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 ~

 

 

 

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

 

  

Nehemiah – Planning and Action

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

God has given Nehemiah a concern for his Jerusalem homeland. He feels called to do something about the crumbling wall around the city.

During four months of prayer, God led him to make plans. Last week (Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity), we saw that King Artaxerxes dropped opportunity right in his lap. 

Since Nehemiah has been cooking up his plans, he’s ready.

“If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so they will provide me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah?”

Nehemiah thinks logically of what’s needed to get him safely there.

And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?

In his mind, he’s already there, thinking through what he will need. Planners do that! Nehemiah sees that God’s gracious hand was upon him because the king grants his requests.

Praying, planning, and then the action. Off he goes, beyond the Euphrates River, across the desert, to the land of Judah accompanied by the king’s cavalry, no less. 

After this grueling four-month journey, he rests for three days and makes plans to evaluate the crumbling wall. He purposely didn’t enter with a bang or even tell anybody why he was there. He plans to quietly assess the damage at night, by himself.

This is not a one-man job, so it is time to gather the troops. Here’s what we have recorded of his motivational speech to the priest, nobles, officials, and people:

“You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and it’s gates have been burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

He also gave them his personal testimony of how God’s hand was upon him with the king. The result?

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. Nehemiah 2:7-18

What a great formula for us when God lays a task upon our hearts—pray, plan, wait patiently for opportunity, move into action, rest, evaluate, share our own testimony of God’s hand at work, and inspire others to join in the task.

Tuck Nehemiah’s example away in your mind.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

Prayer – Let’s Get Practical

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

It’s time to get practical about our praying.

Do you know what it is to turn everything over to the Lord? Allow Him to have the lead? Relinquish the control to Him? Pray fervently to know His will? 

Have you also experienced times when you took the load on yourself. Worried and stewed over it. Got frustrated, agitated, and consumed with it? Then finally realized you hadn’t even consulted the Lord about it?

Okay, time for a personal confession.

A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me in many concrete ways and lead me down the road of writing. While I had written a few Bible studies, devotions, and scripts, I had not written a book of all things!

Little by little, He kept moving me in that direction and even led me specifically to the Bible character who would star in the first book!

I traveled down that road one mile at a time, not knowing what would be next over the hill or around the bend. I learned dependence on Him, because I felt so inadequate for the task.

Unbelievably, I now find myself 37,000 words into book number three.

However, the writing world includes more than putting words on a page. Research and editing take a huge amount of time.

Next is the task of publishing which can take forever. All along the way, I fervently prayed about next steps, aware of my dependence on the Lord’s leadership.  

Do you hear the “but” coming?

But I came to the third tier—marketing! Whether one has a traditional publisher or a self-publisher, the bulk of the marketing is up to the author. “Get on Facebook,” the conference leaders would say. “Have a blog.” (Okay, it will soon be four years, once a week.)

“Get on other social media. Do interviews, speaking engagements. etc., etc., etc.,” as the King of Siam would say.

Can you tell that this is not my favorite leg of the writing triangle? I have admitted, no, complained of my dislike of marketing to any poor soul who would listen. I have fussed and wrung my hands over and over for months. 

Finally, I realized that I had taken this thing on by myself. It was all up to me. Worse yet, I realized I had not really poured myself out to Him in prayer. Instead of being the last resort, prayer should have been the first thing. When will I learn that lesson?

“But seek first his kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow.” Matthew 6:33-34 

God has led me not to worry over this right now, but to put my effort into book three about Matthew. In His time, we will deal with the marketing. “Forget the detour,” he said. “Get back on the road.”

That’s my practical application. What has he taught you lately in seeking Him first? 

~ Joyce ~

Prayer – Practicing His Presence

Searching His Word
     Seeking His Heart

Scripture encourages us to:

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face continually. I Chronicles 16:11

We can thank 16th century monk, Brother Lawrence, for coining the phrase, “practicing the presence of God.” I love that thought!

It conjures up the idea of being aware of God’s presence often—definitely when we are praying, especially when we are praying. I admit that, at times, I can verbalize to God but not fully key in with His very presence. Words in the wind, you might say.

It takes discipline to truly be aware of entering His presence as though He is sitting there with you in the room.

