Personal word

Well, friends, if you read the blog on your iPhone this week, one picture was turned sideways and another printed twice.

About the time I think I’ve figured out how to do pictures, these things happen to remind me how infallible I am! Hope you at least got the idea and will overlook my bobbles!

While I’m confessing—my poem from three weeks ago came out all discombobbled, too. I was trying to fool the wordpress limitations on going to the next line rather than having a space between lines, but it showed me a thing or two.  Looked great on my screen, but went all over the place when it printed out.

Thanks for your patience with my computer skills!

~ 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 ~   

The Hope of Spring

Searching His Word                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Seeking His Heart

I trudged to the car. “Do I have to go to the Y?” I asked myself.

The last remnants of my cold were still hanging on. I felt tired from a long weekend with company, and added to that, my mother had a fall, then a fierce infection, and was very weak. “Yes, you have to go,” I told myself. “You’ve missed way too many days.”

So off I went. Daffodils stood proud in the neighbor’s yard  and there by the road, forsythia waved its yellow arms at me. The low-lying bushes had already grown their new green leaves and with all the rain, the grass stood up, lush and green.

“Thank you, Lord,” I whispered, a reminder that spring brings hope. All can be renewed.

I made it through the Y exercises and the aerobic pool. Mother was finally able to get up and I helped her dress. I had plenty of left-overs at home to fix an easy supper. All was right with the world.

It reminded me of my little Spring poem. Thought I’d share it with you again.

My Season

I spouted my leaves one summer day,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Small ones they were in the month of May.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I watched the Oak tree, big and strong,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Growing thousands of leaves all summer long.

   

Knock-out roses bore red blooms.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Where is my color?” I sat and fumed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Poppies, pansies, petunias, too                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        All stood out with colorful hue.

The season wore on with this color-filled scene,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But all I had to show was my same old green.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fall came along, the oak leaves turned red.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My leaves just shriveled and fell off, quite dead.

Winter time came with the cold and the snow.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The ice was so heavy, we bent our heads low.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Finally temperatures warmed my cold heart.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I lifted my head. “I’ll make a new start!”

      

Now the oak stands strong, though a bare-looking fellow,                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “But look at me, I’m blooming all yellow.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “Of course you are,” said the Oak, “Don’t be so ‘pithia.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                             It’s your season now, for you’re a Forsythia!”

Happy Spring!

~ Joyce ~

 

Resurrection Day!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We last left Peter weeping in the night after three denials of Jesus, (Cock Crowing Experiences!)

We can assume Peter finally went back to the disciples. When the women came to tell that the tomb was empty, Peter and John went running to the tomb to see for themselves. They saw, but they didn’t understand where to find his body. In addition, they couldn’t quite accept Mary Magdelene’s testimony that she had seen the risen Lord.

It always amazes me that they couldn’t remember that Jesus told them several times, as clear as could be, that the religious leaders would take him, kill him on a cross, and He would rise again.

Instead, they were overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, and questions.

That Sunday night, the two from Emmaus came with their report of an afternoon conversation with Jesus. In the midst of their story, Jesus himself appeared in the room. In their confused minds, the disciples thought it was a ghost. 

Jesus said,

“Peace be with you.” Luke 24:36

Peace… exactly what they needed most.

Jesus continued to assure them.

“Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see.” Luke 24:38

Eventually, after many appearances, they came to understand that their master, the one they had followed and believed for three years had been true to His word. The cross was empty, the grave was empty; He had risen indeed!

Peter eventually processes it all, finds forgiveness, and moves foreword as the leading preacher and teacher. Peter finally fulfills the meaning of his name and becomes the “rock” that Jesus had proclaimed him to be. Years before, Jesus saw not what Peter was, but what he could become.

May we all be found faithful to trust in that same resurrection power so that we might become the person He envisions each of us to be in His kingdom’s work.

A blessed Resurrection Day to all.

~ Joyce ~

 

Cock Crowing Experiences

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Ever remember a time when you’ve had a moment of truth?

 

I took my grandchildren to a skating rink recently and it dawned on me, I’ll never skate again. Arthritis has made it impossible, definitely not a smart thing to even consider.

Sometimes we have more serious moments of truth, “cock crowing” experiences I will call them.

Several years ago, I lived next door to a lady who I doubted was a Christian. I made a few attempts to be neighborly to get to know her. She was friendly enough, but we didn’t have many interactions. I kept thinking I would be able to develop enough relationship to witness directly to her, but before I knew it, our new house was built and we moved away. I realized our paths would likely never cross again. I lost my opportunity. The cock crowed. 

