Peter – Name Change

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week (in Peter, Part One), Andrew went to his brother, Simon, and declared to him that he had found the Messiah. We are given no comment from Simon. Not “You’ve gotta be kidding!” or “What makes you think that?” or “Praise the Lord!” Nothing.

We are told that Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, so I guess he was at least willing to come and see Him.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, you will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter.) John 1:42

Thus the beginning of name changes for a few of the disciples. “Peter” meant stone or rock. He was anything but a solid rock early on with his impulsive, unstable personality, but in Acts he became the pillar of the early church. Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.

How refreshing to know that God sees beyond the meager person I am to what He knows I can become when I submit to His power in me. After all, God created you and me with the gifts, personality, and interests we have. He sees our potential. Nothing can bind us if we stay connected to the vine. He can produce abundant fruit in us.

Well, back to our story. The next day, Jesus decided to leave from the area where John the Baptist had been preaching and go to Galilee, more specifically Bethsaida, Peter and Andrew’s hometown. Jesus seeks out another hometown boy, Philip. Maybe Andrew had also talked to Philip; we don’t know.

Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

Philip evidently had enthusiasm and faith because he, in turn, went to find his friend Nathaniel. He told him,

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and whom the prophet also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45

Nathaniel gives us his famous line,

“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 (NAS)

Philip persuades him to come and see. Thus we hear the conversation between Jesus and Nathaniel (later called “Bartholomew.”)

“Here is a true Israelite in whom nothing is false.”

“How do you know me?”

“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending of the Son of Man.” John 1:47-51

John, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. Now there are five. No matter how untrained or unrestrained we are, God sees where we can be more than where we are. He can use us whether our personality is quiet and calm or boisterous and loud. He has a plan for each of us, beyond where we are today. He simply says, “Follow me.”

Next week, we’ll go to a wedding!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Peter, Part One

 

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

It’s been a while since we have explored a Bible character while “Searching His Word and Seeking His Heart,” so let’s have a look at Peter.

Only one Peter is found in the Scriptures. Others could likely have been named Peter, but we only have info on this one and quite a character he is. What do you know about him? Perhaps you would say, “Peter was a disciple of Jesus, a fisherman, and the brother of Andrew from Bethsaida.” Yes, and so much more.

We have more stories and incidents where “Peter did… or Peter said…” than any other disciple. Perhaps that’s because Peter had a personality that was larger than life—always the bold one, the first with an opinion, out-spoken, impetuous, headlong, spontaneous, but unbridled. We never have to wonder what Peter was thinking. Perhaps that’s why his name pops up more than any of the other disciples of Jesus.

Peter’s birth name, Simon, means “he has heard” or “obedient.” He demonstrated aspects of hearing Jesus’ words, but often had to  be tested with fire to truly understand  Jesus’ heart. He proved obedient but bore many trials to get there.When we place ourselves in God’s hands, miracles can happen, but Jesus had his work cut out for him with this live firecracker.

We know that he had a brother, Andrew, who was most likely overshadowed by his domineering brother. Scripture only gives us two quotes from Andrew, but it is Andrew who first introduced Simon Peter to Jesus.

The back story is that, in the beginning, Andrew and John were early followers of John the Baptist. One day they heard John the Baptist say,

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘a man who comes after me has surpassed me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” John 1:29-31

John the Baptist then told what happened when he baptized Jesus earlier—the appearance of the dove, the voice from heaven and all. 

The next day, Jesus came walking by again. And again John the Baptist pointed him out and said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

This time, Andrew and John walked away and started following Jesus. Jesus noticed them and turned around to ask,

“What do you want?” John 1:38

They asked where he was staying. (In other words, “We want to talk to you.”) Jesus invited them to spend the rest of the day with him. They were convinced. Andrew went straight to his brother and said,

“We have found the Messiah.” John 1:41

And that’s where we shall begin our journey with Simon Peter.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

What Color Is Faith?

 

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Faith. How many sermons, how many lessons or studies have you had on on this subject?