It means seeking the very heart of God, crying out to Him in repentance, in fervor, in earnestness  Are we willing to express our anger to Him, our heartache, our desire to know Him and seek  His direction more than our own, to grow in Him and receive nourishment from His vine?

That kind of praying takes work, my friend. It takes concentration. It also takes time.

Time to move from my presence into His presence. Time to talk out loud to Him, to draw up my inmost thoughts, pleas, and concerns. Time to praise and adore him before I jump into the sick list or intercession for those having difficult circumstances.

Time to sit quietly, focus, and… listen. (Oh, the hardest part of all!)

But look at the rest of Brother Lawrence’s phrase, practicing the presence of God.

Practicing means to be very intentional, even through the day—while making the bed, driving to work, walking to the grocery store, preparing to meet a friend, sitting on the bleachers at a ballgame, finding the right words in difficult situations, practicing, practicing his presence.

As Paul urges,

Pray without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17

This takes extreme discipline because we normally go through our days thinking about the next thing we have to do, going over our lists, engaging in an activity.

I did a little survey on Facebook this week, asking, “What time and how long do you usually spend on emails and Facebook each day. Most said about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the evening. One admitted what many of us need to admit—too much time.

Like all things, today’s tools can be used for good, but can also be used to excess.

Maybe social media isn’t your nemesis. There are thousands of other addictions. One way to self-examine is to think, What things are constantly on my mind?  

Is it possible for us to practice the presence of God as naturally as we practice other things? As with all challenges, one step at a time.

I paused just now to pray that some phrase in this blog would stand out to you with flashing neon lights. And I prayed that I would practice what I preach.

Let’s start practicing!

~ Joyce ~

What Are You Looking For?

              Searching His Word
                          Seeking His Heart

As you begin a new year, what will you be looking for? Will your eyes be open for new ideas or challenges the Lord might put in your path?

I think about the magi who came from the east to find the Christ child. I have so many questions about them. Who were they? From what part of the “east” did they come? How did they know about a newborn baby, particularly a king of the Jews? Why did they even care—care enough to make the long trek probably through desert to find him?

In studying different scholarly ideas, the ones that make the most sense to me is that these magi were more like scientific astrologers who made serious study of the stars. Since they had knowledge of Jewish ways and awareness of the prophecy of a coming Messiah, it seems reasonable that they may have been descendants of those who knew the captured Jews who brought to Persia in Daniel’s day.

One thought is that they knew the names of Jewish constellations that represented things like the Lion of Judah or a constellation that represented the righteous one, the Virgin, or the Lamb. Perhaps they had come to recognize these and noted their locations in the heavens.

Perhaps, before the birth of Jesus, the magi began to notice a change in location of these constellations. They were moving closer to each other. Finally, one one night, they had joined together to form one bright star. Putting all this together, they surmised that this meant the promised Messiah had been born.

The main point here is that they faithfully watched and anticipated. So sure of this, they decided to make the trip to Israel to find the child, even worship him.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2

As they discover that the prophecy says Bethlehem is the designated place of birth, they head that way and are delighted to see the star appear to them once again. Such an affirmation.

They eventually find the one they have been looking for. By this time, he is a child not a baby. He is found in a house not a manger. Their first inclination is to fall down and worship him.

All of this happened because they were looking, studying, thinking about the signs given them by God.

I ask my question again. What are you looking for? If we are serious about God’s leadership in our lives, we must be looking, searching for His signs, seeking His heart. And that, my friends, is why I offer this blog to you each week, that you might join me in 

Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart.

May it be so for us all. Happy New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

The Rest of the Story

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

After living with the word “Write!” for awhile (see last week’s post), I began a study of the book of Matthew for several months. I found myself attracted to the lesser known characters, wondering what might be the rest of their stories. For instance, Zebedee.

Going on from there, he [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James the son of  Zebedee and his brother, John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matt. 4:21-22

We discover that Zebedee had two sons, James and John; he was a fisherman, and the boys left him and the fish to follow Jesus. What kind of father was he, I wondered. Was he loving or harsh, gentle or disagreeable? Did he yell at them to get back in the boat? Did he encourage them to follow their hearts? What did he know of Jesus?

