Gone Astray – Part 1

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In our series of unnamed woman in Scripture, we will revisit one I wrote about about four years ago. Our lady has a male suitor. We’ll name him Mark and her, Aphiema (Ah fee’ muh).

Mark lives in Jerusalem and works among the elite of the city. His handsome features attract many female admirers, so one ill-fated night, he finds himself with his arms wrapped around one of the liberal ladies-of-the-night, which launches both he and his lover, Aphiema, on a path of promiscuity.

A few elders take him under wing. Their plan is to draw him away from his waywardness into the life of a scribe. Certainly one who handles the ancient Scriptures would cease to indulge in such sinful ways.

Indeed, he studies well, has remarkable penmanship, and finds prestige and power in his new position. He marries the girl chosen for him by his parents and appears content with his life.

Eventually though, it seems that any slight affection he has for his wife wanes. She grumbles about her childless condition and nags constantly about this and that. In addition, he becomes bored with his prestigious position as a scribe.

One day, as Mark passes the market, he spots Aphiema over by the fruit stand. She is as beautiful as ever. Old desires well up inside of him and he is drawn to her side.

“Hmm, this fruit looks quite delicious,” he says, not taking his sensuous eyes off her.

She cocks her head with an alluring smile and whispers, “Enticing, wouldn’t you say?”

“Perhaps we could partake of its sweetness this evening.”

In no time, they had set a time and place for a renewed rendezvous.

That evening, Mark contains his lurid thoughts while he makes excuses to his wife as to where he must be for the evening.

His heart beats with excitement as he prances through the dark streets of Jerusalem with youthful energy in spite of his advancing years. Night after night, he is enticed by this sensuous woman. Sometimes they meet in the daytime rather than the evening so as not to alert his wife. One must be careful when in high positions.  

Well, lest you think I’ve gone from spiritual reflections to sensual smut, let me assure you that I’m merely setting up a scenario for the rest of the story. We will get to the Scripture. Stay tuned!

~ Joyce ~

Victory in Jesus

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we saw Martha, our lady who suffered fatigue from her years of dealing with a blood disease. (See “Worn-out Lady“)

She has gathered her strength and is determined to touch Jesus’ cloak, convinced that even a touch will heal her.

Unfortunately, the crowd is particularly heavy this day. The synagogue ruler has just come to beg Jesus to go to his daughter who lies dying at his house. As Jesus walks that way, the crowd presses in close to him.

This could be her opportunity to reach in and touch him unnoticed, but does she have the strength to push through? She weaves her small, weak frame in and around the people, struggling to keep up.

At last, she sees an opening and thrusts her hand forward to touch the back of his cloak. She stumbles and almost falls, but someone lifts her up and away. Martha can feel an unfamiliar strength, surge through her body. The fatigue has left her. She feels energy she has not known in twelve years!

Just then, Jesus stops and those around him slow to a pause.

At once, Jesus turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched me?” You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you asked, ‘Who touched me?'” Mark 5:30-31

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Luke 8:46 

As far as I know, this is the only place in Scripture where we read of Jesus saying that power has gone out of him. No doubt, that was often the case when He healed. 

Well now, Martha is in a pickle! She is thrilled with her healing but frightened to have been caught.

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:47-48

Oh, my friends, that’s what He wants to do in times when we feel frazzled and weak, in our times of overworked busyness and fatigue. Go to Him in concentrated prayer, seek His presence, reach out and touch the hem of his garment and then, bask in the renewed spiritual energy that He gives, that you may… Go in peace.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Worn-Out Lady

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you ever feel worn to a frazzle? Coming and going with way too much activity. Or responsibilities reaching mountainous heights?

I think back to when I was younger. I would grab my little girl by the hand and hoist my eighteen-month old on my hip and out the door we’d go to some activity at church.

I taught the youth on Sunday night and directed the children’s choir on Wednesday night, while supporting my Minister of Music husband in a myriad of other activities. Of course, there’s groceries, meals, cleaning, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’re into raising older children, working outside the home, plus community, church and home responsibilities.

