blessing the five loaves and two fish with the disciples organizing and helping feed the crowd.

Jesus tells the disciples to push out in the boat and meet him on the other side. He opts to walk up a nearby mountain. For what?

After he dismissed them, he went up on the mountainside by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23

Many times in Scripture we see Jesus going off alone (a rare delight) to pray. I always think, if Jesus had the need for prayer, most assuredly I do too.

        

While He’s refueling himself, the boatload of disciples are a good ways from shore. The wind begins to blow across the water and soon, it is so strong the waves beat against the boat. The howl of the wind, the rocking of the boat, and the slaps of water in their faces cause great alarm for these twelve sailors.

Sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 A.M., the fourth watch, one of them suddenly points out toward the water and shouts, “Look!” They see a figure coming toward them and it’s on top of the water. 

“It’s a ghost!” one of them cried out in fear. Matthew 14:26

Jesus, who is walking toward them—yes, walking ON the water—yells out to them over the wind and waves.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Impetuous Peter jumps up and calls out.

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said.

Peter does three positive things. He gets out of the boat in faith, walks on the water, and keeps his eyes on Jesus. However, things go downhill when he takes his eyes off Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:30

Jesus rebukes Peter for having little faith and doubting.

In some ways, it seems that he actually demonstrated amazing faith, but Peter still has much to learn about trust. Jesus grabs his arm; they get in the boat, and the winds die down. The disciples fall before Him in worship. They say,

“Truly you are the Son of God!” Matthew 14:33b

Did they not already know that after their incredible journeys with Him? After the day they had just spent with Him? 

But their eyes had never been blind. Their limbs not withered. While they absorbed the teachings, they weren’t in fearful places. But this time they experienced fear themselves. It was personal. Greater fearful times were ahead. This was training ground for learning to trust more and more.

Lord, help us keep our eyes fixed on you. Build our trust in the storms-of-life training ground.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

The Trinity

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

How is Jesus both human and divine? How can God be three in one?

These and other mysteries can leave us befuddled. Let’s just work on the three-in-one today. The trinity, we call it.

We can think of a triangle. Imagine the top point being labeled God the Father; a bottom point being God the Son, and the other bottom point the Holy Spirit—three points of one triangle.

I like this image with the unending circle tying them all together.

Or I’ve heard some explain that I am a person. I am the wife of my husband. At the same time, I’m the daughter of my mother and the mother of my daughter. So I’m a wife, a daughter, and a mother—three roles, but one person.

Or a favorite example I use with children is holding up an egg. I say, “An egg is one object. Yet, it is made up of three parts. You have the shell that protects and holds it all together.” Then I crack it open into a glass.

“Inside you see the bright yellow yoke and the clear, rather transparent white.” I compare Jesus the Son to the the very visible yoke and the Holy Spirit to the white—hard to see, but thick to feel—part of the egg. Three, and yet, one egg.

Our earthly examples can approach the idea of different roles or manifestations of the whole, but let’s face it, the earthly can’t begin to fully declare the glory and holiness of our Almighty God.

So let’s turn to Scripture to see an amazing scene of all three, in one setting.

John the Baptist is down by the Jordan River where he has been preaching repentance and “preparing the way” for the coming Messiah. Jesus, himself, comes into the water for baptism. John protests and declares,

“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Matthew 3:14

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

What happens next is a glorious moment of the Three-in-One all in one scene.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

What a powerful way for Jesus to begin his ministry with the assurance of the Spirit and the encouragement of the Father. Three in one.

What a blessing when we have a sense of the Father’s love and approval, encouraging us on, with the movement of the Holy Spirit because of our faith and trust in Jesus our Savior. May you trust Him with your day.

~ Joyce ~

When Did Jesus Know?

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’ve got Vacation Bible School (VBS) on my mind all this week. As I’ve prepared to teach about twenty 6th graders, I’ve come to answer this question for the first time—when did Jesus know He was the Son of God?

