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 ~

Feeding the 5,000 – Before the Feast

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve looked at “points of view” coming from the four gospel writers on several happenings in the life of Jesus. When we looked at the feeding of the 5,000, you may remember I said I might want to revisit that exciting day in more detail. That will be our focus for the next few weeks.

What was happening before the great feast? I think it’s always important to get the setting, set the stage so to speak.

At some point in the time line, Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s terrible death. Recall the story. Herod caved when his wife, Herodias, (through her daughter) asked that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a platter .

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. Matthew 14:13

What do you do when you have received tragic news? You may want to have the love and support of close friends or family, but, at some point, you may just want to be alone to collect your thoughts and deal with your emotions in private.

My hunch is that Jesus wanted to be alone with God and gather the inner strength he needed from his heavenly Father. Very possibly, Jesus thought about how he, too, would one day come under the cruelty of those in high places.

Think of those times in your life when the weight of tragedy or trying experiences brought you to a low ebb. Perhaps frustrations with a job or the cruelty of unkind words struck the very core of your spirit. Somehow, with God’s help, you managed to continue to function. It is in this kind of human condition, we find Jesus.

Later, when He looks up toward the shore, He sees his disciples who have returned from their ministry tour of the villages of Galilee where he said:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

He shares in their excitement, glad to see their happy and hear their stories, then he tells them,

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Luke 6:31

After more sharing, He looks at the shore where the crowds are gathering to meet him. I envision him sighing greatly and whispering, “Give me strength, Father.” Then we see his heart.

…as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Luke 9:11

Jesus moved forward in the strength God gave him—an important lesson for us. For you see, that same power is available to us as we push out alone in out boats to receive healing and inner strength from our Lord. May it be so for us all this week.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Life Verses – Hope and a Future

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

For several years, I taught elementary music in public schools.

Singing all day every day eventually paid a toll on my voice, so I backed down to teaching part-time. Still, my voice just couldn’t hold up, so I retired from teaching.

At various churches, I had directed children’s choirs. A position became available to lead and coordinate children’s choirs part-time. My voice could manage these small doses once a week.

After nine years, I considered retiring from that position as well. Working and rheumatoid arthritis had worn me out. Meanwhile, the Lord had begun moving me in a new direction—writing!

Any life change, positive or negative, is a challenge full of hesitation and questions. Is this really the way the Lord is leading? Am I in His will?

One Sunday, in the midst of these “ponderings,” the front of the church bulletin read:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

A few weeks later, I heard a radio preacher teach on this subject with Jeremiah 29:11 as his text.

The day came to take the big step. I sat in church with the resignation letter in my sweaty hands. Part way through the service, up popped the scripture for the day on the big screen. Of course you can guess what it was—Jeremiah 29:11.

I smiled and thanked the Lord for this affirmation.

 He has plans for all of us, wonderful plans, if we only seek His face, whether we’re headed to college, deciding on a mate, considering a job change, dealing with a difficult relationship, trying to make a decision, or yes, considering retirement.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Jesus taught us to ask, to seek, to knock and: it will be given, you will find, and the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9) Pray for it, friend!

~ Joyce ~

Peter – Mountaintop Experience

SEARCHING HIS WORD

SEEKING HIS HEART

Have you ever been to summer camp or a fall retreat? You may have come back feeling like you had a “mountaintop experience”—not because there were mountains all around, but because your mind, your heart, or your spirit was lifted from the mundane to a new level of spiritual experience.

Peter sure could use a lift after Jesus had to set him back just days before. (See last week’s post, “Peter – One Step Back”)

Jesus is still determined to work with Peter, because He knows Peter’s potential. Isn’t that a comforting thought for when we feel down on ourselves? God knows your potential.

Jesus is going up the mountain, probably Mt. Hermon, to pray. He decides to take his inner circle with him—Peter, James, and John: Peter, who will eventually be the leader of the disciples after the resurrection, James, who will be the first to be martyred, and John who will endure to old age and will record the Revelation of Jesus.

Little do they know what is in store this day.

Once up the mountain, Jesus’ appearance is totally transformed or transfigured as the Bible says.

His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Matthew 17:2

(Years later, John will see this again in his vision of Jesus’ with his resurrected body.) 

As if that weren’t earth shaking enough…

Just then, there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Matthew 12:3

Gasp! Our mouths would be hanging open with awe at this point. But our man, Peter, feels he must jump in to do something! Something to honor the lawgiver, prophet, and Messiah. He says,

“Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4

We can’t imagine this experience could be anymore mountaintop, but here it comes.