The usual definition of faith is given in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. (KJV)

Or if you prefer:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)

So we could say there is that element of “hope” where faith is concerned, not just wishing but hope that is sure and certain. Now to the question in the title—What color is faith? Let me ask you this—what color do you see here?

Blue of course, but as you see there are different shades of blue—navy, aqua, true blue, sky blue. So it is with shades of faith. Hope is one shade of faith.

When Moses and the children of Israel were in the desert, they had an episode of victory over an enemy. The victory went to their heads and they felt emboldened to complain (as did their forefathers) about the manna, Gods’s very provision for them. Not only that:

…the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Numbers 21:4-5

Direct blaspheme against God could not be tolerated. God chose to send venomous snakes among them. When the snakes bit the people, many died. Finally, they came to Moses and confessed that they had sinned. They said,

“Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” Numbers 21:7

Moses did pray and God asked Moses to do a strange thing.

“Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who has been bitten can look at it and live.” Numbers 21:8

Strange. Making images of people or animals had been strictly forbidden. This required great faith on their part and trust that Moses had this thing right.

Ah, another shade of faith, namely “trust.” Sure enough, if they were bitten, Moses lifted up the bronze snake and if they looked at it, they lived.

Fast forward centuries later to a night when Jesus had a private conversation with Nicodemus, the Pharisee. In the conversation, Jesus said, 

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, [that detestable, deadly snake] so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on that detestable, deadly cross] that everyone who believes  in him [truly looks toward him in faith] may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

Thus the deepest shade of faith—belief. And Jesus offers, not just life from a snake bite, but eternal life. 

So there’s our shades of faith—hope, trust, belief. In keeping with our recent theme of gazing, not just glimpsing at God, I leave you with another quote from Tozer:

“We learn that faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.”

~ Joyce ~

 

Eyes to See

 

 

Every day, as I pull into the driveway, I see this beautiful array of Knockout Roses and Sweet Potato Vines. The rosy pink flowers and bright green leaves are striking and provide a pleasant welcome home.

A few days ago, I went out with clippers in hand to check everything.

When I looked closely at the roses, I could see the many blossoms that had paled, spread wide open, or lost petals. Time to clip them off to give renewed energy to the new blossoms.

Then to examine the Sweet Potato Vine. It grows quite fast and can quickly get out of control, crawling out on the driveway, spreading under the bushes, or creeping up into the roses. I don’t see any of this just passing by in the car. I have to get out and really look at it.

There really is a point to this other than sharing my little garden spot with you or showing off my new-found skill at learning how to put pictures on my blog!

How easy for us to go through life just glancing at the things that most catch our eye rather than looking closely for all that goes with it, things that need to be cleaned up or clipped out of our lives. To fully see, we must look—intentionally. 

Scripture is replete with verses about “looking.” 

I will lift my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. Psalm 123:1

…let us throw off everything that hinders [clip off dead blossoms] and the sin that so easily entangles [winding vines] let us fix our eyes on Jesus [the beautiful red bloom], the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2

What do I need to clip out of my life? A bad attitude, a critical spirit, hasty words? What vines are slowly entangling? Wasteful time on the iPhone or taking on too many tasks?

 

I think about the Bible character, Matthew. What things did he allow into his life that needed to be clipped and untangled? I wonder what he saw from his vantage point at his tax collector’s booth by the sea. Did he see Jesus performing miracles? Did he watch Jesus touching people lovingly? Did he hear His teachings? Was Matthew thinking about his sinner friends and his own sin that had led him to become a despised tax collector? Was he convicted of that sin, ready to weed out the sin-sickness that had infected his life?

Whatever Matthew saw, whatever he felt, he was ready when Jesus looked directly into his eyes and said, “Follow me.” Matthew left everything to follow Jesus because he finally had Eyes to See. Thus the title of my next book.

May we have eyes that continuously gaze at our creator, the author and perfecter of our faith. 