Every Christmas we celebrate His birth. We remember Mary’s story, Joseph’s story, the angel’s announcement, and the joy of the shepherds when they arrive at the stable to find things just as the angels said. Luke tells us that…

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Sure enough, God’s Son was born. But when did Jesus know He was the Son of God? A baby cannot reason that out. At age one or two, He might have been fascinated with the wise men, but knowing He was the Promised One? Even a four or five-year-old would have trouble with that concept.

When Jesus was in his yeshiva school, He would have studied the Torah. He likely studied some of the prophecies as well, but could he figure out that He was the fulfillment of these prophecies?  

Fast forward to the next time we see Jesus. He is on His way to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph plus most of the neighbors from their Nazareth village. They’re headed to the Feast of the Passover. 

Now, we are not told this, but if Mary has yet to tell Jesus about all the miracles of His birth, I think it’s highly probable that she might have decided it was high time she told Him. After all, He is now twelve years old. (Just the age of my 6th graders!)

After their week of festivities and celebration, the families gather their belongings and head back home. You know the story—one day out, Mary and Joseph have the parental dialogue. “I thought he was with you.” “Well, I thought he was with you.” And it’s back to Jerusalem they go for day two!

Meanwhile, where do we find Jesus? At the Temple, speaking with the religious leaders. We’re talking teachers of the law, scribes, rabbis, Pharisees. You know, the most learned of the learned. What would it take for them to even bother with a twelve-year-old? Smart questions. Deep answers. That’s what.

Everyone who heard him was amazed at his answers. Luke 2:47

Rightly so. 

Once his parents finally find him on the third day, they get past their fear that he’s bleeding in a ditch. Then the other emotion takes hold.

“Son, why have you treated us like this?” Luke 2:48

Here it comes. Jesus said,

“Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? Luke 2:49

He knows.

It’s only the beginning. He has much to learn, but He obediently goes home with his parents. And once again,

…his mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51

That was day one of VBS.

If you read this by 9:00 AM on Thursday, it will be day four. I will be giving the plan of salvation. Please pray for the right words and the Spirit to move in these 6th graders’ hearts.

        

~ Joyce ~

 

Staying Refreshed

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Staying refreshed. Yes, that’s my goal these days. I have felt such oppression of late to the point that I believe Satan is working overtime on me. Perhaps you’ve heard it in hints along the way in my writing.

I have felt overwhelmed with various deadlines and things that must be done, then mother’s hospitalization and move dropped in the middle of it all. I fretted over being so worried all the time. Worried about being worried. Is that like worried squared? Heavy laden, I guess the Scripture would say.

This morning when I woke up, I looked at the clock. Five minutes until the alarm goes off. I laid my head back on the pillow and whispered, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I hadn’t done that in a while. It felt good.

       

Other verses of praise came rolling out of my mind and I had a wonderful worship time before the alarm interrupted me.

Maybe this holy moment came because we were talking about the fourth commandment in Bible Study this week—Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. How He loves to have holy moments with us.

I found this passage from Philippians to spur me on.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5

When I meet a new person and they seem to fumble with my name, I say, “Joyce, as in rejoice, rejoice!” I love that verse. But where did that next sentence come from? I didn’t remember that. “Let you gentleness be evident.” Oh dear, I hope that’s true. Do I show gentleness? To all? Big order.

If you back up a few verses for the context, Paul is getting after two ladies in the fellowship who are not so much “in fellowship.” Paul is saying that our rejoicing needs to show in our gentle attitudes. “The Lord is near.” Hmm, does that mean God is looking over your shoulder? No, likely Paul meant the Lord is near to help you.

Then here it comes!

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Nothing new here, friends. He says it over and over in His word—pray. In those anxious times, pray. Along with your petition, give thanks. The results?

       

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Is that beautiful or what? Peace. The kind that transcends all understanding. Flow-all-over-you kind of peace. Peace that protects and guards your heart, your emotions. Peace that guards and protects your mind and thinking. That’s flow-through-the-inside-of-you kind of peace. After all, He’s the Prince of Peace.