Or you may be where I am now—old! Dealing with health issues for myself and for an aging mother and still, after all these years, trying to reduce added activities—all worthy—but asking, Lord, what’s the ones YOU want me to do?

Maybe you’re caring for a loved one and having caregiver fatigue.

This week, our unnamed woman, is probably a young. I’m guessing 24-ish. She’s likely single and definitely suffering from the fatigue of caring for her own physical needs. Her disease causes non-stop bleeding.

One week a month is do-able, but ongoing for years is quite another thing. Even worse is the fact that she would be considered religiously unclean. According to the Mosaic law, others could not lie on a bed where she has been or sit where she sat or touch anything she has touched. She is unclean. Almost like a leper!

She’s spent what money she has on seeing many doctors through the years, but instead of improving, she’s getting worse.

Without a name, we call her “the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Let’s name her Martha. Martha means lady. This woman was more “lady” than she wanted to be.

…[she] had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Mark 5:25

Therefore, no one wanted to be around her. It seems she’s been abandoned by her own family. Perhaps the only reason she can manage to move through this crowd is because they don’t know her.

She’s obviously heard of Jesus and the miraculous way he has healed many people. “Martha” figures…

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:28

Jesus can heal us in many ways. It may not be a bleeding disease, but if we suffer from fatigue of any kind, we can seek our Lord’s healing power. We must pursue Him with diligence as Martha did. Reaching out, seeking His will, touching His presence. May it be so for us all.

Next week—the results.

~ Joyce ~

A “Pleasant” Shocker!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we met The Widow. Perhaps you already guessed that this was the widow of Nain, a town south of Nazareth. Nain means “pleasant” or delightful. Unfortunately, things were not so pleasant in “Pleasantville.”

To help personalize this unnamed widow, I suggested the name, Hannah (which means “honor.”) Her son had died and now men were carrying his open coffin toward a burial cave.

About that time, Jesus entered the town along with his disciples and a large crowd who had been following him. 

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. Luke 7:12

What timing! Coincidence, you say? How many times in your life has the Lord been there just when you needed him most?

I love the next verse when we see Jesus’ compassionate heart. He did not do his acts of healing for sensationalism; he did them because he saw a need and had a caring heart.

When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Luke 7:13

Now hold your breath as we view what happened next. 

Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and begin to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:14-15

Wouldn’t you love to know what the son said? And see his mother’s reaction? It certainly became a delightful, pleasant day in Nain. Our Hannah has been honored to have her son back once again.

What a happy day for all. Let’s check in with the crowd.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. Luke 7:16-17

“God has come,” they said. They had experienced Immanuel—God with us.

We have two other accounts in Scripture of Jesus raising someone from the dead. It seldom happens in our day, but we do see injured persons and those with dreadful diseases come through it with life—miracles in our midst.

And what joy we have when someone who was horribly dead in sin is brought into eternal life.

Thank you, Father, that you see our needs, whatever they may be, and minister to us in loving ways. Open our eyes to even small ways from day to day that you are Immanuel, God with us. 

~ Joyce ~

The Widow

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Our woman of the week, like many women in the Bible was unnamed. To help move her story along, let’s give her the name, Hannah, which means honor.

We know that “Hannah” had a son. Let’s call him Josiah, meaning may Yahweh give. Since Hannah had a son, she also had a husband, of course, a husband who could provide for his family. 

Unfortunately, Hannah’s husband died and she is now a widow, a scary place to be in that day and time. Women had very little means to provide for themselves.

Fortunately, she has Josiah who is perhaps old enough to work and provide for the two of them. Hannah must make many adjustments, but she keeps her faith in God to help her.

She worries however, because Josiah has been limping. “Why do you limp so, Josiah?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “I have pain in my hip. If I limp, I don’t feel the pain as much.”

Hannah prepares remedies that might ease the pain, but instead helping, the pain seems to be getting worse. Hannah sits in her bed at night, bending over in earnest prayer for his healing.