~ Joyce ~

Eclipse of the Heart

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Did you see the partial or total eclipse in your area? Have you heard all the things the astronomers were hoping to find?

If you watch the science channel, they are still going on and on about the eclipse. One astronomer excitedly talked about the prospect of seeing the total eclipse for the second time. He had been to Australia to see his first one a few years ago. He said it showed him “the amazing power of…” well, in my believer’s mind, I fully expected to hear him say, “the power of God,” but he said, “the power of science to be able to predict, to the second, what will happen.”

In Genesis we are told;

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the water. Genesis 1:2

The first thing God brought into being was light to penetrate the darkness and He saw that it was good. Figuratively, as dark as it may get in our world, there is always that bit of God’s light to penetrate the darkness.

Day two, He made an expanse between the waters and called it sky, preparing a place for all the heavenly bodies. Day three, the land and vegetation.

Then came day four. (Remember, His own light, the light emanating  from Him, had already been created.)

  And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night… ” God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. Genesis 1:14, 16

Over and over throughout Scripture, God has represented good as light and evil as dark. The good guy dressed in white, the bad guy dressed in black.

As I watched the replay of the total eclipse from Oregon, I could see the dark shadow of the moon gradually overtake the brightness of the sun until there was nothing but a tiny crescent of the sun left. Then that moment of total darkness. But within a split second, the corona burst outside the edges of the big black circle. The crowd gasped.

I thought to myself, the light of God’s presence will not be extinguished!

This week, I did receive my book by A. W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God” and was awed by this statement;

“In the living, breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man falls to his knees and whispers,’God.’ The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things.”

It is fine to be awed by the “how,” but let us be sure that we recognize and worship the “who.”

~ Joyce ~

 

Pursuing God

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In the last two blogs, I have quoted and commented on the first two verses of Psalm 42.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2

 Martha, one of my subscribers, commented that the last blog had challenged her “to thirst more for God and His word.”

Something about those words set me to thinking. Do we decide one day, “I’m going to thirst for God today”? Somehow that feels contrived as though we can conjure up a thirst for God, turn it on and off, so to speak. Is thirst something we decide to do or is it a natural outcome? 

I lived for a few days with that question mulling over and over in my mind. Had my relationship become so stale, so complacent, that I had to create a thirst for Him? Can one create thirst?

With these thoughts in mind, I went on vacation. Sun lotion applied, I plopped down in the beach chair and began a conversation with my daughter-in-law on the thirst questions that had been circulating in my mind. In a related realm, she had been dealing with this as well, concluding that the beginning step for her was confession, weeding out the personal, deep-seated sins in her life. She mentioned that she had been reading A. W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. 

I brought up the topic with my son and he had some wonderful thoughts which escape me now. (Where is my pen when I need it?) He mentioned that they had brought Tozer’s book with them and offered for me to read it.

I soaked up the first half of the book in the time I had at the beach and vowed to purchase my own copy so I can read to the end. I highly recommend this small, powerful book to you.

Tozer takes you deep into the inner man. I’m not sure yet if he is the one who coined the phrase “practicing the presence of God,” but that is one of the ideas of his book. Up front he uses the Psalm 42 verse. Interesting.

Now let’s go back and trace how God was at work in this whole process. He planted this verse in my mind and heart—enough that I mentioned it in TWO previous blogs. He worked through Martha’s comment to get me to thinking and questioning. Shortly thereafter, I landed on the beach with two who had been dealing with similar thoughts. They brought the book with them at a period when I had time to read. Tozer used the very Scripture that started this whole process.

Do you see how He often works in our lives when we become open and receptive? Makes me thirsty for more!

Thank you, Lord, that your presence is always there, always available. Draw us out of our passive, complacent attitudes to seek and find and be thirsty for more.

~ Joyce ~ 

After I wrote this, I checked emails. There in living color was a blockbuster ad for not only “The Pursuit of God”, but a combination of this and two other of his books. Our God is so amazing!