How do you get there? Prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. May that be our goal for staying refreshed in Him.

~ Joyce ~

Let’s Be Friends

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

A little diversion this week. I’ve been thinking about friendships through the years. My family moved often with my dad’s job, so I had to learn to make new friends in many states. 

Fortunately, I’ve had the joy of long-time friends as well. You know, the kind who you haven’t seen in a while and when you meet again, you pick up right where you left off. Then there are those “go-to” friends when you just need someone to listen and/or give good advice.

A sweet friend refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9b (The Message)

All these thoughts came to me as I read Elizabeth Hoagland’s new book, LET’S BE FRIENDS… What My Sister-Friends Taught Me About Faith, Food, and Fun.

Elizabeth takes us on a girlfriend road trip, making stops at her various groups of friends. Friends from book clubs, Bible studies, friends of her children and their families to walking buddies and shopping friends. She attaches names to these groups—everything from the Ya-Ya’s to The Butter Babes. 

In shaded spaces on the page, we get to hear sage advice and life stories with direct quotes from many of these wonderful friends.

One friend had a “prodigal husband.” She tells how she was guided by this verse until they eventually came to reconciliation. 

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NTL)

Another friend talked about how instead of buying something for birthdays, they would do something, like educational trips, check all the ways they could take public transportation in their city, go to a fancy restaurant, etc.

Yet another liked to have discussion starters when friends gathered. For instance: What do you hope to pass on to the next generation? What is one of your favorite characteristics about God? What has someone said to encourage you lately?

You will find a plethora of fun happenings in this book as well. Elizabeth tells about Nancy, who she calls the Hugging Evangelist. “She is crazy comical. When I see her name flash across my cell phone, I start laughing before I answer. My howling causes her to howl, and we howl for a few minutes before uttering a word.”

One set of her friends celebrates each other’s birthdays. Main rule? You have to bring a funny, insulting card!

Notice the sub-title of the book: What My Sister-Friends Taught Me About Faith, Food, and Fun. You’ve seen the faith and fun, but the bonus is a delightful recipe or two at the end of each chapter.

Liz Curtis Higgs gives the Foreword of the book. Can’t get any better than that friend!

I’m thinking of using Elizabeth’s book, complete with questions and Bible verses at the end of the book, as a neighborhood Bible study of sorts to get to know my neighbors. 

Elizabeth has a blog that highlights a new book each week. Her easy-going style and descriptions keep you up to date on the latest Christian books and make you want to run out and get every book. You can find her at www.elizabethhoagland.com 

Happy reading!

  ~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Surely Goodness and Mercy

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

I hope you have enjoyed this study on the 23rd Psalm. As we conclude, we see the loving shepherd bringing in the sheep at the end of the day. He examines each one.

Some have burrs to be pricked or wounds to be tended. The shepherd anoints them with oil, a plentiful, overflowing supply.

You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

This shepherd shows his goodness daily to his sheep. He demonstrates his mercy for them, truly loves and cares for them.

Jesus, the good shepherd, gave us another aspect of the relationship between sheep and shepherd as they exit the sheep pen each morning. Even if there happens to be two flock of sheep in the pen, the flock will only follow its own shepherd.

“… the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact they will run away from him because they do not know a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5

A shepherd names each one? It seems so. He knows them well and they know his voice.

Do you know His voice? Or are there times when you follow what you would like for Him to be saying to you? Is it His idea or yours? 

Sheep recognize their master’s voice because they are with him day and night. Since God is ever-present, we can have that relationship as well. Spending time with our shepherd and “practicing His presence” requires us to be intentional. The more we do, the more we can relax and trust Him.

Jesus also said,

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

Though David the psalmist did not know Jesus, He looked toward the time when Messiah would come. He said,

Surely goodness and love [mercy] will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

We can be sure of “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever,” because our good shepherd laid down His life for us. A good shepherd indeed.

Update on my mother: She makes some improvements and then regresses. It looks less likely that she will bounce back as well this time. I’m praying for ways to help ease her anxiety over having less mobility and increasing dementia. May she feel the shepherd’s care.