While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 

“This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5

Have you heard that before? At Jesus’ baptism? Yes, it is God himself! Peter is urged to listen, not talk.

They fall on their faces, terrified. Jesus comes and touches them.

“Get up,” he says. “Don’t be afraid.” When they look up, they see no one but Jesus.” Matthew 17:7

I wonder how often, in the next few years, they each thought about this scene. It certainly had to have made a lasting impression on them, a remembrance to hold in their minds, a sense of God’s physical presence with them.

Think back about your mountaintop memories, a time when God became very real to you. A time when he rescued you, encouraged you, brought you through a scary time, led you beyond belief, stirred in your heart. Remember, praise His name, and give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day!

~ Joyce ~  

Peter – Walking on Water

            Searching His Word
                       Seeking His Heart

As we come to that familiar passage where Peter walks on the water, we must remember that he has come a long way in his experiences with Jesus.

Peter has watched Jesus heal many—the demon possessed, a leper, the deaf, the blind, a centurion’s servant, even his own mother-in-law. 

When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two to preach, He empowered them to heal. Excitedly, they came back to report in, but their report took a back seat as Jesus dealt all day teaching a large crowd. 

At the end of the day, this crowd of 5,000 was fed by two fish and five loaves of bread. 

After this miraculous feeding, Jesus sent the disciples out in a boat while He dismissed the crowd and stayed on shore to spend quiet time in prayer.

After meditating for a while, Jesus looked up to see a storm brewing. The disciples’ boat rocked back and forth in the wind and waves. In His humanity, Jesus walked to the shore, but the divinity of Jesus took over and He walked on the water toward the boat. 

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

At this point, spontaneous Peter sprang into action.

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

“Come,” Jesus said.

That was all he needed. Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. Yeah, Peter, you did it!

Uh-oh, here comes the “but.”

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

Happens to us all, right? When he saw the wind, he took his eyes off Jesus. How often have we done that? We get all hyped up about doing something important, even something spiritual, and walk toward Jesus, but then get distracted. We begin to doubt. We lose faith. The very things Jesus told Peter.

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:26-31

Jesus caught sinking Peter and they climbed in the boat. In spite of Peter’s actions, two things happened;

… the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

We can feel for Peter and say, “At least he tried.” That’s true, but my take-away from Peter’s experience is remembering how I can get so entangled by distractions, that I take my eyes off the main source of my strength.

When we take His outreached hand, two things happen, the winds of doubt die down, and we worship Him in awe.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Holy, Holy, Holy

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;

Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

What a beautiful song for us to sing as we rise up early in the morning to honor the One we call “Holy.”

Notice that the hymn invokes God three times—holy, holy, holy—designating the importance of these adjectives. So often Jesus said, “Verily, verily” or “Truly, truly” before he gave  a statement. Double importance. It would be like saying to our children, “Listen!” And then quietly  repeating, “Listen,” just to be sure they were ready to hear something important. In the NIV version of the Bible, it is translated, “I tell you the truth.” For instance, Jesus said to Nicodemus,

“[Truly, truly or] I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3

When Isaiah had his dramatic call in the temple, he saw the seraphs flying to and fro and heard them calling out,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

That’s a triple “Holy!” Three times important. Perhaps representative of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So let’s consider what “Holy” means. Would you say, righteous and pure, powerful and mighty? Or all-knowing—the One who can even keep count of the hairs on our heads? I would say “awesome,” but it is so over-used and misused. Perhaps we could say the One who fills us with awe.

At the same time that He is Almighty, our hymn reminds us that He is also merciful. Caring and understanding, hurting right along with us. Ready to forgive and offer grace, ready to hold us in His comforting arms.

“Holy” is like magnificent music brought to a rousing crescendo with the full blast of organ and orchestra (especially trumpets), with choir and congregation, and voices lifted high.

“Holy” is voices blending softly, unaccompanied and in lovely harmony. Or a gentle flute holding it’s last note to seal the message.

Whatever Holy is, it brings to mind God Himself—God beyond us, but in us. God around us, but through us. Praise be to His Holy Name!

When you have your quiet time today or tomorrow, perhaps you would like to sing this hymn. If no one is around, sing it loud with gusto! Then sing it soft with heartfelt reverence. Early in the morning, seek your holy God.

~ Joyce ~

Be Still

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Ah, yes. A strange thing for us—to be still. Our fast-paced world doesn’t like the sound of those words, much less understand them. We have too much to do, places to go, ball teams to cheer on, concerts to attend, and cell phones to stare at for goodness sake!

I searched through Scripture and gathered my handy-dandy Strong’s Concordance to further understand this frightening phrase, “Be still.” Of course when we hear that phrase, we automatically think of the wonderful verse from the Psalms.