Beach Lessons

Searching His Word
            Seeking His Heart

Speaking of water, (last week’s blog “Water, Water” 08/03/17) I am at the beach this week.

Whether we are enjoying the quiet pools of a still lake or the crashing waves of the ocean, there is something mesmerizing about bodies of water. 

I remember the first time we took some of our grandchildren to the beach. It was late in the afternoon when we first arrived. The kids were about 3, 4, and 5 years old. As the waves washed over their feet, they were spellbound. Then came that drawing sensation of the tide pulling their feet deep into the sand. They laughed out loud and fell down, giggling all the way. Getting up, they stood waiting, laughing, amazed, falling, and up for more—a delight to a grandmother’s heart.

I love walking along the shore, sun on my back, breezes blowing, and the roaring sound of the waves. It always reminds me of the power of God and the fact that He is in control of this dynamic force as well as our world. At times, the extension of the waves lightly trickles over my toes, reminding me of God’s gentleness. Mighty, yet tender. What a God we serve.

You can be sure that I will think of our verse from last week as I walk along the shore.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2

One writer imagines the deer being pressed by hunters, panting after the run, and thirsty for the life-giving water.

The massive blue sky above and the pounding water below woo a beach walker into thoughts of God.

Come to me Lord Jesus. Help me long for you. Draw me into your presence. Speak words in my mind and heart that I need to hear. Give me knowledge and strength to follow your will. Help me not be so busy that I only get a glimpse of You, but instead, help me gaze at You.

[Jesus said] “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

I have a circular, orange float that I call my “orange doughnut.” I float with it in the pool, but sometimes launch out into the ocean. It’s fun to ride  up and down with the gentle waves. But every once in a while the waves gather more force and splash all over me. I think of it as God being playful, that is, until the “playfulness” becomes a little too much for me. Then, getting into the shore with all the splashing and undertow gets to be downright teasing!

Those are my “beachy” thoughts this week. All told, it is pure delight for me to be here, especially my alone time sitting in a beach chair with a book! I hope you have had a fun diversion this summer, especially one that feeds your soul.

~ Joyce ~

 

Water, Water!

Searching His Word
              Seeking His Heart

Last week, we thought about challenging obstacles (as in the Spartan Race – 07/20/17.) In addition to the obstacles of the race, the heat and humidity brought on additional hardship.

My daughter-in-law, Mandy, said that once they were a couple of miles into the race, she felt extreme exhaustion from being dehydrated due to the heat. She began feeling numb and in a fog, desperate for water.

Soon they had to crawl through mud and then swim under a plank through muddy water. Muddy or not, she said it was the most refreshing thing ever, just to feel the water. It revived her enough to move on.

Her statement made me think about water—refreshing, life-giving water. We can go several days without food, but only minimal time without water. Even, as for Mandy, water to the skin provides some needed hydration .

That led me to think about God creating the universe from the beginning:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waterGenesis 1:2

All was water to begin with. Ever thought about that? We’re born in a water sac. We’re made up of about 60% water. We perspire water, cry water, and well, expel water, too. 

Water is below us in the oceans and above us in the clouds. Evaporation and condensation provide a continual life cycle. You can freeze it, steam it, or drink it. A Coke or fruit drink is tasty, but water best quenches our thirst. We use it to clean our bodies, our dishes, our clothes, and our foods, but most importantly, it sustains our lives.

I’m not after a science lesson here; I just think it’s interesting to think about this simple, yet important gift God has given us—water. 

I’m reminded of Psalm 42 from which we have one of my favorite choruses:

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2

Oh, that we would have that great desire for the Lord; that we would not just feel empty without Him, but that we would pant for Him, not be able to stand it without Him. I will be reminded of that the next time I am so dry that I long to pull out that water bottle.

Well, after my tirade about water, I must give you the end of the Spartan Race story. Mandy, my son Jason, and the two grandsons did make it to the end of the race. In spite of the obstacles and heat, they jumped over the trail of fire to declare themselves Spartans!