~ Joyce ~

 

His Rod and Staff

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We continue with thoughts from the 23rd Psalm. (Restore My Soul) Just like David the shepherd, our good shepherd leads us in the right path, the path that guides us into right living. 

But like sheep, we are prone to go astray and have to be set back on the right path.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:3

When we’re obedient enough to follow His leading, we’re able to serve and bring honor to God “for His name’s sake.”

At times, shepherds have to lead the sheep through narrow passage ways, walking one or two abreast lest they fall off the path to their death. The shepherd must use his staff to guide them into a line. 

By the same token, when the sheep are in a wide grazing area, the shepherd uses his staff to draw in a sheep who is headed toward bramble bushes or a ravine. If a sheep falls into a ravine, the shepherd turns his staff upside down to use the crook end around the sheep’s belly and pull him up out of the ravine to safety.

The sheep can also rest assured that if wild animals try to invade, the shepherd will protect them by using the rod end of his staff to fight off offenders.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

I read one shepherd’s account of how poisonous weeds grew up in certain areas. He would get up early in the morning to go across the pasture and pull up the poisonous weeds, laying them up on a rock to dry, out of the way of the sheep. Later, as the sheep roused from their sleep, they could graze in the very presence of these deadly weeds—unharmed.

You prepare a way for me in the presence of my enemies. Psalm 23 :5

How thorough and lovingly a shepherd cares for his sheep, just like our good shepherd cares for us.

This week has been trying for me with mother in the hospital for the fourth time in two and a half years. She went from laughing and talking to sleeping day and night, eating only small bits of food with her eyes closed as I fed her. She could barely get a word or two out.

Again, I went through the grueling decision of where to place her for rehab. I cried out to God to help me trust Him to guide just as the shepherd guides his sheep. One place on my list was the best one in town, but hard to find an opening. The next day He opened a bed at this facility. Praise His name! If she should need to go into long term care, she can stay there in the same room. I’m so relieved.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

He Restores My Soul

   Searching His Word

     Seeking His Heart

(David, the Shepherd) did for the sheep what they couldn’t do for themselves. Having the luxury to lie down in green pastures was one of those things. When one pasture had been well used, that meant moving on to another area. The shepherd sought out and led them on to good grazing land.

When our son was about a year old, we put him outside on a blanket with his toys. We were assured that he wouldn’t leave the blanket because he did NOT like the grass. The feel of it, I guess. He would make his way over to it, but as soon as he touched the prickly stuff, he made a face and moved quickly back to the middle of the blanket.

Not so with sheep. They walk in it, lay in it, and eat it—preferably green grass of course. To lay down means they are perfectly at ease, trusting the care of the shepherd to provide.

When it comes to water, some sheep are very finicky. If the water is a fast-moving stream, it will often scare the sheep. At times, a shepherd will cup his hands in the water to form a still “bowl” of water, or better yet, lead the sheep to a level area where the water forms a quiet pool rather than a flowing stream.

So, we see how the shepherd works and cares.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still [quiet] waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

He restores my soul. Ah, can anything be better than these beautiful words? Being restored. Soul-deep restored.

I’ve decided that’s a phrase I want to hang on to. These are words to whisper to the Lord as you move through a good day or a hectic week. “Thank you, Lord, for restoring my soul.” Or “Help me, Lord, restore my soul.”

I had no more than written this blog when a few days later we had to take my mother to the hospital. On the way, I thought of my words of wisdom to you. So I whispered to God, “Restore my soul.”

The next day, there was talk of possibly doing a colonoscopy to find the source of her bleeding. A colonoscopy for a 95 year old? What a decision. I fretted over it and then decided to just put it in the great shepherd’s hands. I slept well and searched for what answers He would give the next day.

I had a text discouraging me to consider it. Later, a different doctor in the practice came in to discourage the thought of a colonoscopy. The Lord provided.

He often does things like that, restoring our souls with underlines. Whisper those words today.

~ Joyce ~