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

Is it underlined in your Bible? No? Get your pen out! This “Be still” has the connotation of “hang limp, sink down, withdraw, abate, cease.” The preceding verses tell of God’s almighty power. When we hang limp and withdraw from our important activities, we may just see the power of God at work in our lives.

Perhaps you remember when Elijah was told to stand on the mountain “for the Lord is about to pass by.” But the Lord didn’t speak out of the “great and powerful wind”, nor the earthquake or the even the fire. Instead:

…after the  fire came a still small voice. (KJV) When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. I Kings 19:12-13

“A hush, a whisper, a calm, silence.” At times, when I was an elementary music teacher, my students might get restless or distracted. My tendency was to get louder to bring their attention back, but  when that didn’t work, I went to the old teacher trick—I paused and spoke softly. There is something about the stillness that draws us in. No clutter. Our minds can rest and re-set.

Is your life too loud for you to hear his quiet voice? Are there values He is trying to teach you? A deed of kindness He has in mind for you? A service He wants you to engage in? Does He want to show you his power at work or simply be near to you so that you’re aware of his presence in your life?

I love the John 15 passage where Jesus compares himself to a vine. “I am the true vine,” he says. We are the branches. Of course the branches must draw their strength and nourishment from the vine to be healthy and fruitful. The King James version uses the word “abide.” Great word! Another one I like is “dwell.” The NIV  says “remain.” Another translation is “begin and continue.” That’s a nice fresh one.

This is the way Jesus puts it:

“I am the vine; you are the branches.If a man remains (abides, dwells, begins and continues) in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and are burned.” John 15:5-6

Ouch! Who wants to be a dead branch? Self-sufficient doesn’t get it. Apart from him you can do nothing, at least nothing fruitful. So, how do we remain, abide, dwell, be still, begin and continue? Next week we’ll explore some practical possibilities.

As a start (or a continuance, if you’ve mastered this), I challenge you to be still for the next five minutes. That’s all. Just be still. Practice not thinking about your to-do list. Try to put your mind in rest mode. Focus on the Lord. Maybe reread the Scriptures on this page. Walk to a window. Look up to the sky. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly. Sit back down if you wish. Ask him to speak to you in his still small voice. Listen.

~ Joyce ~

And There Was Light!

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

How do you tell the good guy from the bad guy? Well of course, the good guy wears white and the bad guy wears black. Oh, I know, the Lone Ranger had a black mask, but his hat was white!

We understand (and the Bible validates this point) that light equates to goodness and purity, while darkness is associated with evil. You don’t have to go any further than the third verse of Genesis to see that one of the first things God created was—light. He had created the heavens and the earth, but darkness was “over the surface of the deep.”

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. Genesis 1:3

The light shows us our way in the darkness. Sometimes I turn off the light, eye my way to the bedroom door, and think I’m going in the right direction with the right amount of steps only to reach out my hand and touch a wall instead of the door frame. We really need the light. Similarly, we need God’s Word to give us direction.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

We think of sin as darkness. We think of our wandering, aimless  lives as darkness. We think of depression as darkness. Or indecision as darkness. When we’re stumped or lacking in some way, it feels dark. BUT…

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. Psalm 18:28-29                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

In other words, we can do great feats when we’re filled with His light.

While writing my first book, Ears to Hear, I experienced a down time, writer’s block, you might say. No, more than that; I just didn’t feel that light of His Spirit that had first called me to this task. Hard work had settled in. Where was that fervor I once sensed?

One morning, with head still on the pillow, I began to pray, calling out to the Father for a sense of His presence. After a period of intense prayer, I rolled my head over toward the window. A sunbeam hit me in the face. I closed my eyes basking in its warmth.

Then I realized the blinds were closed! Somehow the sun had  come through a little hole where the string went through the slat. The sun was perfectly aligned  to shine through that tiny opening on my face. I closed my eyes again and smiled in the sunshine of His love, praising Him for this awareness of His presence. I rolled my head back the other way, filled with more vibrant prayer time, thanking Him for His encouragement and the awareness that He was with me.

When I looked back at the window, the sunbeam was gone. That was okay. It had shone through at just the right time. It was all the light I needed.

The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:130,135                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

May you find Him—find the light of His love in simple ways today as you seek His presence.

 ~ Joyce ~

~On a personal note: If you are in an area to receive Christian radio station WFIA (AM900), I will be interviewed this Monday by daily radio host, Joyce Oglesby. The interview, Aug. 3 at 3:00 pm, will be about my book, A Heart for Truth.