On a far deeper level, Simon Peter had his moment of truth. He had boldly followed Jesus. At the last supper, Jesus tried to warn the disciples that they would fall away, but Peter pledged his allegiance. Jesus told Peter,

“I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared,

“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Matthew 26:34-35

Peter and the others went with Jesus to the garden. When the the temple guard and religious leaders came for the arrest, Peter drew his sword to protect Jesus and ended up cutting off Malchus’ ear. Jesus rebuked Peter and restored the ear.

In spite of this rebuke, Peter (and John) continued to follow in the shadows when the leaders arrested Jesus and took Him away. All the other disciples fled. Peter even went into the courtyard outside the place where the leaders were questioning Jesus. That should count for something!

But then one of the servant girls questioned Peter. “You are one of his followers, aren’t you?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Denial one.

Later, another questioned him. “I don’t know the man,” he said. Denial two.

Still warming themselves around the fire, another said, “Surely you are one of them. Your Galilean accent gives you away.” Peter called down curses. “I don’t know the man!”

The cock crowed.

Peter’s moment of truth came. Instantly, he remembered Jesus’ warning. Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

We’ve all probably had words we wish we could draw back in. Moments of devastating self-awareness—cock crowing experiences.

Thankfully, Resurrection Day would come. What will Peter do with that? 

~ Joyce ~    

 

Writing – Part 3, A Heart for Truth

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

During the writing of “Ears to Hear,” I intertwined the character of Nicodemus into the plot, but I felt like he had his own story which called for a second book.

We have a little more Scripture about Nicodemus, so with those verses in mind, I pushed forward for round two.

A fun spot for me came in the chapter about Nicodemus’ visit with the spoiled boy next door. This boy reappeared throughout the book and into manhood, becoming a secondary antagonist.

In a dramatically draining chapter, Nicodemus’ father died. He loved his father dearly, as I did my own father. I wept right along with Nicodemus. I wrote this into the story as it was important that he learn from his brother how to prepare a body for burial. Later, Nicodemus would assist Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’  body.

All through the writing, I had definite high points in mind, but the details fell in place only a little at a time. The characters developed to a point where I anxiously went to the computer each day wondering what would happen next.   

About half of the story was written before I used the first Scripture where Nicodemus had his famous nighttime discussion with Jesus. I approached that scene with fear and trepidation. I felt like I didn’t dare put extra words in Jesus’ mouth. So the night conversation scene came directly from the Bible with a few gestures and positions added. It was a high and holy moment for me.

All through the Nicodemus story, I felt compelled to show him as the staunch, dictatorial Pharisee he likely was, steeped in the law and its practices, but bound to fulfill the words of Jesus—

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…” Luke 18:14

Astute readers might see early in the story that his condescending attitude toward shepherds would be the very thing I could use to bring on his needed humility. He wanted to have a heart for truth, but it would come in a way he least expected, a pathway that would lead him to the Truth Giver, the Good Shepherd.

The burning desire that God placed in my heart from the beginning of this call to write, was to see, and to help others see, that the characters of Scripture are real; they have great abilities, but they also have challenges as we all do.

God wants to lead us, to show us great treasures for the purpose He has for us, but He demands willing hearts. Oh that our hearts might come to Him, prepared for those treasures.

Writing may or may not be the treasure he has for you. However, if you feel a leaning in that direction, I’d like to make you aware of the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference coming up June 21-23 in Elizabethtown, KY. To find out more, go to www.kychristianwriters.com

Meanwhile, as you’ve gathered from previous blogs, I’m working on book three about Matthew, the tax collector.

~ Joyce ~

  

Writing – Part 2

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Last week in My Testimony About Writing, I shared about God’s call to write. I struggled trying to discern what the Lord wanted me to write. Of course, He rarely works on our time table, so I waited, watched, and listened.

That year, I attended a Bible study about the book of Matthew. I found myself noticing the lesser-known characters, the ones with only one or two verses. Often, their names weren’t even given, but they were important enough to mention. wondered what might be the rest of their stories. What was their background? How did they relate to Jesus? 

As I continued through Matthew, I was struck by the phrase, 

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

Later, when Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed, he said again,

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9

I began meditating on that phrase, thinking about it every time it came around. Jesus warned that, because of the people’s unbelief, their hearts had become calloused. The leaders did not put into practice the truths they had studied. 

“Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Matthew 13:15

Jesus described the religious leader’s faith by quoting what Isaiah said.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Matthew 15:8-9

They had ears, but they didn’t hear.

In my pilgrimage of what to write, the Lord had impressed on me the lesser-known characters. He brought my attention to have ears to hear what he has to say. So, when I came to the two-verse story of the servant of the high priest having his ear cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was like, this is it! This is who I am to write about.

I discovered from the other gospel writers that his name was Malchus and that Jesus healed his ear. It wasn’t much to go on, but I researched and wrote, trying to envision what might be the rest of Malchus’ story.