Soon, Josiah is only capable of working a few hours each day, then a few hours each week. Their food supply is dwindling, and Josiah’s pain increases. Neighbors help all they can, but many of them are poor as well.

The dreadful day comes when a neighbor runs down the road to Hannah when she is in the garden. “Hannah, Hannah! It’s Josiah. He’s fallen and we can’t get him up.” Hannah drops her basket and runs down the road with the neighbor.

Josiah lays absolutely still beside the road. Hannah falls to her knees and embraces her only son, but his arms are heavy and lifeless; he has no breath left in him. Hannah cries out in agony as she rocks him in her arms. “My son, my son. Oh Josiah, my son.”

Finally, two women help Hannah back to her house. The men borrow a cart from another neighbor and lift Josiah up and on to the cart. Many friends gather to comfort and mourn with Hannah. The body rests at the house where a few women perform the ritual of cleansing.

It is almost more than Hannah can bear. Her husband gone and now her son. What will she do?

Next week—Jesus comes to town.

~ Joyce ~

 

Moses’ Mother

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we discovered that Moses’ mother was Jochebed. (See “Who Was Jochebed?”)

We found her to be quite the innovator by hiding baby Moses from the hand of Pharaoh’s soldiers for three months, then devising a little basket boat in which to hide him in the Nile.

We last found the boat under the watchful of of his sister, Miriam. Perhaps Miriam played along the bank, gathering reeds to make a bracelet or hair band. She kept moving farther and farther away from their house, but still the basket floated among the reeds safely.

To her surprise she heard voices by the bank’s edge. Who were they? Would they see the basket? She looked up and realized she was near the Pharoah’s palace. Imagine her shock to spy the princess!

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Yikes! What should Miriam do now? And how did the princess know it was a Hebrew baby? Ah, yes, remember the Hebrew blanket inside the basket?

Miriam was as imaginative as her mother. She made her appearance and said,

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7

“Yes, go,” the princess told her. Of course Miriam went to get her own mother. Imagine Jochebed’s thoughts as she raced to the bathing area. What will she do with my baby? What will she do with me? God give me guidance. To her surprise, the princess said,

“Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” Exodus 2:9

Can you believe that? Not only would her baby be protected, but she would get paid for it!

No doubt Jochebed cared for this special child with dedication. Perhaps she made sure Hebrew songs were implanted in his head along with prayers to their Holy God.

Evidently the agreement included returning the baby after he had been weaned. 

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10 (“Moses” sounds like the Hebrew word for “draw out.”)

It isn’t until Exodus 6:20 that we learn Jochebed’s name and her husband, Amram in the listing of family names, but these few verses in Exodus 2 say much about her creativity and her dedication to her child along with the sacrifice she made.

Oh, that we might be creative and take advantage of the time we’re given with our children and grandchildren, our church children and other young lives we touch.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Who Was Jochebed?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

This month, let’s explore lessons from lesser-known women in the Bible.

Today’s star lived in the latter years of Egyptian slavery. She and her husband had a son named Aaron. They came from the priestly line of the Levites.

Years before, all was well in the land of Goshen where their people lived. The Hebrews enjoyed the prestige of being a part of the family of Joseph who was second only to the Pharaoh.

Now, over three centuries later, Joseph was long forgotten. The Hebrews were way too prolific at having babies to suit the current Pharaoh, and he feared they would grow too numerous to control. He decreed that all new-born baby boys be thrown into the Nile River.

Enter our star player today…

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. Exodus 2:1-2

That alone puts her at the top of my list of innovative women. Keeping a new-born quiet for three months requires amazing ingenuity!

The thought struck me that she likely had to keep his presence quiet even from the neighbors. After all, if the soldiers came and threw my baby into the Nile, what right does she have to be keep her baby?

Whatever ideas this mother managed to devise,  she was running out of tricks so her last-ditch effort was to make a little boat for him to float in the Nile among the bull rushes where he might be somewhat protected. 

Gleaning from the expert boat maker, Noah, she made her basket. (Side note—Noah’s ark and this basket are the only two times this construction is mentioned in the Bible.)