Or what about the leper?

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matt. 8:2-3

Who was this man with the dreaded disease of leprosy? What was life like to be doomed to a leper’s colony, never again to be appreciated, to walk in the market place, or to be touched? We don’t even know his name. What was his life like before leprosy? How did he know about Jesus? How did it feel to have the sensation of healing move through your body? To see your fingers and toes restored? To feel your face without sores? These lesser known characters had lives and personalities. They had varying perspectives of Jesus.

One day, a phrase caught my attention as I continued through Matthew.

He who has ears to hear,  let him hear. Matt. 11:15

I pondered that phrase. Later Jesus told the parable of the soils and at the conclusion, he said again,

He who has ears, let him hear. Matt. 13:9

I meditated on that verse as it appeared over and over.

Little by little, I wondered what it would be like to write about one of these lesser known characters. Maybe even a full-length story. Is that what the Lord was calling me to write?

When I came toward the end of the Matthew study, there in the Garden of Gethsemane was the high priest’s servant along with others who had come to arrest Jesus.

…Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Matt. 26:50-51

I turned to Mark – same story. I checked Luke – same story, but Dr. Luke added that Jesus healed the servant’s ear. In John, I discovered that Peter was the one with the sword. John also gave us the servant’s name – Malchus. That same warm spirit came over me and I knew that this was it. I was to write about the lesser known character, Malchus. He was miraculously given renewed “ears to hear” and I was to tell his story.

In Ears to Hear, Nicodemus made a few appearances. At one point I planned to develop his story along with Malchus, but it didn’t seem to work. So I felt led to save Nicodemus for book two.

Well,  that was the calling. I guess I’ll have to take one more blog to talk about the pathway to publication, its victories and pitfalls. Until then, may you find your heart open to His leading in this next week.  

~ Joyce ~

Write, Joyce!

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

 

How was it that I came to be a writer? Why is it that any of us write? We write to communicate. We write to make to-do lists. We write to remember important events in our lives. We write to give instructions, to create, to express, to teach, to entertain.

Some of my earliest writings came out of a need to remember ideas. Sometimes creative ideas would pop into my mind so fast, I couldn’t remember them, so I quickly made notes before the ideas were gone. At other times writing was therapeutic. If I wrote down my thoughts and emotions, I could better look at them and think them through.

I wrote scripts to connect the songs in musical presentations. I wrote Bible studies for week-long youth camp settings. I reworked and shortened children’s musicals that were too long to be used. I was actually doing a good bit of writing in various venues, but I had this growing nudge of the Spirit to “write.”

For awhile I thought the Lord was urging me to do more and more of the same and I protested, “Lord, I am writing.” As time went on, I felt more in a quandary. I would drive by a book store and see a slogan in the window that would have to do with writing. I had been reading in Exodus and noticed that the Lord said to Moses,

14 “Write these things on a scroll as something to be remembered…” Exodus 17:14

I understood. Important things should be remembered. Acts of God must be recorded. But what does that have to do with me?

More and more occurrences happened. Then one day as I drove on the highway, I glanced down at the license plate of the car in front of me. (I promise you, I am not making this up.) The license plate said, “WRITE” in big bold letters. I thought, “Okay, Lord. I get it. But what do you want me to write?”

I attended a conference for church leaders and went to a breakout session having to do with knowing God’s will in your life. Gee, I had graduated from a chosen college, found my life’s partner, had a career in music education, and raised two kids. What more of God’s will was there to find? Well, knowing these compulsions I had been facing, I wandered into the class.

I didn’t hear anything really new, but in my present circumstances, it felt very personal, very convicting. Amazingly, one of leader’s examples was about  an older lady who felt compelled to write and ended up writing a book. The more the conference leader spoke, the more the Holy Spirit began to move inside of me. I literally felt on fire throughout my whole body. I felt as if the Lord had taken a branding iron and stamped the word “Write!” across my heart. I immediately thought about the two on the road to Emmaus [last week’s post] and remembered their words:

32 “… Didn’t our hearts burn within us…” Luke 24:32

All of life is a process. My path of writing has been a much longer process than can be stated in one blog. So, if you’re willing, you can see the rest of the story next week.