I was still working at the time so all too often the story got pushed to the back burner. Over and over I doubted. Who was I to think I could conquer such a task as writing a book? That’s when I first came across the quote I have on my desk. “The task ahead of us is never as great as the power behind us.”

The Lord provided a wonderful person to help me edit. Eventually, I acquired a publisher, then a capable person to help me make a video, take an author picture, and direct me to claim my website name.

It took seven years, but at last “Ears to Hear” became a reality. 

Next week, I’d like to share one more leg of the journey with you plus a challenge.

~ Joyce ~

 

My Testimony of Writing

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I suppose my first experience with writing came when I wrote in my diary like many 9 year-old girls—the first forms of keeping a journaling, you might say.

In the days of directing children’s choirs, I would pick up a script to a musical and find that it contained more songs than we would be able to have ready. If I had to cut three songs, it affected the scripts. So I adapted the scripts by rewriting them. For years, writing short skits had been a specialty, as well.

Later, I wrote devotionals and Bible studies including homework—way before Beth Moore came on the scene!

After hanging up my career of teaching music in public school and a career of directing children’s choirs, a youth and a senior adult choir, I had a nudging of the Holy Spirit to write. “What kind of writing?” I wondered. The only directive I received was “write.”

The Spirit led me to read in Exodus about Moses and the giving of the law.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered…” Exodus 17:14

Over and over, God told Moses to write, even the stages of their journey in the wilderness. Write. Record what happened.

Then, I read of the apostle John in Revelation.

On the Lord’s day, I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said, Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches.” Revelation 1:10-11

One day when passing a book store, I noticed that across the store front, it had a phrase about writing. Another time, I was driving down the highway and glanced at the license plate of the car in front of me. “WRITE!” it blared. 

Again I asked, “Write what? More of the things I have done before?” That didn’t seem to be the answer.

A few months later, I attended a conference for ministers and wives and went into a small group with the topic of seeking God’s ongoing will. The leader talked about how God’s will often evolves in different ways through our lives. Among her examples, she mentioned a woman who felt called to write a book.

A warm, almost hot, sensation started in my legs and worked its way up through my body. I felt like the Lord had taken a branding iron and stamped across my chest the word, WRITE! It reminded me of the story of the two men on their way to Emmaus. After Jesus finally revealed himself to them, one said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” That’s exactly how I felt.

“Okay, Lord, I understand, you want me to write, but what?” So with this call in mind, I began earnestly praying that he would reveal His will to me.

Next week, the rest of the story!

~ Joyce ~

 

Praising God for Sound

It always amazes me when I think about the fact that we all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and mouth, cheeks and eyebrows, yet each of us has a distinctive look—even twins. Another distinctive is our voices. 

If someone calls from the other room, you know which sister you hear. If a friend calls you on the phone, you know which friend by the voice.

We can tell much by the tone of the voice. He comes in from work and slams his things on the counter. The story of his tough day is biting, sharp, angry, fraught with frustration. We hear it in his tone.

She has pleasant conversation with her friend. The tone is light, warm, giggly.  Daughter comes in from school, animated, a pitch higher; she can’t get the words in quick enough. She aced her test, met the new boy, and got the lead role in the school play!

Whether we’re bitter, sad, questioning, or excited, one can hear it in our tone. It starts from the time we are born. The sounds from baby tell us if he’s hungry, afraid, happy, or mad.

 

And then there is the sound of music. We all have our tastes from country to classical. Sometimes music calms us with gentle serenity. Other times we delight in something bold, loud, triumphant, and exciting.

As I have enjoyed watching the Olympic ice skaters this week, I have been aware of how much the music enhances their programs. The triple-this and quad-that would not be nearly as exciting without the crescendos of the music.

The graceful, artistic  flow over the ice would not have nearly the same depth without the music that matches it. Likewise, rich, energetic music brings us right along with the skater into their final grandiose climaxes.

Do you remember when Joshua and the troops were ready to go into Jericho? Each day they were to march around the city. Imagine how intimidated the people in Jericho must have felt as they heard the pounding of marching feet around their city walls.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times… On the seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” Joshua 6:15-16

Marching, trumpets, and shouts. Then the walls came tumbling down. What a climax!

They often used trumpets in battle and in victory, shofars to call to attention or call to prayer, stringed instruments, tambourines, and voices in worship. Though our instruments and songs are different, we too, use these to lift up our praise to God.

I think about how far we have come from the Gregorian chants of old to the beautiful and powerful texts and tunes of today. It makes me wonder what the music of heaven will be like. Beyond our imagining. No doubt, glorious!

Listen this week for the myriad of sounds around you. Praise Him for sound—even for the sound of quiet.

~ Joyce ~