But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed him in it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Exodus 2:3-4

Every mother can empathize with this mother. How hard it is to let your child go; find his own way, make his mistakes, learn from them. But in this case, just a baby?

What was running through her mind? I’ll put him there in the daytime and bring him in at night. Or, did she know the area where the princess usually bathed? Could she ever have imagined that the princess would find him and claim him for her own? 

Whatever her thoughts, she decided that anything was better than to be drowned in the Nile. Reaching out in faith, she followed the Pharaoh’s decree, but instead of throwing him in, she snuggled him in a Hebrew blanket inside a waterproof basket. 

Next week, we’ll discover what happened to the baby and his ingenious mother named Jochebed. 

~ Joyce ~

Candy Cane Reminders

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As you read this, my grandchildren will be gone, the sheets and towels in the washer, and decorations packed away along with the memories of Christmas 2018. 

When I put the last candy canes in the box, I couldn’t help thinking about the legend of the candy cane. You haven’t heard it? Or maybe you’ve heard only parts of it? Perhaps you would enjoy this one last reminder of “the reason for the season.”

THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE

A humble candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a special gift for the King of Kings, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.

He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure hard candy to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ,

hard, because the church is built on solid rock,

firm, because God’s promises are a firm foundation.

He formed it in the shape the the letter-J

to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.

When turned upside down, the “J” could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Then, He added three small stripes to represent the scourging Jesus suffered before He went to the cross.

One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood He shed that we might have the promise of eternal life.

It would be a gift of love that would tell His story—

the greatest story ever told!

As we look toward the new year, the old story is never outdated. We must tell it again and again through candy canes, visuals, stories, or whatever creative means we can find.

For the wages of sin is death [spiritual death], but the gift of God is eternal life [spiritual life.] Romans 6:23

Blessings on your New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

Frazzled in the Season

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I found this very apropos writing in a little book of Christmas collections called “Christmas Joy.” It is an adaptation from I Corinthians 13 by Sharon Jaynes. I thought you would enjoy and appreciate it as the clock ticks down to Christmas.

LOVE, FIRST CORINTHIANS 13-STYLE

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family—I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozen of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my familyI’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family—it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ,  I have missed the point.

 

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love  is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break; necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

by Sharon Jaynes (www.sharonjaynes.com)

May you move into these final days with love, joy, anticipation, and be completely un-frazzled.

I look forward to my son and his family coming in from South Carolina and joining us along with my daughter and her family from here in Louisville. Seven delightful grandchildren and I’m not one bit prejudiced!

Merry Christmas to all.

~ Joyce ~

Wonderful Counselor

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We think of a counselor as a good thing. Indeed, a competent counselor, especially one with a Christ-filled heart, is a transforming helper.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… a light has dawned. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:2, 6 

But anything of value is often copied by Satan who puts his mark on it. 

I was reminded of this when I looked up “counselor” in Strong’s concordance. It predictably means “to give advice, to council, to purpose, plan, plot, conspire against.” What? Plot? Conspire against? That’s when I realized how Satan can take a good thing and twist it. Counsel positively, counsel negatively.

I have shared with you in recent months the trials I’ve had with my mother’s health and the grueling long days going to the hospital then rehab. My energy was zapped; my emotions on edge, my mind amuck. Then the mild stroke hit.

Since then, I have made medication changes and included a few rest times in my day. But frustrations with mother’s discontent at her new place has continued to plague me. 

I worried, held on to anxiety, woke in the night unable to get back to sleep, still trying to figure how to take control of things. The Lord revealed over and over, “Trust me.” We all know how hard it is to let go of things. Little by little, I have tried to release my clutched hands and take His hand.

“For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

He holds our hand, but we must first place our hand in his outstretched hand. 

Then He is able to be our counselor, revealing things we either didn’t know or have let slip by us. Unlike the deceiver, the plotter, the one who conspires against us, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He also brings a sense of peace into our lives as he holds our hand.

After all, He’s also the Prince of Peace!

May it be so for you in this celebration season.

~ Joyce ~