~ Joyce ~

 

Spartan Race

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

My crazy kids (son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons) entered the Spartan Race at Fort Knox last weekend. This kind of race, held in several locations across the country and in other countries, is more than a running race; it involves a number of obstacles.

True enough, the one who gets to the best time is the winner, but it is more a test of endurance and strength. Just to make it to the end is a massive achievement. Thus, those who manage to cross the fire at the end receive a heavy medal piece to hang around their necks.

Historically speaking, the Spartans were an elite group of Greek fighting soldiers from Sparta who were renown for their prowess and ability to fight off large numbers of enemies – the real “he-men” of old.

The obstacles along the way in this race might include climbing a wire-type wall, scooting up a heavy rope and back down, swinging on movable monkey bars of sorts, carrying a heavy ball a distance (30 pounds for women, 50 pounds for men), or crawling under a barbed-wire fence. Well, you get the idea. I’m already worn out just thinking about it!

Combine this with the fact that the temperature last Friday was nearing 97 degrees with a heat index well over 100. Can you say perseverance? It reminds me of the words of the writer of Hebrews;

… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Of course you are beginning to see the comparisons to our own lives. Sometimes we feel like we’re in a race of endurance.

A young mother feels overloaded keeping her household duties going with her children, meals, school preparations, while working at a demanding job. A husband has a demeaning boss who expects the impossible and then he goes home to rebellious teenagers. A wife spends hours taking her husband back and forth for medical treatments, wondering all the while how much longer he will have to live. A daughter deals with the endless tasks of dealing with an aging parent. Parents are at their wits end with what to do about their drug-addicted son.

If you can’t complete an obstacle in the Spartan Race, you have to do 30 “Burpees” (a series of arms up, squat, push feet back, do a push-up, squat, stand.) 

Periods of our lives may feel like this at times. Obstacles beyond what we can bear followed by something equally challenging.

Once again the Hebrew writer gives us advice;

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2

When we are overwhelmed with the troubles of life, may we hear Jesus words;

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Did my kids make it over the finish line? Stay tuned next week!

~ Joyce ~

    

Grandchildren Week

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’re in the thick of it—grandchildren!

As each one of the seven came along, we rejoiced. We coddled and cooed and bragged—two from our daughter, Julie, and five from our son, Jason.

So how is it that these little people suddenly became big people? Taller-than-me people! They have turned into 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, and two 16 year-olds.

Thankfully, they still want to come to Nana and DoDad’s house. (Yes, “DoDad.”)  They also like being with their cousins. We ride the go-carts at the Fun Park, swim, eat, take in dollar movies (if we can find them), eat, play in Julie’s big yard, do a volunteer day, eat, and play in the park. Did I say eat?

They each have their unique personalities and likes, but they are well behaved and are fun to be with. We are blessed. Yes, there are bandaged knees, sprained wrists, and things broken at times, but that comes along with it.

I delight in the memories we are making together, conversations that help form values, while establishing that family is a loving, happy place to be. They love to hear stories of when they were little or stories about their parents when they were were younger, and our stories. It provides connection and a place of belonging.

When the two oldest girl cousins were born (a month apart), I began a photo album with two pictures per page and a space to write comments in between. A year later, the next next one came along, so of course he needed an album, too. Then another… and another… and another. Needless to say, my book shelves are full of albums of memories. At Christmas each finds a spot to sit with his or her album and look through the activities for that year. I must say, though, it is a lot of work!

Is all of our family life a garden of roses, a fairy land of magical happenings, a Kum Bah Yah campfire? Of course not. As with all families, there are times of misunderstanding, bitterness, even rebellion. Fortunately, God’s love overcomes it all. We can say with David:

I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble

Oh my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. Psalm 59: 16-17

Young parents, I implore you to follow God’s example of being a refuge and fortress as you grow your families. Grandparents, may we bring our unique joy into these precious lives as we build heritage.

However, I would caution you to watch your traditions with the first one or two grandchildren, for who knows, you could end up with seven, too! (smile)

~ Joyce ~